Pioneers of Acocks Green
When you say to people that Acocks Green rivalled Edgbaston for sophistication in the high Victorian period, you can expect anything from raised eyebrows to disbelieving guffaws. But it is true. Within a few short years after passenger trains came to Acocks Green in 1853, large expensive houses had been built by successful entrepreneurs and businessmen, and they brought with them not only a desire to live in what was the country, but a wish to develop the sort of social life they felt was appropriate for them. So it was that churches were built in 1860 (Congregational), 1863/1882 (Methodist) and from 1866 Anglican. Perhaps the culmination of Acocks Green's cultural and social life was the Acocks Green Institute from the late 1870s. Its aims were: "The extension of literary, scientific and artistic knowledge, improvement in public speaking and debating and the provision of wholesome recreation for its members."
The 1841 census has Benjamin Cook (this is Junior), brassfounder, at Flint Green. It was his land that was mainly the site of the Victorian flowering of Acocks Green. He was not at Flint Green House opposite the end of Arden Road, but may have been in one of the cottages on Arden Road. Francis Taylor, engineer, is at Stockfield.
The 1851 census has William Batson, iron master, at Acocks Green House (his premises were at the Atlas Iron Works, Cliveland Street and the Sceptre Iron Works, Richard Street); Edgar Brookes, merchant and gunmaker, at Flint Green House (his premises were at 66 Bath Street in 1837, he had moved to Shirley by 1861); and George Wells, steel pen manufacturer, at Fox Hollies (see below). In 1855, already some names of interest were listed in a directory. Louis Keller (see below) was at Stockfield House on Stockfield Road. Charles Millward (see below) was at Fox Hollies, later Fox Hollies Hall. George Wells (see below) was now at Acocks Green House, on today's Woodcock Lane. Edgar Brookes, gun maker, was still at Flint Green House. Henry Hart, gun maker and beer retailer, was at the new Great Western Inn. He had exhibited at the 1851 Exhibition at Crystal Palace. John Purrott (see below) was also listed, probably near what became Station Road. Some interesting names are missing from the directory. They are on Broad Road. This development was on land owned since c. 1837 by Benjamin Cook Junior, son of a well-known brassfounder and inventor. The family is mentioned below under Edward Cook. Three cottages were built between 1853 and 1855. The 1861 census lists them together with the Warwick Road, although the 1860 directory does allocate them correctly. They were all occupied at the time by skilled craftsmen in the gun trade. Enoch Shufflebotham was a gun polisher, and two other family members were a gun polisher and a gun engraver. In another cottage was James Newton, a gun finisher, and in the third was William Hipkiss, a gun engraver.
A directory of 1858 probably reflects the arrivals by 1857. It may of course not include every new house that had been built. Names are J.A. (John Augustus) Balleny of Clifton Villa; Edward Baxter, woollen draper of Westbourne House; Jonas Bowen, plated ware manufacturer; John Onions, bellows maker; and John Willetts, merchant. All but one were definitely in the new houses built near the railway station.
A directory of 1860 probably reflects the state of affairs in 1859. New names are Joseph Allen, John Barker, John Benson, John George Bland, Thomas Herrivel Bott, George Bowen, Charles Breese, Edward Cook, John Cope, Samuel Findlay, Robert Harcourt, William Hipkiss, James Cowan Marr, James Meacham, Robert Newhouse, Henry Phillips, Charles Playfair, Samuel Robotham, Enoch Shufflebotham, George Simmons, Alfred and Henry Toy, Joseph Whittle, and Joseph Wilson. Under Commercial are listed Abraham Hopkins (wine and spirit merchant), and Charles Faulkner (farmer but he was also in the gun trade). See below for more details.
There is a Corporation Directory of 1861, which is available both in the Library of Birmingham and online in Google Books. This lists a number of people under Acocks Green. If we take out the innkeepers, farmers, etc. we can see to what extent this colonisation by wealthy and important people had already taken place. What is striking is that it is representatives of the iconic industries of Birmingham: jewellery, gold and silver products, gun manufacture, and brass manufacture, who are coming to live here.
Joseph Allen Printer. He lived in one of the large houses on the north side of the Warwick Road opposite the Catholic church, and which were replaced in the 1960s by two modern shop rows. “Joseph Allen (1837-1866) simultaneously ran a stationery shop at 215 Deritend (sometimes referred to as 215 High Street, Deritend) and printed at 11 Cannon Street. From 1854, the latter address became 11 ½ Cannon Street. Allen's son joined him there in1862, and the partnership lasted for twenty years.”
John Augustus Balleny jeweller. He lived in one of the beautiful houses on the stretch of Sherbourne Road between Oxford Road and the station, number 48, which is still standing. His business was at 44 St. Paul’s Square and at 74 Hatton Garden in London. Trade cards can be found at the link below.
John Barker draper. He lived at Fern Bank, which became Eastbourne House School on Yardley Road after the War, and is still standing. He is described as a Mourning Draper. His business was Bach and Barker. Mourning drapers and undertakers, of 42 New Street.
Edward Baxter woollen merchant. He lived near Mr Balleny on Sherbourne Road at number 44, which is still standing. His business was Worsey and Baxter, woollen merchants, of 31 Union Street. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
John Benson paper dealer. He lived near Joseph Allen on the north side of the Warwick Road. He called his house Caxton Cottage. He was a wholesale paper dealer and Stationer at 26 Colmore Row.
John George Bland architect. He lived at Riversdale, later 51 Station Road. This large house was used by Carrs Lane Trust until replacement by more modern accommodation in the mid-1970s. He was a regionally important architect, who was much in demand for his skills in expressing various styles in brick. He designed churches, chapels, and schools, and several buildings in the Jewellery Quarter, including 84-86 Vittoria Street, part of the present School of Jewellery. He also designed St. Mary’s church in Acocks Green.
George and Jonas Bowen manufacturers in silver and silver plate, and gilders. They lived in Victoria Road, near the Warwick Road, probably at numbers 13 and 15. These were replaced by Digby Court in 1968. Their business was at 15 Vittoria Street.
Charles Stanton Breese photographer. He lived in on of the old houses on Sherbourne Drive, called Ramona Cottage then. It is still standing. He was a pioneering photographer in the field of stereoscopic glass images, with eleven works in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Edward Cook brass bedstead manufacturer. He lived in one of the large 1850s houses on the south side of the Warwick Road before Broad Road, probably number 1069. If so, it is still standing. He was most likely part of Benjamin Cook’s family, which made the land available for building in the first place and was also in the brass bedstead business. B. Cook and Sons’ premises were at Green Street in 1861.
John Cope bone, pearl and ivory button maker. He lived on the south side of the Warwick Road somewhere near Dolphin Lane. His business was at 1, Cottage Lane, near Summer Hill. There is information on Ancestry about him and his business.
Charles Faulkner gun barrel manufacturer. In 1861 he lived at Hyron Hall. His company was Faulkner Brothers of 38 Great Lister Street.
Samuel Findlay agent of the Star Life Assurance Company. He lived on Sherbourne Road, probably at number 36 or 38. These were demolished for Sherbourne Court in the mid-1960s. His business was at 31, Waterloo Street.
Robert Harcourt brassfounder. He lived several houses north of Stone Hall on the Warwick Road. The house was called Melbourne Villa in directories. It was replaced by small modern houses in 1984. His business was Harcourt and Son, of 46 Bromsgrove Street.
Thomas Herrivel Bott landowner. This name is listed in the wrong place in the directory, under Herrivel. He probably lived next to Robert Harcourt, and his house if so was also demolished in 1984. Botteville Road may have been developed by him.
William Humphrey Jackson merchant factor. He lived on Sherbourne Road next to Samuel Findlay. His house was replaced by flats in the mid-1960s.
William Henry Jutson chemist. He lived at Malvern House on the Warwick Road, which became the Convent and later part of Crosby Hall school. It is possible he was an acid manufacturer.
Louis Keller diamond merchant and precious stone dealer. He lived at Stockfield House and maybe later at Stockfield Hall, which he may have had built for him. He was probably part of the Keller family, some of the first Jewish diamond merchants to move into Hatton Garden in London. The business was at 62, St Paul’s Square.
James Cowan Marr banker. He lived at Sherbourne Road opposite the start of Dudley Park Road. The house was demolished in the mid-1960s for flats. His business was at 3, Upper Priory.
George Marris mattress maker. He lived near Thomas Bott on the Warwick Road. His business was at 26 to 29 Bull Street.
James Meacham dentist. He lived on the north side of the Warwick road opposite where the Red Lion is now. The house was demolished in the early 1960s for shops.
Robert Brockman Newhouse surgeon. He lived at Flint Green Lodge on the corner of Warwick and Broad Roads. The house and grounds were replaced by small modern houses in 1984.
John Collingwood Onions bellows manufacturer. He lived at number 50 Sherbourne Road, which is still standing. His business was at 63 and 64 Bradford Street, and he supplied the Royal Ordnance factories. Amusingly, he received a Gold Medal from the Emporer Napoleon in 1854 for one of his products. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
Thomas Palmer private means. He lived at Broad Yates Cottage. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard to a person with this name and his wife Emily.
Joseph Parsons private means. He lived at The Hollies, a very large house like Wilton House and Malvern House, on the south side of the Warwick Road. His home became the Convent School.
Henry Phillips manufacturer of gold and silver chains. He lived at The Oaklands, on the corner of Victoria and Shirley Roads. His business was at 51½ St Paul’s Square.
John Purrott variously described as a farmer, a brick maker and a shoe maker. He lived at the northern end of Dudley Park Road, probably at Dudley Lodge. The house has gone, replaced by newer Carrs Lane homes. The shoe business was at 3, Union Street. Station Road was previously known as Purrott Road.
Samuel Robotham wire drawer. He lived in the mansion, Stone Hall, on the Warwick Road, which is still an adult education centre. The business was at 55, 56 and 57 Bradford Street.
George Simmons wholesale paper dealer, stationer and engraver, and general factor. He lived on the Warwick Road next to Edward Cook. His house may still be standing. His business was at 38, St Paul’s Square.
Thomas Sing accountant. He lived near Stone Hall. The house is probably still standing. His business address was at 31, Waterloo Street.
Alfred and Henry Toy brassfounders, coin manufacturers, chandelier manufacturers, silversmiths and much more. They lived on the north side of the Warwick Road near James Meacham. Their business was at 8 and 9 Regent Parade, Caroline Street.
George Wells pen manufacturer. He lived at Acocks Green House on the north side of the Warwick Road on today's Woodcock Lane. His company became after his death one of the largest pen manufacturers, producing 262 million pens a year and employing 500 people. The company was Hinks, Wells & Co., and the premises were at Buckingham Street.
John Willetts merchant. He lived on Sherbourne Road in one of the houses replaced by Sherbourne Court. His business was probably Lowe and Willetts of 43 and 44 Whittall Street.
Joseph Wilson gun manufacturer. He lived at Cottesbrook House on Yardley Road. He was a founder and Board member of the B.S.A., one of Birmingham’s most famous companies.
This directory is not completely comprehensive. Missing from it, but present on the 1861 Census, are:
Joseph Clark Dixon, cashier and Clerk to the Bank of England, who lived at Flint Green. Actually he lived in one of the new houses on the Warwick Road, which were regarded as part of Flint Green initially.
James Pratt Marrian of The Limes, Warwick Road, later known as The Grove (replaced by shops in the 1960s), a naval brassfounder among many other product types. His premises were at 69, Slaney Street. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
Charles Milward gun barrel maker, who lived at Fox Hollies (Hall) pre-Zaccheus Walker. His premises were at Adderley Street.
Henry Plant of Sherbourne Road, Commercial Traveller
Charles Playfair, gun manufacturer of Bentley and Playfair, who lived at Bon Accord on Sherbourne Road, now demolished and replaced by part of a Christadelphian home. Their works was in Summer Row. They too were founders of the B.S.A., and Charles Playfair was a Board member.
Archibald Richardson fancy case maker. He lived in the centre of the village somewhere, possibly in the house Mossmere which became Cliffords the butchers and was replaced by the ‘Bank’ building in 1901. His premises were at 86½ Hill Street.
So far this takes us only to 1861. There are more names if we give the process of development twenty years from the railway reaching Acocks Green. More houses were built on the Warwick Road, Broad Lane, Victoria Road, Shirley Road, Botteville Road and the Avenue in that time.
It is sometimes difficult to work out which house people lived at. On this page numbers are not always given, especially where there is a separate history of the road on this website, where the numbers are given/guessed at.
A directory of 1864 provides more names:
Joseph Ash, zinc merchant, in 1871 at Windsor House on the Warwick Road by Dolphin Lane
H. Behrens, the Hawthorns, electro plate manufacturer. The Hawthorns was the most northerly of the three houses on the north side of the Warwick Road replaced by shop rows and Mallard Close in the 1960s
John Dixon (could be Joseph Clarke Dixon of the Corinthians, Warwick Road, Clerk to the Bank of England. (He was at Victoria Road in 1871)
Joseph Flavell (a John Flavell, with premises at Gibson's Mill, Weaman Street, was a gun polisher living in Acocks Green, who part-financed the building of the Methodist church)
James Hinks of the Cedars, (65) Shirley Road (he may be a medallist, gas lamp and chandelier manufacturer)
William Johnson (a Henry Johnson is at Camden Lodge near Stone Hall in 1868 as a cashier and copper and metal merchant. Camden Lodge was demolished around 2005 for new hairdressing premises)
James Knight at Broad Road (a man with this name part-financed the building of the Methodist church)
Samuel Marsdon at Claremont Villa
William Henry Reynolds (he may be a manufacturer of coffee and sugar mills, jars, cutlery and moulds)
Thomas Stanton of Stockfield, a boot and shoe dealer
William Upfill, a metallic bedstead manufacturer and iron merchant who went bankrupt a couple of years later
William Woodfield, commercial traveller buttons and brass (at Victoria Road in 1871)
Many of these are not present in the 1868 directory and may reflect rentals for a relatively short period.
A directory of 1868 includes many more new names, some of which do not reveal a wealth-creating activity. Those that do are:
George Allen, 3 Ash Villas, Shirley Road, retired gunmaker
John Beddows, the Elms on the north side of the Warwick Road beyond the later Greswolde Park Road, scale beam maker
Thomas Bentley, Richmond House on Sherbourne Road, gunmaker of Bentley and Playfair. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
Thomas Francis Best of Broad Road, foreign merchant
Joseph Bourne at Stone Hall, prominent gunmaker and another founder of the B.S.A.
Thomas Colls, manufacturing jeweller
John William Daniel, Elmdon View, a new mansion on Yardley Road, auctioneer
John Fletcher of 2 Florence Villas, Victoria Road, jeweller
Thomas Garland of Oak Villa, Sherbourne Road, drysalter's assistant
William Henry Goddard of Well Lane (Westley Road), American merchant
Edwin Fearn Grimley of Sherbourne Road, auctioneer and estate agent
George Hackett of Malvern Villas on Yardley Road near the Avenue, gunmaker
Henry Harris of Well Lane (Westley Road), public accountant
William Harrison of Well Lane (Westley Road), jeweller
William Lomas Harrison of the Beeches, a new mansion on Yardley Road, accountant and insurance agent
George Hastings of Shirley Road, commercial traveller for gas fittings and chandeliers
Charles Jefferys, of Soho Villa, the Avenue, gunmaker. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
Henry Johnson (see above under 1864)
James Lear of Ross Villa, Botteville Road, commercial traveller in hardware
Benjamin McKay of the Corinthians, Warwick Road, manager of the B.S.A. gun factory
James McLachlan of Enfield Villa, Warwick Road near Broad Road, metal and insurance broker
William Manton of Normanton House, the Avenue, jeweller
William Neale of Beaufort House, Victoria Road, jeweller master
George Perceval of the Gothics, Warwick Road opposite St. Mary's church, of interest as he and Spencer Perceval, who also lived there, were descendants of a British Prime Minister
Ebenezer Preston of Westbourne Lodge, Warwick Road, jet ornament manufacturer. Westbourne Lodge was the middle of the three houses on the north side of the Warwick Road replaced by shop rows in the 1960s
John Roberts of Waverley Cottage, south side of the Warwick Road near Victoria Road, metal broker
John Sanders of Gladstone House (in newspaper articles from 1863), and Kingswood Lodge, Victoria Road and later Botteville Road (his house there was the now-demolished British Legion club), manufacturer of crystal and brass chandeliers and of gas fittings. His showroom was at Needless Alley and his factory at Hockley Street
James Shaw of Well Lane (Westley Road), commercial traveller
Robert Smith of Augusta Villas, Victoria road, accountant
Samuel Suter of the Avenue, electro-gilder
John Field Swinburn of Oakwood, Sherbourne Road. He was a major gun manufacturer and Vice-Chairman of the B.S.A. as well as being a J.P. There is a memorial in St. Mary's churchyard.
Joseph Taylor of Corinthian Villas, Warwick Road, mechanical engineer
Charles Vaughan of Florence Villas, Victoria Road, garden tool manufacturer (employer)
Zaccheus Walker at Hyron Hall, banker and merchant
James Ward of Collingwood House, Warwick Road, gunmaker. Collingwood House was one of the houses near Broad Road demolished in the 1980s
John and Joseph Watson, both of Botteville Road, grocers
Henry Watts of Clarendon House, south side of the Warwick Road near Victoria Road, wine merchant
James West of Carlton House, Sherbourne Road, surgeon
James Wheway, Malvern Villas, Yardley Road, manufacturing jeweller
Hubert Whitfield, Eastbourne on the north side of the Warwick Road (at the end of the squarish shops including Greggs), iron broker
Once again, gun manufacture and jewellery manufacture are surprisingly common. There was undoubtedly a concentration of both these in Acocks Green.
New names from the 1871 census are:
William Badams Jnr., Francis Villas, Broad Road, commercial traveller and clerk
Charles Ball, Rose Villa, Botteville Road, manufacturer of gold chains
John Barclay Bannerman, Sherbourne Road, manager of an insurance company
James Beresford, The Avenue, electro plate manufacturer
John Bott, The Cedars, (65) Shirley Road, retired clerk
William Bourne, Stone Hall, gun manufacturer
Samuel Brame, Augusta Villas, Victoria Road, gold chain manufacturer
Christianne Chambers, Well Lane (Westley Road), retired chandelier maker
Richard Clarke, north side of the Warwick Road near Stockfield Road, land agent and auctioneer
Henry Cullingworth, Buckingham House, Broad Road, commercial traveller in the linen trade
Robert Duke, The Hollies, south side of the Warwick Road, attorney and solicitor
Joseph Fordred, 2 Brighton Villas, Victoria Road, draper (employer)
Joseph Fry, Arley House, Victoria Road, leather factor
William Glendenning, The Avenue, architect and surveyor
George Haywood, north side of the Warwick Road somewhere near where Woodcock Lane is now, steam tube and boiler manufacturer
Ebenezer Hoskins, The Cedars, Yardley Road, manufacturer. He founded the famous bed manufacturing company
John Hughes, Victoria Road, manager of a wire mill
Benjamin Jackson, Yardley Road, brassfounder
Arthur Jones, Shirley Road, wine merchant
James Lear, Ross Villa, Botteville Road, commercial traveller hardware
Edwin Cottrell Newey, The Avenue, solicitor
Simon Onions, Remona Lodge, probably Sherbourne Drive, bellows manufacturer
William Pendleton, Oak Cottages, Broad Road, jeweller
Henry Powell, Cranbrook House, Warwick Road, six houses north of Stone Hall, brassfounder
James Richardson, probably Broad Road, leather case manufacturer
Charles Savage, 2 Ash Villas, (49) Shirley Road, carver and gilder
John Joseph Shufflebotham, Evelyn Villas, Well Lane (Westley Road), engraver master (employer)
George Skelton, The Hurst, Station Road, general commission agent
Charles Smith, ? Milton House, Sherbourne Road, lock manufacturer
William Swasbrook, Yardley Road, jeweller
George Tarplee, The Avenue, saw mill proprietor
Edwin Tye (?), Wilton House, south side of the Warwick Road, electro-plater
Graham Walker, north side of the Warwick Road near Stockfield Road, colonial merchant
Henry A. Ward, Collingwood, Warwick Road, gunmaker
William H.B. Wood, Well Lane (Westley Road), tinplate worker and japanner (employer)
Eli Woodward, north side of the Warwick Road near Woodcock Lane, engraver
Jewellers and gunmakers feature again, but also more brassfounders and factors and agents.
Littlebury's directory and gazetteer of Worcestershire of 1873 describes Acocks Green thus: "Here are many villa residences, the abodes of the Birmingham gentry and tradesmen". At this point, it has been twenty years since the coming of rail travel to Acocks Green.
Some noteworthy new names are below. Additional detail has been added from census and directory information.
Robert Armstrong, Esq., Enfield Villa, (1071?) Warwick Road
John Beard Wellesley, Portland Villa
Samuel Bloore, Foxhill Villas, Broad Road, auctioneer
John Bottomley, The Beeches, Yardley Road (but Thomas Short, Esq., is also listed at a house with this name)
George Bradburn, The Avenue, commercial traveller
David Bransby, Esq., Sunnymount, behind Yardley Road
Charles Egerton, Stockfield Road, commercial clerk
Henry Fellowes Jnr., 1 Gothic Villa, (61) Shirley Road, manager of electro plate works
(Henry Fellowes, Snr., was at Botteville Road, silver and electro plate manufacturer. It is possible he was given a medal in Vienna in 1873 for services to Elkingtons.)
Walter Graham Esq., Springfield (? Warwick Road), American merchant
William Sutton Hackett, 2 Gothic Villas, (63) Shirley Road, iron founder master
George Baker Hope, Well Lane (Westley Road), electro plater
Samuel Jones, Eagle House, Victoria Road, auctioneer and surveyor
Thomas Kiss, Esq., Wellsbourne House, general merchant. This was later a private school: the building still stands behind the Archbishop Ilsley annexe on the Warwick Road
Thomas Lawrence, Buckingham Place, Broad Road, retired manufacturer
Edward C. Mogridge, 1 Ash Villas, (47) Shirley Road
William Neale, Beaufort House, Victoria Road, jeweller master
John Randell, Esq., Wilton House, Warwick Road
Charles E. Richardson, Broad Road, importer of jewellery stones
Richard Roberts, Highland Villa, Broad Road, commercial traveller
Julius Shaffer, Stockfield Hall
Robert Smith, Augusta Villa, Victoria Road, accountant
Benjamin Steedman, Camden House, Victoria Road (probably a wealthy retired farmer)
Zaccheus Walker, Esq., retired iron merchant, is now in his rebuilt Fox Hollies Hall, now in an Italianate style with an art gallery upstairs. It was designed by Yeoville Thomason, Birmingham Council House's architect
Samuel Wells, Victoria Road, plate manufacturer