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Yardley History

Early History

Yardley History The name Yardley used to mean a much larger area than now, namely the old Parish from Yardley Wood to Lea Village. Today it means Yardley Village and its environs, South Yardley, and most of Hay Mills.

The first reference to Yardley is in King Edgar's Charter of 972, which confirmed Gyrdleahe as a possession of Pershore Abbey. However, the Abbey did not establish the church: that was done by Aston Church in Lichfield Diocese.

St Edburgha's is dedicated to a granddaughter of King Alfred. The present church was begun in the thirteenth century near the manor house, and acquired a tower and spire in the fifteenth century. The manor site was unoccupied after 1700.

Next to the church is the Trust School, a good deal of which is sixteenth century. Blakesley Hall to the west is a yeoman's farmhouse of 1590. These buildings and Hay Hall are the oldest surviving buildings in what we now understand as Yardley. However, there are other forms in which the past can continue to exist: for example, there is medieval ridge and furrow in the park near the church. For centuries, people laboured on the land to create a familiar patchwork landscape, before the move from an agrarian to an industrial and suburban lifestyle began.

Eighteenth Century onwards

Transport changes in the eighteenth and nineteenth century brought a wharf on the Birmingham to Warwick Canal (from which tiles and bricks were exported and coal imported), a new alignment for the Coventry Road, and two railway stations, one at either end of today's Yardley. Stechford acquired a station in 1844, and Acocks Green in 1852. Being in between them, Yardley did not become a railway suburb, but acquired large mansions, from which the wealthy were taken to the trains in carriages. Towards the end of the last century terraces spread along the Coventry Road and along some of the lanes, and industry developed at Hay Mills.

In 1903, when the bridge over the River Cole was replaced, steam trams, and then electric trams from 1904, extended the existing route from and to Birmingham as far as the Swan pub. Decisive change came in 1911, when Yardley Rural District Council lost its battle to stay outside Birmingham, and those who had left the city found themselves in it again. The scene was now set for a major transformation and a huge increase in population. Extensive council estates and swathes of private housing covered the area. More industry came to Hay Mills, including famous names like Bakelite and Wilmot Breeden. Electric trams came to Stuarts Road from 1928 via a new road, Bordesley Green East. Trolleybuses replaced trams, and were in turn ousted by motorbuses. Cinemas and a number of pubs have come and gone, and even a heliport for flights to Elmdon and London made a brief appearance on Heybarnes Recreation Ground just over the river from 1951-2.

Road Developments

Two developments connected with road-widening have produced the greatest changes since 1960. The 1965-7 underpass works at the Swan cut South Yardley in two, and the new Swan pub built nearby has since also disappeared, removing the famous focal point. To add to this, in 1984-5 one side of the Coventry Road through Hay Mills was swept away as the highway was turned into a rather hazardous combination of motorway width and frequent traffic lights. Curiously, all this modernisation was balanced by a new policy on Conservation Areas: in 1969 Yardley Village became one of the first in the city. In 1976, through traffic was banned, and the Village was recategorised as "Outstanding". When you recall that widening and straightening of the road through the Village were considered in the post-1918 Town Planning Scheme, the survival of the Village is fortunate indeed.

South Yardley Library acts as the focus for local history activity in Yardley. The Yardley History Group meets in the library once a month, and has its own archive of local history materials. The Library has a collection of photographs and maps, as well as a selection of books about Birmingham and the surrounding area. Birmingham Libraries and Tempus Publishing have jointly published a book about Yardley, compiled by Michael Byrne, which contains over 200 old photographs of the area. Its ISBN is 0752403397, it costs £9.99 and is available from bookshops, publications@birmingham.gov.uk or direct from Tempus (01453 883300).

The library is seeking to expand its collection of local history materials: if you can help with information, or especially if you have any old photographs, the community librarian would be very pleased to hear from you. If you have an enquiry about Yardley, South Yardley, or Hay Mills, you can use the Contact Us button at the top of this page to get in touch or e-mail south.yardley.library@birmingham.gov.uk

Blakesley Hall
Building The City - Yardley
South Yardley Library
Yardley History Group