by Malcolm K. Read
My great -great grandfather John Read purchased the land and property to be known as “ Highfield Cottage” in August 1877, shortly before its completion in 1878, from Thomas Bissell son of the late James Bissell, for the sum of £56.5s.0d.(See map one).
My great, great grandfather had been employed for some 43 years and up to his death in 1914, as a night watchman at chemical works, which I assume to be at Albright & Wilson in Langley, Oldbury. He must have been paid reasonably well to be able to afford such a property. Prior to this occupation like most of the Read family he was a nail forger.
The above came as somewhat of a surprise as I had researched my family history and had always assumed he had rented the property. It was only when I contacted the present owner of the two storey flat (no 22), that she informed me that she had the original deed of sale between Thomas Bissell and John Read. I could not believe it and the document was in excellent condition, totally readable, it had been passed on to her by the previous owner of the flat.
The property even though it has an imposing front elevation, which sets it apart from the other houses on the High Street, was originally a modest two up two down property (see house plans) with single storey outbuildings. The latter I feel confident, would have housed a separate kitchen leading directly off the family room, a toilet and coal store. The property which is now no. 22 still retains the original staircase with a door under, leading to a short flight of brick steps down to a small recess, which I feel sure was a cold store and pantry.
The room I have marked family room is where they would have spent most of their everyday lives. The room I have marked front room, would have been reserved for those special occasions.
It would have had the best furniture, carpet square or rug and possibly a piano.
With regard to the two storey extension (1885-1902 added by John Read) to the rear of the property and when it was divided into two separate dwellings, comprised of an additional ground and first floor room, each with their own single storey outbuildings, incorporating the same facilities as above (See map two).
It is quite possible that each dwelling had a bathroom on the first floor. The property, which is now no. 22, retains the original entrance and the property, which is now no. 24, had a new entrance to the right hand side, which is retained to day.
On both ordnance survey maps the front porch has never been indicated. I feel this is not a mistake on the part of the surveyors it must have been added at a later date, after 1902 the same bricks would have been available at this time.
After John Read and his wife Emma nee Price died in 1914 the property was passed on to his only son Edward, my properties is not known, what I do know is that Edward was living there at the time of his death in 1917 at the age of(49), he leaves a wife Ellen nee Roberts three sons, Herman (my grandfather), Mourill (Fred), Allan and a daughter Elsie May.
What happened to the properties or property after his death is not known, my grandfather certainly did not inherit any bricks and mortar.
I am unable at this time to find a record of Edward Read’s wife Ellen, this would shed some light onto whether or not she was living at “Highfield Cottage” at her time of death.
It is possible, I hope, that of the many readers of the “Quinton Oracle” one of them may have memories of the owner or occupiers of “Highfield Cottage” after say 1920-1999 I have included an extract from the deed of sale below dated 31st August 1877 between Thomas Bissell and John Read, which may be of some interest.
The property is still two separate dwellings, now referred to as two self-contained luxury flats. The present owner of no.22 has carried out extensive alterations since she purchased the flat in 1999. Sensibly she employed the services of an architect and together they achieved a most commendable job.
The wall to the left hand side of the original staircase was removed, bringing it into the lounge. To the rear of the lounge is a large kitchen the full width of the property, which is light and well fitted out, beyond this is the breakfast/dining room with a small projecting conservatory and a window, which lets in loads of natural light and gives a view onto the boarded patio and the simple well laid out lawned garden-in all a magnificent space.
The first floor accommodation now comprises, two bedrooms and a bathroom, the main bedroom as an en-suite shower room. I wonder what my great-great grandfather would have made of this 21st century refurbishment, I know one thing for certain, he would not have got his head round the present day valuation of both these flats, some £180,000 each, £56.5s.0d. he paid for the property and the land in 1877.
They say prices are relative to the time, I wonder!
I was informed that the property next-door no. 24 was extended and refurbished to the same high standard using the same architect.
Ed’s comment - Yet again a most absorbing article by Malcolm and made all the more interesting with the inclusion of his wonderfully detailed maps and plans. If anyone can help Malcolm further with his research I am sure he would be delighted to hear from him or her.
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