The first two Conservation Areas in Solihull – the centres of Solihull and Knowle – were declared as such on 28th June 1968, with a declaration appearing in the London Gazette, 2nd July 1968.
Town and Country Planning Acts since 1947 have contained legislation for the preservation of “buildings of special architectural or historical interest” but experience showed that the preservation of individual buildings was insufficient to preserve the character of areas. The formal concept of Conservation Areas, looking at the wider environment, or the “group value” of buildings in a locality, was introduced by the Civic Amenities Act 1967.
Conservation Areas may be any size, from town centres to smaller groups of buildings and may be centred on “listed buildings or rather pleasant groups of other buildings”. It is the character of an area that is important so factors other than buildings may be significant – e.g. open spaces, a village green, historical street plan, or archaeological features.
Solihull Conservation Area comprises the historic core of Solihull town centre, thought to have been originally established between 1170 and 1180, possibly as a trading centre to provide for the needs of a scattered forest population. The geometrical building plots, particularly along the High Street, indicate that the village was planned and didn’t just develop in piecemeal fashion.
The historical focus of the town was the Church of St Alphege, and the medieval market place, now known as The Square, although it is, in fact a triangular enclosure. The church is flanked by the historic George Hotel (parts of which date back to the 17th century) and a partly 16th-century row of red brick buildings with timber framing, known as the “end houses”.
Knowle Conservation Area comprises the High Street and parts of Warwick Road, Kenilworth Road, Station Road and Lodge Road. The High Street still retains the character of an old village street, with buildings set fairly close to the road and having an irregular line, low height, a mixture of varied architectural styles and the mellowness of traditional materials. Taken together, this helps to create a compactness appropriate for a traditional village shopping environment.
Of particular note in the High Street is the 16th-century Chester House, now housing Knowle Library. The historic focus of the village is at the junction of the High Street and Kenilworth Road, with the ancient parish and the Guild House, set back obliquely on the street.
Knowle Local History Society offers guided walks around the village and a downloadable leaflet to help you find out more about the village’s buildings and history.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian