Alders and the Acocks Green estate
A substantial quantity of papers exists concerning the land owned by the Alders. It not only covers the Laurels estate but also the remains of the former estate of the Acock family, unoccupied by them since the 1700s. The research is in progress, and is being undertaken by Mike Wood. For this page, additional material has been brought in by Mike Byrne, who has also done some editing.
In an article in the Morning Post on 12 November 1822, Acocks Green House was described as a Catholic school for boys. At the time of the Tithe map, in the 1840s, the area of interest was occupied by two families. The large Acocks Green estate, as we shall call it, stretched eastwards from the Warwick Road, bounded by what became Lincoln Road, Lincoln Road North, to Clay Lane as far as the former Rover factory site (now housing). The boundary westwards was the Westley Brook from here to the canal, then a stretch of canalside southwards to a footpath and lane variously known as Woodcock Lane, Muddy Lane and now truncated as Woodberry Walk at the Warwick Road end. The Warwick Road itself completes the boundary. The Mumford family were owners in the 1840s. The second estate occupied most of the corner at the Warwick Road and Woodcock Lane, and was owned by Thomas Priest and occupied by Frederick Smith and others. The final piece in the jigsaw was the tollhouse, right on the corner, owned by the Road Commissioners and occupied by one Charles Cockerill. By 1855 George Wells, a pen manufacturer, was living at Acocks Green House. He was one of the first manufacturers to seek out Acocks Green as a good place to live.
On the 1880s Ordnance Survey map the house on the Acocks Green estate was identified as Acocks Green House. The railway, opened in 1852, had cut through the estate, but no change was visible to the overall rural environment. That was soon to change. By the 1905 map The Avenue, previously reaching as far as the Westley Brook/Roberts Road, had been extended as New Avenue along much of the railway line (this had happened by 1903). Some development had also appeared along Lincoln Road North, mainly as shops. Housing was also present south of the railway on Lincoln Road, and on the Warwick Road itself a laundry had opened c. 1902. A nursery had also opened on the east bank of the canal by the old footpath. This was to become Westwoods in the early 1920s. By 1916 the new part of the Avenue was continuous along the railway, and a short row of terraces had appeared adjacent to the canal at the Lincoln Road end. More terraces had been built on the Warwick Road climbing the slope up from the laundry. In the 1930s council housing was built between The Avenue and the canal, and private housing appeared along Lincoln Road North c. 1936. Westwoods sold out to the government in 1936, who built the Rover shadow factory on their land. The Co-op built a laundry near the Vineries bridge on the canal. This opened in February 1939, and was soon dedicated to the war effort as well. The Co-op laundry closed in 1975, and the Rover factory was replaced by housing in the 1980s. Acocks Green House, after a period as a social club, Ye Olde House, was replaced by municipal housing in 1957/8. The road to the new blocks was named Woodcock Lane and the old lane towards the railway became Woodberry Walk. North of the railway the old lane and footpath are still Woodcock Lane and Woodcock Lane North.
Alders themselves have been responsible for the development of the shops after Woodberry Walk down to the council housing at Woodcock Lane. What follows has been compiled from notes by Mike Wood (there are some references to land outside the estates themselves):
The old lane from the Warwick Road was cut as an access road to the Acocks Green Estate and has been in use since at least 1847. Until 1958/9 it was always known locally as Muddy Lane, an unofficial name, as the road has never been adopted. This remains the case today, with no identified owner, much to the chagrin of Woodberry Walk’s (the present name) residents. Muddy Lane continued to a junction with the Avenue until it was truncated by new housing development on the new Woodcock Lane in 1958. To the right of the lane the high boundary wall of Alders Garage was built. To the left is the site of undeveloped land to the rear of housing in Oxford Road and Woodcock Lane. Before encroachment of new development the land occupied a considerably larger acreage and was a congregating area for local children playing cricket and football. The local scout group was based in a hut and various annual events were held there, from dancing round the Maypole to an always splendid Guy Fawkes night. Acocks Green House (Ye Olde House Social Club) also held a major bonfire night and there was always fierce competition for firewood in the weeks leading up to the event, as the two venues competed to produce the tallest pile. Usually we were honest in those days – but on these occasions there was much thieving going on of each others’ scraps. The Guy burnt nearest to heaven was invariably on the "Ponderosa".
The Laurels (now 1212-1214) was a substantial farm and homestead within the Acocks Green Estate. The area behind the hedge was orchard. When Alder Bros purchased the estate on 20th February 1920 Charles Alder alone acquired ownership of The Laurels. His brother, father of John, lived at 46 Hyron Hall Road. Planning permission was granted in September 1932 for the creation of three new lock-up shop units (1206, 1208, 1210) to fill the gap between the Garage and The Laurels. These were completed and the orchard removed in 1933. The contractor, as for the garage, was Mr H. Smith, builder, 100 Mayfield Road, Acocks Green. The tollkeeper’s lodge at the far extremity of the Alder frontage had only just been demolished. The gable appears on Alder’s original letterheads.
Apart from the garage/property business the Alders were also successful coal merchants. Occupants of the four shop conversions referred to were Miss Pears at 1194, the local kids’ idea of heaven! Three ladies were required to cope with the daily stampede for sherbet, gobstoppers, bubblegum, liquorice and pop! At 1196 were G. E. Wyatt, Radio and Television Engineers, 1198 was occupied by Busby’s furniture and Second Hand Goods, and 1200 by W. N. Dixon. Wyatt’s accommodation was extended upwards and sideways over the arch in 1950 to accommodate a store and showroom. L. E. Wilkes occupied no. 1206 until the mid 1980s. The livestock was still here until the early 1960s. I remember during the 1958 redevelopment Wilkes’s concern as the animals were disturbed by the noise and close proximity of the contractors. (Ingram and J. J. Gallagher and Val de Travers I remember: we used to hitch lifts on their dumper trucks while the land was being cleared). The former pig sties survive to this day at the rear as single storey offices and were originally part of the Laurels farm. The Laurels house survives into 2008 as 1212/1214 Warwick Road as a manicure centre, barber shop and offices.
Dixons (1200, 1202, 1204) was extended to the rear and upwards in 1965, which is when the present large headboard appeared, doubling as the front upper wall. The complex now accommodates a motor insurance company head office and reception area. Dixon’s business closed in April 2003 upon the retirement of Mr Royston Dixon, who had been shrinking the organisation to this end for some time. Only this one unit was active by 2003, selling ladies shoes and clothing mainly to long standing account holders. There was little passing trade here, and now specialist businesses thrive on the site.
I lived close to the Acocks Green laundry and remember as a child in the 1950s looking out of my bedroom window and watching the buildings to the rear of the offices being gutted in a fire, which lit up the area for miles around. It was all eventually rebuilt and I remember the washerwomen walking past our house going to and from work. The frontage, which is now a car park behind a modern brick wall, was previously a tiered garden with a Cotswold stone enclosure dissected by a central flight of steps leading to the front entrance/reception. They employed a gardener, Mr Millan, to maintain this frontage. The buildings still stand and are owned by Initial/Rentokil, who lease the site as small industrial units. Westair occupy the former offices.