Herbert Austin was concerned that because of the massive increase in the work force that was needed to fuel the War Effort he had to find dormitory accommodation. To give some idea of the sudden increase in numbers of employees, in 1914 the company employed just 2,500 people but by 1918 it had grown to 22,000 who were mainly women. Transport was limited in war time so he needed accommodation locally, this was a problem as the factory was built in a very rural setting. So on the 16th November 1916 he decided to buy 120 acres of farm land in Hawkesley Mill Lane from Thomas Middlemore for £7,750. Because the development need to be constructed quickly he purchased from the Aladdin Company, Bay City, Michigan USA 200 Canadian cedar wood bungalows. The $115,000 contract was agreed on 20 December 1916 with a down payment of $28,750.
The Company took out a mortgage in 1917 with the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Munitions, which allowed it to have access to a maximum of £75,000 to develop the estate. Interest on the loan would be at 5½% per annum.
To construct a new estate involved a lot of planning, also all the main services such as sewers & drains, and the supply of gas and electricity had to be laid on. As this was a green field site, an agreement was made with Morland & Impey Ltd that access to the development could be made by using a private roadway from Hawkesley Mill Farm.
The estate was laid out in the shape of a horseshoe by J W Wilson. The main road through the estate was apply called Central Avenue which at one end divided into a dual carriageway which is rumoured to be the first dual carriageway in the City of Birmingham.
Because of the possible fire risk twenty-five pairs of conventional brick houses were built to act as a fire break (one brick pair of semi to every six bungalows), A temporary licence on the 26th April 1917 was granted for the erection of the bungalows, because the council was still concerned about the possible fire risk. It was agreed between the Company and the Birmingham Corporation that 37 Central Avenue would be used as a Police Station, it appears that in the end this did not happen.
THE SCHEDULE BEFORE REFERRED TO.
F H C WILTSHIRE,
Specification for Structure or Erection. Situation of Structure or Erection.
By whom the same is to be erected. or set up. Conditions with respect to such Structure or Erection Time during which the Structure or Erection is to be permitted to continue. Timber framed structures on brick foundations.
Plans Nos. 28264 and 28265.
Hawkesley Mill Farm,
The Corporation does not give its approval, and is not responsible in any respect for the strength or stability of the structure 15 years from the date above mentioned.
The last temporary Licence issued in May 1954
to 8 Hawkesley Drive.
Now that permission had now been granted, work started immediately and after eleven months the last one was completed and occupied. As the license was only for 15 years, the City of Birmingham Council continued to renew the so called 'temporary' licenses for the wooden bungalows, but in the 1960's excepted that after nearly forty years they were in-fact permanent structures.
Plan of the Bungalows
The bungalows had the following living room measuring 20ft by 10ft which you entered from an enclosed porch. With a kitchen dining room 10ft by 10ft which included a gas cooker, gas washing boiler, sink and cupboard space. Three bedrooms each 10ft square, you will see that the accommodation was not too crowed. At the back was a large garden where vegetables could be grown and probable a long washing line. Rent on a bungalow including rates was 14s 6d (£0.73). As each house or bungalow was used as a dormitory, the accommodation was seven people to a bungalow and twelve people to a house, so that the estate was able to house about 2,000 people.
An early Resident
After the War in the 1920s when the company had a very reduced workforce the houses were sold to families of Austin employees at £250 leasehold and £300 freehold. It is interesting that the deeds to the properties laid out for a specific schedule of house painting etc which would ensured that the village would be well maintained even though ownership had passed to the individual residents. What the deeds did allow was that the timber bungalows could be replaced with brick structures on the same plots, interestingly not one owner took up this option.
The Company sold the remainder of the land to Birmingham Council and Hawkesley Farm which had been empty since 1936 was demolished in 1947. This part of the land was purchased by Mitchells & Butlers Ltd, who built a Pub called the Woodpecker. Work on the building did no start till 1960, and opened for business on the 8th December 1961.
The remaining land had been developed by the Council for housing in the 1950s. A new Church of England church was built at the corner of Longbridge Lane and Turves Green. Longbridge Baptist Church in Hawkesley Crescent moved into a new church in Turves Green in 1954. The original wooden church was taken down and moved to the new site to become the hall. Two semi-detached houses were built on the vacant land opposite Central Avenue.
In 1990 a small group of dedicated residents held a meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a local association with the aim of preserving this unique estate. So the Austin Village Preservation Society was born and in 1997 achieved conservation status.
Memories of the Longbridge Estate
My parents who came from Burton-on-Trent moved into one of the brick built houses in 191x our neighbour had come all the way from Bradford. Life on the Longbridge Estate was very pleasant, there were many facilities and one could walk to work and home for dinner. The Austin workers had a Cinema seating 600 people. On the estate was a steam laundry that was used by the works and private households alike. Laundry was collected on Monday and returned ironed and wrapped in brown paper on Friday.
H. Austin opening Longbridge Baptist Church in 1921
There were 2 churches – the Longbridge Baptist Church in Hawkesley Crescent, where I attended and won a book of Wordsworth poems for good attendance, and the Epiphany in Oak Walk where some of the "Thomas the Tank Engine" stories were written by Rev. Awdry.
Two schools - one in Hawkesley Drive run by Miss Leach, and the other in Coney Green Drive run by Miss Malpass were located on the estate. I went to the Rubery Council School by tram from Bristol Road.
The residents had access to a midwife, a district nurse, and a doctor. A policeman lived in the police house in Rowan Way. Television didn't exist in those days, only radio, however, there was plenty of entertainment. At the Village Hall (now the Conservative Club) we had dances, billiards, a card and reading room, and a ladies lounge. Additional activities were garden and flower shows, a tennis courts, a football team (called Hawkesley FC) and a cricket team. There were swings and sandpits for the children.
Extension ladders, blow lamps, a wheelbarrow and whitewash brushes were on hire for 2/- per item for members of the Longbridge Estates Association. Two huts containing fire fighting equipment were available. Shopping was easier than today as most things were delivered including milk (in a churn) from Turves Green Farm, including bread, meat and fish. Fruit and vegetables were grown by the Beck family on Turves Green and delivered by horse and cart. Beer and spirits delivered by Davenports, and soft drinks by Corona were available at your door. Other items could be easily carried from the nearby shops in Mill Walk and Turves Green.
I was fortunate to live in such a quiet and pleasant area, I hope present and future residents will have as many happy times as I did.
Below is a Membership Card belonging to Mr Fryer who worked for the Austin Motor Company as a designer. It was issued in 1936 by the Longbridge Estate Association, who organised various events for members.
There were various agreements between individuals and groups with the Austin Motor Company on the use of land and the letting of properties on the Longbridge Estate.
Lease, counterpart lease, & mortgage of bungalow - 69, Hawkesley Drive, Longbridge - between Austin Co. & Mr Arthur C. Snow
Agreement for tenancy of an office known as the Estate Office. The Mill Walk, Longbridge, between Mr A.E. Asbury & Austin Co.
Conveyances of property at Longbridge by Austin Co. to Mr W.H. Squire, mortgages of the property by Mr Squire to Austin Co., & document re. conveyance of 34 bungalows to Mr Squire.
Memorandum of agreement & letters between Austin Co. & Austin Aircraft Staff Cricket Club, re. ground at Hawkesley Farm, Northfield.
Mortgage dated July 1926 between Harold G Smith and The Austin Motor Company Limited.
Mortgage of a Leasehold Bungalow situated and being No 8 Hawkesley Drive Longbridge, Northfield, in the City of Birmingham, to secure £200 and interest
This Mortgage is made the Third day of July One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six Between Harold Gordon Smith of 88 Bunbury Road Kinks Norton in the City of Birmingham
We, the within named AUSTIN MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED hereby acknowledge that we have this Eighteenth day of July One Thousand nine hundred and thirty three received the sum of Two Hundred pounds and Eight pounds representing the principal money secured by the within written mortgage and further charge together with all interest and costs, the payment having been made by the within named HAROLD GORDON SMITH of 8, Hawkesley Drive, Longbridge in the City of Birmingham.
IN Witness whereof the said AUSTIN MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED have hereunto caused their Common Seal to be affixed the day and year above written.