History of Kings Norton
Kings Norton, a large outer suburb of Birmingham, still retains some of its earlier 'village' character particularly around 'The Green'. A number of buildings of historic interest surround the Green, in particular St Nicolas Church and the Saracen's Head. The church dates back to the 13th century and has an impressive and unusual crocketed spire that is a landmark visible for several miles. St Nicolas Church is a larger church than the neighbouring Norman church in Northfield and shows us that Kings Norton was the richer parish.
In the graveyard surrounding the church stands a 15th century timber framed building, the 'Old Grammar School', where in the 17th century Thomas Hall was the headmaster. His library of books is one of the special collections preserved in Birmingham Central Library.
Thomas Hall became curate and Headmaster of Kings Norton in 1640, and was a writer not afraid to express his views on a range of subjects, amongst them women. Thomas Hall was a parliamentarian during the civil war and suffered abuse because of his opinions.
The Saracen's Head next door to the church, now the Parish Office and meeting room, was originally a wool merchant's house, but in more recent times has been a public house and a shop. Kings Norton was mainly Royalist during the civil war and Queen Henrietta Maria came to the area leading a replacement army. The Queen slept in the Saracens Head while the soldiers camped on land behind the Church. Following the visit a room in the Saracen's Head became the 'Queen's Room' and various roads commemorate the visit e.g. Camp Lane.
Since the 16th century a 'Mop Fair' has been held on the Green, on the first Monday of October. A Mop Fair was a hiring fair where people would go looking for employment, but although no longer used to help employment it is an important event each year with its stalls, fairground attractions and the traditional ox-roast. Kings Norton Library has a number of photographs of the Mop and of other events held on the Green.
Until the 19th century Kings Norton was a rural area with a number of Mills on the River Rea, grinding local corn. A cattle market where local farmers brought their cattle, driving them along the local lanes, was on the corner of Wharf Road and Pershore Road South. The construction of the canals and railway was the start of changes in the area. The Worcester and Birmingham and Stratford canals meet in the Lifford area of Kings Norton, and it was here that factories were established. Two of the earliest were a paper mill and chemical works. This industrial area is now known as Kings Norton Business Centre and has undergone extensive rebuilding and modernisation. Through this same area the railway was built in 1840, bringing more people from the centre of Birmingham to live and/or work in Kings Norton. A railway station was built close to the industrial area and close to Cotteridge. The railway has been upgraded in recent years and is now a busy commuter stop on the cross-city line, Redditch to Lichfield. Many well-known firms are situated in the Kings Norton Area, the most notable being Triplex Safety Glass.
Cadbury's Bournville factory is only a mile away from the centre of Kings Norton. Many of the workers live in the area. Since the Second World War a great deal of building has taken place, most notably the three council built estates at Pool Farm, Primrose Hill, and Hawkesley.
The area around the Green, including the church, Old Grammar School and Saracen's Head is designated as a conservation area, and it is hoped that it will remain so for future generations to enjoy.
The Library Service and Tempus Publishing have jointly published
a book about Kings Norton, compiled by Pauline Caswell, which
contains over 200 old photographs of the area. Its ISBN is 0752410520
and it is available from bookshops, the Library Service or direct from
Tempus Publishing (01453 883300).
Kings Norton Library itself has a large collection of photographs and newscuttings, including the Helen Goodger collection, as well as many books about Birmingham and the surrounding area. 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. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org