January 2013 - Issue No. 142
Those who know of Gosta Green are declining in numbers; those who recall working-class Gosta Green are fewer still. Now dominated by Aston University, the very name of Gosta Green is fading away till soon it sadly will become no longer a memory but a place in history.
It is not on its own. Deritend, Ashted, Vauxhall, Brookfields and others are ignored by officials and the media and so are dropping out of popular use. They should not be allowed to disappear for if they do then those who lived, worked and played there lose something special - their neighbourhood.
Squashed between Aston Street and the Aston Road, Gosta Green - and like Deritend, Ashted and Vauxhall - was both a street and an area, and its name is an old one. The Assize Roll of 1306 mentions a William de Gorsty, and as late as 1758, Tomlinson’s Plan of Duddeston and Nechells indicates both an Upper Gorsty Green and a Lower Gorsty Green.
By this date the two places were also called Gostie Green. This was indicated in 1750 by an assignment of lease from Benjamin Pinley to Josiah Jefferys and Joseph Stephens of tenements at Gostie Green in Coleshill Street.
John Alfred Langford explained this spelling change. In a number of old deeds he found reference to Gosty Green, Upper Gosty Green, Gosty Piece and Gosty Field in different parts of Birmingham, and he explained that gorse was still pronounced as goss by local country folk. Tomlinson also noted fields with names such as Upper Gorsty Close and it is apparent that once the spiny, yellow flowered shrub called gorse had been common locally.
By 1795 when Pye’s Map was surveyed, Gosta Green was the hub of streets reaching west to Lancaster Street and Stafford Street, south to Coleshill Street and Prospect Row, and east and north to the Digbeth Branch of the Birmingham to Fazeley Canal. In this manner, the Gosta Green neighbourhood included parts of Birmingham and Duddeston.
One person who remembers it well is Lilian Humphries, whose memories are included in this month’s Brummagem. As ever there is much more - from recollections of Hall Green to thoughts of Irving Street; from an account of Bournville Works Junior & Silver Bands to Birmingham’s Pigeon Fanciers; and much more.
Happy New Year and have a bostin read Tara a bit Carl
Tara a bit
February 2013 - Issue No. 143
Carl Writes at’s in a name? A lot, for a name is more than just a term to differentiate one person from another, one place from another. A person’s family name binds he or she to all those before who carried that name, all those forebears whose lives are lost but whose genes and blood run through us and help make us what we are.
Yes, of course each of us is a distinct personality and our upbringing and environment deeply affect us and help to make one person an individual - but we are not just isolated beings going through life separately. For good or ill we are fastened to those of our kin who came before, to those amongst whom we live, and to those yet unborn.
Just as much as we are part of a long line of family history so too are we linked strongly to the place to which we belong and which has helped define us. A sense of belonging and local patriotism has played a powerful part in English history.
Loyalty to our country our town, our district is shown in many vital ways, from our county regiments to our football, cricket and rugby teams, from our workplaces to our schools, from our places of worship to our municipalities, from the pub we drink in to the shops we spend in. We cannot escape who we are and where we come from.
And yet too many of our longstanding place names are slowly being taken from us because of official indifference and ignorance of their meaning and impact. One such is Ashted, which Les Robinson brings alive in this month’s Brummagem. As ever there is much more to stir memories - from Ladywood to Hurst Street and from St Andrew’s Road to Asylum Road.
Have a bostin
Tara a bit
March 2013 - Issue No. 144
The Digbys were a powerful family whose power waxed all the more after
the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 when six Digby brothers supported Henry
Tudor against Richard III. With Henry victory and accession as Henry
VII, the Digbys were well rewarded, with the youngest son, Simon, coming
into possession of Coleshill in 1496.
From here, his descendants expanded the family’s interests into Castle
Bromwich, Sheldon, and elsewhere in north Warwickshire - and in the
early 1800s they grew wealthier when Wriothesley Digby inherited much of
the land previously held by the Holtes of Aston Hall. It lay to the
north of the Coventry Road in Bordesley and Small Heath (both then in
the parish of Aston) and a nunber of roads call out of the Digby
Kenelm Road remembers Sir Kenelm Digby, a philospher, poet and
traveller. It is said that he married Venetia Stanley, hence Venetia
Road, who was a beauty of the court of James 1 and keen to keep her
exquisite complexion, Sir Kenelm gave her viper's wine which killed her.
I have been unable to verify this. However, Sir Kenelm did lead a naval
expedition in 1628 that defeated a French and Venetian force in the
Mediterranean and it may be that Venetia Road recalls the victory over
Nearby on the former Garrison Farm Estate, Greenaway Street and Cattell
Street remember two of the Digbys’ business associates, whilst Tilton
Road (Kelynge Street until 1897) is called after Tilton-on-the-Hill in
Leicestershire, whence the Digbys originated.
Life for the young John
Purvin in Tilton Road was very different to that of the Digbys and in
this issue we feature an extract from his life story, ‘Look Dad. I’m
Still Here`. As ever there is much more to bring our past to the fore -
from Birmingham Jazz Venues to Pryke’s and the Bull Ring and form a
tribute to an Irish Brummie to one to a talented engineer.
Have a bostin
Tara a bit
April 2013 - Issue No. 145
As the bulldozers
tore down the old neighbourhoods of central Birmingham in the 1960s, the views
of working-class Brummies were not merely ignored they were unasked for. They
became the forgotten people – forgotten that is by planners and officials but
not forgotten by Canon Norman Power of St John’s Church, Ladywood.
Aghast that good quality houses were
demolished alongside bad housing, he watched angrily as whole areas deteriorated
because of clearance, and was appalled at the resultant destruction of
But Canon Power did not just look on, he
acted. Almost a voice in the wilderness at a time when Britain was set on becoming
a futuristic nation of wide freeways and high-rise flats, he called out
for both a change of thinking and policy. He agreed that outdated and
insanitary housing with communal facilities had to be swept away but he wanted
them replaced by houses and not tower blocks in which residents were isolated
from each other.
He also argued that, wherever possible, local
people should be allowed to rent the new properties in their own neighbourhoods
and not be exiled to new towns or distant estates. And Canon Power also
stressed that because not all of the old housing was unsound it should be
refurbished and not cleared.
Through his weekly columns in the ‘Birmingham
Mail’ and in his challenging book The Forgotten People (1965) this campaigning
churchman pushed forward his sensible and thoughtful ideas. Unhappily his
refreshing and informed call mostly fell upon deaf ears. Yet Cannon Power’s
urgings were heard by some.
Inspired by his writings, faith-based
organisations started new housing associations that strove to put the needs of
people before the ideas of the planners. And others were also inspired by Canon
Power’s personality and preaching as we find out in this month’s Brummagem. As
ever there is much more to stir your memories. Have a bostin read.
Tara a bit
May 2013 - Issue No. 146
It was the biggest volunteer army the world
had ever seen or will ever see – the British New Army which drew in almost 2.5
million men from August 1914 until conscription took force from March 1916. The
driving force behind it was Field Marshall Kitchener, the Secretary of State
for War. He realised that the First World War would not be over by Christmas and
that there was a vital need to raise and train a large force of men quickly to
support the regular Army.
was a small professional force of just under 250,000 regular troops, all
volunteers but almost half of whom were stationed overseas. To their number
could be added several hundred thousand reservists and Territorial Army
Events proved Kitchener right and his New Army
played a crucial role in the British war effort. Those recruited into it went
into complete battalions under existing British Army Regiments but each also
with the designation (Service).
of those patriotic young men who joined it was my Great Uncle Wal. At sixteen,
and under age, he had tried unsuccessfully to join the Coldstream Guards at
Curzon Hall in Birmingham. Undaunted Great Uncle Wal then went for the Royal
Warwickshire Regiment and was accepted. However, my Granddad, who had been
wounded in 1915 and invalided out of the War, found out and turned up at the
barracks with his younger brother’s birth certificate.
Great Uncle Wal was then put into a
Provisional Battalion with other under age volunteers and ‘old sweats’ and
eventually went on to join the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers. He served on
the Western Front in Flanders and saw a lot of action, especially in the
month’s Brummagem, his son and my cousin, Walter, recounts memories of his
father and of his mother’s people – the Davies family of Studley Street. As
ever there is much more to stir memories – from thoughts of Ashted and Sheldon
to an investigation into King’s Heath and from recollections of the Bournville
Youth Silver Band to John Tocker’s moving tribute to ‘Our Kid: Bernard Tocker’.
Have a bostin read.
Tara a bit
June 2013 - Issue No. 147
It seemed that the land was
covered in red, white and blue that day June 2, 1953 when Queen
Elizabeth II was crowned. Red, white and blue bunting was strung from
lampposts and across windows everywhere, whilst a multitude of Union
Flags flew from whatever place they could be affixed. Across the
country, the folk of working-class and lower middle-class neighbourhoods
revelled in the celebrations.
were made months in advance for street parties on a scale never seen
before but as on the day of the Coronation of King George VI in 1937,
the weather was again a problem. It poured with rain in many parts of
the country, but once more that did not deter the enthusiasm of the
people. Unlike the recent celebrations for VE Day and VJ Day, which had
to be put together with short notice, a lot of planning went into the
street parties for the Coronation.
more organising committees had decided to hire school halls. Some had
even paid for a charabanc so that their children could be taken on a
tour of their town to look at the decorations in various streets. Games
were also arranged, along with fancy dress competitions. In fact the
only break in the fun came when crowds gathered outside the windows of
the houses of those families that boasted a black and white television
so as to watch the ceremony itself from Westminster.
chance to celebrate came at the right time for the red, white and blue
of the street parties brought colour to a drab landscape. Grey indeed
was the late 1940s and early 1950s: grey skies, grey clothes, grey food,
and grey times overwhelmed the nation. The euphoria that followed the
victories of Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945 had been blasted by the cold
winds of economic hardship.
wonder then that the nation celebrated enthusiastically the crowning of
a young queen and looked forward to better times. This month’s
Brummagem brings you a wonderful array of photos and memories of that
occasion. As ever more there is much more...
Have a bostin read.
Tara a bit