I'm starting in the obvious place - St John's church. In an elevated position near the centre of the town it's hard to miss. It's believed that Bromsgrove started it's life on this little hill so it's no surprise that the parish church now takes centre stage. An attractive church both inside and out with a churchyard full of history. Make sure you find the grave of the railways workers killed in 1840 by a boiler explosion! I'm lucky enough to have climbed the church tower on two occasions for an excellent view of the town and its surroundings. Here is a panorama formed from some photo's I took at the time.
Take the steps opposite the entrance to the church down to Kidderminster Road and cross over to see Perry Hall - one time home of A E Housman. In fact the steps were built especially to make life easier for the Housman's on a Sunday morning! This handsome building is enhanced for me by the attached ruins. For many years it has been a hotel but in the latter part of 2005 it was converted to lodgings for the students of the nearby Bromsgrove School. A sad loss to the town's facilities.
|Cross back over Kidderminster Road and on the corner of Church Lane you'll find this splendid private house. I have no idea of its history - I just know that if I could live anywhere in Bromsgrove I would like to live here!|
I would recommend a walk through the seperate cemetery that Church Road adjoins. It's a very peaceful place full of mature trees and historic gravestones. You'll be sure to see a squirrel or two. The topiary avenues are especially nice. Exit the graveyard near New Road.
At the end of New Road at its junction with Willow Road are some more private houses that appeal to me greatly. Difficult to see behind the bushes and hedges it's worth trying to get a glimpse as they come as a complete surprise given the surrounding estate. They must be 18th century. It's hard to believe that on a map of 1884 these cottages were well away from any other buildings!
Follow Willow Road around to its junction with Kidderminster Road. In a new development of houses you'll find all that's left of Benjamin Sanders button manufactory. The developers wanted to pull it down but town planners insisted that it remained and it will become a 2 bedroom house. Originally a mill, it was taken over by Sanders in 1810.
After that, what could be more appropriate than a stroll through Sanders Park. The Sanders family are a big part of Bromsgrove local history in the 18th and 19th century and could probably justify a web page all to themselves but I'll leave that for someone else to sort out.... Exit the park at Brook Road and head towards Charford along Worcester Road.
Charford Lodge sits on the corner of Charford Road and Rock Hill. Behind it is St Peter's Catholic Church. If you're a Tolkien fan you may be interested to know that his mother is buried in the graveyard of the church.
|Walk down Worcester Road towards
the town centre. On this stretch of road you'll find many
historical buildings that have managed to survive. A group of old
cottages at one extreme and the impressive grandeur of Bromsgrove
School at the other. You can't fail to miss the Olde Black Cross
Follow Hanover Street, St John Street and Market Place to get back to the High Street. But don't miss Hanover House! It's sad to say that this is the only survivor in a street once full with history. St John Steet has fared better, probably thanks to its proximity to the church. Steps House is particularly impressive.
side of Morton Fisher (now renamed mfg) you'll find a plaque indicating
the height of
the water during a flood in 1792. Thankfully the town doesn't
seem to suffer like that these days!
Stood at this sign, behind you is the old vicarage. Built in 1848 it later became the council offices and is now St John's Nursing Home.
|As you join
the High Street glance down Worcester Road and you'll see Kembrey
House. This fine building, once a pub called The Golden Lion, was
redecorated in the summer of 2006 after a period of neglect. Many
other High Street properties have been restored and it certainly helps
give a better impression of the town to visitors and residents alike
This section of the High Street is particularly nice with many Georgian facades visible above street level. Enjoy!
|There are a
couple of nice, timber framed buildings in this area. The
historic Appleby's store (now mfg) at the junction with St John Street
and Tudor House at the junction with New Road. This superb
building used to be the Hop Pole Inn and was located where New Road is
now. Thanks to the efforts of 19th century townspeople it was
saved and moved to its current location in 1866. A stylised
version of Tudor House is used as the logo of The Bromsgrove Society.
|Up New Road,
built as a new route to the railway station in the 1860's and
imaginatively named (there was already a New Road in the town!), it's
the home of many a fine building. Many have sadly been lost - the
Cottage Hospital and Technical Institute as recently as the
1980's. However, some of their features have been incorporated
into the retirement homes that replaced them. There are some nice
private houses too with number 15 amongst my favourites.
head out of the town you'll find Thomas White's cottages built in 1884
and well maintained by a trust they are a wonderful sight. Now
along East Road, West Road and Chapel Walk. Take in the quiet
backwater of Stoney Hill, well loved by homebuyers, this has become
become something of a property hotspot.
|As you walk
down Chapel Street you'll find the Hall on your left (1852) and the
Chapel on your right (1833).
the High Street I urge you to explore! Look above the level of
the shop fronts and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Make sure you
spot Lloyds Bank, Rainscourts, Peacocks and the Hogs Head pub. A
'must' is a diversion down Satchwell's Court (formerly Amos's
Yard). I also recommend a walk around the back of the High Street
- it may look a bit tatty but you see another side of the town's
history here. Head for The Strand when you're done.
|The Strand has survived quite well
considering. The old Mitre Inn was saved from demolition in the
1980's and is now offices. Strand Wallpaper had fallen into
disrepair but Horton's spent time and money to create the Solicitors
Property Shop and, as a result, is a superbly restored building dating
back to the 17th century.
Road used to be lined with nailer's cottages but very few remain (some
survive between The Hop Pole and Barons Nissan). Still, there's
quite a bit to enjoy en route to All Saints Church. For instance,
Davenhall House sits cheek by jowl with Bromsgrove Museum and the
Crabmill Inn is one of my favourite pubs from an architectural
viewpoint (I'm also quite happy to enjoy a drink in there too!).
Saints Church may not attract the attention that St John's does but I
really like it, especially caught in the evening sun in it's attractive
Further along Birmingham Road you'll find Bartlett House. What could be the history of this fine structure that proudly proclaims being erected in 1838? Well, it was Bromsgrove's 'new' workhouse! It spent much of its later years owned by the NHS but was converted to offices in the 1990's and nicely restored at the time.
|My next pair
of buildings are quite a walk from here. Go up the
footpath at the side of Bartlett House (near the pedestrian crossing),
along Elm Road and Elm Grove and down another footpath to Stourbridge
Road. Walk a little way down Bewell Head and you'll find the
pair of 18th century cottages in the town. For many years one of
was occupied by Mrs Sylvia Hallett who was sadly knocked down and
killed in 2002. I was lucky enough to have chatted to her about
home before this tragic incident.
houses came up for auction I went for a nose around and it was like
being transported back in
time! No bathroom, no real kitchen and an outside
loo. But the cottage garden was beautiful having been
carefully tended by Mrs Hallett. It would have been nice if they
could have been left untouched as a history lesson but redevelopment
was inevitable. Thankfully, this was done with great care and
attention to detail and they are now a pair of lovely, characterful
homes suitable for modern living.
If you can't tell by all the pictures of these fantastic cottages, I really like them! If only they weren't so tiny inside - not enough room for all my junk...
Stourbridge Road and head towards the town centre. There's many
attractive Victorian and Edwardian houses along here, a fair few of
which have their original sandstone garden walls.
My final gem faced an uncertain future a few years ago as a £60M PFI scheme to redevelop many of Bromsgrove's schools put its future in question. After much campaigning, the building was listed by English Heritage and went on to be redeveloped as the main offices for Bromsgrove Council and also incorporated a new library, the customer service centre, the Job Centre and the register office.
That's the end of my town guide. I hope you found it interesting. If there are any gems you think I've missed then please let me know.