Fat Mark of Bromsgrove

Guide to Bromsgrove

When I set up this site one of the main aims was to provide a guide to my favourite buildings around the town coupled with a little local history.  I wimped out when I found another site was doing quite a good job already.  Several years later that site had changed and no longer provided info on the town.  And to my surprise, no one else had produced a town guide.

So here is my take on Bromsgrove.  In addition to the well known, picture postcard locations I've included some that are hidden gems as far as I'm concerned.  I hope it gives you a good idea about the town.  It may be a virtual tour but I've structured it so you can walk around and see all these places should you so desire.

Of course the featured buildings are the lucky survivours of redevelopment that affected many towns up and down the country during the 50's, 60's and 70's.  There's plenty are architectural rubbish but that's what makes these places so important!

St Johns Church
I'm starting in the obvious place - St John's church.  In an elevated position near the centre of the town it's hard to miss.  It's believed that Bromsgrove started it's life on this little hill so it's no surprise that the parish church now takes centre stage.  An attractive church both inside and out with a churchyard full of history.  Make sure you find the grave of the railways workers killed in 1840 by a boiler explosion!  I'm lucky enough to have climbed the church tower on two occasions for an excellent view of the town and its surroundings.  Here is a panorama formed from some photo's I took at the time.
Railway workers grave

Take the steps opposite the entrance to the church down to Kidderminster Road and cross over to see Perry Hall - one time home of A E Housman.  In fact the steps were built especially to make life easier for the Housman's on a Sunday morning!  This handsome building is enhanced for me by the attached ruins.  For many years it has been a hotel but in the latter part of 2005 it was converted to lodgings for the students of the nearby Bromsgrove School.  A sad loss to the town's facilities.

Perry Hall

Nice house Cross back over Kidderminster Road and on the corner of Church Lane you'll find this splendid private house.  I have no idea of its history - I just know that if I could live anywhere in Bromsgrove I would like to live here!

I would recommend a walk through the seperate cemetery that Church Road adjoins.  It's a very peaceful place full of mature trees and historic gravestones.  You'll be sure to see a squirrel or two.  The topiary avenues are especially nice.  Exit the graveyard near New Road.

At the end of New Road at its junction with Willow Road are some more private houses that appeal to me greatly.  Difficult to see behind the bushes and hedges it's worth trying to get a glimpse as they come as a complete surprise given the surrounding estate.  They must be 18th century.  It's hard to believe that on a map of 1884 these cottages were well away from any other buildings!
Willow Road cottages

Button Factory
Follow Willow Road around to its junction with Kidderminster Road.  In a new development of houses you'll find all that's left of Benjamin Sanders button manufactory.  The developers wanted to pull it down but town planners insisted that it remained and it will become a 2 bedroom house.  Originally a mill, it was taken over by Sanders in 1810.

After that, what could be more appropriate than a stroll through Sanders Park.  The Sanders family are a big part of Bromsgrove local history in the 18th and 19th century and could probably justify a web page all to themselves but I'll leave that for someone else to sort out....  Exit the park at Brook Road and head towards Charford along Worcester Road.

Charford Lodge sits on the corner of Charford Road and Rock Hill.  Behind it is St Peter's Catholic Church.  If you're a Tolkien fan you may be interested to know that his mother is buried in the graveyard of the church.
Charford Lodge

Walk down Worcester Road towards the town centre.  On this stretch of road you'll find many historical buildings that have managed to survive.  A group of old cottages at one extreme and the impressive grandeur of Bromsgrove School at the other.  You can't fail to miss the Olde Black Cross pub either.
Worcester Road cottages
Bromsgrove School
Black Cross pub

Hanover House
Follow Hanover Street, St John Street and Market Place to get back to the High Street.  But don't miss Hanover House!  It's sad to say that this is the only survivor in a street once full with history.  St John Steet has fared better, probably thanks to its proximity to the church.  Steps House is particularly impressive.
St John Street

On the side of Morton Fisher (now renamed mfg) you'll find a plaque indicating the height of the water during a flood in 1792.  Thankfully the town doesn't seem to suffer like that these days!

Stood at this sign, behind you is the old vicarage.  Built in 1848 it later became the council offices and is now St John's Nursing Home.

Flood Level 1792

Kembrey House As you join the High Street glance down Worcester Road and you'll see Kembrey House.  This fine building, once a pub called The Golden Lion, was redecorated in the summer of 2006 after a period of neglect.  Many other High Street properties have been restored and it certainly helps give a better impression of the town to visitors and residents alike

This section of the High Street is particularly nice with many Georgian facades visible above street level.  Enjoy!

High St Facades

There are a couple of nice, timber framed buildings in this area.  The historic Appleby's store (now mfg) at the junction with St John Street and Tudor House at the junction with New Road.  This superb building used to be the Hop Pole Inn and was located where New Road is now.  Thanks to the efforts of 19th century townspeople it was saved and moved to its current location in 1866.  A stylised version of Tudor House is used as the logo of The Bromsgrove Society.
Tudor House Appleby's

Retained Features
Up New Road, built as a new route to the railway station in the 1860's and imaginatively named (there was already a New Road in the town!), it's the home of many a fine building.  Many have sadly been lost - the Cottage Hospital and Technical Institute as recently as the 1980's.  However, some of their features have been incorporated into the retirement homes that replaced them.  There are some nice private houses too with number 15 amongst my favourites.

15 New Road

As you head out of the town you'll find Thomas White's cottages built in 1884 and well maintained by a trust they are a wonderful sight.  Now wander along East Road, West Road and Chapel Walk.  Take in the quiet backwater of Stoney Hill, well loved by homebuyers, this has become become something of a property hotspot.

Thomas White's Cottages

As you walk down Chapel Street you'll find the Hall on your left (1852) and the Chapel on your right (1833).

Chapel Hall

Back at the High Street I urge you to explore!  Look above the level of the shop fronts and you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Make sure you spot Lloyds Bank, Rainscourts, Peacocks and the Hogs Head pub.  A 'must' is a diversion down Satchwell's Court (formerly Amos's Yard).  I also recommend a walk around the back of the High Street - it may look a bit tatty but you see another side of the town's history here.  Head for The Strand when you're done.
Lloyd's Bank
Near Satchwell's Court Hogs Head Satchwell's Court

The Strand
The Strand has survived quite well considering.  The old Mitre Inn was saved from demolition in the 1980's and is now offices.  Strand Wallpaper had fallen into disrepair but Horton's spent time and money to create the Solicitors Property Shop and, as a result, is a superbly restored building dating back to the 17th century.

Solicitor's Property Shop
Mitre Inn

Crabmill Inn
Birmingham Road used to be lined with nailer's cottages but very few remain (some survive between The Hop Pole and Barons Nissan).  Still, there's quite a bit to enjoy en route to All Saints Church.  For instance, Davenhall House sits cheek by jowl with Bromsgrove Museum and the Crabmill Inn is one of my favourite pubs from an architectural viewpoint (I'm also quite happy to enjoy a drink in there too!).

Davenhall House & Bromsgrove Museum

All Saints Church may not attract the attention that St John's does but I really like it, especially caught in the evening sun in it's attractive surroundings.

Further along Birmingham Road you'll find Bartlett House.  What could be the history of this fine structure that proudly proclaims being erected in 1838?  Well, it was Bromsgrove's 'new' workhouse!  It spent much of its later years owned by the NHS but was converted to offices in the 1990's and nicely restored at the time.

Barlett House
All Saints Church

Cottage Garden My next pair of buildings are quite a walk from here.  Go up the footpath at the side of Bartlett House (near the pedestrian crossing), along Elm Road and Elm Grove and down another footpath to Stourbridge Road.  Walk a little way down Bewell Head and you'll find the finest pair of 18th century cottages in the town.  For many years one of them was occupied by Mrs Sylvia Hallett who was sadly knocked down and killed in 2002.  I was lucky enough to have chatted to her about her home before this tragic incident.

Outside Loo
Wash House
When the houses came up for auction I went for a nose around and it was like being transported back in time!  No bathroom, no real kitchen and an outside loo.   But the cottage garden was beautiful having been carefully tended by Mrs Hallett.  It would have been nice if they could have been left untouched as a history lesson but redevelopment was inevitable.  Thankfully, this was done with great care and attention to detail and they are now a pair of lovely, characterful homes suitable for modern living.

If you can't tell by all the pictures of these fantastic cottages, I really like them!  If only they weren't so tiny inside - not enough room for all my junk...
Refurbished cottages
Refurbished cottages
Return to Stourbridge Road and head towards the town centre.  There's many attractive Victorian and Edwardian houses along here, a fair few of which have their original sandstone garden walls.

My final gem faced an uncertain future a few years ago as a £60M PFI scheme to redevelop many of Bromsgrove's schools put its future in question.  After much campaigning, the building was listed by English Heritage and went on to be redeveloped as the main offices for Bromsgrove Council and also incorporated a new library, the customer service centre, the Job Centre and the register office.

That's the end of my town guide.  I hope you found it interesting.  If there are any gems you think I've missed then please let me know.
Parkside Centre