Some history on High Street Deritend in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire
Many people seem to get a little mixed up or confused with Deritend High Street. Understandable in some respects as the road from the Bull Ring to Camp Hill seems like one long seamless thoroughfare. However, Digbeth ends at the River Rea and once formed the boundary between Birmingham and Deritend and Bordesley in Aston. Having said that, Deritend High Street officially started at Milk Street on the north side so there are some properties on the west side of the river that belong to the thoroughfare. And rather than finish on a street junction, the north side of Deritend High Street finished a few doors away from Adderley Street. Across the road the south side started or finished at Court No.13 next to the King's Head, the latter being in Bordesley High Street. The boundary between Deritend High Street and Digbeth was a few doors from Court No.1, almost directly opposite Milk Street so, again, there are some buildings included on the western side of the river.
I have a small collection of original photographs, plates and prints so will feature these in the same order as trade directories. Generally, directories started on the 'town end' of the High Street on the southern side of the thoroughfare, went up to Court 13, across the road and back in a westerly direction to Milk Street. Numbering was fairly consistent though, of course, there were some anomalies or changes. I have marked No.1 on the map extract above. Given that the River Rea was not used as the demarcation point, I am not sure why the building on the corner of Rea Street was not designated as No.1. That building was No.73 Digbeth.
The first anomaly is right at the start of High Street Deritend. Ordnance Survey maps show No.1 as I have marked it on the above plan. However, some insurance plans mark No.1 in the premises seen above occupied by Allenway's Coaches. It can be seen that the shop formed an integral part of the corner block. The street sign for High Street Deritend was placed right on the corner - this can be seen near the top of the image. The row of shops up to the entrance to Court 1 were in existence at the start of the war but the rest of the buildings up to Stone Yard had been cleared in the 1930s. The land was used as a car park but here it is being used for storing building materials during the widening of the road. Although part of Digbeth, I should mention that the business of Samuel Ridgway was known for steel tubular furniture though the shop front suggests its primary role was retailing lamps and electrical accessories. The shop was located at No.73 and was the last property on the south side of Digbeth.
These are the properties that formed the empty space seen in the last image. These were Nos.1-7. The entrance to Court 1 can be seen next to the newsagent's shop of Kathleen Finnemore at No.4. Next door at No.3 was the fishing tackle shop run by May Clements. During this period No.1 had become a surgery. At the time of this photograph it was the practice of Alexander Irvine Esslemont. A native of Aberdeenshire, he served as a surgeon in the Royal Navy during World War One. In Deritend he was engaged in all social questions concerning the poor and working classes, amongst whom he lived and worked. He was honorary physician to the Floodgate Street Medical Mission. An ardent Liberal, he was one of the representatives of Sparkhill Ward on the City Council. He died, aged 74, at his home on Rotton Park Road in 1949.
Unfortunately, the above photograph ends at No.7 but the property next door at No.8 once traded as the Ring of Bells, an inn sign to celebrate the eight bells placed within the tower of Saint John's Church in the late 1770s. George Wright was the publican at this time. He remained until the early 1890s when the licence was transferred to Richard Hancox who had earlier run a pub in Suffolk Street. He was listed as a victualler in Pye's Birmingham Directory of 1797. However, the publican died in December of that year when the licence passed to his wife Ann. She continued to run the tavern until her death in 1809. This may have been when the building ceased to be a public-house. The sign seems to disappear from the licence register after this date.
This view of Deritend Bridge was captured in April 1930. The camera is pointing upstream in a south-westerly direction. The tall factory buildings to the left was part of the press shop of Fisher & Ludlow Limited. The office address of the Albion Works was officially in Rea Street but access to the works was via Stone Yard. The origins of the business go back to 1852 when the Fisher family were trading from 238 Sherlock Street. The partnership with Henry Walton Ludlow was formed in the early 1880s. In the 19th century the business produced small wares such as kettle necks, lids and spouts, blacksmith-forged buckets, along with an assortment of stampings and piercings. By the time of this photograph the firm were heavily engaged in the production of car bodies. Production was moved to Castle Bromwich before the Second World War.
I have marked the camera angle on this map extract dating from 1889 - naturally, there are some differences between the map and the inter-war photograph [above].
The traditional appearance of Deritend Bridge, including iron railings and parapets, was soon to be removed when the road was widened. People travelling along the main road lost sight of the river and a sense of the history the Rea played in the history of Birmingham.
In the photograph of the bridge [above] one can see the premises of Samual Thornley Ltd., the drysalters and dealers in oils and colours. The firm was established in 1794 and formerly located on Snow Hill. When these buildings were demolished the company moved to premises in Gooch Street. Another retail shop was opened on Hagley Road West.
Here, there is a close-up of the gent's outfitting emporium of Isaac Mintz. The premises, numbered 12-13, adjoined Deritend Bridge. The tailor, along with his wife Rachel, also moved to Gooch Street when these buildings were scheduled for demolition. In the Edwardian period they traded inside the Market Hall. A trade directory published in 1937 lists this business at No.203 Gooch Street, perhaps indicating that these premises were cleared around that time. Between the clothes shop and the premises of Samual Thornley Ltd. there was an entry leading to a yard and the Dunton Works. A glimpse of the yard can be seen in the next photograph.
In this unusual view the photographer has snuck around the first row of railings and captured a view of the rear of the properties featured in the last photograph. The entry with the sign Dunton Works led to this complex of buildings. A trade directory published in 1921 shows that the Dunton Works behind the shop of Isaac Mintz was occupied by the Birmingham Tile Curb Company, a firm engaged in the production of tile hearth furniture - the sort of thing seen in most inter-war houses with a fireplace. Eight years earlier the premises were shared by two firms - Pinfold & Parr toolmakers, along with the Deritend Spinning Company, metal spinners. In this image a sign for the printers R. J. Raybould & Co. can be seen on the building to the left. The tall building in the background is possibly the old weighing apparatus manufactory of W. & T. Avery.
This photograph was possibly captured from the premises of R. J. Raybould & Co. [seen in the previous photograph] as the camera lens is pointing in the opposite direction towards High Street Deritend. This affords another view of the works of Fisher & Ludlow Limited with the tower of Saint John's Church in the background. A trolley bus is making its way towards Bordesley. Thanks to Radiorails on the Birmingham History Forum this helps to date the photograph as the service did not commence until 1934. It is interesting to note that there was a paved path next to the River Rea at this time.
Unfortunately, I do not have a close-up photograph of Saint John's Church prior to it being bombed during World War Two. This view was captured from the junction of Chapel House Street, Stone Yard and Birchall Street. There is a gaping hole in the tower folloing a bombing raid. The building to the right was the school attached to this church. The National Archives website states that "St. John's Church of England has its origins in St. John's Infant School which opened in 1833, apparently partly by encouragement of the Birmingham Infant School Society. The school's early history is vague, new buildings were erected for the National School, 1847-48. By 1863 there appears to have been two departments, one for boys and one for girls and infants, the latter apparently known as the Mixed School. In 1897, the girls and boys departments were united under a single head teacher. A separate infants department was apparently in existence by 1905. The school was reorganised as a Junior and Infant School in 1931 and closed in 1938."
Another view of St. John's Church after being damaged by German bombers. St. John the Baptist Chapel was founded and endowed with lands to the value of £6. 13s. 4d., to support a priest. In 1537 King Henry VIII seized the property as Chantry lands, then valued at £13. 1s. 7d.; but it is supposed they were afterwards returned. In the windows of this ancient chapel were the arms of Lord Dudley, and Dudley impaling Barclay, both knights of the garter, and a whole figure of Walter Arden, Esq. The ancient building, having fallen into decay, was rebuilt in 1735. In 1762, a square tower was added at the west end. In 1777 a clock and eight bells were placed within the tower. The chapel initially accommodated 700 persons, and was a chapelry to the parish of Aston.
Back in ye olde days there was a tavern near or on the junction of Stone Yard and High Street Deritend. The inn sign was the Stone & Gravel as mentioned in Aris's Gazette on June 16th, 1783, when the publican Joseph Carey died six days earlier. There is a Joseph Cary [no E in the surname] listed as a malt-mill maker at Carey's Court in Moor Street in Swinney's trade directory published in 1777. It is not certain if this was the same person. A malt-mill incidentally is a device or machine for producing the grist used in brewing so there is possibly a beer connection here.
Two interior views of the bomb-damaged Saint John's Church at Deritend. However, it was not the German bombs that resulted in the loss of this church. It had already been decided to close the church and unite it with that of Saint Basil, Deritend, forming a new benefice of Saint John and Saint Basil. The final commemoration service was scheduled for Monday, February 6th, 1939 at 19.30hrs. The preacher was Reverend Thomas Darlington of London, formerly of the China Inland Mission, who spoke of the challenge to the church lax standards of morals caused. It was planned to take a photograph of the assembled congregation as a memento of the event. I have not seen this photograph so I am not sure if it was taken or, indeed, survived. There were further services, the last being held in May 1940. Work on removing the interior, including the organ was undertaken soon afterwards. The building was hit by a bomb on the night of 14th October 1940. The building continued to be used as a store by the council until it was reportedly demolished in 1947.
So what did Brummies get in place of their church, the row of shops and the cluster of dwellings around Stone Yard? Well, at first, a row of temporary shops, seen here in the course of construction. These were made by the Stafford Concrete Buildings Limited. Amid the pile of rubbish is the former shop sign of Ridgway's, the shop on the corner of Rea Street featured in the first photograph on this page. Beyond the temporary shops the large works of the Phosphor Bronze Company Limited can be seen. This company also had sites on Bradford Street and Witton Lane.
In this view, captured on the first day of September 1954, the temporary shops had been complete and were open for trading. At the far end, a man is leaning up against the window of the canteen supplier J. Williams. Next door is the premises of Stevenson's Cash Registers - a few of the old clunky machines can be seen inside the shop window. Both new and reconditioned cash registers could be bought here. A man is walking past the shop of Stephen Amison. The next shop along is a fruit and vegetable shop next to which is Jackson's which sold fags and sweets. Looming over the buildings is another glimpse of the works operated by the Phosphor Bronze Company Limited.
A closer view of two of the shops featured in the previous photograph. The shop on the left is a greengrocer's but I cannot quite make out the letter on the glass. The initial of A. J. can be seen and the surname begins with a D or L perhaps? No such ambiguity with the shop to the right which is retailing cigarettes, tobacco and sweets, pop and ice-cream. Jackson's, according to a sign in the window, had been tobacconists since 1832. Prior to World War Two, John Jackson had traded from No.44 Digbeth. Indeed, the Jackson family were at that address in the mid-Victorian period. The butcher Stephen Amison had also moved to these temporary shops from premises on Digbeth.
A bulldozer is being operated in this 1954 photograph taken in front of the Phosphor Bronze works. However, it is the two buildings beyond which are seemingly still under construction that is key to the next image taken by Phyllis Nicklin when she worked as a staff tutor in Geography at the extra-mural department at the University of Birmingham. This is one of a fantastic collection of images she captured during the post-war years and forms a priceless legacy for Birmingham. Her photograph shows the recently-completed Saint John's Restaurant. The large building is the enlarged works of Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited, manufacturers of rolled thread screws, bolts, nuts and other fastenings.
There are plenty on the Birmingham History Forum who have fond memories of working at Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited. One post from a person with the handle of formula t wrote : "I worked at Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited from 1972 till 1977, it was the best company I ever worked for. They looked after their workers, had their own welfare department who would help with outside problems. They had their own surgery with skilled nurses, on-site dentist, huge canteen, you could also get cooked meals from vending machines if you were on shift work and there was a great social club."
Before continuing further up the south side of High Street Deritend it is time to pause and reflect what lost to redevelopment over the years. The factory of Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited would later occupy the sites of these buildings, though the old properties were cleared many years previously. The Birmingham Working Boys' Home would occupy a site adjoining the church. Constructed between 1886-7, and taking the place of the three shops seen here by Saint John's Church, this institution was a refuge for waifs and strays, along with destitute and homeless boys and girls.
I have not seen a photograph of the building but this drawing provides a fine view of the front elevation. This illustration appeared in The Architect journal in December 1887. The building was designed by the Colmore Row-based architect and surveyor Frederick Yates, and afforded accommodation for forty inmates. The Boys's Home was originated in 1879 by Alfred Fordyce, at a house in Princess Road. The idea was to provide homeless lads with a more suitable refuge than that furnished by the common lodging-houses. The home was soon afterwards moved to the old divisional police station, at the corner of Bradford Street and Alcester Street before relocating to High Street Deritend on completion of the new Boys' Home. Major Alfred Fordyce was also the founder of the Cadet Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Just in case anybody is wondering ... a key reason for the removal of Saint John's Church and buildings like the Birmingham Working Boys' Home was to widen the road. The motor car has much to answer for but there are few cities that embraced four-wheels more than Birmingham. In their rush to create double-lane highways the council destroyed much of the city's heritage. No building, regardless of its aesthetic or historic value, was spared.
Prior to the construction of the Boys' Home in 1886-7, the site was occupied by the three old shops seen to the right of this image. The building to the left was the former Lord Nelson Inn. It would appear that two of the shops had been cleared in preparation for the construction of the new Boys' Home. The shop next door to Saint John's Church was No.18 where the clog-maker James Slater has a large shoe sign protruding over the pavement. Next door at No.19 was the paper-hanger and glazier Charles Taylor. Indeed, that could be him stood leaning against the wall. No.20 is boarded-up but it had been occupied by Mark Conway who sold leather goods from the premises. The Lord Nelson Inn closed in the early 1880s and, as can be seen here, quickly deteriorated into a bit of a mess.
This bloke looks like he is making hard work of some repairs to the paving slabs on the corner of Gibb Street. He may even be close to removing his hat and scratching his head in the style of Stan Laurel. This mid-Edwardian photograph does, however, reveal some information about the buildings on the south side of High Street Deritend. There is a tantalising glimpse of the aforementioned Birmingham Working Boys' Home. It would appear that the former Lord Nelson Inn has been demolished and the site covered with boarding. A similar thing has happened on this side of the former Golden Lion which is awaiting its dismantling and rebuilding in Cannon Hill Park. At the time of this photograph the building was being used by the metal broker John Murphy. The building on the extreme left is the former beer house known as the Old King's Arms.
Almost opposite Gibb Street, the Nag's Head was at No.29. I do not have a photograph of this tavern. Nor do I have an image of the Green Man which was a little further up the road at No.41. Indeed, there seem to be few surving photographs of this section of the south side of the High Street. Before progressing further I do have another view of the works of Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited. This view was captured from a position in the middle of the widened road a little further up from the Old Crown Inn......
This 1954 view of the factory operated by Thomas Haddon & Stokes Limited. is looking back along many of the sites discussed. The large works of the Phosphor Bronze Co. Ltd. can be seen lower down the hill. Haddon & Stokes had a number of vacancies posted on their board - a time when many firms simply advertised for employees by sticking a sign on the building. Most large companies had work on offer so people could leave one factory on a Friday evening and start with a new job on the Monday. I assume that the sports car parked outside belonged to one of the managers. Still, a risky place to park whilst road-widening works was being conducted.
The roadworks of 1954 can be seen in full swing. This photograph was taken not far from the Old Crown Inn on the corner of Heath Mill Lane. The small lorry to the right was at the entrance to Alcester Street. The buildings nearest the camera to the left, allowed to remain in the 1950s, survived into the 21st century. The road junction just past them is that of Adderley Street which, of course, is beyond High Street Deritend. The retail products featured on the billboards have fared better than the buildings of Deritend.
Winding the clock back 24 years from the previous image, a photographer has stood on the corner of Heath Mill Lane in order to capture this view of a busy High Street Deritend. A man smoking a pipe is stood on the corner next to the Old Crown Inn. A young lad is tentatively waiting for a gap in the traffic to cross the road with his bicycle. There is a wide variety of transport on the High Street, from a horse and cart to cars, vans and a bus. There is a ladder up to the billboards so perhaps a new advertisement is about to be pasted to the boards. There are a couple of brewery advertisements already on view.
In 1930 Nos.38-9 was occupied by a firm called Alltyres, a business run by G. H. & C. R. Bates. In addition to flogging new and used tyres, they also sold batteries. A sign shows that they offered a free air and tyre service, along with free fitting and free delivery. They may have been struggling for workers during the war as the newspapers featured a number of advertisements for a tyre fitter and repairer. Even those with no experience of the trade could apply. The C. R. of the business was Colin Royle Bates, a young man when this photograph was taken. He later lived at Church Road with his wife Mary. She worked in the office and did all the paper work. The G. M. was probably Gertrude Mary Bates.
Earlier in the 1920s Nos.38-9 were the premises of the lamp manufacturers William Williams & Son, a business that had been trading here since Victorian times. One has to go back to the 1870s for a time when the premises were not unified. In a trade directory for 1876 No.38 was a paraffin lamp depot run by W. Redman & Co., whilst next door at No.39 were the dairymen Charles and Henry Wathes.
Here is a No.29 bus trundling down the hill from Camp Hill. I only know this thanks to Radiorails on the Birmingham History Forum who, after looking at the photograph, wrote: "it is a route 29 bus on its way from Highfield Road, Hall Green to Kingstanding. The more famous 29A did not commence until January 1936. The bus seems to be from the series 409 - 443 OG 309 - OG 443 and were put into service in mid-to-late 1930. Some were re-bodied with wartime bodies 1943/4. They had AEC petrol engines. There were also another 20 buses, of very similar style 484 - 503 OV 4484 - OV 4503 which were put into service 1931/2. They also had AEC petrol engines. Bus 486 OV 4486 is at Wythall Transport Museum in resplendent condition having been preserved. The vehicle is passing what was the Green Man Inn, a public-house that had close just a couple of years prior to this image being captured. A little further up the road one can see the Compasses Inn on the corner of Alcester Street.
Nearing the end of this tour of the southern side of High Street Deritend, the photographer in this shot is stood close to where High Street Bordesley begins and is looking back towards the junction of Alcester Street. The bay window forms part of the frontage of the Compasses Inn. Around this time No.51, the property adjoining the pub, was occupied by the scrap-iron dealer James Riley. The shop at No.52 was a boot repair business run by George Nolan. Unfortunately, the space filled by the advertising boards was the site of the Swan With Two Necks, a tavern that closed during the Edwardian period. At first I thought this undated photograph was taken in the early 1930s. However, there is a trolley bus down the road and this came into service in 1934. But the billboards provide a better clue. Designed by F. Gardner, the "Serve To Save" poster, encouraging people to join the A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] organisation, was first produced in 1938.
My final photograph of the south side of High Street Deritend was taken from across the divide with the photographer being stood in High Street Bordesley. The advertising boards seen in the previous photograph have not been erected but there is a gap where the former Swan With Two Necks stood. On the left one can see the former King's Head Inn which was the first building on High Street Bordesley. In this photograph there is a woman stood holding a young child in her arms at the end of a passage. This was the entrance to Court 13 and Alcester Terrace and marked the divide between Deritend and Bordesley. So, we have reached the end of the journey along the southern side of the thoroughfare. Time to cross the road and head back towards Digbeth on the north side of the High Street.high-street-deritend-shopping high-street-deritend-bordesley high-street-deritend-basilican-church high-street-deritend-178 high-street-deritend-179-182 high-street-deritend-bank-custard-works high-street-deritend-lloyds-bank high-street-deritend-alfred-bird high-street-deritend-pig-drover high-street-deritend-floodgate-street high-street-deritend-brittains-smokers-market high-street-deritend-urinal-bridge ***** high-street-deritend-three-crowns-1900 ***** high-street-deritend-three-crowns-frontage high-street-deritend-old-leather-bottle-and-carts high-street-deritend-old-leather-bottle-frontage high-street-deritend-old-leather-bottle-1900 8 Ring of Bells 22 Lord Nelson Inn 24 Golden Lion 27 Old King's Arms 29 Nag's Head 41 Green Man 53 Swan with Two Necks 182 Fighting Cocks John Gloster 186 Old Crown Inn 199 Red Lion Inn 221 Old Three Crowns 222 Leather Bottle 223 The Measure
More information on High Street Deritend to follow.
"At the Birmingham Police Court today, a coppersmith named Joseph Rogers, of no fixed abode, was charged on a warrant with being
drunk in High Street, Deritend, on the 9th December. Ho was also summoned for assaulting his wife on the 8th of the month, and Mrs. Rogers said that her husband
threatened to "do her in," and struck her in the face several times with a boot. There was a further charge that he threatened a woman named Garner. There
were previous convictions against him, and he was now sentenced to four months' imprisonment with hard labour for the assault on his wife, was bound over to
keep the peace for nine months in respect to the charge of threats, and was discharged for the drunkenness."
"Birmingham Coppersmiths' Offences"
Birmingham Mail : December 26th 1906 Page 2