Some history on Ashted Row at Duddeston in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire
This street sign on the side of the Dog and Partridge survived into the 21st century. It was one of the few tangible reminders of this famous street. Ashted Row was virtually wiped off the map when Nechells Parkway was constructed. Ashted Row was home to a good number of public-houses, along with the Birmingham Town Brewery and the Ashted Brewery Co. Ltd.
Ashted was once an upmarket area where Birmingham's early money-makers lived. The suburb was named after Dr. John Ash. As the projector, he played a key role in the construction of the old General Hospital in Summer Lane. When he moved to London in 1789, he sold the lease of his estate to the attorney John Brooke - hence Great Brook Street running parallel to the south. It was John Brooke who developed the area, naming it after the previous owner, and laid out the streets for a new housing estate.
Dr. John Ash lived in a mansion, described by William Hutton as "a sumptuous house," built on a plot of land leased from Sir Lister Holte. It is thought that he lived here for only a brief period. Howard S. Pearson, under the pen name of Achespè, wrote that "he was able and learned in several directions, but there was a vein of eccentricity in his mind which led to a temporary depression and even insanity, under the stress of which he lost all interest in Birmingham, sold his estate and the large house he had built upon it, and removed to London. Here, by the strange means of profound study of mathematics and botany, he regained his mental faculties, formed a literary club which he called the Eumelian, earned a new position and new fame, and died in 1798."
Dedicated to St. James the Less, Dr. Ash's mansion was subsequently converted into a church. The plot stood between Great Brook Street, Barrack Street and St. James Street. Indeed, it was Hutton who first described the area of Ashted in 1795. His commentary on the area, based on the expansion of Birmingham, read: "..... in 1783 we beheld about eighty houses under the names of Duke Street, Prospect Row and Woodcock Lane. From which time to the present day, May 20th 1793, is the following increase: Belle Mount [Watery Lane, 26 houses St. George's Street, 5 in Lawley Street, 73 in Windsor Street, 63 in Henry Street, 7 in Great Brooke Street, 45 at Vauxhall Row [the turnpike road] 92 exclusive of a Methodist Meeting House, Barracks for the Military, and Ashted Chapel for Episcopal Worship." This shows that there was considerable development between 1783 and 1793 and this correlates with other articles on Ashted.
It was on February 13th, 1788 that an announcement was made in the Gazette in which "building Land in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham, late the estate of Dr. Ash, to be let in parcels, for the residue of a term of ninety-nine years, about eighty eight of which are unexpired. This estate, so peculiarly eligible in its vicinity to the town, and not likely to be surrounded with buildings, having lately been laid out into streets well adapted to secure the benefit of a free and healthful air, has sufficiently proved the desirableness of its situation, as well as the essential advantages arising to the tenants who have already been fortunate enough to take part of it for building. The quantity now let and the preparations making, promise a rapid progress in the buildings intended to form the hamlet of Ashted, which is planned with more regularity and uniformity than has usually been attended to in laying out land for building in Birmingham. To render the streets spacious they are made from sixteen to upwards of twenty yards wide, and levels are taken to make proper falls for carrying off the water, to prevent similar inconveniences to those which have been so generally experienced from the want of attention to so necessary a precaution. The valuable articles of clay and sand upon the premises afford a very beneficial accommodation to the tenants; to which may be added, the convenience of plentiful springs of fine soft water, and a considerable saving in parochial payments; the levies being two-thirds less in the parish of Aston than in Birmingham. As the season for building is approaching, it is hoped that those who are inclined to secure a situation so replete with advantageous inducements, will not lose the present opportunity of availing themselves of it. A plan of the estate may be seen, and every other information and satisfaction that can possibly be required respecting the same, may be had by applying to Mr. Brooke, attorney, Temple Row; or to Mr. Kempson, surveyor, Bath Street, Birmingham. n.b. A quantity of Thorns, growing quick, and young trees of various sorts upon the above estate, to be disposed of."
There was bit of a hiccup when a rumour was spread that the Holte family were not granting 99-year leases, but once resolved, there was a stampede for land and Ashted became a major building site.
The announcement in The Gazette that stated the new development was "not likely to be surrounded with buildings" was a bizarre assurance to make. The hamlet of Ashted was only on the edge of Birmingham for a short period. As can be seen on this map extract from 1837, once other streets such as Heneage Street and Great Lister Street were laid out it created an enormous pressure on the land of "free and healthful air" promised to the early residents of Ashted.
This row of Georgian houses were typical of those erected on the southern side during the early development of Ashted Row. These large properties did offer views of the open fields to the north of Ashted Row - but only for a few years. As can be seen on the map extract dated 1837, buildings were starting to appear on the north side of the thoroughfare. Within another few years the whole street would be fully lined with properties. Built for the wealthy, the properties slowly lost their appeal to those who could afford to commute from more distant places. The aforementioned Achespè wrote "the decay of Ashted is indeed mainly due to causes outside its own borders. It had to consume smoke which was not its own but the product of that district to its north which has been called "darkest Birmingham," Many of the houses in Ashted are roomy and well-built residences, with a sad air of having seen better days. It was a residential quarter within living memory, and has still pathetic signs of faded gentility." He wrote that just after World War One so goodness knows what he would have said about the buildings seen here in 1956. And yet they did not have to be left to decay. In Liverpool, for example, the old Georgian quarter attracts visitors from afar and is an important part of the city's heritage, helping to boost the tourist economy. It is something I have done myself, calling into a couple of old pubs en-route. If only Birmingham had saved and preserved Ashted well, who knows, it could have been a real asset.
On the right side of the 1837 map extract one can see Vauxhall Gardens, thought to date from around 1740 and laid out in the grounds of Duddeston Hall. Indeed, they were formerly known as Duddeston Gardens. Possibly as a result of the development of Ashted, the gardens had been improved by the time they were described in the 1849 White's History and General Directory of Birmingham in which it was stated that "these gardens have lately undergone considerable alteration. The principal lawn, which is surrounded by a line of majestic trees, is now disposed into picturesque parterres, beautified by flowers and evergreens. These radiate from a centre division, in which a handsome fountain is erected, and pours its liquid treasures into an ample basin. Under the trees, which fringe the square, snug, picturesque, and fantastic bowers cluster; and between each, a sloping bank, adorned with vases and flowers, form a striking combination; the whole constituting a beautiful promenade, which forms an invaluable outdoor recreation. These gardens were established about fifty years ago, and are the property of Mr. Joseph Steedman, but in the occupation of Mr. George Stewart."
This inn sign is not from Birmingham but as I have it in my collection of inn sign images I thought it would be a good place to slot it in. The signboard was actually photographed in 1972 at Evesham, though the illustration shows the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall in London. The reason for including it here is that the gardens here at Duddeston were probably inspired by the London version. Dating back to the period before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the site in Kennington was originally known as New Spring Gardens and were referred to by Samuel Pepys in 1662. The artist of the sign borrowed heavily from an illustration of Vauxhall Gardens by Thomas Rowlandson around 1779. The two women are thought to be Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister Lady Ducannan. They, along with other members of high society, were shown to be enjoying the entertainment provided by a small orchestra accompanying a female singer. Highly popular during the 18th century, the gardens eventually closed in 1859.
The 1849 White's History and General Directory of Birmingham also included a description of the New Vauxhall and Galton Arms Hotel, a hostelry kept by Thomas Hale. The directory stated that it "comprises an elegant hotel, enriched with pictorial embellishments, and commanding a fine prospect of the gardens, which forcibly strikes the classic mind, of the regions of ancient Rome; for turn as may be, the eye rests upon a Medician Venus, an Apollo Belvidere, Hercules, Dying Gladiator, or some other celebrated relic of antique statuary, peeping through the leafy foliage of its umbraceous walks, which are furnished with every thing artificial as well as natural which can charm the mind and elevate the understanding. The gardens are entered by a flight of steps, from an elegantly constructed colonnade, which forms both a delightful promenade, and a shelter for company during tempestuous weather. In front of the colonnade stand two statues, of colossal proportions, both of them admirably executed; one representing the Duke of Wellington, the conqueror of a hundred fights; the other, Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France. The gardens rise in gentle undulations, whose verdant green banks are embellished with many patches of flowers, and where the "earliest of the year oft are found." In a more central part of the garden are statues of the nine muses, and busts of the most eminent warriors and statesmen this country has produced; or of men in the pursuit of the arts, science, and literature. These gardens are laid out with great taste and effect; and the New Vauxhall Gardens are a popular resort for the numerous summer parties who visit Birmingham. They were established in 1844, by Mr. John Bradshaw, who is the lessee.
I have some images of Ashted Row but I do not have all of it covered. It was a relatively long thoroughfare so there are gaps in my collection. Still, I think I have more than many so will roll them out here in the same order as old trade directories - well, from the late 19th century onwards at least. Earlier directories often went the other way! So, my virtual tour begins on the south side of Ashted Row from Belmont Row, along to Bloomsbury Street, over the other side of the road, and back along the northern side. I have included some map extracts to make it easier to follow.
Here we see a bus turning into Woodcock Street from Prospect Row, thus affording a precious view of the properties on the southern side of Ashted Row. Just to the right of the bus a gent's hairdresser's can be seen. In the mid-late 1950s, around the time of this photograph, Leslie Nicholas was trading here at No.2. Out of shot at No.1 were the coffee rooms of Cutler & Whitehouse. No.2 was a gent's hairdresser's throughout the 20th century. During the Second World War the barber wielding the clippers was Charlies Fielding. In the 1920s Walter Winfield snipped away at his scissors here. In 1912 the business was run by James Fairbrother. At the time of this image the tobacconist's shop, to the right of the large entry gate, was run by Gladys Bickley. She had taken over the business from her mother Amy who was here at No.5 during the Second World War. Again, this is a shop that served the same role for generations. In 1912 the tobacconist was Charles Hone. However in the 1880s the premises were occupied by the blacksmith John Belcher. Nos.7 to 9 to the left of the photograph was, for many years, the premises of the oil merchants Kemp & Tabberner.
Continuing along the southern side of Ashted Row, there was a run of taverns after crossing Lawley Street. A few doors from the junction stood the Royal Oak. Midway between Lawley Street and Windsor Street was the Parliament House, quickly followed by the White House. Pictured above on the corner of Windsor Street was the Dog and Partridge, a building that still stood in the 21st century but, alas, no longer as a public-house. A great pity as it was one of the oldest taverns in the village of Ashted.
Immediately before the Parliament House, No.38 was a property that appears to have been fairly well maintained in comparison to some of the other Georgian houses of Ashted Row in the 1950s. Of course, this was because the building served roles that demanded a certain level of preservation. In this mid-1950s image the house was occupied by James and Jane Costello, along with Frank Jackson. The former Parliament House, a pilaster of which can be seen in the enlarged photograph, seems to have been unoccupied by this time. There was an entry next to No.41 which led to a small court where Mabel Maruszewski lived at No.1, Mary Fielding occupied No.2 and the Murphy family had made No.4 their home. These properties can be seen on the below map extract.
A member of the Birmingham History Forum sent me an image from a book, the caption of which stated that No.38, the house next to the Parliament House, was once occupied by Mr. Green, a partner in the Union Glass Works on nearby Dartmouth Street. I have not confirmed this as early directories did not feature numbers on Ashted Row. However, John S. Green is listed on Ashted Row in the 1820s and 1830s. In 1823 there is also a George Joseph Green living on Ashted Row. Thought to have been founded in 1818, the glass-making firm was once known as Bacchus, Green and Green. The merchant John S. Green died in 1847. The company had already become George Bacchus & Co. and, following the death of the founder in 1840 at his home in Surrey, the name was again changed to George Bacchus & Sons. In later years George Joseph Green was listed as a glass manufacturer at the Ætna Works on Broad Street with a residence at Harborne Road.
For many years No.38 was the home and surgery of several doctors, most notably Frederick Fraser Hopkins who, succeeding Samuel Lloyd, occupied the property for much of the late Victorian era. I wonder if this is the reason for the two doors - one for the surgery and the main door for the Hopkins family. The son of a chemist and druggist, he was born at Henley-in-Arden in 1847. He studied at both Edinburgh and Queen's College near the Town Hall. He received his certificate to practice medicine in December 1871. He was therefore a young and energetic doctor when moving into 38 Ashted Row. He was joined by his sister Laura and brother Edward. Shrewsbury-born Alfred Darlington joined the practice as an assistant. He would later practice further along Ashted Row. I have highlighted Frederick Hopkins in the above 1892 trade directory entry, along with the practice of his younger brother Edward.
Crossing Windsor Street, or Upper Windsor Street, depending on the year, one would only have to walk a few doors to No.61. [No.53 was on the eastern corner]. If I am honest if I had to identify the building on its own I would have struggled as there were many similar properties on Ashted Row. Thankfully, however, somebody very kindly left half the house number on display when the brickwork was bodged up for a smaller window. But the big bonus is the ghost sign lettering that remained on the left of the building.
At the time of this photograph I cannot see any business being conducted at No.61 in the corresponding trade directory. However, the electoral roll shows that the house was occupied by four men that could have been "£5 in my pocket" immigrants. So, it is interesting to note that some cultural diversity was taking place here at 61 Ashted Row. The four men were Ali Diwan, Ali Saif Chowdry, Yakoob Mohammed and Mohammed Saleman. If there are descendants of these men reading this please get in touch to tell us of their experience in post-war Duddeston.
The ghost sign lettering was almost certainly painted for the plumber Harold S. Cashmore who was based at these premises in the 1930s. He also undertook building repairs. However, he commuted here from his home on Chester Road at Castle Bromwich.
I think the photograph may have the wrong date attached to it. It is likely to be two years later. Firstly, plumber Harold Cashmore died in that year and, secondly, Mohammed Saleman arrived in the UK in March 1958 on the Strathaird, a vessel operated by the Peninsula and Orient Steam Navigation Company Ltd.
Continuing along Ashted Row one arrives at this row of properties. These were Nos.85-89, the latter being at the far end of this photograph close to the junction of Willis Street. There is a slight gap at the junction of Willis Street as the end property was one of the few in Ashted Row that bordered a small garden. I am not sure if this became a planned open space for people to sit. No.89 is marked on the below map extract as Ashted House.
The families occupying this row at the time of the above photograph were Wilkes , Heath , Caventer  and Bastet . Ashted House was another property used as a doctor's surgery, though Douglas and Eileen Attwood also lived there. There were two surgeries operating here, with Drs. Edwin Montgomery and Denis O'Keeffe sharing the building. Edwin Montgomery was here during the Second World War when the other half of Ashted House was occupied by Dr. Christopher Waters. Looking back through trade directories, this is another property occupied by surgeons down the years. However, in the late 1860s the portrait painter Matthew Popham lived here. The Herbert Art Gallery at Coventry hold some of his works, including a painting of the author George Eliot.
A close-up shot of the surgery of Dr. Denis O'Keeffe that occupied part of Ashted House. Ashted Row certainly had a good number of houses devoted to medicine. This cluster may have provided a pre-NHS centre of expertise at a time when there was little provision for medical issues not requiring hospital treatment. The rambling old houses certainly provided enough space to accommodate practice or treatment rooms and at moderate rents compared to other parts of Birmingham.
This photograph was taken from the junction of Willis Street and shows the surgery of E. M. Mockler at No.91. I am not sure if that luxury saloon car belongs to the doctor or one of the more affluent private patients. A similar shared arrangement existed here as the property was also used by Dr. Daniel T. Gemmell. During the Second World War this building housed the surgery of Topping, Topping & Hughes, comprising of Hugh Graeme Topping, Eleanor Patricia Topping and John Hughes. Eleanor Topping formed a partnership with the aforementioned Daniel Gemmell. He had prescribed some drugs to her following an accident in which she hurt her leg on holiday. However, she increased her intake of drugs when he refused to continue such a course. She self-prescribed large doses of paraldehyde which, together with her use of alcohol led to her tragic death in 1954.
This photograph shows the houses next door at Nos.92 and 93. From the Second World War until it was demolished No.92 housed a dental surgery. At the time of this photograph the man wielding the instruments was John Peter Saxby. The dental surgeon during the war was Wilfred Maurice Wellings. He lived on Hagley Road in Edgbaston. However, whilst he was yanking teeth out of patients, his wife Enid was having an affair with Alfred Collingwood Gibson, a relationship reported in the local newspapers when the dentist sought a divorce.
This house at No.92 has quite an interesting history. In the 1920s it was occupied by the cycle maker James Henry Coxon. By the way, that may appear to be a normal tandem in the photograph but it actually has motor - hence the number plate. In the late 19th century the house was used as a dancing academy by Sarah Ann Power. So I have ticked a box with the bicycle maker and I can tick another due to the house being home in the 1860s to the maltster Benjamin Kelsey. He started a brewery in Ashted that would live for another century. His beer proved popular and, in addition to retailing them in the Dog and Partridge he supplied a number of other pubs in the area. The successful brewing business enabled the Kelsey family to develop a modest estate of public-houses. The Kelsey empire continued to grow until, in 1933, the company merged with H. E. Thornley of Leamington Spa. Trading as Thornley Kelsey Ltd., the new company eventually moved all brewing to Leamington.
No.92 has another bizarre story that appeared in the Birmingham Mail in September 1891.....
Nos.93-5 was largely residential for much of the time. However, No.95 was a boarding school in the 1860s to 1880s and run by Hannah Ruth White. The Twickenham-born school mistress appointed her nieces as governesses. The census of 1881 shows that there were 18 scholars living in the house. They may have been large properties but, combined with the teachers and servants, that would be a fairly full house.
And finally on this side of Ashted Row is a photograph that has been widely circulated, the photograph many people see when searching for Ashted Row. The house in the foreground was No.101. When this photograph was taken the residence was used as, you've guessed it, another surgery. The doctor, John Robert Tighe lived here with his wife Nora. He had taken over the practice of his father who had done the same. The Tighe family had occupied this house since Edwardian times.
This residence had quite a large garden that extended to Vauxhall Road. Before they moved to Sutton Coldfield, it was home to Edwin and Agnes Busby. He was a wire worker who had prospered and later moved into property development. In the mid-19th century No.191 was home to the corn merchant Thomas Cattell and his wife Caroline. This was a family that owned many properties in the area.
The virtual tour of Ashted Row now crosses the road and heads back along the northern side of the thoroughfare.
This photograph shows Nos.109-111 Ashted Row. No.109 is the house on the right and was the first house of Ashted Row as the row of development curved round from Vauxhall Road. No.109 was occupied by surgeons over the years. At the time of this photograph the incumbent was Robert Joseph Gubbins who lived here with his wife Gwyneth. The couple married in January 1949, though as a bachelor Robert Gubbins was living at this address before the Second World War. His live-in housekeeper in those days was Hilda Simcocks who lived here with her young daughter Bernadette. When Ashted Row was being cleared Robert and Gwyneth Gubbins moved to No.40 Bristol Road. In 1956 the house adjoining the surgery was occupied by the Whillock family.
I have marked the location of No.109 on this map extract dated 1888. The house formed part of a curved development where Ashted Row joined Vauxhall Road at what was once known as Bloomsbury Place. The Junction Inn can be seen on the road junction, a hostelry that benefited from its proximity to the busy tramway and cab stand.
No.109, along with the adjoining properties, would have once looked across to Vauxhall Gardens, a leisure development thought to date from around 1740 and laid out in the grounds of Duddeston Hall. One had to pay to visit these gardens but Charles Adderley, who would later become the first Lord Norton, owned much of Duddeston and Vauxhall. He donated the land for Birmingham's first public park in August 1856. He opened the ten-acre site to thousands of visitors on a warm Saturday in August 1856. Entrance to the park was via a handsome lodge where a library was later added.
At the time of the 1888 map No.109 was occupied by the surgeon Evan Marlett Boddy. Born in 1847, he was the son of a doctor and trained at Guy's Hospital in London. In his early career he was a surgeon for the London and North-West Railway Company. He moved north to Birmingham and established a practice here at Ashted Row. He remained for around 45 years until an enforced retirement following a stroke. His latter years were spent at Raglan Road in Edgbaston where he died at the age of 87. He was the author of several books, including "Hydropathy" and "The History of Salt." At the time of his retirement he had a "panel" of nearly 2,000 patients in addition to a private practice. He had an extensive collection of paintings and was a prominent figure in art and literary circles. He suffered a loss in the First World War when his only son, also named Evan Marlett Boddy, was killed in 1916 when serving with the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.
Another view of the surgery run by Robert Joseph Gubbins. A woman is leaving the surgery and negotiating the steps with what was a fashionable pram at the time. The freehold, along with the adjacent terrace, were once owned by the corn merchant Thomas Cattell who lived in Ashted Row in the 1860s. That was when this row of houses was known as Montpelier Place. The social strata of occupancy changed over time - in the 1870s the properties were occupied by an accountant and police superintendent. Most of the residents had servants living on part of the premises.
This photograph moves a little along the road from the previous image. Here are Nos.112-3 Ashted Row, the higher number adjoining the former Clock Tavern. At the time of this photograph in 1956 No.112 was occupied by Thomas and Anne Doody. Next door at No.113 was a shared house with the Huyton and Hotchkiss families queuing up to use the toilet, bathroom and kitchen. If indeed there was a separate bathroom? However, for many people it made economic sense to split the rent and reduce living costs. However, in this case Dennis Hotchkiss had married Joan Huyton and moved in with her mother and brother. The once-genteel houses were looking rather run-down by this time. The stucco was either peeling or falling off the exterior walls. The occupants were clearly not interested in tending to the small garden where the fence had fallen apart. An old sheet is acting as a net curtain at the Doody household. When the council re-housed the residents Lucy Huyton, along with her son Edward, were provided with a house on Benedon Road at Lyndon Green. Her daughter, together with her husband Dennis Hotchkiss, were resettled in a flat on Chaynes Grove at Tile Cross.
When plans for the redevelopment of Ashted Row were announced Sylvia Dye of the Birmingham Daily Gazette went to look at the place for herself. She spoke to Anne Doody who told her that she "I wish the Corporation would pull the house down, then they might find us a place with a garden." It was stated that the Doody's, with their four children, had lived in this condemned house for three years. She listed ten of its disadvantages. "the house is damp," she said, pointing to where the lime-green plaster had flaked away from the living-room wall, exposing the bare brick. "I'm sure the damp has given young Georgie his chest trouble." She added that "the ceiling is not safe," showing the laths appearing through a gaping hole. "There is no electricity, only gas. The floorboards upstairs are rotten. When the boiler is lit, paper peels off the kitchen ceiling. The kitchen grate is broken. There is no bathroom and no indoor sanitation. The wood of the front door is rotten and it is coming away from its hinges. The children cannot sleep for the noise of the trams rattling by. There is no garden, only a narrow yard." Talking to the journalist, Anne Doody said: "I was glad enough to get this place," as she bent over a pile of washing steaming in the copper. "I had been a squatter in a Nissen hut at Erdington for three years. But this house needs thousands spending on it to make it decent." As far as Anne Doody was concerned, any plea for the preservation of this piece of old Birmingham falls on deaf ears. Sylvia Dye wrote that "she would agree with Francis Bacon: "Houses are made to live in, not to look on."
I have plonked an arrow pointing at these two properties on a 19th century map extract for Ashted Row. When the map was published No.112 was occupied by William Partridge. John Brodie, his next door neighbour, worked as a metal traveller which I assume to be a sales representative for one of the local metal-bashing firms. During the Edwardian period the house was home to the Leasley family, headed by the elderly widow Ellen Leasley. She had been married to the gun maker George Leasley and in the 19th century lived on Steelhouse Lane.
The next property along Ashted Row was the Clock Tavern for which I have a separate page. I have also discussed the adjoining café on that page. I would think this image dates from 1957 as the houses to the right are now unoccupied and the local youths have smashed the windows. I believe that the former Clock Tavern survived until around 1960.
Moving further along the row towards Willis Street brings one to this view in 1956. Two men are either walking to work or on their way home. Actually, I hope it is in the morning otherwise those milk bottles on the step of No.135 have been left out all day. Ugh, the days of warm milk in the school break! At the time of this photograph this house was occupied by the Wheeldon family. Living next door at No.134 were Albert and Ida Gregory. The two blokes may have noticed the poster on the wall of the New Ashted Row Picture House which was advertising "Pearl Of The South Pacific," an adventure film starring David Farrar and Virginia Mayo that was released in 1955.
In those days punters got two films for the price of admission and this could mean an older b-movie. Very rarely did the undercard trump the main film. However, I do remember seeing Steven Spielberg's "Duel" as a b-movie in the early 1970s and it certainly topped the bill that night at the Royal Cinema in Cradley Heath. However, here in Ashted in 1955 the undercard was "Canyon Ambush," a rather dodgy outdated western with a token female role played by Phyllis Coates. Many people piled into the cinema to watch the full programme even if the b-movie was a load of rubbish. Well, they had to get their money's worth.
I have marked the locations of Nos.134-5 on the above map extract dated 1888 and on which I have outlined the site of the New Ashted Row Cinema which was built in later years. As one can see, a number of properties were removed in order to create a larger corner site.
This was the later incarnation of the Ashted Row Cinema, a building that was originally built and opened in December 1912. This is the same building but the pointed corners and balustrade were removed and the frontage somewhat simplified. The refurbishment and modernisation was undertaken in 1934. The cinema was known as the Ashted Row Picture House when first advertised though a postcard of the period labels the building as the Ashted Row Picture Palace. One of the early cinemas in Birmingham, it was reportedly designed by Archibald Hurley Robinson and boasted 1,000 seats. The first performance was at 18.50hrs on Thursday 5th December 1912, with a second performance at 21.00hrs.
I have read that Will Devey, the former Aston Villa player, was the owner of the cinema. However, this is not strictly accurate. Firstly, on the footballing side of things, he played four times as many games for both Small Heath and Wolverhampton Wanderers than he did for Aston Villa. Other clubs that he turned out for include Notts County and Walsall. He was one of the famous seven sons of the Sheffield-born silver maker and electro-plate worker William Devey and his wife Mary Ann. All of them enjoyed sporting success, though it is probably fair to say that the eldest son, John Devey, was the most gifted. He was captain of the Villa side that won the league and cup in the 1890s. A fine cricketer, he also represented Warwickshire for two decades. He later sat on the Board of Directors at Aston Villa.
The Devey family could have an interesting book devoted to their colourful lives. Will Devey's father was a prominent figure in local politics and was dubbed "the Grand Old Man of Birmingham Liberalism." An ardent educationalist, he probably encouraged his second son to follow a teaching career. Subsequently, Will Devey became an elementary school teacher and worked at the school at Farm Street in Hockley. These were the days when football players often combined work with a playing career. Between 1885 to 1891 he turned out for Small Heath on forty occasions before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers where he made another 41 appearances. He was the leading scorer at both clubs. His playing career trailed off in the 1890s.
In 1956, a former pupil at Farm Street wrote in the letters page of the Birmingham Weekly Post that he knew William Devey very well. He recounted that he "had the pleasure of being in his class when he taught the fourth standard at Farm Street School. Later he became a headmaster. He was one of the grandest personalities I ever met, and the first person I saw ride a bicycle with pneumatic tyres. He used to call at our shop going home in the afternoon to take "dainties" home for his tea. He was then living in the Lozells district." The pupil recalled that he was then playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers so this would be around 1891-2 when the Devey family home was in St Silas' Square.
When the Ashted Row Picture House opened in December 1912, a journalist for the Birmingham Mail was sent to report on the event. He wrote that the "hall is controlled entirely by a Midland company, of which Mr. George A. Parker is chairman, and Will Devey is manager. I think this understates his involvement in the cinema. I suspect that he had a financial stake in the company and advertisements list him as managing director. Furthermore, when his wife Georgina died in 1917 he was recorded as a company director. I am not sure of the transition period in which he went from headteacher to cinema entrepreneur. He was probably influenced by his brother Harry who got involved with cinemas at an early date. The aforementioned George A. Parker, a former lawyer, was a director of a number of cinemas in the suburbs of Birmingham.
The journalist, on visiting the Ashted Row Picture House for the opening night, reported that "the inside of the building is attractive, the ceiling being a panel one, and the whole of the interior carried out in the Renaissance period style. A novel treatment of the picture screen has been devised. The entrance hall with its Terrazzo treatment is another feature."
The main attraction of the opening programme was "Two Daughters of Eve," a film directed by David Wark Griffith that had just been released. The programme also included two comic films entitled "Brawn's Day Off" and "Order in Court."
With the Ashted Row Picture House up-and-running Will and Alfred Devey set about opening another theatre at Winson Green. Will Devey applied for a licence for the Winson Green Picture Palace in December 1914 but the hearing was deferred until January 1915. Alfred was secretary and, later, director of this picture house. Will Devey was also involved in The Star at Gravelly Hill. The brothers were also directors of the Ritz Cinema at Bordesley Green.
Here one can see the former New Ashted Row Cinema from Willis Street, showing that only the main entrance had any decoration. The main auditorium was more functional and no unnecessary expenditure was given over to embellishment of this part of the building.
Not long before this photograph was taken three youths, Stanley Seamark , 137 Windsor Street, William Eccleston , 100 Brook Street, and George Shough , 107 Great Brook Street, were put on probation after breaking into the cinema and stealing £153 by making two holes in the safe. They raided the kiosk and ate chocolate and drank mineral water during the time it took them to crack the safe. In court, Seamark and Eccleston also admitted breaking and entering a café on Ashted Row and stealing a wireless set, 2,000 cigarettes and other articles.
In September 1857 Birmingham Corporation bought the Ashted Row Cinema after the property was scheduled for demoliton under the Duddeston and Nechells redevelopment scheme. The cinema was leased back to former owners, the Ashted Row Cinema Ltd., who continued to run the business until it was required for redevelopment work. The building was derelict by July 1960 when the fire brigade were called out to extinguish a fire that had been started in one of the rooms.
A few metres further along from the junction of Willis Street was Saint Vincent's Institute at No.153. A sign for the club room was above the entry to the left of the single storey shop unit with the double window frontage. The shop unit was once the showroom of cabinet maker and furniture dealer Arthur Avery. He used to be located in Highgate and Cheapside where he gained a reputation for flying off the handle and landing himself in trouble with the police. At the time of the 1888 map extract below the premises were used for the same trade by George Brown.
The former furniture store can be seen on this map extract at No.153. Notice that the buildings that are shown on this map have largely disappeared by the time of this photograph, perhaps as a result of the war. Nos.151-2, to the right of the photograph, was the yard and office of Frederick Middleton & Sons Ltd., domestic engineers. Note the large billboard advertising Davenport's. In the Edwardian period No.151 was the laundry of John Dudley. In the late 19th century it was a grocery store run by James Ryland. This was at a time when No.152 was occupied by the linen draper John Swaine Denning.
This row of three shops adjoined Saint Vincent's Institute and were numbered [from the right] 154-6 Ashted Row. During the Second World War the premises on the right was occupied by the patent medicine vendor James Betts and his wife Nellie. Born in 1860 James Betts was a real old-school concocter of medicines for the masses hoping for a remedy for their aches and pains. He may have popped some of his own pills as he fathered three daughters at a relatively old age. They were all living here at the outbreak of war. James Betts was 82 years-old when he died in July 1942. His wife Nellie must have been shown the ropes, or left the 'recipes,' as she continued the business here until the 1950s.
In the Edwardian period the shop had been a fish and chip shop run by Francis Goodenough, a name that would invite jibes should the chips not be up to standard on any given night. At the time of this photograph there was still a chippy here as the shop of the left was run by the fried fish dealer Ali Syed. The narrow entry to the right of the chippy led to Court No.12.
This photograph shows the shops at Nos.169-172 Ashted Row between Henry Street and Windsor Street. The scene is dominated by the premises of the shop-fitting firm of Craftinwood Ltd. You can browse online and find quality shop display units made by this firm - and still commanding good prices as they were very well-made. The firm also undertook specialist woodwork. Along with Birmingham Sculptors Ltd., they made the new oak organ case at the Church of Saint Alban the Martyr at Highgate.
Next door to Craftinwood Ltd. a couple of women are picking fruit and vegetables on display at the greengrocery run by John Corrigan. During the Second World War this business was kept by Emily Hyde. On the right at No.169 was the English Leather Boot & Shoe Repairing Co. Ltd. Between the wars these premises were occupied by the shoe-maker Mary Horton who had carried on the business of her husband Frank.
This photograph was kindly sent to me by Trevor Flannery and I am very grateful as it shows a pocket of Ashted Row that I had not previously seen. This is the corner of Ashted Row and Windsor Street. The image shows the bakery shop of Thomas Henry Baines at No.181 on the northern side of the street. The shop to the right, the next property heading towards Henry Street, is a confectioner's shop which, at the outbreak of World War 2, was run by Helena Southall. Next door was the newsagent and tobacconist's shop of Walter Woodbine, an apposite name if ever there was one.
The image is from a photograph album that belonged to Trevor's father who recorded the name of Mrs. King as the manager of the bakery shop. She lived on the premises with her husband Robert. The daughter of a gunmaker, she was born in Aston during December 1885. Her full maiden name was Nellie Elizabeth Jane Archer. She married Robert King in 1909 at Hartlepool. Her husband had served in the Royal Navy. A former dock labourer who hailed from Suffolk, Robert King also served in the Royal Artillery in the First World War. Prior to the war the couple had moved to the locality and Nellie wrote letters to her husband from a house in Windsor Street. Nellie King worked for Thomas Henry Baines who operated a number of outlets in Birmingham. Born in the Spring of 1864, he was the son of the baker William Baines of Latimer Street South, next to the Nag's Head Tavern. By the early 1880s the Baines family were living at Spring Vale on the Bell Barn estate. William's sons, Thomas, William and George, had all joined the family business as bakers.
For some reason George Baines set up his own bakery whilst brothers Thomas and William moved to premises on the north side of Rocky Lane. In later years, when Thomas had expanded the family business, the main bakery was located in Langton Road at Saltley. The bakery of George Baines was located in Finch Road at Handsworth. Both businesses operated a large number of outlets, though it would appear that they concentrated on separate parts of Birmingham.
It would seem that George Baines was the most successful in terms of the volume of output. However, Thomas probably gained more recognition for the quality of his products. George died in 1930 and left over £100,000, a significant sum for the period. Though older, Thomas, a resident of Ward End House at Washwood Heath Road, lived until July 1939. When his death was announced, it was reported that he was "one of the best-known master bakers in the country. He had been President of the National Association of Master Bakers, Confectioners and Caterers and of the Birmingham Association of Master Bakers. He was president of the Ward End Sons of Rest, and chairman of the City of Birmingham Federation Sons of Rest. He was also vice-chairman of Ward End Parochial Church Council and one of the prime movers in the building of Christ Church at Ward End." Thomas Baines, a President of Alum Rock Club, was an active Freemason and member and founder of several lodges. He held Provincial honours in Freemasonry in Warwickshire and Worcestershire. He was one of the founders of Ward End Unionist Club and he took a keen interest in Ward End Unionist Association. For more than forty years he had been treasurer of St. Matthew's Men's Class.
A widower, Thomas Henry Baines was survived by three daughters - Mrs. Dorothy Annie Rowcroft, wife of the Rev. Samuel P. Rowcroft, vicar of St. Silas; Mrs. Katherine Godsall, wife of Captain Arthur Godsall [Worcester Regiment] and Mrs. Winifred Aspinall, wife of Mr. William C. Aspinall [of the Rivers and Sewers Department, Birmingham Corporation].
The bakery of George Baines later formed part of the Ranks-Hovis-McDougall group and was closed at the beginning of 1972 with the loss of over 100 jobs.
Returning to the photograph of the corner of Ashted Row and Windsor Street, the bakery outlet had formerly been a butcher's shop. In the Victorian years it was run by Henry Crutchley with assistance from his son Charles. The confectionery shop next door at No.180 Ashted Row was successfully run by Minnie Southall for a considerable number of years. Born in August 1867, she kept the shop during both World Wars.
No.176 Ashted Row was the premises used to establish a studio by the Victorian photographer Herbert William Cottrell. It has already been a confectionery shop run by his parents in the 1860s. Herbert was born there and grew up on Ashted Row. His father Joseph first spotted a business opportunity in this fast-growing medium and by the end of 1880s was listed as photographer rather than confectioner. Herbert elected to follow this career path, particularly as the Carte de Visite photographic cards had become enormously popular. People would come to the studio in the best togs and have a photograph taken by Herbert Cottrell. He would produce thin albumen prints that were mounted on cards displaying the studio address. A customer could buy as many as they required, depending on their level of distribution. Cards would be given or exchanged with family and friends, some via the postal system. Not only did this produced an income for the studio but the card mount would also advertise the business. A Victorian win-win situation. Below I have included three portraits produced at 176 Ashted Row by Herbert William Cottrell. Unfortunately the names of the women were not recorded on the rear of the cards. Herbert Cottrell married Agnes Bishop in 1892. The couple later moved to New Milton in Hampshire where he set up another photographic studio. However, he died at a relatively young age in 1909.
"Last evening, a somewhat serious accident happened to an omnibus, which was returning from Coleshill, in Ashted Row. During the summer
months it is the custom of a large number of pleasure-seekers from Birmingham to betake themselves on fine Sunday afternoons to the pretty village of Coleshill,
which lies within an easy distance of the town. Railway travelling, though the most expeditious, is not by any means the most pleasant mode of reaching the spot,
and therefore the majority of the excursionists prefer to go by omnibus, by which means they obtain a country ride, in addition to the pleasures which await them at
the end of their journey. Yesterday being bright and sunny, induced a large number of persons to avail themselves of the opportunity offered by the fact that public
conveyances were provided for the purpose, to take an afternoon in the midst of the green fields and picturesque scenery which lie at a convenient distance from the
tall chimneys, busy streets, and kidney pavements of the town. An omnibus belonging to Mr. Joseph Page, of Bell Street, and drawn by four horses, started from
town at half-two in the afternoon with about twenty excursionists, and went safely to Coleshill. At half-past seven in the evening the return journey was
commenced, and all went well until the conveyance arrived in Ashted Row. At this time, John Haden, the driver, who has the reputation of being a steady,
careful man, was proceeding at a moderate rate, and turned from Ashted Row into Henry Street, which is the nearest way into town, when, from some cause, which is
at present unexplained, the bus swerved, and turned suddenly over on its "off side", precipitating driver, "outsides," and the conductor [a
man named Potter], pell mell into the road, whilst the unfortunate "insides," who were mostly females and children, found themselves suddenly brought
into unexpected and painful connection with each other. A large crowd immediately collected, and upon an examination it was found that, beyond a severe shaking
and an immense amount of fright, the great majority of the passengers had sustained no hurt. John Haden, the driver, had been thrown from his elevated position
into the road, and was severely shaken, though we believe no bones were broken. Several other of the passengers who were bruised were removed to their own homes.
In falling the omnibus dragged with it one of the horses, but he was not much hurt. The windows of the vehicle were smashed, and one of the wheels so badly
broken that, although it was raised from the ground and placed upright, it would be impossible to remove the omnibus from its position until this morning."
"Omnibus Accident in Ashted Row"
Birmingham Daily Post : July 25th 1864 Page 8
"At the Public Office, before Mr. Kynnersley, this morning, Thomas Davis , 128 Ashted Row, pawnbroker's
assistant, was charged with stealing a gold chain from his master, Mr. W. H. Wood, 90 Smallbrook Street. There were several other charges of embezzlement and
robbery against the prisoner. Mr. Rowlands appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Cheston watched the case for the prisoner. Mr. Rowlands said that Messrs.
Wood Brothers some years ago bought the pawnbroking business of Mr. Michael Davis in High Street and Smallbrook Street. The prisoner was then in Mr. Davis's
service, and he was retained by the Messrs. Wood as shop man and manager. It was part of the prisoner's duty to attend to the shop, and to receive goods in
pledge. Messrs. Wood did not take stock regularly every year, but having reason to believe that all was not correct they took stock, and found that there was a
deficiency of something like £l,800. They suspected the prisoner and had him watched on several occasions, but they were unable to detect anything in the
shop, but on the night of the 17th Oct. Sergeant Cooper heard the prisoner offer a gold Albert chain to a woman in a public-house in Prospect Row, about
half-past 11 o'clock at night. Detective Kelly mentioned this to the prisoner, who said that the chain was his own property, but afterwards admitted
that it belonged to his employers. His house was subsequently searched, and a large quantity of gold and silver watches, chains, and jewellery of every
description were found, which were identified as the property of Messrs. Wood, though the prisoner first asserted that part of them were his own. The prisoner
carried on his frauds in various ways. He not only took goods direct from the stock and carried them away, but he appeared to have taken goods out of the general
stock and pledged them in fictitious names to pass them into the pledge stock. He also had a number of pledges and duplicates belonging to goods which had been
redeemed, prisoner retaining the money. The goods found in the prisoner's house included six ladies' gold chains, four gold Alberts, one long silver chain,
one silver Albert, seven gold watches, nineteen silver watches, one metal watch, three gold wedding rings, a number of signet rings, gold locket, nine silver watch
cases, gold cameo brooch, a number of pins and brooches, seals and keys, and several other articles. Ten £5. notes were also found in the prisoner's house.
With respect to the pawn-tickets the prisoner said : "Those things were redeemed, and I kept the money." Mr. Henry Dixon Wood said he was an assistant
to his brother, Mr. W. H. Wood, pawnbroker, High Street. In June, 1870, he gave a large stock of goods to the prisoner to take from the shop in Smallbrook Street to
the shop in High Street. Among them were a lady's watch, a silver spoon, and a gold ring, now produced. The goods had not been sold, and should have been in the
shop in High Street. Mr. Wood said that the prisoner had never been denied goods he wished to show for sale, but witness identified a chain which the prisoner never
had permission to sell it. The total value of the goods taken from the prisoner was between £250. and £3OO. The value of the goods which the prisoner
admitted belonged to Messrs. Wood was between £50. and £60. In cross-examination, the witness said he was once summoned in London for imperfectly
writing tickets. He was not summoned for "making up pledges and then dividing the profits. He was not fined £50.; he was fined two £5. Would swear
he never heard of a warrant against him. The Messrs. Wood went through the principal articles taken from the prisoner's possession and identified them as their
property. The prisoner was committed for trial at the sessions."
"Extensive Robbery of Jewellery"
Birmingham Mail : October 30th 1871 Page 2
"A fatal accident occurred in Ashted Row, Birmingham, shortly after 1.30 today. A boy named George Sampson, aged 1 year and 9
months, of 5, back 40, Ashted Row, was playing near his house in the street when a float driven by Henry Giles, of 127 Windsor Street, came along and the
boy suddenly dashed across the road. The driver was unable to stop his horse in time to avert an accident, and one of the wheels passed over the child's head
and neck. Police-Constable 160D was quickly on the scene, and he and the driver took the child to the General Hospital in the float. On arrival, there,
however, it was found that the child was dead."
"Fatal Accident in Ashted Row"
Birmingham Mail : April 3rd 1913 Page 6