Golden Hillock

B10 - Grid reference SP095847

First record 1760

This fieldname was documented in 1760 but is certainly older. It is likely to refer a hillside covered with broom or gorse, shrubs which are typical of heathland. The 1834 Ordnance Survey map shows the location at the junction of Golden Hillock Road and Glovers Road. In 1763 Sylvester's Farm was advertised for sale. This was later known as Golden Hillock Farm whose farmhouse stood at the junction of Golden Hillock Road and Cooksey Road. Golden Hillock Road itself may well be of medieval origin.


Until 1799 there was a large man-made pool at the foot of the hill. Known as Danford Lake. Golden Hillock Road seems originally to have been the dam across the Spark Brook constructed to make a fish pond by the local land-owner. Using natural ponds and damming rivers to make fishponds was carried out from earliest times, fish being an important source of protein especially in winter. With its element ford, the name Danford must predate the building of the dam. The pool, which lay to the east of the road, was drained in 1799 when a feeder was taken from the brook to supply the Warwick & Birmingham Canal. Sparkhill Mill or Danford Mill, a post-medieval watermill stood close by on Spark Brook. 

Golden Hillock Road 1953 photo by Phyllis Nicklin - See Acknowledgements, Keith Berry. Of the two buildings in the centre, Small Heath Station is on the left, a pub on the right; the BSA factory is in the background. Thanks to Rod Liddiard for information
Golden Hillock Road 1953 photo by Phyllis Nicklin - See Acknowledgements, Keith Berry. Of the two buildings in the centre, Small Heath Station is on the left, a pub on the right; the BSA factory is in the background. Thanks to Rod Liddiard for information

The Birmingham & Oxford Railway cuts through the area following the line of the Warwick & Birmingham Canal of 1799, now the Grand Union Canal. The railway company was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1848 four years before the line was completed.

 

Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the track was laid as dual gauge, both broad gauge, 7 feet 1/4 inch, and narrow, 4 feet 81/2 inches, from a new station at Snow Hill as far as Oxford, and from 1861 all the way to Paddington Station in London. However, broad lost to narrow as the standard national gauge and from 1868 all Snow Hill trains ran on standard gauge.

 

The remains of the BSA in 2008
The remains of the BSA in 2008

 

Small Heath Station was originally named Small Heath & Sparkbrook Station. It opened in 1863 specifically to serve the new BSA factory which had been built the previous year when sixteen separate gun firms had amalgamated to form the Birmingham Small Arms Company.

 

A mechanised steam-powered factory, three storeys high in Italianate style, it stood in Armoury Road on a site of some three hectares. From 1880 bicycles were also made here.

 

The BSA made 2500 rifles a week for the British army during the Boer War and the building was extended in 1915 to allow for increased production of rifles for World War 1, some ten thousand Lee Enfields per week. By 1914 the BSA was producing motorcycles and later cars.


The newer extension of the factory was twice hit by German bombs on 19 November 1941 and the old block was hit two nights later. Fifty-three workers were killed and many were injured. After the war Armoury Road was used for motorbike manufacture and the name of BSA was world renowned. Following a steady decline, the failure of BSA to compete with the Japanese led to the closure of the factory c1980. Most of the buildings were demolished after 1983.

 

When Small Heath Station first opened in 1863, apart from the BSA, it was completely surrounded by open countryside. But by 1880 the Golden Hillock had been built up with housing as development spread outwards from Small Heath and Sparkbrook. And by the turn of the century building had crossed the Spark Brook into Worcestershire.


To cater for this new and expanding population, Worcestershire County Council opened Golden Hillock Road Council School in 1910 with accommodation for nearly thirteen hundred pupils. The school was reorganised in 1930 for senior boys, juniors and infants. The boys' department became a separate county modern school in 1945. It is now a specialist sports college. 

 

William Dargue 05.03.09/ 02.08.2010

 

  

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For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.

See http://www.british-history.ac.uk/mapsheet.aspx?compid=55193&sheetid=10103&ox=1854&oy=2271&zm=2&czm=2&x=278&y=373