As far back as 1086, there was a grange in the Convent of Hales called Ridgacre. For many years following, Quinton or The Quinton, as it is sometimes known, was called Ridgacre or many other similar sounding names such as Rugacre, Rugaker or Rugeacre etc. However, it was also called such names as Queynton, Quenton etc.
Quinton remained part of HalesOwen parish until 1841 when it was given its own Anglican church, Christchurch was built of red sandstone in the Early English style, having a centre aisle, chancel and bell turret with one bell, it also had four handsome stained glass windows of the Victorian era. It was built on land given by Lord Cobham in 1841; the cost of the building was £2066.
In 1844 Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary describes Quinton as, an ecclesiastical district formed out of the parish of HalesOwen, in the county of Salop, 21/4 miles (N.E.) from Hales Owen and 43/4 miles (W. by S.) from Birmingham. Quinton is on the Kidderminster and Birmingham turnpike road. The surface of the land is elevated; the soil, clay and gravel, and the scenery pleasing. Two small coal-mines are in operation but the inhabitants are mostly employed in nail making and agriculture. In fact the oldest house in Quinton stands on the corner of High Street and Ridgacre Road West and is called the ‘Nailers Cottage’. The rear of the cottage contains the windows from the old Tollhouse, demolished in 1946. The nailers traded as small cottage industries and the nail-factor, a man by the name of Samuel Dingley, would deliver raw materials and then collect the finished article, paying out only a few pence to the nailers as recompense for their labours.
The population had increased to 2274 by 1851, when Quinton was described as an extensive parish comprising the townships of Cakemore, Ridgacre, Warley Salop and Warley Wigorn; and wholly an agricultural district. With the exception of Beech Tree Lane, few of the roads were sound and following rain or snow; the walker was left to negotiate quite deep pools of water. The tipping of a large quantity of loose stones into the holes was the only method of repair available; this would cause the additional hazard of an uneven surface for the walker to encounter. Most people used to walk, as public transport was very limited.
Quinton has been synonymous with Methodism, since Ambrose Foley invited John Wesley to preach in Quinton in 1778. The initial meeting took place at Foley’s home, Quintain Green (or Moncton House, as it was sometimes known). However, the numbers attending increased rapidly and so Foley decided to build a preaching house off College Road, to the rear of the Tollhouse. This chapel survived until 1877, when one was built in Ridgacre Road to replace it. In 1876, Quinton, with the population scattered across 2500 acres, was a tiny village, set in an agricultural community. Evidence to this effect is in the Worcestershire Directory of 1876 which lists in it’s ‘Commercial Section’- 52 persons, of whom 27 are farmers, their suppliers or ancillary workers.
William Stringer, a Darlaston preacher, introduced Primitive Methodism into Quinton, 40 years after Foley had invited Wesley to preach there. Services were held in barns and farm buildings, but the villagers did not accept the new movement, in quite the same way that Wesley had been accepted. The first chapel was opened in 1840, being followed 48 years later by the building in College Road. In 1882 an establishment, known as Bourne College, was built on a 19-acre site off Spies Lane, principally for the education of the sons of Primitive Methodists. The college was named after its founder, Hugh Bourne, it’s headmaster for nearly all of its life was T J Stewart Hooson B. A. The college was attended by 39 boys from the village and 1159 from other parts of the country and the world. After the closure of Bourne College, in 1928, the buildings were rebuilt, restyled and re-opened as Quinton Hall in 1931. The building was to be a residential home for elderly men, administered by Birmingham Corporation, sadly it was demolished in 1978 and residential houses now occupy the site.
A most prominent supporter of Primitive Methodism in the district was Edwin Danks, a founder of the Oldbury firm of boilermakers. His home was Apsley House, in Halesowen Road, which is at present the site of the ABC Cinema. The cinema opened as the ‘Danilo’ on 7th August 1939, it has also been called the ‘Essoldo’, the ‘Classic’ and the ‘Cannon’. In 1901 the population of the parish was 5200, later in 1907 there was strong feelings towards backing Hales Owen’s plans for a sewerage system covering both areas. The Reverend James Jones, Chairman of the parish Council, was a very formidable personality, and there was no doubt in his mind that Hales Owen’s proposal should be rejected, in favour of an approach from Birmingham. The many advantages of becoming part of Birmingham were overwhelming and so, on 9th November 1909 annexation took place and Quinton extended Birmingham by 838 acres.
After twelve months the council agreed to develop the area for residential use, with a low housing density of twelve to the acre. Factories were banned for two reasons, there was no railway line and second, Quinton was up wind of Edgbaston and the council didn’t want the smoke, smells and sounds of manufacturing wafting over the wealthy populace of Birmingham. It was the first scheme in the country to be accepted under the Housing and Planning Act of 1909 and was to become a model for other local authorities. Between the wars, the area was almost entirely built up and the population of Quinton increased twenty fold between 1921 and 1961. The urbanisation of Quinton was long delayed because for many years it had remained a rural spot dominated by half a dozen farms, of which World’s End Farm; Four Dwellings Farm; Welsh House Farm and Goodrest Farm were but four. Quinton had historical links with Charles II, after he had escaped from the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It is believed that he sought refuge at Goodrest Farm and at Howley Grange, off Spies Lane. Indeed, a pike was said to have been found in the walls of Howley Grange when it was demolished.
In recent times the character of the area has been dramatically changed by road developments, with the M5 and the Quinton Expressway (opened in 1970) cutting through the heart of the old village.
Many people still recall memories of Quinton before the 1960’s, when the village had its own fire engine; a hand pump machine, which was kept in a small fire station in Ridgacre Road. Mail would be carried into Birmingham in a dog-trap by Tom Hadley, the postman from HalesOwen, who would stop at Quinton during the afternoon and blow on a long horn to let the villagers know he was there. The Yates family used the premises on the corner of High Street and Bissell Street as a home brewery. Indeed, the name of Cheshires Quinton Brewery, still appears in feint lettering on the side wall in High Street. To the rear of the houses in Meadow Road stood a recreational area known as Quinton Park, the venue where many of the annexation celebrations had been held. The Lord Mayor in his speech on that day noted, “as far as the eye could reach, there were green fields and tree-clad hills”. The whole village was decorated, and a procession took place from the Rectory to the Recreation Ground. The park still remains, although sadly, as a greatly reduced area because housing occupies the land and the motorway is a prominent feature of the landscape.
Quinton has changed dramatically through the years. However, the place that remains is still fairly serene and peaceful and the folk that live there, as in the past, are warm, friendly and welcoming.
Bernard J. Taylor
Chairman - Quinton Local History Society