Some years ago, I decided to visit a relative of mine whom I had not seen since my childhood days, and today, I still wonder if I did the right thing.
Writing about the parish of Cotteridge and talking to many of the local people, it is, I think natural, that some of these pages will be penned with sadness, happiness, a share or good times as well as hard times, and as always, centred around the parish church.
The Church of St. Agnes high on the ‘ridge’ with the surrounding land falling away from its site in all directions; this view can be seen to its full advantage from the tower of the church, and one can well imagine what the surrounding area looked like before houses were built. Perhaps it is here that I should commence this narrative, because the conversations I have had with my neighbours, and even strangers, somehow have always come home to the parish church in some form or other.
The first building erected was the Church Room. With money raised locally, and plenty of encouragement. the sum of £2,500 saw the hall built and the ceremony carried out by the Bishop of Coventry. The Reverend C W Barnard was the vicar, and the Curate, Reverend S P Townsend. There was music and singing, and the Northfield Brass Band in attendance.
This then, was the start of parochial life in the district by the opening of this church hall, which for the next five years, was to be called the Mission Church of Cotteridge.
The year 1902 saw the foundations of the church of St. Agnes making good progress, and the stone laying ceremony was performed on 30th August 1902 by Vicountess Cobham and again, the Reverend Canon C W Barnard with Mr S W Prichett and Mr C D Welding as Wardens, in attendance.
St. Agnes’ Church was opened in 1903 and when one bears in mind the short space of time elapsed since the church hall was opened, perhaps these words from a copy of a Church Magazine may help to realise why.
ST. AGNES’ CHURCH MAGAZINE – AUGUST 1937
“Much credit is due to the foreman, Mr. Heywood, and the men under his authority.Promptitude and Sobriety always made a successful issue.No lost time and no drunkenness have contributed largely to the result. “Subs have been at a discount, only 4/-having been drawn during the job.”
The year 1916 saw a new dawn when the Cotteridge became a separate parish from Kings Norton, and the first vicar of the parish church was the Reverend F C Crum.
After many fruitless and dry days in the Birmingham Reference Library, I found very little reference to Cotteridge, but third time lucky, and with the help of the Local Studies Staff, I found what was necessary, and thought, that after writing about the new parish, this was the appropriate time to insert the following:
“One Osbern Fitzrichard, holds hide at “Coderie (Cotheridge) There are 6 villiers, 4 Bordas, 4 Plough, and 1 Mill worth 5/-. There are 12 acres of meadow, and 3 Quarintines of woodland and Richard, (Osbern’s father) held it by such service as the Bishop willed.
The Subsidy Roll of 1275 gives the name ‘Coderugge’. ‘Code’ is a personal Anglo Saxon name, and ‘Reidge’ signifies a long narrow hill, hence the meaning at ‘Codersridge’ – Cotteridge.
A certain Franklin was the owner 0f land and fields. Franklin: Formerly the designation for a freeholder, yeoman, or landowner holding directly from the Crown, and not of noble birth.
As far as additional information is concerned, the period up to the year 1900 is very scant, and I can only rely on anecdotes from my talks with neighbours, and their memories of their forebears.Perhaps the lives or those who came after is of more importance to the life of the parish end its hub, the Parish Church of St. Agnes.
It is important at this stage to bring in Cotteridge School, where most of the parishioners spent their early years before going to higher education elsewhere. The school which was built in the year 1897 occupies an area of Pershore Road, much of Breedon Road, and a little way down Shirley Road. The first Headmistress was a Miss Garside, who later became Mrs Mapp. Other teachers were Mrs. Norman and Mr. Moore, who became the Headmaster in the year 1920.
On the opposite corner of Breedon Road was a Haulage and Stabling yard owned by a Mr NoahFisher. He owned many horses, some that won prizes in shows and displays in surrounding districts. His main business was in the carrier line, serving Cadbury Brothers, hauling building materials to various building sites. Mr Fisher would be seen standing at the gates of his stables, resplendent in bowler flat and cowgown, giving the drivers a good talking to if his horses came back sweating. Mr Fisher lived in one of the houses that face Pershore Road, and later on, his son Mr Jack Fisher occupied the cottage next door.
In the years to follow, the family of Fleetwood took over the houses and yard, together with the haulage business. Fleetwoods have since gone, and it is difficult to establish what it is now, except it is sad to see the house and cottage in such a dilapidated state. Perhaps one day it may be another supermarket, but one thing is certain, it will be a far cry from the sound of the hammer upon the anvil of Mr Carrol the Blacksmith, and the clip clop of Mr. Fisher’s horses, which I am told, was a beautiful sound to hear.
Continuing up Pershore Road on the same side, was a Manor House and fine grounds stretching back to what is now Cotteridge Park. This Manor House was called Falcon Hill, and the residence of Miss Grant wbo~acquired it in the year 1892. Miss Grant lived there with her widowed sister Mrs. Ellen Ferris, and her son Robert Ferris. The greenhouse housed many exotic plants, and in the grounds Robert could be seen, when child, riding his pony, and attended by a groom.
Mr. Grant Ferris left the Manor House when he married in 1930 and Miss Grant died in 1933 leaving Mrs. Ferris with the Manor House until her death in 1955. Mr Grant Ferris ultimately became Sir Robert Grant Ferris, and later created Lord Harvington. He was a noted pilot in the Royal Air Force, and one time Speaker in the House of Commons.
The house came up for sale, and after many rumours of would-be purchasers, among them the Cotteridge Ex Service Men’s’ Club, it was sold to the Birmingham City Police Watch Committee, serving Selly Oak and Cotteridge, from 1955 to 1978 when it was again sold. By this time, the Police had had a block of flats built at the rear, and these are still being used with the entrance at the bottom of Breedon Road. The Trident Housing Society then purchased the property, pulled the house down, and built a new flats complex of 39 units which is now called Grant Court. On the front elevation, the Coat of Arms of Lord Harvington looks down on the Pershore Road, and in the foyer is a stained glass window bearing the Coat of Arms of Miss Grant, taken from the main entrance of the house, together with a plaque, both of which were unveiled by Lord Harvington on the opening of the flats in 1981.
Following the Pershore Road, and spanning the railway, stands a builder’s yard. This belonged to the Grant family, and its owner, at that tine, built most of the houses in the area.
Older residents will remember the Rent Collector, one Mr Irish, who could be seen collecting rents, with a bottle of ink hung around his neck, and when the rent book was produced, he diligently unscrewed the cap, dipped his pen in the ink, and screwed back the cap before proceeding to the next house where the same ritual took place.
After the closure of Grant’s the Builders, it was opened once again by a firm named Sewells, who dealt mostly in timbers and doors, etc. This firm closed in 1980 (now Sambhis). There followed a row of shops, which at that time was called Cotteridge Market Rates Office; Allen’s General stores; Bournes Newsagent; Bruce Greengrocer, Neals Tea Store, Foster’s Saddle Shop; West’s Bakers; Witherford Butcher; Griffiths Fishmonger; Charlie Moss Cycle Shop; and the Off-Licence which still carries on.
Again spanning the Railway to Webb Cabinet Maker; Hand’s Plumber; Drug Store; Lawton’s Cooked Meat; and Johnson’s Drapers; which held the complete corner of Pershore Road and Midland Road. The drapers was managed by a Mr Ball who, in 1920 when Aston Villa won the F.A. Cup, caused crowds to gather outside the shop when he pasted the half-time, and result in the front window. This was done by Mr Ball telephoning through to London for the results, which no doubt brought good business to the shop. The drapers shop later on became the Co-Operative Society Butchery Department.
I think it is worth moving to No. 4 Midland Road, and mention a few words about Evans, the Chimney Sweep. He carried on this business for many years. and after his death it was carried on by his son Mr Osbert Evans, who lived in Rowheath Road. Mr. Evans Senior also sold firewood. which he bundled up, and market people from Catshill, and the surrounding district would call at No. 4 Midland Road, after taking their goods to market, and collect all his soot for their soil.
Today, opposite where Mr Evans lived in Midland Road, Mr Walter Warring still carries on with his hair-dressing business in the same house in which he was born. On the opposite corner to the Drapers Shop stood the No. 2 Branch of the Co-operative Society – Grocers. No doubt many people can recall the method of paying for their goods, when the assistant would put the bill and money into a metal cup, and after clamping it on a metal holder, would pull a spring handle, and send the money sailing across the shop to the Cashier’s desk, the change would be returned to the assistant in the same manner.
Every year the Co-op would give a party in Cotteridge Park for the children, and anyone who lived a distance away would be picked up by the coal-cart and taken back afterwards. Next to the Co-op came Rushton’s – Greengrocer; a Hairdresser’s .Beasley -Toy Shop; Holbeach Butcher’s; Cotteridge Post Office & Drapers; Reeves – Cakes and Bread, to the drive next door that housed the Worcester Regiment in the building at the bottom, during the 1914 War.
I have to reminisce once more before proceeding further, to mention that at the time of the Barbers shop closing, and the Cotteridge Social Club moving across the road, the same premises opened up as a Gramophone Shop by Mr Kenneth Horne of Radio fame. He demonstrated his gramophones and records at the Church Hail and danced with his wife at the same tine. As most people know, in later years, he became a Director or the Triplex Glass Company. Still on this section of shops, it is also worth noting that Cotteridge Post Office was ably served by a Mss Vernon, the post mistress. who would tap out telegrams on the ‘Morse Code’ while you were waiting to be served to half a yard of elastic by Mr. Stevens, who managed the drapery section.
The large shop to the left of the Drill Hall was also a Drapers, run by three ladies; Mrs. Priestly, Miss Green and Miss Adams. Mr. Harvey married Miss Green, and although the shop has been empty for some time, it is still known as Harvey’s when people mention that particular area.
Next door was the Argentine Meat Company, Fittals & Stokes – Grocers; and Huins Shoe Shop, followed by private houses, until reaching the present shop of West’s Greengrocers, which has always been there with the exception or a sign over the shop which read: ‘Italian Warehousemen’, Achilles Cleaners; Needham’s -Chemist; Mason’s – Fishmonger’s. Sweet Shop and Moss – CycleShop.
The remaining space was taken up by Foulkes – Bakers, that carried on around the corner of Watford Road. It is interesting to note that in the window of the house a card hung, suggesting that Lloyds Bank opened a branch there.
Moving into Watford Road was Smith’s Newsagents and Vernon’s Fruiterers. Mr. Vernon was a well-known figure in Cotteridge and after suffering an accident he was to be seen outside his shop lying in a long basket carriage until his recovery, after which he still rode his bicycle, but only using one pedal, one leg being immobile. The low frontage wall running between his shop and the private houses was always a source of controversy with the shoppers and Mrs. Ferris, who owned it. People said it was dangerous, and a hazard at night, but Mrs. Ferris would not have it moved in her lifetime. It was not removed until some time after her death.
The site on which Woolworth’s now stands was Percy Male – Grocer; and Achilles Cleaners; and the other side of the drive was a Wool Shop belonging to a Mr & Mrs Fryer.
The present Royal Mail sorting office, which was opened in the year 1939 was an orchard, and at the bottom was a workshop owned by a Mr. Yeats, who made and repaired paraffin blow lamps. The trade name was Easi-Lit Blow Lamp Company.
The shop on the corner of Watford Road and Rowheath Road has always been a Newsagents and Tobacconists, and at that time was owned by the Morrow Brothers, and the shop on the opposite corner has always been an Off-Licence, and beyond that, it was mostly fields, to Franklin Road and Beaumont Road.
Watford Road, as far as the present Woodfall Avenue, was mostly fields, and in the hollow at the side of the Veterinary Surgeon’s house, the brook that flowed through can still be seen.
It was about 1900 or before, that Grants started to build in Watford Road, and as a block of houses were built, plots of land on either side were sold to raise more money for other houses to be built. The brook raised a problem however, and later on it was culverted, and building went ahead in earnest.
The detached Veterinary Surgeon’s house was built by Mr. Howell in later years, but then came the move to bring part of the area to life by the building of the first Congregational Church. Although it was built as a Lecture Hall, it also served as a Church and Sunday School. It got away to a good start, and the stone laying ceremony took place on 10th June, 1902 by Mrs. Jowett, MrsYork and Mr.F Rayner, and the completion was in December of the sane year. The first Minister was the Reverend Ogmore Morgans, and as it was already mooted that a church was required, a Building Fund was opened for this purpose, but on a smaller scale than envisaged. The project was started in April, 1908 and the foundation stones were laid by Mr.M Gee and Miss A Rowan, and the opening ceremony took place over a two week period from November 11th to November 25th1908. It became the United Reform Church In 1972 with the Reverend Peter Chave as theMinister.
Returning up Watford Road, (Woodfall Avenue was not there at that time) to Northfield Road, a large house and shop was prominent, which belonged to a Mr. Garner, who sold nothing but eggs, and opposite stood Scotts Petrol Station.
Private houses followed as far as Pershore Road and to the Gas Office, with the exception of the Friends Meeting House, which occupied a front position, as opposed to the present Meeting House.
Crossing Middleton Hall Road, and where the present block of flats now stands was a large house that belonged to a Solicitor by the name of Mr. Willison, and the garden of his house extended to Kings Norton Station, and is now a block of flats and shops.
Two horse cabs plied hire from the station, driven by two men, namely Mr. Arnold and Mr. Cole, who were later employed by Mr. Foulkes the baker, as a van driver and handyman. respectively.Opposite Kings Norton Station from the bridge, and including the present Fire Station, were allotments, and somewhere along this line was a milestone that told folk that Birmingham was 5 miles away. Then followed a few houses which included the Dentists – Knott & Jefferson, and the large monkey tree in the front garden which was a source or delight to the young lads who were dared to climb it.
The Methodist Church was in the course or construction in the year 1901 end on the 15th July, the stone laying ceremony took place with Messrs. C Codley; J Botteley and H Boucher, with Mrs.Downing and Miss Harper officiating. Before the church was built, and on the site where Barclays Blank now stands, was a large corrugated iron building that served as the old Methodist Church (now Cotteridge Church) and Boys Brigade headquarters. There have been conflicting reports regarding the ultimate destiny of the building, but after a few words with Father Boucher, of St Joseph’s Church, in Station Road,and a fine old gentleman named Mr.Pilley, I learned that it was offered to Northfield Methodist Church, but later sold to St Joseph’s for £125.000 where it still stands, and still in very good condition.
Following on from the old site of the Methodist Church, the Tram Depot was the nerve centre of Cotteridge. The noise of the trams, the clanging of the bell, and the switching of the trolley poles for the outward journey to Birmingham – all for 2 1/2d – for today, we have to dig deep into our pockets and think twice before making such a journey.
From the depot, the shops that followed were Rhodes – Glass & China; Lynams – Hardware; Bloomfields Chemists; Browns Furniture; Kings Norton Estate Office, with their yard at the rear. This was the work place of Mr Doug Edwards, whom I had the pleasure of meeting some days ago. He worked for Mrs. Ferris as a labourer, before joining Kings Norton Estates, where Mr Bull was the foreman, and a Mr. Mann the rent collector, who later became Manager. The following shops were: Billv Brooks Tailors; Yoxalls Corn and Seeds,.
In 1937 Mr. Yoxall O.B.E. celebrated his 80th birthday, and was a member of the City Council. Hereceived the O.B.E. in recognition of public services during the 1914-18 War.
We are now back at our Parish Church after that nostalgic journey, but more to come. I must mention at this stage the Sunday School Superintendent Mr. Izons and Miss Elsie Fry, the Sunday School teacher who cared for the children in those early days. The boys had their evening meetings, and one group were called the Kings Messengers. Other well known figures were: Mr. Tucker, Mr. Meggeson, the Chapman Brothers. Mr. Taft. Mr. Moore – Organist, and Mr. Gallimore – Verger. The church rooms were also used as Headquarters for the 27th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Home Guard, under the command -of Major Ward.
The large double fronted house next to the Church was the home and surgery of Doctor Aulton, a well known and imposing figure in Cotteridge, always immaculately dressed, with spats, buttonhole and cane, but he was always known to stop and talk to the children and search his pockets for cigarette cards, when asked. Next to the Doctor’s house were allotments owned by Mr Yoxall, followed by two cottages where Kwik Fit now stands. These cottages were owned by the Midland Railway, and housed the station masters of Lifford and Bournville.
Next to the cottages stood a large house called the “Rookery” no doubt, because of the tall trees that stood in front covered in rooks nests. It was owned by a family named Ward and a familiar sight at the time was Mr Ward walking from Lifford to his home, with a yoke on his shoulders carrying two large pails of milk, which he did often. The Rookery was turned into flats during the First World War, and at the present time, the social Club and the Trustee Savings Bank occupy the ground. Next door was a very old coach house where the garage now stands.
Moving over the railway bridge to Holly Road, the Newsagent Shop once belonged to Mr J Fryer, before they moved to Watford Road, and next door to the Shop in HoIly Road was the Cotteridge Fire Station, ably manned in those days by Mr Cox, the Fireman.
Next to the Newsagents, and following the Pershore Road was a Sweetshop; Haberdashery; Barbers; Fosters – Butchers; Bennetts Fruit Shop, with the coal yard in Cotteridge Road. The opposite corner was an Off-Licence, and Mr Harry Fryer, nephew of the late Alderman J Fryer, worked on the site. At this time Harry was about to go to Canada, and had sold up ready to go, when, for some reason, the ship was held up for a few weeks. He had to make some money during this time, so applied for work on the site. He was promptly told to get a pick and shovel, and he worked there until his ship was ready to sail. I don’t know how true it is, but I understand that Harry went aboard still with his wellies on, and his pick and shovel on his shoulders.
What is now the Grant Arms were dwelling houses, from there to Hudson’s Drive, with the exception of two shops; a Pawnbrokers, and Hewitts – Pork Butchers. The area up Hudson’s Drive was mostly farm land and also some terraced houses named Falcon View , which are still tenanted today.
Here, too was the gathering place of children for their Saturday morning entertainment at the local cinema, called the Picturedrome. It cost the children 1d. to queue up, but if they came from the upper class they paid 2d, went in first, and grabbed the best seats. If the projector broke down during the show, they would be told to line up and would get their money back. Mr. Calvert was the Manager, ably assisted by Mrs Macdonald, on the piano, and sometimes, Mr. Taft, the blind gentleman would play his harmonium. The local tradesmen advertised their wares on the curtain which was wound up and down between shows, by an unnamed gentleman who turned a large iron handle to and for. At adult performances, a Sergeant Dawns, a veteran of the Crimean War, would recite the Charge of the Light Brigade, much to the patrons delight. The Picturedrome has long since gone, but that, or the area around it, had the name of Bums Puzzle! This name was bandied about for years, and no-one knew why, until my second interview with Mr Warring, when the skeletons emerged from the cupboard. Apparently. the Bailiffs made frequent visits to this area, and were known to the folk as Bums. The faulting tenants saw them coming and slipped away through the narrow passages, thus puzzling the Bailiffs, hence the name Bums Puzzle. Oh well, it takes all kinds to make the world.
After the bridge from Hudson’s Drive were more shops: Hudson’s Drapers; Gilbert’s Sweet Shop; Hairdressers; Drapers Dry Cleaners, and then houses as far as the Breedon Hotel. Directly opposite stood the Savoy Cinema, now the Wavern Engineering Company, and although not in Cotteridge, I mention this cinema as it was the only one in the vicinity, and after the cinema in Hudson’s Drive closed, Mr. Calvert took over as Manager. Sad to relate, Mr. Calvert was killed very soon afterwards, falling through the roof whilst attending to some ventilation work.
Between the. cinema and Dell Road stood a forge owned by a Mr Williams, and the buildings into Dell Road were Corporation Offices. If you look closely at the houses near the cinema, one of them seems to have an appearance of a Lodge, which indicates that some years past, could have well been the estate of some ‘Franklin’.
The period I have been writing about, and the particular places, was during the time when Cotteridge came under the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council, which bore its crest on the tram standards, and was once shown on the front of Kings Norton Grammar School.
In early years, Cotteridge Park came under the same Council, but gradually, the City of Birmingham took control, and according to the Birmingham Parks Amenities Department:
3.5 acres was purchased from KN & NDC in 1905 for £ 500
9 acres was purchased from KN & NDC in 1905 for £ 2155
7.6 .acres was purchased from KN & NDC in 1906 for £ 1900
2.5 acres was purchased from KN & NDC in 1909 for £ 600
It is people who make the community, and although some have gone, and others have taken their place, each of them, in turn, have contributed in some form or other; to the upkeep of the parish. In reading through the volumes of past Parish Magazines, kindly loaned to me by the Reverend Michael Blood, there are hundreds of names that deserve to be written about from 1928 to 1956 but perhaps this small document may suffice to interest, amuse, and bring back memories of the Parish of Cotteridge.
I know for certain, that when this has been passed around, I shall be reminded of other happenings other amusements, and sad deaths, so I may add to this at some later date, and, perhaps, bring the Cotteridge story up to date.
May I close by giving a big thank-you to all who have helped, and to the many new friends I have made.