Maps, tower blocks, and tower block maps

I mentioned the other day about the fun you can have tracing old features like canals onto modern maps. The vice versa is true as well of course, and I’ve been playing with some olde maps of Stourbridge to demonstrate.

Although I’ve not been able to give as much time as I’d have liked to the Block Capital project, I’ve had a bit of a dig through old maps to play with what I can. I’ve done this for the other blocks in the project, but to avoid overlapping, here’s an example of what I’ve been doing, close to my home in Stourbridge. I’ve already written a little about these towers before.

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1972

Baylie and Kennedy Courts were built between 1963 and 1965. As they stand today, they overlook Stourbridge ring road towards the leisure centre and the new Tesco. Rewind back to 1972 though, and the blocks were less than 10 years old, overlooking Bath Road, part of the newly-opened ring road. Although the site itself isn’t much changed, the blocks then overlooked several factories still going in Stourbridge – works marked glove, engineering and concrete surround them, and Enville Street Methodist Church (actually in West Street) to the west.

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1969
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1969

Back just three years and the ring road has yet to be built. Baylie Court looks onto open ground towards New Street, and the factories are still there.

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1957
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1957

Back to 1957 and the blocks are still a twinkle in the council’s eye. That triangle of land between Baylie Court, New Street and Hemplands Road is filled by Baylie’s Chain Works, part of a group owned Noah Hingley & Sons, most famous for the Titanic Anchor. You can also see a kite shaped are bounded by Hemplands, New Street and Enville Street that simply doesn’t exist anymore – it’s completely altered by the whacking great Enville Street junction off the ring road. I make that around 30 houses plus pub and garage…

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1938
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1938

Another 20 years back now, to interwar-war Stourbridge. The scene is very similar to that of 1957 – the main difference here is the jump forward in mapping accuracy and quality (although I think I like the clarity of the 1938 one better).

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1920
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1920

This map from 1920 gives a wider perspective showing the centre of Stourbridge pre-ring road. You can plot the line of it between Bath Road and the Quaker Meeting House and onwards; and you can get a much better idea of how Stourbridge became a reasonably important market town when you look at the number of roads meeting in the centre of town. Coventry Street for example is very old – prior to the rise of Birmingham, Coventry was the big city of the region, and this road went straight there.

Today’s low-rise council housing on Lion Street is now showing its original provenance as a malthouse and the Victoria Spade & Shovel Works. Baylie and Kennedy are still on chainworks land, although it seems this wasn’t the industrial brownfield site we might have imagined – a line of trees is under the future Baylie Court.

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1903
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1903

Back to 1903 now and the whole site is a much more pastoral scene than now. West and Wheeler Streets are still works in progress, and the factories and housing on this side of town are much more sparse in general. Hemplands Road is still yet to be extended around, and that area is a maze of footpaths and small houses.

Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1884
Baylie and Kennedy Courts, 1884

Our last call is a street plan from 1884, which shows just how Stourbridge has always had a mix of the industrial, residential and plain green. Both blocks sit on wooded gardens to the rear of the Chain & Fencing Works. Baylie partly covers Nodland House, which seems to have been some sort of gentleman’s boarding house or school arrangement. Other buildings of note are Victoria Hall, later the Drill Hall; Red Lion Inn on Green Street (there’s now a Red Lion House); Cross Keys PH on New Street, under Tesco delivery area now; court numbers 2 and 3 are showing some of the less salubrious housing available to the working family; and a smithy – again, buried under Tesco.

I’m not sure if these pictures prove anything, but I didn’t really set out to do so! You can have a lot of fun with maps, that’s my main motivation for everything!



1 Comment

  1. I thought you might find this article interesting too! I find the story of the flats fascinating – particularly since when I was elected as a councillor in Brierley Hill I had to pick up some of the consequences of the decisions made in the late 1950s and early 60s.

    Kind regards, Tim


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