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The History of Erdington

The History of Erdington
Photographs of Old Erdington

There has been a village at Erdington since before Saxon times. By 1066 Erdington belonged to the estates of Edwin,Earl of Mercia, and many of the familiar thorough fares we know today were in place. Kingsbury Road and Chester Road were part of an important network of routes that were essential for trade and survival to the village's Norman inhabitants.

The powerful De Erdington family came to prominence around 1166 when Henry obtained the manorial rights from Gervais Pagenal of Dudley, thus beginning a long association between Erdington and the De Erdington family which lasted until 1467, when the family died out. Their tomb can still be seen today at Aston parish church.

During the subsequent years the manor of Erdington changed hands many times, the Duke of Clarence and SirThomas Holte from the famous Holte family of Aston Hall being among the more notable landowners.

Erdington Hall was built in the mid 1600s and was the manor house for Erdington until its demolition in 1912 to make way for the construction of the Tyburn Road. The prominent owners of the Hall included the Jennens family who lived there until the eighteenth century, Sir Lister Holte and William Wheelwright, who is believed to have given his name to Wheelwright Road.

Erdington was very much a rural area until recent times. In the mid eighteenth century it had a population of under 700 and consisted of 40 farms, 96 cottages, 2 smithies and a shop. The arrival of the canals at the end of the century encouraged some industrial development but the nineteenth century introduction of the railways was the spur to Erdington's suburban growth, seeing the population increase to 9,262 by 1891.

The Murder of Mary Ashford

One of the most remarkable events in the history of Erdington was the nineteenth century case of the Murder of Mary Ashford by Abraham Thornton. The case made legal history because it was the last time that a man has been tried twice for the same crime in this country and the last time that election for trial by combat was allowed.

Another of Erdington's famous residents was the great benefactor Josiah Mason. Born in Kidderminster, Mason made his money from the manufacture of steel pen nib's before settling in the area. He generously provided the Almshouses for the poor in Station Road in 1858 and 10 years later built Mason's Orphanage on what was then Bell Lane (now Orphanage Road). The imposing building was demolished in 1964 after the trustees deemed it too out dated and expensive to maintain. The land was sold for housing development and the money raised was used to build new premises called Mason Court at Olton, for the care of the elderly. The Almshouses were demolished in 1974 and all that remains is the wall which now encloses Osborne Nursery School at the junction of Sutton Road and Station Road.

In 1894 Erdington separated from the parish of Aston, to which it had belonged since ancient times, and became a self governing Urban District Council with its own administrative centre at Rookery House, the former home of DorothySpooner the wife of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. The UDC was responsible for installing sewers and street lighting, building new houses, roads and footpaths. They were also responsible for building Erdington Library, improving the transport system with the introduction of Erdington's first tramway and establishing three public parks. They also built Moor End Lane School so that children did not have to cross the busy High Street to get to school.

Becoming part of Birmingham

The Urban District Council was a very forward thinking organisation with a reputation for getting things done without raising the rates. In 1911 Erdington was absorbed into Birmingham and continued its growth as a prosperous suburb.

The area also had other well known residents, including Sir Benjamin Stone, the former MP for Birmingham East and the first Lord Mayor of Sutton Coldfield - although he is probably best known today for his work as a photographer. His home is still standing, and was the Grange on Grange Road (now the John Taylor Hospice). On a lighter note, Violet Pretty, an usherette at the Palace Picture House on the High Street found Hollywood stardom as the screen actress Anne Heywood.

More recently, Erdington was the first suburb in Birmingham to be bombed in World War II when on 9 August 1940 a German plane dropped eight bombs in the area resulting in the City's first fatality, Jimmy Fry of Montague Road.

Erdington remains a vibrant, bustling suburb with an excellent transport network and a wide range of amenities within its boundary. During the late 1960s and early 1970s it was the home of Mothers, the world renowned venue for live rock music where Pink Floyd recorded their live album Ummagumma.

Erdington has developed a variety of community groups from the UFO Society to the Local History Society and continues to grow and transform itself at a rapid pace.

Local History Publications About Erdington
Erdington Historical Society
Erdington Historical Society Millennium Photographic Project
Murder of Mary Ashford by Abraham Thornton.
Chronology of events leading to the death of Mary Ashford, 1817 
Mary Ashford - Plan of the Crime Scene
The History of Erdington