Bearwood, West Midlands
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2007)|
Bearwood shown within the West Midlands
|OS grid reference|
|Metropolitan county||West Midlands|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||B66 - B68|
|Dialling code||0121 420 / 429|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
Bearwood is the southern part of Smethwick, in Sandwell, West Midlands, England, and north of the A456 Hagley Road, and the wider locality extending into North Edgbaston in Birmingham. Bearwood Hill was the original name of the High Street from Smethwick Council House to Windmill Lane. The border at the Shireland Brook where Portland Road (Edgbaston) becomes Shireland Road (Sandwell) is signed "Bearwood" (February 2014).
The Bearwood telephone exchange area marked out by the 0121-429 numbers extends as far east as Harborne Walkway.
Bearwood like many areas of the West Midlands conurbation has a local sense of place, although has become absorbed into Smethwick proper. Many locals still use the term "The Bear" especially referring to "The Bear Hotel" located in Bearwood. An old map of the 18th century mentions 'The Bear of Smithwick'.
Modern Bearwood centres around the Bearwood Road, and especially the crossroads with Sandon Road (to the east) and Three Shire Oak Road (to the west). Historically, Bearwood extended as far north as Smethwick High Street by Victoria Park east of the Council House. The 1899 Smethwick Borough surveyor's map of Smethwick shows Bearwood Ward as including Cheshire Road from its junction immediately opposite the Council House. Bearwood Hill is the old name for the High Street south of Victoria Park. The approach to Cape Hill from Birmingham via Portland Road still (March 2014) has a sign saying Bearwood.
Bearwood has a series of shopping parades along Bearwood Road, including a small indoor market, and a number of other local amenities such as banks, supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies. There are several opticians and a large NHS dental practice situated on this road. The Birmingham Outer Circle bus routes (the 11A and the 11C), which link Birmingham's suburbs, have stops here. Bearwood also has a number of restaurants serving a range of different cuisines.
Bearwood Road leads northwards to Smethwick High Street, and at the southern end joins Hagley Road, one of the main arterial routes into Birmingham from the M5 at Junction 3. If the plans for the Midlands Metro extension along the Hagley Road are realised, Bearwood will also have a tram stop.
Between 1923 and 1973, Bearwood was the headquarters of the Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Company - or "Midland Red" - based at the company's depot in Bearwood Road. Although most of the company's innovative buses were built at its Carlyle Road workshops in nearby Edgbaston, they were all registered at Bearwood and as such carried the Smethwick 'HA' prefix on their number plates.
Some of the Birmingham conurbation's older properties can be found in the roads adjoining Bearwood Road. A traditionally upper working class area of Victorian terraced houses, this has more recently become much sought after, as house prices in neighbouring areas such as Harborne have moved out of the range of first time buyers.
Commerce and industry
Until the main era of house building in the 20th century, the main industry was agriculture. By 1903, Beakes Farm between Rawlings Road and Hadley Stadium was the last farm. Bearwood has had very little manufacturing industry, the most important being the Thomas Mitchell Pens factory at the northern end of Bearwood Road.
The main commercial activity is shops and other service sector businesses.
For completeness, landmarks up to the 1899 Bearwood Ward boundary, and those associated with the Bearwood area, both on the Birmingham side of the border, and west of Thimblemill Brook, may be included.
The former Lloyds Bank building, situated between Waterloo Road and High Street (originally Bearwood Hill) is a prominent feature on Cape Hill. This was for a number of years used as a Weatherspoon's public house, but at March 2014 it is for sale. The three storey building is very ornate, and a prime example of early 20th century bank architecture.
Further north along the High Street, at the junction of Bearwood Road and High Street towards Smethwick Council House, is Jee Jee's Indian Restaurant. This former public house is a prominent landmark building.
The former Mitchell Pen Factory, now serving as Bearwood Nursing Home, is a landmark building towards the north end of Bearwood Road.
The Shireland Collegiate Academy, formerly Shireland Secondary School, has a prominent building dating from 1907 on the corner of Waterloo Road and Grange Road.
The Barleycorn public house, on Bearwood Road opposite the southern end of Waterloo Road, is a fine example of a brick built Mitchell & Butlers public house.
Bearwood Baptist Church.
Bearwood Primary School.
"Parade", dated 1897, and currently almost entirely occupied by T C Hayes (electrical shop) dominates the north-east corner of the junction of Bearwood Road and Sandon Road.
The Bear Tavern is a major landmark on the corner of Bearwood Road and Three Shire Oak Road.
Bearwood Telephone Exchange, on Sandon Road by Poplar Road, was on the Birmingham side of the old borders, but is in Smethwick, Sandwell, in the current borders.
Lightwoods Park and House is the landmark at the south of Bearwood.
The King's Head public house on the south side of Hagley Road on the corner with Lordswood Road is officially in Harborne, but it has always been regarded as a Bearwood landmark. It is featured as such on the front cover of the modern reprint of the 1903 Ordnance Survey map of Bearwood.
Sandon Road has two church buildings which are locally associated with Bearwood.
West of Thimblemill
Abbey Infant and Junior schools, on the peak of Abbey Road by Warley Woods serves the Bearwood area.
Bearwood is well served by major bus routes, with the Bearwood Interchange at the crossroads of the Hagley Road and Bearwood Road. Some other bus routes cross the Bearwood Road by The Bear.
Lightwoods Park is located to the west of Bearwood, on the north side of Hagley Road. It consists of Lightwoods House and grounds. In 1902, following the death of Caleb Adkins, the house and grounds were put up for sale, with the risk that it would be demolished for building houses on the estate. A. M. Chance led a committee which by public subscription purchased the estate and handed it over to Birmingham Corporation as a public park. By 1905, further public subscriptions enabled more land to be bought and added to the park
The bandstand and other features have the Birmingham City crest with the motto, "Birmingham Forward" in recognition of the ownership of the park by Birmingham City Corporation.
The most recent tenant of Lightwoods House was the Hardman company, which makes stained glass windows. In November 2010, by agreement between the two Councils, Lightwoods Park was handed over to Sandwell MBC.
Features include a skateboard ramp and bowling green. "The Shakespeare Garden", a walled garden alongside the house, was planted with every identifiable plant in Shakespeare's plays. The bandstand (a Grade II listed building ). A drinking fountain also has City of Birmingham inscriptions. The historic Lightwoods House, a Grade II listed building  is now undergoing extensive renovation.
Also on 14 September 2012 it was host to a Drive-in movie for the viewing of Grease one of the first Drive-In movie's in the United Kingdom for many years.
Warley Park, colloquially called "Warley Woods", is nearby. It is grade II listed on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. It covers 100 acres (0.40 km2) and includes a meadow, woodland and a public golf course.
Every year Warley Woods hosts a music festival entitled Picnic In The Park - to promote local bands & artists and to raise funds to maintain the parkland.
Bearwood Primary School is the main school in Bearwood, located on Bearwood Road on the corner with Ethel Street. above average size, serving 479 pupils, it is a mixed sex school for children aged of 3 to 11 years.
St Gregory's Primary School on Park Road, betwwen Abbey Road and St Mary's Road, is a mixed school for children aged 3 to 11.
At the northern end of the Bearwood area is Shireland Collegiate Academy, on Waterloo Road.
Places of worship
There is a Roman Catholic church (Our Lady and St Gregory's) on Three Shires Oak Road.
Bearwood Baptist Church is on the corner of Bearwood Road and Rawlings Road.
Bearwood Chapel is set back from Bearwood Road opposite the Bearwood Primary School.
The Methodist Church is now in the former Church of Christ Scientist on the junction of Sandon Road and Poplar Avenue.
The original Wesleyan Methodist Church building on the corner of Sandon Road and Barnsley Road is now used by the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
New Life Christian Centre is the Assembly of God Pentecostal church, located on PArgeter Road near to Thimblemill Road.
Bearwood has a small range of local restaurants: Azzari Too, Martin's Restaurant, The King's Arms, Purnima (formerly Teknaf Cuisine) Local pub The Bear Tavern (The Bear Hotel) hosted comedy nights in the 1980s hosted by local comedian Frank Skinner (Chris Collins) and many TV comedians appeared there, including Sean Hughes, Ed Byrne and some of TV's "The Fast Show". It now stages a monthly clubnight, Club Mojo, and hosts an annual charity Music festival entitled Bearwoodstock.
Bearwood's main musical claim to fame lies with Christine Perfect, who grew up in Bearwood and studied sculpture at art college in Birmingham. She joined Fleetwood Mac and married John McVie in 1970 and, as Christine McVie, went on to become one of the outstanding members in the band's long and illustrious career. Keith Law member of the bands, Velvett Fogg and 'Jardine', lived in Park Road, Bearwood, in the mid-1980s. Other musical claims to fame include the now defunct "Little Nibble" cafe getting a mention on Dexy's Midnight Runners "Don't Stand Me Down" album and local -ish band The Twang rehearsing at the Sandwell Snooker Centre in the town. Well known actress Julie Walters lived in Bishopton Road as a child.
There are many local musicians in the area and until recently there were regular acoustic performances at Atticus Bar, which closed its doors in November 2008. Until his death in 2012 saxophonist Andy Hamilton performed weekly gigs along with his sons and Blue Notes band at the Corks Club on Bearwood High Street.
In 2011 a group of local people began to stage free music events at the bandstand in Lightwoods Park, these events are known as the Bearwood Shuffle and have attracted large crowds with an eclectic mix of local acts both established and unsigned.
- Ordnance Survey map, 1903
- Ordnance Survey map, 1903
- Greenslade, Baggs, Baugh & Johnston, A History of the County of Stafford, Volume 17 (Offlow Hundred), 1976
- Greenslade, Baggs, Baugh & Johnston, Op. Cit.
- Sandwell MBC news item
- Sandwell MBC listed building s register
- Sandwell MBC listed buildings register
- Warley Woods Community Trust
- Church of England web site, section for Bearwood, St Mary.