Westley Road

 

 

Before suburban development came to this lane from Foxes Green to the hamlet of Westley Brook, the only site was Fox Green Farm. The Tithe map extract below shows traces of a moat: this must have been a building of some standing many centuries ago. Now the newer farmhouse is a yoga school. The triangle of land between the Warwick Road, Broad Road and Westley Road was owned by different people. The Warwick Road end, where Stone Hall and a line of not quite so large but nevertheless impressive houses were built, was part of the Cook estate. The section from where Broad Road and Westley Road met was owned by others.

 

As Broad Road developed, these other owners enabled houses to be built along the northern side of Westley Road during the 1860s. Westley Road became Florence Road as part of an attempt to make it more upmarket. The sale catalogue for 26th June 1866 refers to eighteen lots of building land "situate fronting to Broad Road and Florence Road, in that important part of Acock's Green, known as Fox Hill...". Westley Road also had the name Well Lane beforehand.

Westley Road on the 1840s Tithe map. 1194-6 belong to Waterhouse, 1197-9 to Cook
Westley Road on the 1840s Tithe map. 1194-6 belong to Waterhouse, 1197-9 to Cook
1866 sale catalogue map with Westley Road as Florence Road
1866 sale catalogue map with Westley Road as Florence Road
Part of the 1875 Cook estate map. St. Mary's church school is on Waterhouse land.There is only one house shown on the south side of Westley Road
Part of the 1875 Cook estate map. St. Mary's church school is on Waterhouse land.There is only one house shown on the south side of Westley Road

 

 

The 1866 map above shows how the plots were created along the northern side of the road. Gardens were provided to both the Broad and Florence Road plots, however nearly all plot 5 where the two roads met acquired 'dog-leg' gardens at Westley Road for houses on Broad Road. This resulted in an unattractive row of sheds and garages until 2011, when the garden ends were finally replaced by a single house on Westley Road. On this page the word 'garage' is used loosely to denote somewhere where fuel was sold, various types of servicing were undertaken, or cars were sold.

 

 

O.S map extract, 1888. Note how extensive the gardens to Stone Hall are. They include a circuit around field 1853. The New Inn, then at the junction of Warwick and Westley Roads, dates from 1858.
O.S map extract, 1888. Note how extensive the gardens to Stone Hall are. They include a circuit around field 1853. The New Inn, then at the junction of Warwick and Westley Roads, dates from 1858.
O.S. map extract, 1904. By then, several houses were on the south side of the road, and a nursery was in business to the east.
O.S. map extract, 1904. By then, several houses were on the south side of the road, and a nursery was in business to the east.
O.S. map extract, 1916. Stone Hall has lost a lot of its grounds, and the school has been built
O.S. map extract, 1916. Stone Hall has lost a lot of its grounds, and the school has been built

 

 

After World War One came the development of the rest of the road. The most significant element was the shortening of the road at the Green end. Westley Road used to come out onto the Warwick Road at the far end of the current island, and the original New Inn was next to this junction. Land was acquired by the City to enable the much larger Green of 1932 to be created, and new shops came to curve round the new northern corner a couple of years later. As a result, the 1929 cinema found itself closer to the centre of activity. 

 

If we look at the northern side and examine when each property appears, we get the following results.

 

Numbers 1 to 11 date from around 1933, after Westley Road was shortened. The first to appear in directories was Barclay's bank, which originally occupied numbers 1 to 3, and is now in 1099 Warwick Road as well as number 1. Upstairs above number 1 was a hairdresser. By 1987 Barclays were also in number 5, which became Barclays Bank Chambers and houses solicitors, who are also in number 3. In 1935 number 5 was Hedges chemists, number 7 a drapers, number 9 Holtom's bakery, and number 11 a wine and spirit merchant. Number 9 was the Copper Kettle cafe by 1936. This was used by girls from King Edwards High School who were using the Methodist church school on Botteville Road after their school buildings were burnt down, and had school dinners there at the Copper Kettle! Number 9 was Maud Leeson's cafe until the early 1960s. By 1970 number 5 was a tobacconist's shop.

 

Numbers 33 and 35 are a pair. They appeared around 1910, when Walter Child moved his nursery shop there from across the road. By 1920 separate families were in the houses. By 1935 number 33 was occupied by a confectioner and number 35 a boot repairer. Harry Payne was at number 35 by 1956, which later became a self-service laundry. Offices upstairs at 33 became flats in 2007.

 

Number 37 had a Temperance Institute on the site by around 1904. This was taken over by the Methodist church in 1918. It became known as the Tin Tabernacle. Services were held there in 1927. The Methodists sold it in 1933, when their school and institute opened on Botteville Road. The current building looks 1950s. By 1935 the site was occupied by the Acocks Green Women's Conservative and Unionist Institute. During the war it was occupied by a shoe factor, then by G.B. Clothing until c. 1963. The Cherry Blossom cafe was there afterwards. In the mid-1980s a tandoori restaurant appeared upstairs, and in 2008 the showroom became a martial arts centre and shop. The Hobmoor Garage was at the back for a time.

 

Number 55 is the school caretaker's house, beyond the school buildings. Number 57 was built around 1960 and housed the Spectachrome Colour Processing Laboratory, a photographic finisher and processor. They were there until c. 1970. A building is shown behind on the 1962-1972 map. Later flats were created here. Number 61, Holly House, appeared c. 1904 as Sledgemoor, Sedgemoor or Hedgemoor! Around 2011 it was converted from a bed and breakfast hotel into a care home. The semis 63 and 65 also date from c. 1904. There is no number 67. Numbers 69 and 71, also semis, date from c. 1925. There is no number 73. Number 75 was new in 1927. The block of square-bayed houses numbers 77-85 date from around 1907. Number 77 was known as Struan House or Lyndhurst, number 79 as Rosedale, number 81 as Hill Crest or Emolym (?), number 83 as Rosthwaite, and number 85 as Holmleigh.

 

Land at Westley Road was bought by Fowler's dairies in 1903. They were listed at Rose Villa in 1913, which name then applied to both numbers 107 and 109. Their shop was at 577 Stratford Road, Sparkhill.  Thanks to David Fowler for the following information. Around 12 stables were built for the horse-drawn carts, and a cold store and offices were added during World War One. (The first stables have been identified on a pin attached to an aerial photograph as being behind number 100 on the south side of the road, and the 1952 O.S. map shows them as the site of Acocks Green Mission's first building). After the bus garage on Fox Hollies Road was built in 1928, some of Fowler's milk carts were kept there because there was not enough room at Westley Road. Four dairies divided up Birmingham by mutual agreement, and Fowlers had the area south of the Coventry Road. Acocks Green was their first site in Birmingham. Initially two-wheeled carts were used for the dozen or so rounds. As business grew, four-wheeled carts with pneumatic tyres were used. Some time in the 1940s more land was purchased and the carts were no longer stored at the bus station. Fowlers Forest Dairies (stables) were listed behind number 85 in 1947. (This suggests they had abandoned the stables and built new ones, or it could have been the office address and cart store, as the 1952 map still shows them on the south side of the road.)

 

Fowlers started pasteurising milk in churns in 1909, using Welsh mains water, which had become available to Birmingham a short time before. In 1920 they started bottling milk. Fowlers were pioneers in pasteurising in the bottle. Raw milk came to Birmingham from 54 farms in Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire. It was taken to Showell Green Lane, where Fowlers had a processing plant, pasteurised and taken to Westley Road to be delivered on the rounds. From 1926 lorries were used to collect the milk from the farms. Fowlers sold three grades of milk, cheese, butter, sausages, black pudding, and eggs. Each round had about 40 customers. The company ran competitions like whose baby grew fastest on Fowler's milk! In 1959 Fowlers sold their retail business to Midland Counties. Fowlers Forest Dairies were still listed on Westley Road in 1965, which is curious, but it is not unknown for directories to keep the same listing after changes have happened.

 

The Victoria Nurseries had been listed behind the houses for about a decade in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by William Brown florist. Later businesses on the site included Fowler's Dairies' stables, and flooring, building and electrical contractors. A large house, known as West Lyn, had appeared just to the west of here c. 1872. It was replaced by Overlea Avenue, a very narrow road. This was first listed in 1946. The houses may have been intended for Lucas employees. Numbers 16 and 18 were built first, with parquet floors. Later houses were fitted out much more cheaply, probably because of restrictions on materials (thanks to Ged. Hughes). Number 95a dates from 2003/4. Number 97, Westley House, dates from c. 1878, and number 99 (South View) was there by 1875. Numbers 101 and 103, Mona Villa and Douglas Villa, date from around 1868. Number 105, the Firs, was there by 1865, as were numbers 107 (Rose Villa) and 109 (St. Margaret's/Pinehurst). Number 105 became a dentist's surgery in 1954. It reverted to being just a home around 1962, and the practice went to number 109. Number 63 also become a dental practice around 1979.

 

The garage next door, number 111, appears in a 1947 directory as Butler and Wallace. It later took over parts of a series of gardens to expand. It has had various names and functions: P. F. Parry, Westley Garage, Apollo Motors, Acocks Green Service Station, and te Tyre and Exhaust Fitting Centre in its first 30 years. Number 131 was finally built on the ends of dogleg gardens from Broad Road c. 2011, improving the view from the street, which had been of a series of sheds and old fences. The vet practice at number 139 dates from around 1933. The bakery/confectioners/coffee house right at the junction with Broad Road was replaced by maisonettes c. 1976.

 

 

If we now look at the southern side of the road, we start with the second New Inn, opened in March 1932. An attempt was made to create a restaurant here in the 1980s under the name Beagles - Flies Again. Although it was well received, by 1982 it was known as the New Inn again. In the 1990s the pub was renamed Lloyds. After Lafferty's Irish Bar it became the Inn on the Green, and has become famous for its real ale offer. The large room next to the library on Shirley Road became Route 44 in the 1990s, a live music venue.

 

Next to the small garage, the two former public toilets became shops c. 2007. A superloo had already been installed in front, and the old toilets had become an eyesore. The tyre sales business next door was in existence as a filling station by 1940, and has the almost unique distinction of being involved in an experiment to bring 'pumpless' petrol dispensing to Britain. It was certainly the first place where this was tried, opening on 27th August 1968. Nozzles hung down from the roof at the end of hoses, and cars parked inside rings of metal studs which denoted where each particular octane was delivered. The rings of studs are still there. This was a Japanese invention, comically named Non-Space, or Space-Fill, which never caught on in Britain but is popular in some other countries. The idea is that ground-level pumps would leave less space for cars to manoeuvre.

 

The Warwick cinema opened in September 1929. It was designed by Horace Bradley of Hazelwood Road. The interior was intended to be reminiscent of the grounds of Warwick Castle. It had nearly 1,300 seats, and was used during the War for large church services after St. Mary's was bombed in December 1940. In 1962 it closed, and re-opened as a bowling alley with smaller cinema. That closed in 1991, and became a laser combat business. Some information and photographs are here and here.

 

Numbers 58 to 64 date from around 1926. Number 66 dates from c. 1981, and number 68 from c. 1928. Number 74 was built around 1926. Number 76 was built by 1900, and was then called Edelweiss. It was occupied by Walter Busby Child, who had opened a nursery between Hazelwood Road and Westley Road. It had a period of multiple occupancy, including as a retirement home from the 1980s, and is now flats. Number 78 (Allonfield) was there by 1896. It became flats c. 2012. Number 80, now a hotel annexe, was originally known as Corran, Gorran or Conan Haven, and is on the 1888 map. It was a City of Birmingham Welfare Hostel in 1956, and may have been so for a number of years beforehand. It continued as such into the 1970s.

 

Number 88 was in existence by 1881. It became known as Shirley House by 1900, and became a hotel around 1950. Number 90 was the first house to be built on the south side, and was originally known as Alpha House. It is shown on the 1875 Cook estate map above. In the 1871 census it was occupied by Major Henry Tomes, an American citizen born in Oxford. His wife Mary was born in London, and they had three children with them, all born in the U.S. Two servants were also listed. He had left for America in 1850 and got his rank in the New York National Guard, where he was listed as Major in 1857. He worked for a family company in New York, Frances Tomes and Sons, which imported guns. He later had his own company, Henry Tomes & Co. In 1865 he went to London as a buyer for another company, but later moved to Acocks Green, where a number of prominent gunmakers lived. In 1873 he was listed at Whittal Street as a merchant, with his home address as Cumberland House, which was on Station Road. His will of 1874 is listed in the United States in 1875. He died on November 2nd, 1874, and a photograph of his gravestone appears on the Birmingham History Forum. Alpha House became known as The Laurels, and became a City Wartime Nursery, then a City Day Nursery. Later it became part of the Shirley House Hotel next door. Since then the hotel has been extended to the rear, and acquired a conservatory at the front around 1999.

 

Numbers 92 to 98 date from around 1933. A number of buildings have occupied the area behind number 100, the first being Fowler's Dairies' stables from the Edwardian period (see above). A tennis club formerly based at Yardley Road is listed here from 1938 to 1940 as the Cottesbrook Tennis Club. Acocks Green Mission is shown on a 1952 map at the stable location, and a Hall is shown further west behind the houses. The Yardley and Acocks Green Gunners Social Centre is listed in a 1950 directory along with the Mission and a printing and engraving business. The Royal Artillery Association, Yardley and Acocks Green Branch, had unsuccessfully applied for planning permission in 1949. The stables and hall are no longer shown on the 1962-1972 map, instead rows of garages then occupied the area west of the Mission. These were replaced by Ilsley Close in 2008-9, originally to be known as Keeper's Way. Acocks Green Mission was shown on the map as "undenominational". They appeared c. 1938, and later conducted marriages there: it was registered for marriages on 2nd November 1948, and records from 1954-1997 are in the City's Archives. It is possible they used the former Fowler's cold store. From about 1960 the Mission was known as Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, Midlands Auxiliary. Temporary buildings were added c. 2008. It is now an Elim church, and is known as Acocks Green Christian Centre. Various community activities take place there.

 

Numbers 100 to 134 appeared c. 1924. Numbers 136-8 are late 1920s, and numbers 142-4 are c. 1936. Numbers 140 and 140a appeared behind number 138 c. 1967. Pearl Grove is c. 1936. Number 150 was originally a moated site, with a high status house on the platform. Remnants of the moat are on the 1840s Tithe Map above. A new farmhouse had been built by then nearer the road, with outbuildings to the east, and this became known as Fox Green Farm and then Hastings Farm. Around 1950 it became a dancing school, later the Maerika school of dancing, and today it is an Iyengar Yoga institute. Applications to extend the building were made in 1955 and 1962. The car sales business at number 152 appeared in the late 1930s as a haulage contractor. It reverted to being a house by 1950, then was listed as a roofing contractor ten years later and through into the 1970s.

 

 

Westley Road, c. 1905
Westley Road, c. 1905
Westley Road, c. 1905
Westley Road, c. 1905
The original end of Westley Road, 1923 (Birmingham Libraries)
The original end of Westley Road, 1923 (Birmingham Libraries)
School buildings at Westley Road, c. 1930
School buildings at Westley Road, c. 1930
Westley Road, 1931 (Birmingham Libraries)
Westley Road, 1931 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Recreation Ground and the corner of Westley Road, 1931 (Birmingham Libraries). There is a bakery on the corner.
The Recreation Ground and the corner of Westley Road, 1931 (Birmingham Libraries). There is a bakery on the corner.
The garage between the 1929 cinema and the 1932 New inn, taken in 1957 (Birmingham Libraries)
The garage between the 1929 cinema and the 1932 New inn, taken in 1957 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Warwick cinema, 1958 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Warwick cinema, 1958 (Birmingham Libraries)
Garage at the Fox Hollies Road end, 1956 (Birmingham Libraries)
Garage at the Fox Hollies Road end, 1956 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Westley Garage, next to number 109, in 1952 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Westley Garage, next to number 109, in 1952 (Birmingham Libraries)
The garage next to number 109 in 1976 (Birmingham libraries)
The garage next to number 109 in 1976 (Birmingham libraries)
The Westley Arms, 1980s (Birmingham Libraries)
The Westley Arms, 1980s (Birmingham Libraries)
The Maerika Dancing School, 1999 (Birmingham Libraries)
The Maerika Dancing School, 1999 (Birmingham Libraries)