The Austin Village
B31 - Grid reference SP016776
First record: c1918
For most of the 20th century the name of Birmingham was synonymous with car manufacture, and no name was better known than that of Austin.
Herbert Austin was an English engineering apprentice who worked making sheep-shearing machines, first in Australia and then in England. But in his spare time he built a three-wheeled tiller-steered motor car and later exhibited a four-wheeler at the Crystal Palace in London.
By 1905 he had founded the factory at Longbridge boldly built on an out-of-town greenfield site which then covered just over one hectare. Here he initially produced just 120 cars a year. However, less than ten years later Austin was producing 1500 cars a year.
During the First World War the factory was turned to munitions manufacture. A tenfold expansion of the factory for the war effort led Austin to buy land from Hawkesley Farm to house his factory workers nearer to their place of employment.
Brick houses were built but, for speed, Austin also imported prefabricated wooden houses from Canada. 500 were dispatched, but one of the cargo ships was sunk in the Atlantic.
The remaining 250 houses are now the basis of the Austin Village centred on Central Avenue which was made a Conservation Area in 1997. The remaining fields of Hawkesley Farm were developed with council housing from the 1950s.
William Dargue 02.09.2008/ 30.07.2010
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For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.