THEN & NOW on the Outer Circle – stage 38

At the top of the hill where Fordhouse Lane climbs out of the Rea valley we go across what is called Pineapple Bridge which was widened in the the 1930s to accommodate the Outer Circle.

After crossing the railway there is a straight run to Kings Heath. Vicarage Road is 0.8 of a mile long – even this is longer than Livery Street! (If you can’t remember what this is about go to stage 30!) Until the 18th century this area was mainly heathland standing on the royal manor of Kings Norton. Hence the name Kings Heath.

Vicarage Road was originally known as Bleak Lane. On the left was Priory Farm, which dated from the Seventeenth century. Brass founder James Cartland, an ancestor of the prolific novelist Barbara Cartland, bought the farm house and rebuilt it in a Gothic style calling it Bleak House. This black & white photograph of Barbara was taken in the 1950s, presumably she’s wearing pink! Subsequently the land was sold for the building of King Edward VI Camp Hill Schools.

There is a left turn into Cartland Road and along here we can see on the right the site of Hazelwell Station on the railway line that is known as the Camp Hill Line. At one the line also had stations in Kings Heath, Moseley and Balsall Heath. Passenger trains were axed in 1941 but they may return soon if West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has his way.

Then further along Vicarage Road, on the right, you will see Stanley Road, and during WW2, along here lived Anthony Pratt. “Who was Anthony Pratt?” you may ask. Well, lovers of board games will probably be surprised to learn that around 1943, Pratt, a solicitor’s clerk, invented Cluedo.

It was behind the wartime blackouts that he devised the much-loved game. Cluedo was Pratt’s sole board game success and Cluedo, mass-produced by Waddingtons, has made millions of pounds for the company. It is still hugely popular. Pratt sold the rights to the game for £5,000. A blue plaque commemorating Pratt’s invention is now attached next to the front door of number 9 Stanley Road. He doesn’t live there anymore, in fact he died in 1994, so don’t go knocking on the door hoping for a chat or a game of Cluedo! If you do you’ll find the person that lives there now is an undertaker!

Pineapple Bridge – 1909

Pineapple Bridge after being widened in October 1930, the church of St Mary Magdalen can be seen on the left, the bus going over the bridge was an AEC 504

Pineapple Bridge – 2019

Barbara Cartland – 1950s

Hazelwell Station in the 1920s – the bridge in the background carries Cartland Road

Two lads watch as BR class 9F 92052 heads of a long goods train of empty open wagons through the disused Hazelwell Station in 1961

Anthony Pratt


The plaque at 9 Stanley Road, where Anthony Pratt invented Cluedo