20th Century

Bigger and Bigger Birmingham


During the 20th century, the population of Birmingham continued to grow, reaching one million in 1951. Gradually the country areas around the city were built up with roads and houses, shops and factories.


An enormous expansion started after the First World War when the City Council began to improve housing for the thousands of people who lived in slums in the inner city districts. 


Thousands of new council houses were built; on our side of the city at Alum Rock and Ward End.


The map shows how Birmingham got bigger and bigger after the 18th century. The area of the city grew again after this map was drawn in 1964 with the addition of Sutton Coldfield in the north-east in 1972. All the white spaces have now been built on. 


             Click the map to enlarge it.

Castle Bromwich in 1953 - click to enlarge. Key: Grey represents houses, the blank areas are fields, green represents woods.
Castle Bromwich in 1953 - click to enlarge. Key: Grey represents houses, the blank areas are fields, green represents woods.

But Birmingham City Council needed still more land. In 1931 a law was passed to allow the City to take over even more countryside to build new houses. Lord Bradford agreed to sell half of his land at the west end of Castle Bromwich to Birmingham Council; this included Bromford, Hodge Hill, Bucklands End and Shard End.


Some houses were built before the Second World War, but it was after the end of the War that large numbers of new houses began to be built in Hodge Hill, Bucklands End and Shard End. When Shard End was being built it in the 1950s, it was the largest council estate in Europe. People were moved to the new estates from the poor houses in the inner city, some of which had been destroyed or damaged by German bombs. 


From the 1950s the farmland on the eastern side of Castle Bromwich was also built on. Building had actually started before the Second World War, but building came to a stop during the war years. After the War houses were built at Whateley Green, at Hob Farm and Burtons Farm and at Park Hall. Gradually, over the next 20 years the rest of Castle Bromwich was built up with houses. The last large development was in about 1980 along the Chelmsley Collector Road from Castle Bromwich church as far as Park Hall School.


The Bromford estate was built after 1964 when the Birmingham racecourse closed.

And Castle Bromwich Aerodrome became Castle Vale also in the 1960s.


The old Coach & Horses Inn
The old Coach & Horses Inn

The old Coach & Horses Inn stood on Castle Bromwich Green from the 1700s. In the days of the stagecoaches it had been a respectable inn where travellers between London and Chester stayed the night.


But by the 1900s it was a village pub which did not have a good reputation - not a place for a man and his wife to take the children for a meal!


After the First World War a number of architects wanted to build a new kind of pub. They would be well-built in an old-fashioned style and would be friendly places where families could relax together. The Castle Bromwich architect, Charles Bateman built a number of these ‘reformed pubs’ in Birmingham, including the Coach & Horses. 


The new Coach & Horses was designed in a Tudor style like an old village inn with a thatched roof. Thatch is a type of dried straw which people have used for hundreds of years. The pub overlooking the Green must have looked very picturesque.


However, Charles must have been absent from school when the teacher told the class about the Great Fire of London of 1666. One of the reasons the fire spread so quickly in London was that the flying sparks landed on the thatched roofs of the city setting them alight. After the Great Fire no-one in London was allowed to build a house with a thatched roof.



Q. Can you guess what happened to the Coach & Horses?

     I bet you can!


A. On Saturday 7 May 1938 a spark from the pub's chimney landed on the thatched roof and the roof caught fire.


Across the Chester Road by the telephone exchange, a man was making a call in the telephone kiosk. All of a sudden there was a banging on the window and someone was shouting, "Fire! Fire!" and pointing the cloud of smoke rising from the pub. 

This is not our local fire brigade but the brigade at Rugby in Warwickshire sometime before 1930.
This is not our local fire brigade but the brigade at Rugby in Warwickshire sometime before 1930.

The fire brigade was called, but Ward End fire station was 3 miles from Castle Bromwich and they would take some time to get here; Coleshill fire station was 5 miles away.


So the man ran across to the house of the village policeman, Sergeant Billy Whate, who lived next-door to the pub. The Castle Bromwich fire-fighting equipment was kept here.


Unfortunately, the equipment had not been properly looked after and the old hosepipe was no use at all. 


After some time, with the flames getting higher and the smoke getting thicker, the fire engine from Coleshill arrived. There were three fire-fighters on board. Three more firemen turned up on a motorbike and sidecar and the rest of the fire crew came on the bus.


The Coleshill fire-fighters connected their hoses to the water supply but there was so little pressure that hardly any water came out.


The Coach & Horses - Image from Google Streetview
The Coach & Horses - Image from Google Streetview

At last the fire engine from Ward End arrived and then another from Bordesley Green.


With no water the firemen had to go off and fill their engines up at nearby ponds. There was one at Whateley Green which they drained dry, and two over at Shard End. 


However, the firemen were not able to save the pub. Sgt Whate managed to save some of the bottles of wine and spirits, but not before the firemen had saved a few for themselves. 


Charles Bateman rebuilt the pub in the same style as before - but this time with a tiled roof.




For the history of Castle Bromwich Hall to the present day,

go back to the Victorian section - click here.

Priests and Lords


      For a list of the priests at Castle Bromwich from 1558, click here.

      For a list of Lords of the Manor from 1066, click Lords of the Manor 


'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our church website, if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.