Victorian Acocks Green
The Victorian period was perhaps the time when Acocks Green was in its heyday. People of wealth and status moved into the area after the railway arrived, and it changed rapidly from rural idyll to railway suburb.
Alan Fitton wrote in the 1935 Methodist church handbook about what Acocks Green was like before the 1850s:
'In those days it would have been difficult to find a more entrancing spot, or one from which the noise and bustle of commerce seemed more remote. A few stately houses, for the most part standing in their own grounds and a number of humbler cottages, picturesque though doubtless insanitary, comprised the homes of the scanty population. [There was] one church - the Congregational. [A few] hostelries were evidence that the villagers were sometimes inclined to wander, but the fact that there were only three trains a day and few other means of transport, ensured that these wanderings should be in a strictly limited area. The roads consisted of winding lanes bounded by hedgerows that were the home of wild flowers and guarded by great trees... Broad stretches of meadow land or fields, farm-tended and fruitful, met the eye on every side. There was no bustle and little noise, unless the song of birds, the murmuring of the stream through the village, and the whistling of a labourer at his work be deemed disturbing.'
The Birmingham to Oxford railway opened with a station at Acocks Green in 1852. Wealthy businessmen could now leave the dirty and unhealthy town of Birmingham for a pleasant life in the country after work, or they could retire there. Three former hamlets along the Warwick Road, Flint Green, Acocks Green, and between them Westley Brook, the location of today's centre, were eventually absorbed. The building of mansions, churches and other manifestations of social life near to the station pulled the centre towards Westley Brook, away from the Dolphin, where the old hamlet of Acocks Green was. In a few short decades a veritable wealth of social and cultural activities developed, making Acocks Green a high-class suburb in the mould of Edgbaston. A particular example of this was the Institute of 1878.
The first suburban incarnation of Acocks Green was a community of well-off people creating a sophisticated social life based first on the churches, and then on the Institute. As bricks and mortar approached from Birmingham, some of these families began to move away. The Birmingham Daily Mail described the exodus in 1903:
Those of the more wealthy residents who have loved the place for its quiet exclusiveness and pleasant detachment are moving further out. The establishment of a factory on the outskirts of the district, and the springing up of rows of houses of the cheaper type, are to them a disagreeable reminder of what the near future has in store. So, like the Arab, they are folding their tents and stealing silently away iin the direction of Knowle or Solihull, when the octopus tentacles of expanding Birmingham are as yet in the distance. Silently and without any show of ostentation a little revolution is in progress.
Curiously, the railways remained 'select', not altering prices to accommodate less well-off passengers (John R. Kellett: The impact of railways on Victorian cities, p. 364).
This website contains several resources for the study of Victorian Acocks Green:
The Tithe Map and schedule. Look at the map and see how Acocks Green has changed. See what the buildings and fields were called, who owned them, and who rented them.
The 1880s map of Acocks Green shows changes in the forty years since the Tithe Map.
The selection of directories to 1896. See who was in business, and which people of standing lived in the area. Remember that Acocks Green was only listed separately from the early 1880s.
Short histories of Acocks Green by Mike Byrne, C.J.H. Hudson, John Morris Jones, and Joseph McKenna.
Our page on Pioneers of Acocks Green.
Histories of individual roads contain information about the Victorian period.
The pages about buildings in Acocks Green contain photos and information about many Victorian buildings.
The pages on the urbanisation of Yardley Parish include quite a lot of detail on Acocks Green in the paragraphs on Broomhall Quarter, and there are some references also in the pages about brick and tile making, and on the waters of Yardley. The transport history of Yardley also has very useful information on railways, the canal and road transport, and there is a page on railways around Acocks Green.