How old is my street? … and how do we know?
Waddington Avenue B43 5JD is part of a street of houses built near Great Barr in the 1930s and 1940s. The bay-windowed frontages are typical of its inter-war origins. But the street sits in an estate of several hundred similar homes filling an area between a canal and two major routes, the Newton and Walsall Roads.
How do we know its age? Well, a map from 1938 (below) shows the street under construction. Most of the postcode (i.e. the houses on the north side of the curve of the Avenue) hadn’t been built. But by the time of a 1945 aerial photo (beneath the map) the street was finished.
What was there before?
Waddington Avenue, together with the other streets of the estate – Jayshaw and Appleton Avenues and roads off – were all laid out at the same time on what had been farmland. This may have happened when Gorse Farm, which occupied the area, was sold for redevelopment (the farmhouse was close to what is now a roundabout on Gorse Farm Road).
Remnants of the rural landscape survived the end of the farm. Field boundaries still marked in 1938 (in green on the map) are now lost, but the alley surviving today at the back of the gardens of Waddington Avenue (in yellow) is actually an old track to Gorse Farm which is probably at least 200 years old. We know this because it is marked on a map of 1816.
It seems that, interrupted by war, the housing development took a time to finish. Streets laid out in the mid 1930s did not have houses on them until the second half of the 1940s. This fits the national pattern - the total number of houses built in Britain in the six years 1940-5 was less than a tenth of what had been built in the six years before 1940.
Are there any other clues nearby to history of the area?
Our postcode is very close to a major road junction – where the east-west Newton Road meets the north-south Walsall Road at the ‘Scott Arms’ (an inn named after the family who lived at nearby Great Barr Hall). This junction has actually been important for a long time. Even in 1775 the Walsall Road was already a major ‘turnpiked’ or toll road (above). Perhaps reflecting the status of the crossroads it was the site of a cattle market for many years (marked on the 1938 map above).
What links the area to the story of the Black Country?
Streets built on Gorse Farm were part of the westward growth of Birmingham suburbs and, at the time, there was still farm land between them and the more distant Black Country settlements. But, over the century before, features associated with the Black Country had already come to the area. The Tame Valley canal had been cut in the 1840s and one of the last to be built in the area, while Hamstead colliery (only 1km south of B43 5JD) had opened in the late 1900s and it influenced the area for at least 20 years after Waddington Avenue had been built.
Can you add to this story?
We would welcome any more you could add to the story of B43 5JD. It could be ancient history or something you know which happened recently. If you know something add it in the comment box below.
Where can I go to find out more?
> Search for more about Gorse Farm, Scott Arms or Great Barr on Black Country History, the catalogue of local museums and archives
> visit your local public archives – for Great Barr it is Sandwell Community History & Archives
> Read about Great Barr on the Great Barr Past & Present or Great Barr Hall websites
> Go to Waddington Avenue in Google Maps
> explore the Black Country landscape on one of these heritage trails
This briefing has been generously supported by English Heritage.