The story of Acocks Green, by C.J.G. Hudson
(This was published in 1966 for St. Mary's, and is reproduced with permission from the Vicar. Where things have materially changed, we have indicated that fact, but we have not changed the text in other ways except to remove minor errors. The part of Mr. Hudson's text which deals specifically with St. Mary's church can be found in that section of our website.)
1966 is the Centenary year of the Church of St. Mary, Acocks Green. It is also, in effect, the Centenary of Acocks Green itself, for the building of the Church led to the formation of a separate Parish of Acocks Green, which had hitherto been part of the Parish and Manor of Yardley.
A hundred years is a very short time compared with the age of most of our towns and parishes, but the story of Acocks Green goes back far beyond 1866.
IN THE BEGINNING
Two thousand years ago almost the whole of the South Birmingham district was covered with forest - a thick, often impenetrable jungle of oak with a tangled undergrowth of holly and elder, bramble and ivy. The only inhabitants were the wild animals.
So it remained until Saxon times, when settlements were gradually made in the more open parts, at Gyrdleah (Yardley), at Ulverlei (Ulverley), at Cintone (Kineton) - but there is no evidence of any settlement at Acocks Green. Yardley is mentioned in a charter of 972, when King Edgar confirmed ownership of Yardley to Pershore Abbey.
After the Norman conquest the manor of Yardley was part of the County of Worcestershire, It was a large manor, and included, besides the present Yardley - Stechford, Acocks Green, Hay Mills, Tyseley, Greet, Sparkhill, Hall Green, Yardley Wood and Billesley.
THE FEUDAL SYSTEM
The Saxon settlement at Yardley flourished and Yardley is here today. Kineton (King's Town) gradually declined and practically nothing is known of it after 1086. Ulverley (Wulfhere's clearing) flourished until late in the 12th century, when it was abandoned and a new town built - the present Solihull. All that remains is its name in Ulverley Green Road, and Olton (Old Town).
In the early part of the 12th Century Geoffrey de Limesi held the manor of Yardley under the Abbot of Pershore. It subsequently passed through many hands, and was finally purchased in 1768 by the Birmingham manufacturer, John Taylor, in whose family it remained.
It is not known how the manorial system originated, hut in Norman times, the manors were estates held by Lords from the King in return for services, which included supplying men-at-arms, horses, forage, etc., in times of trouble. The manors varied greatly in size, but each was divided into three parts: the demesne or holding of the Lord; the arable and meadow, in which the villeins (or tenants) had a share; and the woods and commons (or waste lands) in which all had the right of pasturage. The villein's land was divided into strips, each having an equal number. In return for these strips they paid their Lord certain dues - usually in kind - and were bound to work for him for so many days a year.
The villein's land was usually divided into three fields. One was ploughed and sown with crops; the second was used for grazing and the third grew hay for winter feed. Yardley originally had three fields - Church Field, Stichford Field and Wood Meadow. Church Field lay to the north of Church Road, roughly between Yardley Fields Road and Blakesley Road. Stichford Field was the other side of Station Road, and Wood Meadow lay on the Castle Bromwich side of the Church.
As the population increased, further clearings had to be made in the forest, and new fields enclosed. This was done either by individual or communal activity. New land was brought into cultivation in places where the forest was not so dense and clearing would be easier; Crabtree Field lay between Alexander Road, Sherbourne Road and Rookwood Road; Stock Field lay between the canal, Stockfield Road, Douglas Road and Yardley Road; Acocks Green Field stretched from Yardley Cemetery to Malvern Road on the South of Yardley Road.
The "Greens" were originally clearings, usually for pasture, and the names that remain today give some indication of the extent of the forest area to the South and East of Birmingham. There are some twenty "Greens" between Wylde Green and Bartley Green. Acocks Green got its name from the Acock family, which had held land in Yardley at least since the 15th Century and probably much earlier. In 1420 John Akoc was a witness to a Yardley deed. Richard Acocke and his wife Matilda were living at Gilbertstone House in 1495. In 1626 a William Acock, son of Richard Acock of Acocks Green (described as a gentleman) was given as a marriage settlement "Acocks Green house and other estates". In 1697 Alice, daughter of William Acock, Gentleman, was baptised at Yardley Church. In 1774 a Richard Acock was buried at Yardley, aged 91. The family seems to have left the district about this time. In the same year there is evidence of a Richard Acock, grand-nephew of Richard above, in Poplar, and there is reason to believe that one of his sons, at least, went to America.
The Manorial system gradually decayed. Many left for the towns; clearings were made by individuals or families, and in the fields that were formed, the villagers held no rights. It began to be realised that strip farming on the open field system was not the ideal method. The Manor Court kept strict control of the farming activities. Rotation of crops was rigidly enforced. Harvesting and hay-making had to be done at times to suit the general convenience. People with new ideas had no chance at all of trying them out.
The strips began to be exchanged or sold, as the tenants tried to bring their strips together in one field. Sometimes the common pastures were parcelled out among the villagers, and individual farms and small-holdings replaced the open fields. Where agreement could not be reached, an Act of Parliament was needed to enclose the land. Between 1709 (when the first Act was passed) and 1867, some five million acres of common land were enclosed in England and Wales. In the latter year another act was passed forbidding any further enclosures, as the public began to realise what the loss of these open spaces would mean to themselves.
The Yardley enclosure act was not passed until 1841, and the apportionment did not take place until 1847, when the fields were divided up among the landowners in proportion to the amount of land they held. Nothing now remains of Crabtree Field; of Stock Field, only the name in Stockfield Road; and of Acocks Green Field only some allotment gardens backing on to the canal.
Until the eighteenth century, the roads through Acocks Green were nothing but dirt tracks. Very little road making was done between Roman times and the reign of George III when a serious attempt was made to improve communications. Many hundreds of Turnpike Acts were passed, providing for local re-building and maintenance of roads, the cost to be met by tolls. The roads were gated at intervals, and a tollhouse built alongside where lived the toll keeper who collected the dues.
The Birmingham-Warwick Turnpike Act was passed in 1725. A toll-house was built at the corner of Woodberry Walk, and a toll-gate crossed the Warwick Road from there to the Dolphin Hotel. A weighbridge was installed later when the tolls, which varied from time to time, were reckoned according to the weight of the vehicles.
Until well into the eighteenth century there was very little wheeled traffic; on the roads, travellers went on their journeys on horseback and goods were mostly tarried by pack-horse or mules. The Industrial Revolution brought more traffic, and the roads began to improve between the important towns. Carriers' wagons began to appear, then more private carriages and the Stage Coach service. Finally in 1785, John Palmer started the Post Office Mail Coaches, and from that time until the coming of the railways, the main roads were very busy.
The long distance stage coaches, and particularly the Mail Coaches, kept remarkably good time. It was unusual for a Mail Coach to be more than five minutes late on its run between London and Birmingham.
In 1836 a Mail coach ran between London and Birmingham via Bicester, Banbury, Southam, Warwick and Solihull - a distance of 119 miles - in 11 hours 56 minutes, nearly 10 miles an hour. This would include all stops, with about a dozen changes of horses, The maximum time allowed to change the horses on a mail coach five minutes, but it was often done in less than three. The best time was said to be a minute and a half.
Besides coaches, there were long distance wagons and local carriers, also private carriages and carts, traders' carts and wagons, packhorses and horsemen. Most inns kept horses for hire, and were able to serve meals at any time. Blacksmiths were plentiful - there was one opposite Stockfield Road near the Britannia Inn until about twenty years ago.
CANAL AND RAILWAY
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the people of Acocks Green witnessed a tremendous engineering feat. In March 1793 King George 1111 gave Royal Assent to an Act of Parliament permitting the construction of a canal from Birmingham to Warwick, and shortly afterwards work began.
If you stand on the canal bridge in Woodcock Lane (the last remaining original canal bridge in Acocks Green) and look down at the water, you will have some idea of the tremendous amount of work involved. The whole of the cutting was dug out by hand, by huge gangs of "navigators", as they were called - soon abbreviated to "navvy". The total length of the canal is 22½ miles, from Digbeth in Birmingham to Saltisford in Warwick, yet it was opened in 1799, six years after the Act was passed. Much heavy traffic must have left the Warwick Road, and no doubt the coachmen were glad to see fewer of the great lumbering wagons, which were often pulled by six or eight horses.
In the spring of 1847 the construction of the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway was begun and for the second time Acocks Green saw huge labour gangs at work.
Three years before, a meeting had been held in Oxford attended by members of the university, directors of the Great Western Railway Company, and their chief engineer, Mr. I. K. Brunel. It was proposed to extend the railway from Oxford to Banbury, and from there either in the direction of Rugby or Worcester. It was also suggested that a branch might leave the Oxford-Rugby railway near Fenny Compton, to run north to Leamington, Warwick and Birmingham. Finally, a resolution was carried in favour of a line from Oxford to Rugby, and an Act of Parliament was obtained in August 1845. Work started soon afterwards, and the line was opened as far as Banbury on 2nd September, 1850.
The Rugby line never proceeded further than Fenny Compton, for in 1845 the Great Western Railway and the Grand Junction Railway agreed to proceed with an extension from Fenny Compton to Birmingham. So in the autumn of 1846, work commenced under the supervision of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the greatest engineers of the 19th Century. The contractors were Peto and Betts, and they had plenty of first class labour available - men who had been employed in making embankments and cuttings for canals and earlier railways.
Digging was still all done by hand, and the amount of work involved can be gauged by the section of line through Acocks Green to Olton, which required a cutting nearly a mile long and 30 ft. deep and an embankment more than a mile long and up to 40ft. high.
The line was opened for passenger traffic on October 1st, 1852, and for goods in February 1853. Acocks Green was then the first station from Birmingham. It consisted of one or two wooden sheds on the platforms.
The opening of the railway station at Acocks Green was one of the main causes of the quick growth of our Parish. Very soon more houses were being built, and wealthy business and professional men were moving out of the smoky and dirty city into what was then a clean and pleasant country district, with easy journeys by rail to and from their work. People also began to move out to Acocks Green on retiring from business.
Notice that most of the old Victorian Houses in Warwick Road have a coach-house where the carriage or two-wheeled dog-cart was kept. Often there is a room above for the "Coach-man" who was usually also the gardener and general manservant in all but the largest establishments.
There are still many Victorian houses in Acocks Green, although the larger ones are in danger of being pulled down and replaced by blocks of flats or smaller houses.
The larger pre-Victorian houses in and around Acocks Green have, with one exception, been demolished. Hyron Hall, Broome Hall and Tyseley Farm all had moated sites (there is a record of Juliana Hyron making a grant of land to Agnes Fulford in 1350). Fox Hollies Hall was modernised in the middle of the last century, and pulled down some thirty years ago; only the pillars of the entrance gates now remain. Acocks Green House was the last to go; it too had been rebuilt several times, and in its last few years it housed a social club! It was finally demolished to make way for the blocks of flats in Woodcock Lane. Hay Hall, near Tyseley Station, is now the office block of an engineering firm. One of the oldest buildings still remaining is 196 Yardley Road, part of which is of half-timbered construction. (DEMOLISHED c. 1977 (ed.)) There are some old cottages in Arden Road, but little else remains.
Some of the names of streets and roads are interesting. Warwick Road, as mentioned above, was a turnpike road from 1725 until 1872 when the turnpike acts were repealed. Until about 1830 it ran through three distinct hamlets: Flint Green at the top of the hill - Flint Green Road has kept the name; Westley Brook, now known as "The Green"; Acocks Green, a group of farms and cottages by the Dolphin Inn.
Gospel Lane - until the 1930's "Beeches Lane" - led to Gospel Oak Farm and on to the Stratford Road. The Gospel Oak was a very ancient tree which marked the meeting point of the parishes of Yardley, Solihull and Bickenhill (Lyndon). It used to be the custom for the Parish Priest, Churchwardens and other parish officials to walk round the parish boundaries accompanied by boys who beat the boundary stones with boughs. The ceremony, known as Beating the Bounds, took place in May on Rogation day preceding Ascension Day. At suitable spots a portion of the Gospels was read. A large oak tree marking an important part of the bounds would have been an obvious place. The Gospel Oak was felled in the eighteen-forties, and sixteen horses were needed to drag it away.
Dolphin Lane (originally Green Lane) and the Dolphin Hotel are named after the Dolphin family, who were landowners in Yardley parish from the Middle Ages.
The Vineries was named after a nursery and market garden that occupied the site of the Rover Works until that part was developed. Large quantities of grapes were grown there.
Several roads have changed their names. Hazelwood Road was originally Dog Lane; Arden Road was once known as Quality Lane; Oxford Road, from Roberts Road to Warwick Road, was known as Clifton Road at the beginning of the century. Lincoln Road was mentioned as long ago as the 17th Century as Rowe Leasowe Lane. Westley Road was originally Well Lane. This was changed to Florence Road about 1876, and to Westley or Wesley Road in 1879.
St. Mary's was not the first church to be built in Acocks Green. Seven years before it was finished, the foundation stone of the Congregational Church at the corner of Stockfield Road had been laid. Designed to accommodate 450 people it was opened on the 20th June, 1860. Nevertheless, the building of St. Mary's Church marked a very important stage in the development of Acocks Green, for within two years of its opening the parishioners had begun to lay plans for the building of a school.
At that time the only schools in the district were two private schools for girls - Miss Martha Bywater's " SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES ", and the "LADIES BOARDING SCHOOL" in Warwick Road run by Miss Ann and Miss Emma Dixon. The congregation of the new church were determined to have a school for boys and girls where education would be free, and by 1871 enough money had been raised to enable a start to be made. A site was obtained in Broad Road (then Broad Lane) and building commenced in December 1872. The school was formally opened on March 10th, 1874. It had cost £1,595.
Meanwhile a third church had been built. In 1868 the Wesleyans opened a chapel and Sunday School in Shirley Road at the corner of Botteville Road, and in 1872 a second building was added.
In 1870 the first horse-drawn omnibus ran from Birmingham to Acocks Green. It was driven by Charles Lane from High Street to the Dolphin Inn. Another bus ran on Sundays only, operated by Whitehouse from Dale End. It left Birmingham at 2.30 and continued on to Solihull and Knowle, where it left at 7.15 for the return journey. In addition there were regular carriers' vans conveying goods and people to and from Birmingham and the surrounding villages. These ran mostly on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Thursday being Market-day in Birmingham.
The carriers and the buses started and stopped at the inns, as the stage coaches had done. The inns were truly "public houses", where people would go after business or market to wait for their conveyance, where they could get a meal or a snack or a drink, or just sit and gossip with their friends. With the coming of the railways the habit persisted, and if there was no inn near the station, one was built. Most towns and villages served by the railways have a Station Hotel" or a "Railway Tavern". Acocks Green has the "Great Western", built alongside the railway as soon as the station was opened. Even today you will hear people travelling by bus asking for tickets to the "Mermaid", or the "Dolphin" or the "Barley Mow".
There were at this time five other inns in Acocks Green, all of them in the Warwick Road; the Britannia, the New Inn, the Red Lion, the Spread Eagle and the Dolphin. The majority brewed their own beer, and they provided meals and catered for banquets and parties and meetings; they acted as head-quarters for societies, clubs and associations; in fact, they were the social centres of the country villages. The New Inn, the Great Western and the Dolphin have been rebuilt. The Britannia was "modernised" at the beginning of the century (SINCE REPLACED BY A NEW BUILDING in 1973 (ed.)) The Spread Eagle (one of the oldest inns in (THE AREA (ed.)) at the corner of Victoria Road, opposite the Dolphin, was pulled down in 1929 for the widening of Warwick Road. Only the Red Lion remains in its original state (REPLACED BY A NEW BUILDING in 1982 (ed.)).
THE SOCIAL SIDE
There were many clubs and societies in Acocks Green in the latter half of the 19th Century, although the population was only 3,800 in 1900. One of the earliest was the Acocks Green Choral Society, which was first formed in 1867. On December 10th 1874 it gave a performance of Handel's Messiah with a chorus of 100 voices.
In 1878 the Acocks Green Institute was founded, and its head-quarters built at the corner of Sherbourne Road and Dudley Park Road, at a cost of £3,000. The principal room - 74ft. by 30ft. by 30ft. high - was used for many years as a meeting place for Yardley District Council, and a magistrate's court was held there for a time. As a consequence, it became known as "The Public Hall". The Institute was a very ambitious undertaking, which flourished for many years and achieved some remarkable successes. This building was pulled down in 1965.
In 1881 its President was G.W. Hastings, M.P. There were eleven vice-presidents, including the Vicars of Acocks Green, Yardley, Olton, Bickenhill and Solihull, the Acocks Green Congregational and Wesleyan ministers and three J.P.s. There were eighteen Council members and eight committees covering Finance, Education, Literature, News Room, Lectures and Entertainments, Music, Library and "Mutual Improvement". Its aims were given as "The extension of literary, scientific and artistic knowledge, improvement in public speaking and debating and the provision of wholesome recreation for its members".
The winter programme included three concerts, two literary evenings, a debate, four lectures, an exhibition of models of machinery and scientific apparatus, and an exhibition of works of art lent by the South Kensington Museum, Earl Beauchamp, Lord Leigh, Lord Lyttleton and many others, and an address by Joseph Chamberlain.
The Educational Committee organised classes in French, Drawing, English Literature; History, Music and the History of the New Testament, with competitive examinations in December 1881 and April 1882, with prizes and certificates of merit.
In addition, there were children's parties, dances and social evenings, The programme for the year was a 24-page printed booklet. The subscriptions ranged from 7s 6d to 45s for a family ticket (there were some large families in those days).
THE END OF THE 19th CENTURY
All this time Acocks Green was growing steadily. Houses were spreading along Westley Road, Shirley Road, Greenwood Road (now part of Olton Boulevard), Botteville Road, Victoria Road, Flint Green Road and Broad Lane. By 1880 the church was becoming so crowded on Sundays that a Mission Room large enough to accommodate 100 people was erected in Spring Road. It was opened on the 30th January, 1881, under the name of St. Gabriel's, and the Rev. W. K. Cox held regular services there. It was enlarged four years later. In 1882 the Wesleyans, too, were in need of more room, and their chapel in Shirley Road was doubled in size. In 1892 a Primitive Methodist Chapel was opened in Station Road.
Industry first appeared in Acocks Green in 1887. There had been a tannery for some years in Speedwell Road, off Stock field Road - in the part now known as Amington Road - but this was not strictly speaking in the parish. The new venture was a factory opened by Messrs. Waterhouse & Blantern at the corner of Fox Hollies Road and Warwick Road (where the new flats arc now built). It was known as "The Birmingham Woven Wire Mattress Co. Ltd." Later it was extended for the manufacture of furniture, the extension being called "The Pioneer Cabinet Works ". The works closed down in 1933, and a year or two later the factory was demolished.
By 1890 houses had spread down Dog Lane (renamed Hazelwood Road), Summer Road, Yardley Road, Florence Road, Augusta Road and the Avenue. In 1895 there were 25 shops in Acocks Green - 22 of them in Warwick Road.
In the same year Acocks Green got its first fire brigade, although it was actually stationed outside the parish boundary. Earlier in the year Messrs. George Muscott and Sons, of the Tannery In Speedwell Road, had a serious fire which could have been easily controlled had the necessary appliances been available. So they started a fire brigade of their own and provided themselves with a fire engine - a "manual" capable of throwing about 70 gallons a minute - and five hundred feet of hose. Muscotts let it be known that the brigade and engine were at the service of anyone in the district. For those in a position to pay, a fee was to be charged. It is not known whether they were ever called out.
In this year, too, the Congregational Church was enlarged and new Sunday Schools built. A memorial stone was laid on the 29th May, and in a cavity beneath it were placed copies of that day's "London Standard", and "Daily News", a copy of the "Acocks Green Congregational Church Monthly" and a history of the church from the year it was built.
Queen Victoria's Jubilee was celebrated in 1897 by a fete. Children assembled in Station Fields (where Oxford Road is now) and each boy was given a flag, and each girl a fan. A procession was formed headed by cyclists in fancy dress followed by a brass band. After parading the principal roads, the procession made its way to Knight's Field (where Mayfield Road is now). Here each child was given a souvenir book of the Queen's reign, and "heaps of good things were provided for grown-ups and children". There followed an afternoon of sports and all kinds of competitions, also Maypole dancing by tile senior class of Broad Road School, and an open-air dance in the evening.
A field bounded by Broad Road, Westley Road and Fox Hollies Road was given by the Yardley Charity Trustees in October 1898 to the people of Acocks Green for use as a recreation ground. It is still a popular playing field for children today.
The population in 1901 was 3,836, an increase of 900 in ten years. Thereafter the growth of the parish accelerated swiftly - in the next ten years the increase was nearly 6,000 - and houses were built in Elmdon Road, Malvern Road, Arden Road, Flint Green Road, Oxford Road, Alexander Road and Douglas Road. It is interesting to compare the speed of house building and "development" today with that of sixty years ago. Alexander Road was opened in 1903 and 84 houses were built and occupied by the summer of 1904. By the end of the following year, no less than 210 had been built.
Meanwhile St. Gabriel's Mission in Spring Road was faced with a crisis. The land on which it stood was required for the building of the North Warwickshire Railway. Another site was found in Summer Road and in 1905 the Mission Room was dismantled and re-erected in its new position. In 1906 it became the temporary Parish Church for Tyseley, and the Rev. Donald Moore was appointed Priest-in-charge of an area bounded by Stockfield Road, Fox, Hollies Road, Shaftmoor Lane, Reddings Lane and Wharf Road. It was intended that this should be part of a new parish of Tyseley, but by an Order-in-Council dated August 18th, 1907, the boundaries of the Ecclesiastical District of Acocks Green were extended to include this area.
Another mission room was opened in 1905 in Francis Road. This was known as "St. Faiths ", and meetings were held there for some years.
In 1905 too, the Convent of Our Lady of Compassion was established at Wilton House in Warwick Road (now Crosby Hall School (NOW SAINSBURY'S (ED.))). And in July 1906 the first chapel was constructed from a greenhouse at the back of Wilton House, which was given a wooden extension and an iron roof. Mass was said there for about eighteen months, until a chapel was opened in the upper floor of a new school built next door. The foundation stone of this was laid on the 2nd April, 1907, by the Earl of Denbigh, and was blessed by Mgr. Ilsley (not then an Archbishop). The nuns from Wilton House taught here until they moved to Olton in 1948.
The building of the permanent Church of the Sacred Heart and Holy Souls commenced in 1923, the foundation stone being laid on the 18th April. The first part was opened in March 1925, but the building was not completed until 1940, and the consecration ceremony took place in 1945. The architects were Messrs. Harrison & Cox.
In 1908 a new Council School was built between Warwick Road and Westley Road - the date can still be seen above the entrance in Warwick Road. By 1908 the population had grown to more than 7,000 and St. Mary's School was not big enough to cope with all the children. The new school was built on the site of a large house - Camden Lodge - where the Johnson family had lived for many years. Today the school also includes another large house, Stone Hall - once the residence of Mr. J.F. Swinburn, one of Acocks Green's earliest benefactors. (STONE HALL BECAME AN ADULT EDUCATION CENTRE IN 1973 (ed.))
Next door to the school (in Warwick Road) is a building which was once the police station and later the fire station. (DEMOLISHED IN THE 1990s (ed.)) In 1909, a new and much larger Police Station was built in Yardley Road - again the date can be seen on the front of the building.
In 1900 the Yardley District Council, in response to many appeals from local people, had provided a fire-escape, which had been housed in a shed at the corner of Warwick Road and Flint Green Road. A small hand pump was added later, but main reliance still was placed on Muscott's fire brigade. When the police moved to their new premises, the escape and the pump left their shed and moved into the old police station, where they remained until 1911.
In 1911 the work of doubling the railway line from Acocks Green to Olton was begun. Tyseley Station had been opened and the new North Warwickshire line to Stratford was carrying many passengers. Acocks Green Station was re-built (IN 1906/7 (ed.)) - a very necessary work, for the original building was quite inadequate for the growing number of people using the railway, and bitter complaints had been made for some time.
PART OF BIRMINGHAM
The manor of Yardley and with it the parish of Acocks Green became part of the city of Birmingham under the Birmingham Extension Act in this same year, and was transferred from Worcestershire to Warwickshire. Our parent - Yardley - was replaced by a more powerful and energetic foster-parent, and the days of rural contentment were soon to be over.
Little development took place during the period of the Great War, but soon afterwards the character of the parish began to change. The wealthy families started to move further afield to Olton and Solihull, and most of the new houses put up were smaller and more suited to those who now began to overflow into the new suburb of Birmingham. In the years between the wars Acocks Green grew apace. Denham Road and Dalston Road, Bramley Road and Beeches Avenue covered the site of the old Stock Field. Hyron Hall and Redstone Farm and Pool Farm were pulled down and their fields disappeared under the houses round Gospel Lane and Dolphin Lane, Pool Farm Road and Circular Road. Fox Hollies Hall was demolished, and Fox Green Crescent and Hartfield Crescent grew up on its lands. (STRICTLY SPEAKING HARTFIELD CRESCENT WAS NOT IN THE GROUNDS OF THE HALL (ed.)) Houses and shops and schools were built and people flooded in.
The first cinema was opened in Acocks Green in 1914, on the corner of Warwick Road and Station Road. It was called "The Acocks Green Picture Playhouse", and seated about 500 people in stalls and circle. It was closed in 1929 when the Warwick Cinema opened in Westley Road.
The Public Library, opened in 1932, was at that time the largest branch Library in Birmingham.
THE POST WAR PERIOD
The Second World War left some scars. The church was badly damaged, and one or two houses were destroyed or damaged, but Acocks Green got off lightly compared with some other districts. Development continued afterwards, but the pace slowed down as available land became scarce. Old Victorian houses became the target of the "developer", and many have already disappeared and been replaced by blocks of flats or shops.
Although industry has partially surrounded it, Acocks Green has remained almost wholly residential. Shops have increased from six in 1855 to well over two hundred today. But for a population of nearly 30,000, there are only five public houses - the same number that served a population of just over 3,000 in 1900.
Amenities generally have not increased in step with the population. In the last fifty years the only additions have been the branch library (30 years ago), a Youth Centre, and a - bowling hall, with Fox Hollies Park on the boundary.
What of the future? There is now little land available for further house building, but the trend has been set for flats to replace houses, and doubtless this will continue. As the population can only increase slowly, shops are not likely to increase to any great extent.
Road widening, especially parts of Warwick Road, is already planned. A crying need at the moment is for car parking facilities in the shopping areas, and this need is sure to increase as the years go by.
It is certain that Acocks Green will not grow much more, but there is no doubt at all that it will change!
Acocks Green, by C.J.G. Hudson, 1966