THEN & NOW on the Outer Circle – stage 27

Now we’ll continue along Aston Lane and, to the right, is Wellhead Lane. This is reputed to be roughly on the line of the Roman Icknield Street.

Along here is Perry Barr bus garage, which provides some of the buses on the 11 route. It is said that at the time it was built in 1932 the garage had the second largest unsupported roof in the world. The garage is due for demolition as part of the plan to regenerate the area for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

When we come to the end of Aston Lane we will arrive at the A34, Birchfield Road.

Down to the left on Birchfield Road were two cinemas, both on the left. The first was the Birchfield Cinema on the corner of Bragg Road. It opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1962 shortly after the construction of the Birchfield Road underpass. Then, further down between Timothy Road and Canterbury Road was the old Perry Barr Odeon cinema which opened in 1930. It was the very first of what was become the UK’s largest cinema chain. The building is still there – but not as a cinema, it’s now an Asian Wedding Venue. Oscar Deutsch, who was born in Balsall Heath, was the son of a Hungarian scrap metal merchant. The Odeon Perry Barr had been opened by Oscar in 1930 when he was 37 years old. Within the next seven years there were 250 Odeons in the UK, including the flagship cinema in Leicester Square. But sadly, Oscar had died at the age of 41. Oscar’s publicity team had claimed Odeon stood for “Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation”.

After crossing Birchfield Road at the underpass which was built in the 1960s, we go into Wellington Road towards Handsworth. To our right is the site of the Crown & Cushion pub. The original Old Crown & Cushion which dated from the 1860s was believed to be the place where Aston Villa football club was formed by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel and where a William McGregor read out a letter calling for the first football league in the world to be formed. What I want to know is, what were members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel doing in a pub? Then a new, larger Crown & Cushion was built in the 1930s behind the old one which was then demolished. This one was demolished in the 1980s and replaced with a modern “Crown & Cushion” pub which became a restaurant around 2011 called The African Village. This suffered a major fire in January 2020 and is set to be demolished. To add to the confusion, there was another Crown & Cushion on Birchfield Road, north of the junction with Aston Lane.

On the right in Wellington Road beyond the houses and factories is Perry Hall Park. Perry Hall was the home of the Gough-Calthorpe Family, who are still major landowners in Birmingham. The hall was originally a timber framed manor house and was altered in the 1840s in a style similar to Aston Hall. Ninety years later the parklands around the hall and the building itself came into the hands of the Council and the hall was demolished, leaving the park as playing fields.

Witton from the air in 2018

Aston Lane – approaching Tewkesbury Road – c1900

Aston Lane – approaching Tewkesbury Road in March 2019

Aston Lane – looking back towards Tewkesbury Road from the Birchfield Road end – c 1900

Aston Lane – looking back towards Tewkesbury Road from the Birchfield Road end – March 2019

Aston Lane – Wellhead Lane junction – 1940s

Aston Lane – Wellhead Lane junction – March 2019

Perry Barr bus garage – c1960s with Daimler bus no 1845, bought into service in 1948, withdrawn in 1968

ex BCT bus 3863 at Perry Barr Garage in Wellhead Lane – 1982

Birchfield Road – Aston Lane to the right Wellington Road to the left – c1950

Birchfield Road – Aston Lane to the right Wellington Road to the left in the distance – the site of the Birchfield Cinema is on the right – March 2019

The Birchfield Cinema pre-WW2 on the right

Birchfield Cinema – 1952

Birchfield Road Underpass – under construction on 19 October 1961 with the Birchfield Cinema on the right

The Odeon Perry Barr 1930s

The Odeon Perry Barr in 1938

The Odeon Perry Barr – now an Asian wedding venue and reclad in brick – 2017

Oscar Deutsch, founder of Odeon cinemas

Birchfield Road prior to the Road widening in the early 1960s – the bus garage is on the right

Birchfield Road Bus Garage c1949

Birchfield Road – the entrance to the bus garage was where the newer buildings are towards the right – March 2019

Birchfield Road bus garage – rear entrance in Leslie Road, now used for storage by the city events department – June 2008

Barclays bank Birchfield Road (to the left) and Aston Lane off to the right – 1959

Birchfield Road underpass – Perry Barr – Aston Lane to the right, Wellington Road & African Village to the left – March 2019

A mini crossing the Birchfield Road underpass in the 1960s with the Crown & Cushion in the background

Perry Barr Birchfield Underpass in 1962 when it was opened

Birchfield Road underpass from the south – May 2016

Crown and Cushion Inn (the original) in Birchfield Road – c1910

Crown & Cushion – on the corner of Wellington Road c1930 – The original is on the corner awaiting demolition with the “new” pub behind

Crown & Cushion – Birchfield Road & Wellington Road – Perry Barr probably in the 1990s

Crown & Cushion (the third) in the1980s when it had that name

Crown & Cushion replacement – renamed African Village around 2011 – in 2019

Crown & Cushion – a fire at the African Village – January 2020

The “little” Crown & Cushion with tram 13 outside – Birchfield Road – Perry Barr – c1945

The “little” Crown & Cushion site 2017 – now shops

Perry Hall – the Honorable General Somerset Calthorpe in his Carriage – Nov 1906

Perry Hall – The Honorable Mrs Somerset Calthorpe and her Cat ‘Tiddles’

Perry Hall (site of) – the hall was located in the corner of the moated site nearest to the camera