William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B11 - Grid reference SP083851
First record c1800
Larches Green is a location in Sparkbrook famous as the home of Joseph Priestley, William Withering and Thomas Attwood.
Fair Hill, stood between Priestley Road and Larches Street. There used to be a Birmingham Civic Society plaque here noting that this was the home of Joseph Priestley until it was destroyed in the 1791 Birmingham Riots.
Priestley was minister of the New Meeting in Birmingham and an experimental scientist with his laboratory at Fair Hill; he experimented with electricity, isolated oxygen and invented soda water. After the riots Priestley left for the United States and never returned.
The house was rebuilt as the Larches and the home of Dr William Withering, later of Thomas Attwood and subsequently of the Galton family. It was demolished c1871. Erasmus Road marks the route of the drive to the house. The site was built over with housing in the 19th-century and again in the 1960s.
Thomas Attwood (1783-1856) was a banker and high bailiff of Birmingham 1811. He was a Birmingham MP who was an influential and very popular Chartist campaigning for fairer representation in Parliament. A statue of Attwood was first erected in Stephenson Place where it stood until until 1925 when it was taken to Calthorpe Park. In 1974 it was moved again to Larches Green public open space near site of The Larches where he lived for four years before moving in 1823 to The Grove, Harborne, where he spent the next 22 years. In 2008 the vandalised Grade II Listed statue was moved into storage prior to renovation.
The origin of this placename is unknown. It may be, as with Priestley's Fair Hill, a fanciful invention. On the other hand there may have been larch trees here.
The European larch is an unusual coniferous tree in that it is deciduous. Thriving on well-drained soils, it may grow up to 45m in height. This is a non-native species which is naturally found in mountainous regions such as the Alps. It was first brought to Britain in 1620, one of the first trees introduced for timber and the first conifer to be grown in plantations. The wood is flexible and and rot-resistant and the tree may be coppiced for making poles for fencing and for use in outdoor situations.
Image left: European Larch photographed at Kew Gardens by Mmparedes/ Maria del Mar on Wikipedia and reusable under Creative Commons Licence Attribution ShareAlike 2.5.
William Dargue 01.04.2009
For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.