Author Topic: Re: balsall heath changes over the years  (Read 4574 times)

wam

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« on: February 13, 2012, 02:59:39 PM »
Hi Gypsypoet
 
As "lolly" says there was nothing wrong with Balsall Heath in the 60's that wasn't a problem elsewhere at the time. But Manzoni and his crew used the the words "prostitution" and "drugs" to let him get away with acts of wanton vandalism and tear the heart out of Balsall Heath.
 
Some marvellous houses were lost along with the back to backs (not that there were that many back to backs). All they did was to move the problem elsewhere.
 
Whenever I read about Balsall Heath now I read nothing of it's good times and proud history only about the bad times. You only hear of the so called wonders that have been achieved since all the social workers got involved and very little of what it was like and its good points before that.
 
Phil


I'm not so sure about this. I moved to Birmingham in 63/64 at the age of 6. I lived in the new maisonettes at the bottom of Balsall Heath Road and went to school at Percy Shurmer. When I was 10 my mother pulled me out of Percy Shurmer and put me in St Lukes because (she said) she didn't want to have to take my brother to school down Balsall Heath road with all the prostitutes and the rubbers in the gutter. 
In the 70s I worked on a football pool for a cancer charity and I had to collect from a lot of the old houses along the Balsall Heath side of the Pershore Road. From the outside they looked like fine old houses but on the inside they were rotten and smelled awful. They had been converted to bedsits some time earlier and I don't think anyone really cared about the conditions.


Sometime in the 70s/80s the council bulldozed the lot and rejigged the road system so that there wasn't a straight road though there between Belgrave Rd and Edward Rd. I moved into one of the new houses in the early 80s and most of the prostitution in the area had gone. With the exception of a few blocks on the Pershore road, the new housing from the 80s is still there.  I've read articles and seen stuff on websites that would like people to believe that my generation of newcomers brought all of the evils to the area (drugs, prostitution) and that the 90s generation cleared it all away. Neither of these is true. The prostitution had been around for a century or so and most of it hadn't been a great problem. I've seen more armed police raids and news reports of shooting in the last 10 years than in the 40 years that proceeded them.


For the last few years I've been trying to find the "proud history" of the area and haven't come up with much that you could really hold as a shining example. I'd like for someone to prove me wrong but there it is.

Phil

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Re: Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 03:48:28 PM »
wam
 
No generation of newcomers brought all the troubles and evils to Balsall Heath it was a progressive thing. As the area became home more and more to an immigrant population prostitution moved in as well. Mainly because a new immigrant population means a lot of men on their own separated from their womenfolk.
 
So with prostitution crime and violence often follows. I put the reasons why Balsall Heath went down so fast down to corrupt and bad policing. 
 
I might suggest you pop along to your local library and take out some of the books on Balsall Heath and read about it before the 60's. Though I didn't think the 60's were particularly bad. There again I'm pretty liberal minded. You might even try reading up about the man one of your early schools was named after "Percy Shurmer" a man who knew how good Balsall Heath and its people were. He lived there all his life and refused to move.
 
Phil
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mikejee

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Re: Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2012, 05:22:06 PM »
Wam
It is a bit of an exaggeration to say that prostitution had been available for a century. When the houses were built they were respectable  residences. A few to the  west of the Rae were I believe part of Edgebaston, and these were definitely middle class. If you look at the censuses around the turn of the century you see many were occupied by owners of businesses , respectable widows and professors of music (which is not the same as having a "music teacher" card in the local shop), and similar. A little further east were a number of significant businesses, and further east more working class , but still respectable housing. I think the change occurred gradually, as Phil says, probably around world war 2. After that the area did became notorious, especially Varna Road, which was a little embarrassing when a friend (with a rather plummy accent) in around 1966  came for an interview with Midland Red, and his request for Vernon road was interpreted by the taxi driver (with strange looks) as Varna Road.
The same has happened to a number of similar areas in other cities. Leeds had/has Chapeltown, which was a very prosperous jewish businessman's area originally, while St Paul's , in Bristol, was similar

Phil

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Re: Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 05:42:07 PM »
Mike
 
I think it has a lot to do with the type of housing, the housing of a former desirable type in better times of the larger size was ideal for letting off as bed sits which is what immigrants would want so they could let off the rest the rest of the house while they lived in part of it and in this way they were able to pay off the mortgage.
 
As you say St Pauls in Bristol was very similar, with the same sort of property and the same happened there. I lived there for a while also in the 60's.
 
Phil
 
Before I get accused of going off thread I am going to split this thread into a new topic.
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alanmillard

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Re: Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2012, 08:27:10 PM »
Mike
 
I think it has a lot to do with the type of housing, the housing of a former desirable type in better times of the larger size was ideal for letting off as bed sits which is what immigrants would want so they could let off the rest the rest of the house while they lived in part of it and in this way they were able to pay off the mortgage.
 
As you say St Pauls in Bristol was very similar, with the same sort of property and the same happened there. I lived there for a while also in the 60's.
 
Phil
 
Before I get accused of going off thread I am going to split this thread into a new topic.
Hi as i have said before i lived in balsall heath just off gooch st the one thing you could say was every one new there neighbour and every one would help there neighbour which is some thing you cannot say now i for one loved balsall heath i went to both Rea St and Hope st schools and yes there was prostitution manely round the Varna rd erea but as far as i can remember they did not bother normal people in fact you had to look for them other wise you would not know they were there i also new people who lived in Varna rd in fact there is a lady that lives across the road from me now who lived in the said road and her father was the man that kept Kent St baths clean. My sister lived in Highgate st when she was first married and she would tell you now how we both enloyed living in balsall heath. alan

wam

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Re: Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 09:32:12 AM »
wam
 
No generation of newcomers brought all the troubles and evils to Balsall Heath it was a progressive thing. As the area became home more and more to an immigrant population prostitution moved in as well. Mainly because a new immigrant population means a lot of men on their own separated from their womenfolk.
 
So with prostitution crime and violence often follows. I put the reasons why Balsall Heath went down so fast down to corrupt and bad policing. 
 



I can't give exact details but prostitution had probably arrived in Balsall Heath in the 19th century. I have heard from a local historian that there is documentary evidence of brothels operating but couldn't give full detail. There is a lot of immigration into the area in the late 19th century although much of it does seem to be families with businesses elsewhere into 3 and 4 storey terraces sometimes with a maid and a lodger. I know of 2 famous cases - Deutches on Wenman St (parents of Oscar) and Salbergs on Speedwell Rd (parents of Victor Saville).



I might suggest you pop along to your local library and take out some of the books on Balsall Heath and read about it before the 60's. Though I didn't think the 60's were particularly bad. There again I'm pretty liberal minded. You might even try reading up about the man one of your early schools was named after "Percy Shurmer" a man who knew how good Balsall Heath and its people were. He lived there all his life and refused to move.
 
Phil


Surprisingly, the local (Moseley Rd) library doesn't have much on the history of Balsall Heath. There were a couple of thin volumes (one on Stratford Place, one from an amateur historian which was the source of most of the maps on http://www.digitalbalsallheath.org.uk/ (I know, that's where I scanned them from to put on the site) and I've been told they're not as accurate as they might be. Both of these were in a box in the office and may not be accessible to the general public.


The central library has more historical material but most of it is available only by request so you have to know what book you want before you can get it. There is a collection of news clippings and some other local books on the open shelves but it is generally categorised by subject rather than area.


It's also surprising how little there is on Percy Shurmer. For example the Wikipedia entries for our local MP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Shurmer shows less detail than either his predecessor or any of his successors in the post.
I have read some of the material on the area from books provided by my employer (Balsall Heath History Soc./Val Hart) and some reference material from their archive but there isn't much written.

Phil

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2012, 10:40:05 AM »
Wam
 
It only goes to prove that the residents of the now Balsall Heath (mostly the Balsall Heath Forum) don't want you to know about its past and just how good it was at one time. They seldom mention what it was like more than 25 years ago. The other problem is that most books on the area are just churned out as money makers and are never 100 per cent accurate anyway.
 
I have several books by your employer Val Hart and I have to say I am not greatly enamoured by them. The last one I purchased Balsall Heath through time was just a re-run of old photos from other books with a photo of the same location today. There was very little new content at all when I say new I mean material that had not been seen in other books. Whilst realising these books are only produced as money makers to catch those people who are on a nostalgia trip a little more historical content could be added.
 
Try going to the online catalogue of Birmingham Library you will find many books on the history of Balsall Heath there. You reserve any book you want and pick it up at your local library. You are informed by email when it is ready to be collected.
 
Phil
 
 
 
 
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mikejee

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2012, 12:29:41 PM »
Wam
The fact that there were brothels in  Balsall Heath in the 19th century ( or more recently) means little alone. The Sultan Divan in  Needless alley was in the centre of a fairly respectable Birmingham area (Needless alley) before it was taken over by the YMCA for "moral purposes". I am sure there are now brothels in respectable Edgebast on even now (certainly quite a number masquerading as "gentleman's clubs" all over the place). The presence of brothels alone does not necessarily mean anything, as to the reputation of an area, because the most profitable ones will not advertise themselves. What normally "brings an area down" is the presence of large numbers of working girls walking the streets, which often makes other inhabitants nervous, especially as it often (now usually) meant the additional presence of their pimps and drug suppliers. On a slightly different note , but associated with it, i have always thought that the most efficient way to clean up an area in all respects is to eliminate the drug pushers ( including the well paid sympathisers and cocaine-users in Whitehall, the City and the media). Perhaps we could ship them all out to afghanistan , where they can rot in peace.

wam

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2012, 04:54:12 PM »
Wam
 
It only goes to prove that the residents of the now Balsall Heath (mostly the Balsall Heath Forum) don't want you to know about its past and just how good it was at one time. They seldom mention what it was like more than 25 years ago. The other problem is that most books on the area are just churned out as money makers and are never 100 per cent accurate anyway.
 
I have several books by your employer Val Hart and I have to say I am not greatly enamoured by them. The last one I purchased Balsall Heath through time was just a re-run of old photos from other books with a photo of the same location today. There was very little new content at all when I say new I mean material that had not been seen in other books. Whilst realising these books are only produced as money makers to catch those people who are on a nostalgia trip a little more historical content could be added.
 <cut>
Phil

Val did one reasonable history of the area (Balsall Heath A History 1992) and has written articles on other aspects of the area that I've had access to on occasion. There are lots of these books of old photographs available now. I know Val has done two - I get a credit on the acknowledgements for the one you've got (William McCabe) - but there are several others. That's what seems to sell nowadays. Every area of Birmingham seems to have had several of them and they sell them at local supermarkets.
 
I've just taken a look at the list of Balsall Heath histories available at the libraries. There's the history I mentioned above, several other publications by the Balsall Heath Local History Society (the employers I mentioned) that are either short or packaged reminiscences and a few picture books. That fills most of page 1 except for a couple of things from Edward Rudge that seem to be available from the 6th floor of the central library and seem very specialist. There's more specialist stuff from Frank Jones on page 2 (again, 6th floor central) and the start of several items that seem to be recent or council documents.
For those of you that wonder what's wrong with 6th floor central library (history section), that's the stuff they've started moving to the new library and I can't guarantee it will be available until the place opens next year.
It would be nice to have some more detail to things but for an area this small, it could be hard to find. There are some basiic items online that I'd take as accurate but not a lot.

Phil

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2012, 05:23:32 PM »
Wam
 
I'm sorry if I badmouthed some of your work, but I still say that between the two  you  that you might have found a few more images that had not been previously published for the latest publication.
 
You could have even have approached Mikejee who has a host of photo of Balsall Heath and other areas from the 60's that he is having difficulty in getting published. So there are plenty about for the finding.
 
Phil
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alanmillard

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Re: balsall heath changes over the years
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2012, 07:46:27 PM »
Wam
 
I'm sorry if I badmouthed some of your work, but I still say that between the two  you  that you might have found a few more images that had not been previously published for the latest publication.
 
You could have even have approached Mikejee who has a host of photo of Balsall Heath and other areas from the 60's that he is having difficulty in getting published. So there are plenty about for the finding.
 
Phil
Hi peops you keep banging on about the prostitution in Varna Rd and Chedder Rd but i think you have missed Woodstock Rd ant the end of ladypool rd where they were quite rife at one time i know i lived there for a short time in a converted house in to flats by a certain German owner.
Alan