Some history on Birchall Street at Deritend in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire
Birchall Street runs south-westward from the junction of Chapel House, Stone Yard and Green Street at Deritend, crossing Bradford Street and Cheapside before ending at Moseley Street. A continuation of the route follows Charles Henry Street to Vaughton Street South in Highgate.
As can be seen on this extract from William Westley's map of 1731, this route was known as Brickhill Road. This provides a clue into the industrial activity of the past - the section curling up towards Deritend Bridge was later called Stone Yard. The lane led out to Birch's Pasture and, later, Birch's Hole. Like Vaughton's Hole, a channel was cut to feed water from the River Rea. The street was later called Birch Hole Street.
Note the rough crossing across the River Rea connecting Digbeth and Deritend High Street. With the river tamed and culverted, it is hard to imagine nowadays that the Rea once formed a difficult obstacle for locals and travellers. But there isn't a thoroughfare called Floodgate Street for no reason. Originally called Water Street, Floodgate Street was a tranquil lane in the early-mid 19th century. Tranquil that is until it rained heavily on Windmill Hill between the Lickey Hills and the Clent Hills, the source of the River Rea. The name Floodgate Street serves as a reminder that Brummies earning a living here had to occasionally harness the water source that provided their main source of power.
The force of the river in winter acted as the impetus for the construction of the church marked on the 1731 map. The church of Saint John the Baptist was founded in the late 14th century for the Aston parishioners living in the locality. Deritend and Bordesley were, up until relatively recent times, part of Aston not Birmingham. Permission was granted and a chaplain installed to conduct divine services for those who lived some distance from the parish church at Aston and could not attend Saint Martin's in winter because of the river. The chaplain was paid £5 per annum by the Deritend guild, the same sum that was paid to another priest who acted as a teacher.
The original church was a small rectangular structure that featured a steeply-pitched roof. Like that illustrated by Westley, the west end of the building had a square bell-turret with a pyramidal roof and weather vane. The church was replaced in 1735 with an edifice described by J. W. Bloe as a "rectangular brick building with tall round-headed windows and a tower of two stages surmounted by a balustrade with urns at the angles." Although restored between 1881-91, the building was not in use in 1939. It was in that year when the parish and benefice were united with St. Basil of Deritend.
Sold to the local authorities before the outbreak of the Second World War, Saint John's Church was hit by a bomb and later demolished. The enlarged church of Saint John the Baptist is marked on the 1778 map by Thomas Hanson.
This extract from Thomas Hanson's Plan shows the early development of the area. Bradford Street had been laid out and the estate of Henry Bradford was underway. Note that it started and finished at the river during this period. The line of Birchall Street can be seen running down from Saint John's Chapel, although the section near to Deritend High Street would be called Chapel House Street. Birchall Street was more formally laid out in the mid-1780s, the first pub [The Minerva] appearing in Birmingham's Trade Directories in 1791.
"Two lads, named John Horton and Richard Haywood, both residing in Birchall Street, were charged on suspicion of stealing
copper vessels and some lead piping from the brewhouse of Mr. Edwards, retail brewer, Cheapside. They were seen coming out of the entry leading to the brewhouse in
question about two o'clock on Sunday morning by Police-Constable 229, and the officer having followed, afterwards came upon them in an entry in Moseley Street,
where he found a bundle containing the property mentioned above. He thought he heard this bundle fall on the ground as he was approaching, and the conclusion to be
drawn from this was that the prisoners had dropped it upon seeing the officer. Mr. Hall appeared for the prisoners, and called their masters, respectable men, who
gave them good characters. The Magistrates thought the case suspicious, but gave the prisoners the benefit of the doubt by discharging them."
"Another Suspicious Case"
Birmingham Journal : June 29th 1850 Page 3
"A young fellow, named John Palmer Field, living in Birchall Street, was charged with being disorderly at the house of Amelia Hall,
and, and assaulting a young man named James Dodd. On the preceding night Mrs. Hall's husband was ill-using her, and she called upon Dodd, who was at that
time passing the house, to assist her. The prisoner and two other men were then fetched by the husband from a neighbouring public-house, and began beating the
complainant severely. Dodd was unable to say whether the prisoner struck him or not, but Mrs. Hall spoke to his having administered one blow, He was therefore fined 2s.
6d. and costs, or fourteen days' imprisonment in default."
Birmingham Journal : May 17th 1856 Page 11
"A man named Joseph Hill, a tin-plate worker, residing in a court in Birchall Street, was charged with gambling and keeping a
house for the purpose of gambling. From the evidence of Detective-Sergeant Dutton, it appeared that the prisoner kept a pigeon cage in Birchall Street, and was in
the habit of encouraging boys and young men to his house to gamble. On Saturday night, between eight and nine o'clock, the officer, in company with
Detective-Sergeants Mountford and Seal, went to the house of the prisoner, where they found between twenty-five and thirty persons, varying from twelve to
twenty years of age, engaged in gambling for money and pigeons. One of the youths was in the act of throwing the dice, and a lot of penny-pieces were lying upon
the table. As soon as the company observed the officers, they ran about in all directions, and effected their escape. The prisoner, however, was captured, and upon
him was found what Dutton called the "lion's share" of the winnings - upwards of £1. 4s., chiefly in copper money. Detective Inspector Tandy
stated that this gambling usually took place on Saturday nights, when the youths had their wages in their pockets, and very frequently they left the house without a
penny. Many letters had been sent to Mr. Glossop, the Chief of Police, by parents who could not get their sons home at night, with reference to the prisoner's
gambling house. The prisoner, who had previously been before the Magistrates for a similar offence, was committed to the House of Correction, with hard labour, for
"A Gambler Caught"
Birmingham Daily Post : November 24th 1863 Page 3
"Yesterday morning a determined case of suicide took place at the house of Mr. Mitchell, the Nelson Inn, Deritend. For some six
months past Mr. Mitchell has had in his employment as general servant a young woman about twenty-two years of age, of the name Emma Wright, whose parents
reside in Birchall Street. Nothing extraordinary was noticed in the girl's conduct, but on Saturday night after the shop had been closed she complained of being
rather unwell. Mrs. Mitchell asked her to have glass of gin and water before going to bed, as it would make her sleep. She partook of a small quantity, and about
half-past twelve o'clock yesterday morning went to bed. Nothing occurred during the night, but upon Mrs. Mitchell getting up about nine o'clock yesterday
morning she found that the girl had not come downstairs. She accordingly went to the girl's bedroom door, which she found to be locked, and called to her to get
up. In reply the girl said she should be down directly, but as she did not come downstairs Mrs. Mitchell, in about half an hour, again went to her bedroom door. Not
receiving any reply to her knocks at the door she became alarmed, and called Mr. Mitchell, who burst the door open. Upon getting into the room they were horrified to
see the girl lying dead in bed with her throat frightfully cut, saturated with her own blood. They made an alarm, and Mr. Porter, surgeon, was at once in attendance.
He pronounced the girl quite dead. Her body was warm, so that she could not have long expired. In the bed was found a small razor, and there was a large wound in her
throat and also another rather extensive wound on her right arm, which had evidently been inflicted by herself. On the table by the side of the bed there was a glass
and teacup, which contained a small quantity of what Mr. Porter considered to be poison. From indications in the room it was apparent that the unfortunate girl had
taken poison of some description, which not proving so fatal as she thought, she inflicted the wounds upon her throat and arm with the razor. There are several rumours
afloat as to the cause that led the young woman to commit suicide, but the whole facts will be thoroughly investigated at the inquest, which will held in due
"Determined Suicide in Deritend"
Birmingham Daily Gazette : December 21st 1863 Page 5
"On Sunday night a case of stabbing of very serious nature, and which, it was feared, might terminate fatally, took place in Birchall Street.
The victim is a man named Joseph Allen, twenty-seven years of age, and a brassfounder by trade. It is said that Allen had been away from Birmingham for some
time lately, and during his absence his wife lived with a man named William Poole, a fire-iron polisher, who supported her and her child. Recently Allen
returned to town, and on Sunday afternoon he met Poole at the Old English Gentleman Inn, when some angry words passed between them respecting Poole's conduct
to Mrs. Allen. They met again about seven o'clock, when the quarrel was renewed, and Poole then drew a knife and stabbed Allen in the breast. Information was at once
given to the police, and Poole was taken into custody by Police-Constable Beckley, and the injured man was conveyed to the Queen's Hospital. Here it was ascertained
that his injuries were so serious that it was deemed necessary to have his depositions taken, and the Mayor and Chief Superintendent Glossop attended at the Hospital for
that purpose at a later hour in the evening. Fortunately the injuries turned out to be not so serious as was feared, and the man will in all probability recover. Poole
was brought before the magistrates and remanded until Tuesday next, when it is expected that Allen will be able to attend and give evidence."
"Stabbing in Birchall Street"
Aris's Birmingham Gazette : October 19th 1867 Page 8
"William Price  brass-caster, Alcester Street, and William Aston  whitesmith, Heath Mill Lane, were
charged with assaulting and robbing Joseph Brooks, 9 Court, 6 Adelaide Street, gas fitter. Brooks was walking along Birchall Street on Sunday in company with Price
and Aston. They asked him for 1d. He declined to 'part' whereupon they proceeded to extract all his loose cash by physical force. Whilst one placed his arms
around the neck of Brooks, the other rifled his pockets of 2s.6d., after which they coolly walked on. Brooks ran after them and requested the return of his money,
upon which they said "He has got another 6d. let's take it." They then forcibly took the tanner out of his pocket, likewise a knife, and added injury to
insult by maltreating him. Mr Cheston appeared for the defence, and sought to establish the fact that no felony or assault had been committed. It was all done in a
drunken "lark," and it was in disarming the prisoner of his knife which he attempted to use that he got knocked about. Price was fined £5, or two months,
and Aston was committed for the latter period without the option of a fine."
"A Workman Garotted by his Mates"
Birmingham Daily Mail : April 25th 1871 Page 6
"David Higgins , 66 Birchall Street, was charged with violently assaulting his wife, Ann. He arrived home on Tuesday
night, drunk. Not finding his wife present to dance attendanee on him, he rushed upstairs, pulled her out of bed, and brutally kicked her. Not content with this savage
conduct, he exerted his strength to pitch her downstairs, but fortunately his kind intention was frustrated by the advent of the police. The husband admitted having
dragged her about the room, but denied the kicks. He said his wife had "sold him up" twice. He was committed for two months."
"A Model Husband"
Birmingham Daily Mail : May 3rd 1871 Page 6