The housing development at Kingshurst Hall Estate was the first time that Birmingham Corporation had ever built dwellings outside the city boundaries. It was also the first time that the council had a housing scheme that included owner-occupied housing as well as council housing.
It was an “overspill” housing estate, one of many created in the 1950s on the outskirts of large towns and cities to help relieve overcrowding in urban areas. The intention was to move people from decaying inner cities to better conditions in more rural areas.
Birmingham Corporation had compulsorily purchased Kingshurst Hall and its surrounding farmland, together with other land in Kingshurst, under the Birmingham (Old Chester Road, Tile Cross &c) Compulsory Purchase Order 1939, which was dated 17th February 1939.
As the land was outside the city boundaries, Birmingham Corporation had to seek agreement for its proposals from Meriden Rural District Council and also had to obtain planning consent from Warwickshire County Council.
Planning permission for a 261-acre site was forthcoming in 1952 and Birmingham proceeded with plans to build some 2,000 homes for 10,000 city residents at a cost of around £3m. Approximately 20 per cent of the dwellings were to be owner-occupied and 80 per cent were to be municipal housing (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 5th November 1952 and Birmingham Daily Gazette, 31st December 1952).
The council houses would be owned by Birmingham City Council but for all other services, the residents would come under Meriden Rural District Council and Warwickshire County Council. Alderman A. F. Bradbeer, Chairman of Birmingham Corporation’s House Building Committee said “It will be purely a dormitory area, and there are no proposals for setting up industries there.”
Many of the first residents to move in were used to living in back-to-back houses in Birmingham and felt that they were “quite posh” by moving out to a rural district where they had new homes, with hot running water and proper toilets.
Alderman Bradbeer said: “Kingshurst Hall Estate, when complete, with its green swards, its reservations of trees, shopping centre, tenants’ room, community centre, schools &c. will be one of the showpieces of the Midlands” (Birmingham Daily Post, 24th February 1955).
82 owners of private homes petitioned Meriden and Birmingham councils for a redesign of the estate as they were concerned that their homes would be encircled by municipal housing and would be devalued as a result. The petition was rejected by both local authorities.
A new church for Kingshurst
In March 1955, work began on building a new church on the Kingshurst Hall Estate. It was designed by a Birmingham architect, Mr Maurice A. H. Hobbiss (1915-1982), who described his design as modern in concept but using traditional materials. The foundation stone was laid on 25th September 1955 by Mrs Wilson, wife of the Bishop of Birmingham.
The Bishop of Birmingham’s Appeal to raise £1,200,000 for church extension described estates without churches as “circles without centres.”
The first priest-in-charge was Rev. Peter Hollis (1920-2002), formerly curate at Yardley parish, who was a curate at Coleshill 1955-57. To begin with, he had no church, no vicarage and no parish called Kingshurst, so from July 1955 he held Sunday morning communion services in his own home (a Council house in Laburnum Avenue) and in other residents’ living rooms.
Mr Hollis took many photographs of Kingshurst as it was developed. When he left the area he gave his images to Stan Tarrant (1925-2020) who kindly gave copies to Solihull Libraries. Some of the 1950s images of Kingshurst collected by Stan Tarrant have also been put together as a YouTube video.
The Birmingham Daily Post, 7th December 1955, quoted from Mr Hollis’ first edition of his parish magazine, Kingshurst News:
It is not easy to settle down among complete strangers and in a new estate with muddy roads and few street lights. It seems a bit lonely at times. That is where the Church comes in. We need more than a lot of families in hundreds of houses before we can feel we belong to Kingshurst. But once we have become a real community, then life will be different. You will have plenty of friends, the youngsters will have things to do and we shall all begin to get to know one another
In May 1956, services moved into the recently-opened Kingshurst East School.
In 1957, St Barnabas’ Church was dedicated as a separate ecclesiastical parish from Coleshill and Peter Hollis was then Vicar of Kingshurst 1957-1967.
According to the History of Kingshurst booklet, Kingshurst Police Station opened early in 1955 as an office between the two police houses at 430-432 Chester Road. It was extended outwards at the rear of the premises and, by 1962, there were 14 police constables and sergeants.
Kingshurst Parish Council
In June 1955, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government approved Warwickshire County Council’s proposal to create a parish council for Kingshurst – the County of Warwick (Parishes of Coleshill and Kingshurst) Confirmation Order, 1955. The parish council would have six members and two representatives would attend meetings of Meriden Rural District Council.
Mr B. L. Stephenson, Meriden Rural District Council’s engineer and surveyor, said:
We look upon this as quite a human problem. Some 7,000 people have got to be shifted from Birmingham to here, and we feel that these people from the time they begin to arrive, should be given interest and self-government in the area.
Elections took place on 22nd March 1956, with sixteen candidates contesting the six seats and around 40% of the 2,318 electors turning out to vote.
The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 23rd March 1956 noted that whilst Kingshurst had been “growing up” over the previous five years, the area’s affairs had been managed by the non-political Residents’ Association. The Residents’ Association sponsored the independent candidates who fought the election under the slogan that party politics should be kept out of local government.
The six parish councillors elected were three independents (Dr H. M. King, Mr F. J. Ash, and Mr W. F. Schofield), two Labour (Mr W. A. Bradley and Mr D. A. Harrison) and one Conservative (Mr N. E. Hasluck). Mr Schofield became the first Chairman of Kingshurst Parish Council.
The first meeting of Kingshurst Parish Council took place on 17th April 1956 in Kingshurst East School. An article in the Birmingham Weekly Post of 11th May 1956 talked of the community coming into being, with a school nurse and welfare officer in residence, temporary shops about to open and 30 permanent shops being planned. There were plans for schools, police and health services, as well as the hope of a branch library.
A tenants’ room was also under construction so that weddings, meetings and other functions too large for the home could be accommodated. It was opened on Friday 9th November 1956 by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
Organisations such as Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides had also become established by May 1956. A 17-year-old apprentice radio engineer also started a record club in his home in Laburnum Avenue, attracting 30 teenagers on a Tuesday evening!
Two junior schools – Kingshurst East (later Kingshurst Primary School) in Meriden Drive, and Kingshurst West (later Yorkswood Primary School) in Kingshurst Way – had opened by March 1956, each catering for about 300 pupils. Extensions to the junior schools were carried out in 1958 as it was said that there were more children on the estate than planners had anticipated – averaging 3½ children per household rather than the 2½ expected. The extensions would extend the capacity of the two junior schools by fifty per cent if needed.
An infants school opened towards the end of 1956 on the corner of Meriden Drive and Fordbridge Way and then a Catholic Junior and Infant School opened at the end of Gilson Way. St Anthony’s Junior School, Fordbridge Road, opened in September 1960.
Planning permission was granted in May 1956 for a three-stream secondary modern school at Kingshurst for about 450 children. Kingshurst High School for Boys and Girls opened in Cooks Lane in September 1958.
At the request of the Kingshurst and Castle Bromwich Road Safety Committee, Kingshurst Parish Council called a public meeting in August 1958 as a result of concerns over children having to walk along a road which was derestricted and cross a bridge which had no footpath. Parents threatened a boycott unless safety measures were improved. One request from the parents was a 30 mph speed limit along Cooks Lane, which the Minister of Transport said would be accepted if Warwickshire County Council put forward a request. In February 1959, the county council’s Roads Committee recommended widening the pathless bridge, at a cost of £8,500.
Until the new school opened, pupils from Kingshurst attended Park Hall Secondary Modern in Castle Bromwich. If children passed their 11+ examination, they moved onto the grammar school in Coleshill.
By January 1960, there were some 1250 children attending the four primary schools and about 400 pupils at Kingshurst High School.
A proposal to merge the boys’ and girls’ schools at Kingshurst High School into one comprehensive school was made by Warwickshire Education Committee in 1971. The joint Board of Governors of the School described the decision not to retain a sixth form at the merged school as “a gross injustice” and launched a parish-wide petition to ask the Minister for Education to intervene.
At first, there were no shops and the early residents who moved into the estate had to manage with twice-weekly visits from a mobile greengrocer and a mobile Co-op grocer. Woodlands Farm on the Chester Road supplied eggs, as well as turkeys for Christmas dinner.
In 1956, temporary pre-fabricated shops were set up on the recreation ground before The Parade was built. There were four shops and a post office. In 2010, a community film-maker working with Solihull Libraries, recorded residents’ memories of the early shops:
Castle Bromwich Advertiser, 14th July 1961, carried an article about the new “pedestrian shopping precinct” at Kingshurst, which had been designed with safety in mind. By being away from the busy road, parents were reassured that they could move around freely, without having to worry about children darting into traffic.
The initial plans would see 28 shops developed, with a further nine to follow. Each shop had a service road entrance so that deliveries could be made to the door, whilst still keeping vehicles and shoppers separated.
In May 1957, Birmingham Council’s House-building Committee approved the erection of five blocks of flats on the Kingshurst Hall Estate and submitted a planning application to Warwickshire County Council for approval.
Kingshurst Parish Council sent in a petition signed by 2,171 residents protesting against the “skyscraper” 12-storey blocks.
The Birmingham Daily Post reported on 1st May 1959 that the firm of Morriss and Jacombs had been awarded a £397,000 contract to build 144 dwellings on the Kingshurst Hall Estate. This would appear to be for the building of four nine-storey blocks – Wingfield House, Catesby House, Digby House and DeMontfort House – each of which had 36 flats.
In 1961, approval was given for the construction in Oakthorpe Drive of the 12-storey Redwood House, which was built in 1962 by Wimpey and contained 68 flats. At the official opening, some children apparently went all the way to the top of the building and sat on the edge, much to the alarm of their parents!
The final block to be built was Kingshurst House, a nine-storey block of 36 flats which was granted approval in February 1963 and built in 1964 by C. Bryant & Son Ltd at a cost of £109,000.
The first pub on the Kingshurst Hall Estate was the Mountfort, Overgreen Drive. It was announced in April 1957 that the new pub would take over the licence of The Globe Inn, Park Street, Leamington Spa. The intention was that provision could be made for overspill housing areas without increasing the overall number of licensed premises in the county. The pub was forced to close in 2008 and was acquired by Solihull Council c.2013 after which it was demolished.
The Punchbowl, on the corner of Wheeley Moor Road and Meriden Drive, apparently took over the licence of the Masons Arms, Rugby Road, Leamington Spa. The Punchbowl was formally opened at lunchtime on Wednesday 21st September 1960, when one of the Coleshill licensing justices pulled the first pint. The pub opened to the public on the evening of the same day.
Kingshurst social centre
A new social centre building – comprising a library, youth centre and clinic – was opened in February 1964 at the junction of Marston Drive and Gilson Way. The building was designed by Birmingham architect, John Madin, in conjunction with Warwickshire County Council’s architect, Eric Davies.
The Meriden Guide, 1971 noted that Kingshurst had good road communications with Birmingham and easy access to all parts, thanks to the old London to Chester road passing through its eastern boundary.
The guide listed the Midland Red bus services that either terminated at Kingshurst or provided transport to it:
- No. 160 – Birmingham to Kingshurst
- No. 163 – Birmingham to Chelmsley Wood
- No. 169 – Birmingham to Bacon’s End
- No. 168 – Birmingham to Coleshill via Kingshurst
- No. 175 – Shirley to Sutton Coldfield via Kingshurst
Transfer of housing to Solihull
When local government reorganisation came into effect in 1974 and Kingshurst was transferred from Meriden Rural District Council and Warwickshire County Council to Solihull, it was agreed that Birmingham City Council would retain responsibility for council housing in Kingshurst for five years.
In 1979, Birmingham City Council had to decide whether to transfer responsibility for the 13,500 council homes in Kingshurst and Chelmsley Wood to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, which it did with effect from September 1980. For the following five years tenants had the option of transferring to Birmingham’s housing waiting list but, after September 1985, this option expired. Birmingham City Council refused to extend it, despite some 800 Solihull residents still being on Birmingham’s council house waiting list.
In 1986, Solihull Council embarked on a programme of demolition of some of the properties in Kingshurst and Chelmsley Wood and around 100 families applied for a transfer under the National Mobility Scheme. This allowed transfers between local authority housing waiting lists if it could be demonstrated that a move was required as a result of work or for social reason. About half of the applicants were successful.
In August 1986, house-builder Wimpey took on a £1million conversion project in a joint venture with Solihull Council to transform four-storey maisonettes in Kingshurst into two-storey homes.
According to local newspapers, the maisonettes off Fordbridge Road had become too expensive to repair and re-let. The conversion saw the properties rewired, equipped with a modern kitchen and bathroom, and brought up to the latest building regulation standards. The houses were then sold “at low-cost” with first option being given to people on the council’s housing waiting list who were nominated by Solihull Council.
The former maisonettes lost their two top storeys and became “three-bedroom houses, with pitched roofs, decorative timber balconies, and cottage-style porches.” They were priced at £23,000 and each had a garden, with some having a new garage at the back or a detached car-port at the front.
Derelict garages were demolished and replaced with 17 newly-built houses, most of which were two-bedroom semi-detached homes, selling for £20,000 each.
The pioneer development was named Millside and was officially opened in March 1987 by Housing Minister, John Patten.
In May 2005, SMBC created the North Solihull Partnership (comprising In Partnership Ltd, Bellway Homes and WM Housing Group) to bring about the physical, social and economic regeneration of North Solihull and a shared ambition to transform the three wards of Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst & Fordbridge.
In 2020, Solihull Council approved proposals for the regeneration of Kingshurst Village Centre – the third village centre regeneration following those at Chelmund’s Cross and Smiths Wood.
Reminiscences of Kingshurst – booklet produced by Solihull Libraries in 1994 to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of Kingshurst Library
History of Kingshurst by Solihull Community Enterprise led by Denise Biddle. Available to borrow from Solihull Libraries
© Solihull Council, 2021.
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