Friday, April 14, 2017

Time Travel: Cheapside

Back in time again today, specifically to 1968, but also further back into the history (purloined from someone else, but as usual I will acknowledge my sources as far as humanly possible) of my selected area. The street I'm time travelling through today is Cheapside, which is a formerly-industrial street in the B5 area of Birmingham. Frankly, I'm having difficulty placing it. Personally I would call it Digbeth myself, but what made me want to look into it was that I walked along it today and was reflecting on how the industrial buildings are rapidly being replaced by prestigious apartment developments, and I have read that there have been attampts by the council to refer to the whole of that area as 'Cheapside'. That said, I see it actually has a foot in B12 which I wouldn't hesitate to call Highgate, although of course that is also another of Birmingham's invented districts. While I keep wanting to say that the 'original' inhabitants of the area are the light industrial units which are still present at the bottom end, I think that probably isn't true and it certainly has a longer history that will appear from my post today, and of course has been a residential area before as shown by the picture of a back to back court. Here is the history:
Cheap derives from the Old English ceapan meaning 'to buy'; and Cheapside was used as a term for a 'market-place' or markets area. The name is found in many towns, but most famously in London where surrounding streets tells of the products sold there: Bread Street, Honey Lane, Milk Street, Poultry.

This was not a district but a streetname in Birmingham and could be a London import of the late 18th century, probably by Samuel Bradford whose potential estate this was. However, the name may have local connections. Before the Bull Ring was cleared of its encroachments by the Streets Commissioners in the 18th century, part of the markets area was known as Corn Cheaping ie. 'corn market'.

From the mid-1700s Henry Bradford owned Warners Fields in Deritend, south-east of the River Rea crossing at Digbeth. He offered development land here for sale, probably with the intention of attracting industry rather than housing. Perhaps due to the low-lying nature of the land at the town end of the site, there were no takers. although the site sloped uphill towards Highgate. It may have been thought to be to far from the town centre at that time. And so, in 1767 Bradford offered his first plots free of charge to encourage development on his estate.

Advertisement in Aris's Gazette 3 August 1768:

TO BE GIVEN GRATIS: Some free land, pleasantly situated, for building in Bradford Street, Deritend, to any person that will build upon the said land, and carry on a considerable trade there.

But it was to be the beginning of the next century before his estate around Bradford Street, Cheapside and Moseley Street was fully built up.

In proposals to redevelop the City Centre and expand it beyond the limits of the Inner Ring Road of the mid-1960s, the City Council in the 1990s perceived the central area of Birmingham in various quarters. It is intended to capitalise each quarter on specific aspects of its character. The areas include Chinatown, the Millennium Point education and technology district, the area around the International Convention Centre. Part of the intention was also to attract city centre residential living. The Bradford estate area south of Deritend High Street up to Camp Hill, currently a rather run-down industrial district, has now all been named Cheapside, probably again with an unconcious London connection, and is destined for both industrial regeneration and residential redevelopment. Source
This is a time travel post, and as usual we will be going back to 1967. This is because I happen to own a Kelly's directory for that year, and the library is closed today to go and look at any earlier ones. It is of course fifty years ago but I am still surprised at the variety and number of industrial units in Cheapside, but not only industrial units, there are eateries and a post office, so that while it looks as if nobody was living there are the time (in fact the colour picture was taken by Phyllis Nicklin and shows the street in 1960, only eight years before this directory, when it certainly looks as if people ought to have been living there), there were the services available to support the workers. So here is what was going on in Cheapside in 1967:
CHEAPSIDE, Jamaica row & Sherlock street to 19 Moseley road. MAP G 5 & 6, H 6)
[Nos. 1 to 57 & 215 upwards are in postal district % & the remainder postal district 12.]
1 Ashworth, Armitage & Ellison (Birmingham) Ltd. wallpaper mfrs
3 WYnne Rt dining rms
4 Birmingham & District Butchers' & Pork Butchers' Association
4 M.F.G. Transport Co. Ltd
5 Brushmakers Arms P.H
6/7 Clift S. & A. (Birmingham) Ltd. meat salesmen
6/7 Potter John Ltd. imported meat salesmen
17 Whitehouse George & Co. (B'ham) Ltd. flexible tube mfrs. (Barford tube works)
..... here is Barford st .....
Birmingham Garages Ltd. (The), service & filling station
..... here is Rea st .....
31 The Royal Oak P.H
32 Nation Geo. shopkpr
36 Ashton Richard & Co. Ltd. grey ironfounders
Perks N. Ltd. iron & steel scrap mers
Electricity Sub-Station
..... here is Birchall st .....
68 & 70 Smith Francis Tools Ltd. tool mfrs
Harrison (B'ham) Ltd (works)
..... here is Lombard st .....
80 Improved Metallic Appliances Ltd. (The), sheet metal pressings
89 Elliott E. Ltd. plastics moulders
92 Stuart Electrical Co. Ltd
93 Fountain P.H
..... here is Alcester st .....
94 Pickering R. turf commission agt
98 Calthorpe Engineering Products Ltd. precision engnrs
102 Anni's Cafe
106 to 109 Cheapside Stamping & Pressing Co. (1963) Ltd. hot brass pressings
106/109 Hawkins E. A. & Co. Ltd. brassfounders
106/109 Baker & Reynolds Ltd. machinists
British Road Services Ltd. (Cheapside branch)
126/127 Lancaster Bros. & Co. (Birmingham) Ltd. paper bag mkrs
..... here is Moseley rd .....
148 Nichols Joseph & Son Ltd. wire workers
158 Booth Samuel & Co. Ltd. brass founders (Cheapside works)
161 Roadley Jn. & Sons Ltd. toy dlrs (regd. office)
162/164 Midland Counties Dairy Ltd. (The) (depot)
..... here is Alcester st .....
178 Hales Mrs Florence May, shopkpr
181 Bishop, Mrs Edith Phyllis, newsagt
182 Matthews C. fried fish dlr
197 Rose & Crown P.H
..... here are Lombard & Birchall streets .....
221 Naval Ordnance Inspection Dept. & Radiological & Spectrographic Depts is Rea st .....
here is Sherlock street east
I love the way the entry in Kelly's directory keeps the real surprise for the end! I see that the naval ordnance inspection department was a department of the admirality, and its records are available online should you be interested, as I imagine were the radiological and spectographic departments! Actually it isn't so odd that the more technological side of defence should have had an office here, because of the amount of industry and technology which has always been based in the Midlands. I also particularly love that there is a profession called 'fried fish dealer': how that differs from running a fish and chip shop I am unable to say, but it speaks of a past age of trade. And can there really be such a business as a paper bag maker anymore?
Image credits: and

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