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History of Hall Green

Hall Green has evolved from a rural backwater into one of the most desirable places to live in Birmingham, offering affordable status in still pleasant surroundings. Local attention to the quality of residential life and to conservation issues have played an important part in this process.

Survival of traces of the past can often be in name only, and there are some examples of medieval names still used. Bromhale, Greet Mill, and Six Weyes are examples going back to the fourteenth century and beyond. Sixteenth century documents mentioned Sarehole Mill, Four Ways, Busmere, Swartmore Laine, Hawes House and Hawe Green and other locations. This House became the Hall, and Hawe Green became Hall Green. Just across from the Hall, Marston Chappell (now the Church of the Ascension) was built in 1703. This was the old centre of Hall Green, supplemented in late Victorian times by a collection of houses known as the Hamlet. Hall Green has lost this centre, and does not have one, unless the Stratford Road is seen as a very elongated one!

Urbanisation

In Hall Green, the process of urbanisation was rather special. There was a high proportion of private housing constructed, which tended to be built without the grand sweeping planning characteristic of inter-war municipal estates, and many green spaces were left enclosed behind the new roads. The Residents Association of 1925, the first in the country, sought to minimise the loss of mature trees during the urbanisation process, and has continued to address this and other conservation issues vigorously. A lot of money was indeed spent on infrastructure, which contributed to the creation of a high quality of life in Hall Green. However, since the Second World War, further more intensive development has been a constant threat to this greenest of suburbs. Large houses have been pulled down and replaced by groups of small 'townhouses' or flats, and nurseries, sports grounds, unused areas behind gardens, and even long gardens themselves, have been targets of developers.

One of the most attractive areas in the whole City is on the edge of Hall Green: the River Cole valley. The City has kept faith with early plans to retain the valley as a green corridor, and the River Cole and Chinn Brook Conservation Group pursues this aim very effectively today. There is now a continuous walkway from Solihull Lodge to the Ackers and beyond. The Group argues for nature conservation, and also seeks the preservation of old hedgerows, fragments of ancient woodland, and other remnants of historic landscape. These 'time-slips' are present in surprising places, and the Group tries to make local people and the City authorities aware of them, and also to value them.

Industrial Past

Hall Green's history is not just a question of rural to suburban, however: there is an interesting industrial past. This is not just a matter of smithies and of mills, some of which ground blades or rolled metal. Some of the more recent industrial activity was also there before the houses. Early Ordnance Survey maps show a small building in the fields, known as the Robin Hood Works. This became Newey Goodman, manufactures of 'smallwares', employing over a thousand people. A small chocolate factory appeared before the First World War at Webb Lane, which later made electric vehicles and fork lift trucks in particular. Aldis Brothers built a factory on a green field site in 1914 at Sarehole Road, and made world famous signalling lamps. York Road was home to one of the great names in British motorcycling: Velocette. Although a residential area will seek to minimise the presence and effect of industry, it is time to honour this industrial heritage. Most of the sites have been replaced by housing. Nowadays there are a few rows of workshops left, and York Road still has a factory, but Hedges' 'L260' snuff factory, a local curiosity, has also gone.

There are other famous names associated with Hall Green. Comedian Tony Hancock was born on Southam Road, the world famous author J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, lived near Sarehole Mill as a young boy, and Nigel Mansell, one of Britain's greatest racing drivers, spent most of his childhood and early adult years in Hall Green.

The Library

The Library acts as the focus for local history activity in Hall Green. The Local History Society meets in the library once a month, and has its own archive of local history materials. The library has a collection of photographs, maps, and newscuttings as well as a selection of books about Birmingham and the surrounding area.

The Library Service and Tempus Publishing have jointly published a book about Hall Green, compiled by Michael Byrne, which contains over 200 old photographs of Hall Green. It costs £9.99 and is available from bookshops, the Library Service or direct from Tempus (01453 883300). The ISBN is 0752406787.

The library is seeking to expand its collection of local history materials. If you can help with information, if you have any old photographs, or if you have an enquiry about the history of Hall Green, you can get in touch by e-mail hall.green.library@birmingham.gov.uk


Hall Green Library
Sarehole Mill
Tony Hancock
J. R. R. Tolkien