We now approach the junction with Hampstead Road and down here to the left is St Mary’s Parish Church where Matthew Boulton, James Watt & William Murdoch were all laid to rest. St Mary’s is often referred to as “the Cathedral of the Industrial Revolution”.
Furthermore, William McGregor was laid to rest at St Mary’s and if you can’t remember who he is, let me tell you that there is a bronze statue to the man outside Villa Park.
The Outer Circle then becomes Church Lane then Oxhill Road. On the right is St Andrews Church that was consecrated just over 100 years ago by the Right Revd Charles Gore who was the first Bishop of Birmingham.
Behind the church is a row of listed cottages that date from the Sixteenth century, which were at one time said to be Handsworth Town Hall. This is another cruck-framed building, and this photograph was taken in 1932. The cottages have a small museum and a café. They are open to the public on Saturday mornings. Go to handsworth-historical-society.co.uk for the dates.
We now travel along Oxhill Road where in the 1930s the Outer Circle would have had the company of the no 26 tram before we turn left onto Rookery Road.
Birmingham’s most famous forging gang was led by William Booth. He was a farmer and at his farm house near to Perry Barr he conducted a massive forging operation. Unfortunately for Booth one of his servants was arrested in 1812 trying to pass a forged note – and he spilled the beans.
Following a massive police raid on his house Booth was sent for trial along with the rest of his gang. Booth was sentenced to death. However, all did not go well. At the execution Booth, who four years earlier escaped execution when he was acquitted of the murder of his elder brother, seemed to be in luck again when the hangman’s noose broke and he fell the full 10-foot drop. He obligingly climbed the gallows again and had to wait a further fifteen minutes whilst the noose was fixed, but this time the trap door jammed and it had to be forced open.
Booth Street which is about 150 yards away to our right is said to be named after him. The site of Booths farm has been restored and the footings of the farmhouse are now visible at the end of Booths farm Close. Booth was another person to be buried at St Mary’s Church in Handsworth.
At the end of Rookery Road we’ll turn left into Soho Road and travel for a short distance towards the city. This was part of the road from London to Holyhead built in the early Nineteenth century by Thomas Telford and Soho Road was on the route of the Birmingham cable tramway that ran along here through Hockley to Colmore Row from 1888 for about 23 years.