William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B21 - Grid reference SP051912
This housing estate north of Handsworth Wood was built by the Ideal Benefit Society in the 1930s on the farmland of Cherry Orchard Farm. The farm is believed to date from before 1327 when it was listed as the home of Atte-Le-Berg. It clearly took its name from a nearby cherry orchard and a large orchard is shown on the sale particulars of 1812 immediately south-east of the farmhouse. The orchard does not appear on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map.
Cherry trees were cultivated for their fruit across the country and this name is common everywhere. Cherry trees are known to have been grown for hundreds of years across the Middle East and Europe and there were many varieties. With trees growing up to 15 metres tall the fruit was not easy to harvest and was easily damaged on the journey to market. The nearer the orchard to the market, the more profitable the enterprise.
In 1812 Mrs Sarah Heathcote put the farm up for auction. The farm and its land was divided into a number of lots consisting of extensive farm buildings, a number of pools and roads, some 20 fields as well as two pews and sittings in St Mary's Church, Handsworth.
The farmland was described in terms of its fertility: Lot VII was said to be ‘very rich land and adjoining to the River Tame'. But, perhaps more significantly, all plots were ‘eligible Spots for Building upon.' The prime lot was described as follows:
The valuable Lot is bounded Half a Mile in Length by the fine Stream of Water of the River Tame, immediately on the opposite side of Perry Hall, and the Plantations and the Deer Park of John Gough, Esq.the Survey of which, together with Hampstead and Aston, form a beautifully romantic Picture from the Homestead and most of the Pieces in the Lot.
It is intended that a new Road shall be laid out in a straight Direction from the Homestead by Butler's Coppice into the Handsworth Turnpike Road near Mr. Southern's Gate, so that the Distance from the House to Handsworth Church and Village will be only about Half a Mile.
Building was slow to take off, however. By 1890, when the farm was run by the Hales family, most of the area was still agricultural, although some very large high-status houses had been built on the farmland on very large plots. The brick-built farmhouse, probably by now an early 19th-century building, stood on a site at the north end of West Avenue opposite Ireton Road. It survived until it was demolished in the early 1930s ahead of building work for the Ideal Benefit estate. An avenue of trees which lined the approach to the farm from Hamstead Hill survives between Hamstead Hill and West Avenue, as does Orchard Pool off St Anne's Close.
After the Second World War existing educational provision for the new estate proved to be inadequate and in 1944 Wood Lane Temporary Infants School was opened in the pavilion on Handsworth Wood Playing Fields. In the meantime work on Cherry Orchard Road Primary School began and the new building received its first juniors in 1947 and the following year the infants from the Wood Lane School.
See also The Ideal Village, Bordesley Green, also built by the Ideal Benefit Society.
William Dargue 26.10.2008/ 01.08.2010
For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.
Map below reproduced from Andrew Rowbottom’s website of Old Ordnance Survey maps Popular Edition, Birmingham 1921. Click the map to link to that website.