When we reach the end of Reservoir Road we are at Stockland Green. This was farmland until the end of the 19th century and the name Stockland probably comes from the fact there may have been enclosures for livestock in the area. The oldest houses here would have been built as Birmingham’s urban sprawl engulfed Erdington and the area became part of the City in 1911.
Over to the far right is The Plaza, now a bingo hall. The Plaza cinema opened on Boxing Day 1927. In April 1930 the first talkie was shown and the cinema closed in 1978.
Apparently, Handsworth born Violet Pretty got her first job as an usherette at the Plaza before moving to the Palace in Erdington. Violet later became the film actress Anne Haywood.
The stone clad building on the far right of the junction at the top of Marsh Lane was the Stockland Inn which was built by M&B in 1924. It became a Chinese restaurant about 20 years ago, but was made back into a restaurant/pub called “Village Green” which opened around September 2014.
Stockland Green was famous for the experimental ‘Tracline’ guided bus system that was laid in 1984 to take the buses on a concrete track of 600 yards from Stockland Green along Streetly Road on our right to the terminus at Short Heath. This was the first of these systems to be tested in the UK. Many lovely mature trees were destroyed to accommodate the ‘Tracline’, which was dismantled just three years later. There are a number of guided busways in the UK now, the best-known being in Cambridge which, as is with all such schemes, was thirty-one million pounds over budget and almost two & a half years late opening.
We have on our journey been heading in a generally northerly direction, however as we leave Stockland Green along Marsh Hill we start heading toward the south. Next to the Village Green pub is Kwik Fit Tyres who occupy the premises used by Stockfield Coaches. They were well remembered by the folk from this part of Birmingham for taking them on trips to the seaside. At one time they took over the well-respected Smethwick coach company Gliderways.
Marsh Hill, originally part of Marsh Lane, was widened in 1923 which is when it acquired its new name. Many of the houses we see now on Marsh Hill were built around this time.
At the foot of the hill, on the right, is the site of the Hare & Hounds pub. There had been a pub on the site for decades, certainly since the 1850s, and the last Hare & Hounds had been built by 1934. It closed for the last time in April 2017, and was reported as having been torched by rough sleepers in the following August. It was demolished immediately and a care home has now been built on the site.
Further along at the foot of the hill the road sweeps around the end of Brookvale Park on our left. The park is mainly occupied by a reservoir which was built along with Witton Lakes higher up the hill behind the houses on the right of Marsh Hill. The lakes stand on brooks which rise in Kingstanding and Erdington and were created in the 19th century to supply drinking water for Birmingham. They were then in the countryside, and the water relatively clean. Industrialisation and urban sprawl led to the water no longer being fit for drinking, so Birmingham turned to the Elan Valley in Wales for a supply. Brookvale Park Lake covers 18 acres and was used for outdoor swimming early last century; it was a favourite with youngsters as a local venue for outdoor activities. Much of the park between the lake and the M6 motorway was built on in the 1970s.