Handsworth, West Midlands
Handsworth shown within the West Midlands
|Metropolitan county||West Midlands|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
The name Handsworth originates from its Saxon owner Hondes and the Old English word weorthing, meaning farm or estate. It was recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086, as a holding of William Fitz-Ansculf, the Lord of Dudley, although at that time it would only have been a very small village surrounded by farmland and extensive woodland.
From the 13th century to the 18th century, it remained a small village until Matthew Boulton who lived at the nearby Soho House set up the Soho Manufactory in 1764 on Handsworth Heath. Accommodation was built for the factory workers, the village quickly grew, and in 1851, there were over six thousand people living in the township. In that year, work began to build St Michael's Church. Forty years later over thirty-two thousand residents were counted at the census of 1881, and by 1911, this had more than doubled to 68,610.
The development of the built environment was sporadic and many of Handsworth's streets display a mixture of architectural types and periods - among them some of the finest Victorian buildings in the city. Handsworth has two grammar schools - Handsworth Grammar School (for boys) and King Edward VI Handsworth School (for girls). St Andrew's Church is a listed building in Oxhill Road which also held Sunday school classes in a small building on the corner of Oxhill Road and Church Lane. It also contains Handsworth Park, which in 2006 underwent a major restoration, the vibrant shopping area of Soho Road and St. Mary's Church containing the remains of the founders of the Industrial Revolution - Watt, Murdoch and Boulton.
Birmingham historian Dr. Carl Chinn noted that during World War II the boundary between Handsworth and the outlying suburb of Handsworth Wood marked the line between being safe and unsafe from bombing, with Handsworth Wood being an official evacuation zone, despite being at least ten miles away from any countryside that might now qualify as "green belt" land, and being on the periphery of many "high risk" areas. During World War II, West Indians had arrived as part of the colonial war effort, where they worked in Birmingham munitions factories. In the post-war period, a rebuilding programme required much unskilled labour and Birmingham's industrial base expanded, significantly increasing the demand for both skilled and unskilled workers. During this time, there was direct recruitment for workers from the Caribbean and the area became a centre for Birmingham's Afro-Caribbean community.
A tram depot was erected near Birmingham Road, next to the border with West Bromwich, during the 1880s, and remained in use until the tram service ended in 1939. Although it has since been demolished, a replica of the depot was created later in the 20th century at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.
The West Indian population in Birmingham numbered over 17,000 by the 1961 census count. In addition, during this time, Indians, particularly Sikhs from the Punjab arrived in Birmingham, many of them working in the foundries and on the production lines in motor vehicle manufacturing, mostly at the Longbridge plant some 10 miles away.
By the early 1960s, there was much racial tension in the country and a great deal of this was being felt in Handsworth.
Heathfield Estate 
Architect Samuel Wyatt had developed a friendship with Matthew Boulton, for whom he designed Soho House in 1789. In 1790, Boulton recommended Wyatt to his friend James Watt, for whom Wyatt designed Heathfield Hall. Watt died in the house in 1819, and was buried in St Mary's Churchyard (although his tomb is now in the subsequently expanded church).
After a series of subsequent owners who had slowly sold off the associated lands for development of semi-detached villas, in the 1880s engineer George Tangye bought Heathfield Hall. He lived in the house until his death in 1920. After the family sold the house, from 1927 the hall was demolished and the lands redeveloped.
What was the Heathfield Estate is now the land that comprises West Drive and North Drive.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2012)|
Civil unrest 
A riot occurred in 1981, during which similar riots took place in London, Leeds and Liverpool. Handsworth's most notable rioting took place in September 1985 and also overspilled into neighbouring Lozells. As in many parts of Britain, the conflict between local black people and the police and other authorities was the start of unrest. The 1985 Handsworth riots claimed the life of a local post office manager, who was killed when a firebomb was hurled through the window of his shop. After the 1985 riots and a change in perception of British sub-urban integration, community relations were reviewed. Local government worked to improve community relations as a way of managing both racial and cultural differences. Encouragement was provided by arts organisations like West Midlands Ethnic Minority Arts Service; its director, Pogus Caesar, documented the riots and Black Audio Film Collective produced the film 'Handsworth Songs'. Private groups such as Shades of Black work closely with the community.
Another riot occurred on 8 September 1991 and in 2005, further rioting broke out, in which one person was killed, many injured, and damage to property occurred, resulting in the biggest investigation ever undertaken by West Midlands Police. The riots were sparked by rumours that a young black girl had been raped by a group of youths, although no evidence was found to suggest the crime took place, and the supposed victim was never found. On 8 August 2011, the UK riots spread to the Handsworth area, and hundreds of properties and shops were damaged.
Musical legacy 
Handsworth has produced some notable popular musical acts: Steel Pulse (whose first studio album Handsworth Revolution is named after the area), Joan Armatrading, Pato Banton, Benjamin Zephaniah, Swami, Apache Indian, Ruby Turner and Bhangra group B21 and Jamaican musicians such as Mighty Diamonds, Alton Ellis, Burning Spear and Dennis Brown have performed in Handsworth, rare photographs of these musicians are held in Pogus Caesar's OOM Gallery Archive. In addition, Steve Winwood and progressive rock drummer Carl Palmer were born in Handsworth.
The tenor Webster Booth was born in Handsworth in 1902, and began his singing career as a child chorister at the local parish church of St. Mary's. Together with his duettist wife Anne Ziegler, he became a mainstay of West End musicals and World War II musical films. A BBC Showbiz Hall of Fame article described him as "possessing one of the finest English tenor voices of the twentieth century." 
Handsworth Park has hosted numerous events: The Birmingham Tattoo, The Birmingham Festival (both originally called Handsworth- rather than Birmingham-) and the Flower Show, and in 1967 The Birmingham Dog Show. The Scouts Rally was another annual event held in the park for many years when scouts from a wide area congregated and paraded. The Handsworth Carnival grew out of the Flower Show and Carnival; Caribbean style carnivals began in Handsworth Park, in 1984, with a street procession via Holyhead Road. In 1994 the carnival was held in Handsworth Park for the last time. The following year it was moved from the park out onto the streets of Handsworth, since which time it has been known as the Birmingham International Carnival. In 1999, it was again held in a park, but this time in Perry Barr Park. Handsworth Park also hosts an annual Vaisakhi Mela.
Notable residents 
- Joan Armatrading (born 1950) singer-songwriter and musician, grew up in the Brookfields area, since largely demolished and now part of Handsworth. She attended Canterbury Cross School.
- Francis Asbury, born in Handsworth, bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church
- Matthew Boulton (1728–1809) Lived in Soho House. Buried in St Mary's Churchyard.
- Ian Emes, animator and film director
- Bert Freeman (1885–1955), England international footballer was born in Handsworth
- Mr Hudson singer
- Apache Indian, dancehall artist
- Jimmy Moore, England international footballer was born in Handsworth
- William Murdoch (1754–1839). Inventor. He was the first to make extensive use of coal gas for illumination and a pioneer in the development of steam-power. In 1777, he entered the engineering firm of Matthew Boulton and James Watt, whose experiment on the distillation of coal and wood first brought gas lighting to a practical stage, illuminating their factory with it in 1803. Presented with the Rumford Medal by the Royal Society. Buried in St Mary's Churchyard.
- George Ramsay (1855–1926) Secretary/Manager of Aston Villa in the most successful period of the club's history. Buried in St Mary's Churchyard.
- Tommy Roberts, Professional footballer.
- Albert Toft, sculptor.
- Benjamin Zephaniah (born 1958) poet and writer, grew up in Handsworth.
See also 
- Carl Chinn (1996) Brum Undaunted: Birmingham During the Blitz, Birmingham Library Services
- "Tram depot - Black Country Living Museum - Britain's friendliest open air museum". Bclm.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-29.
- Allen Edward Everitt. "Heathfield Hall, Handsworth". Birmingham Reference Library. Retrieved 2010-06-05.
- "George Tangye". Retrieved 2010-06-05.
- Hugh Muir; Riazat Butt (24 October 2005). "A rumour, outrage and then a riot. How tension in a Birmingham suburb erupted". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- "Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth". Showbiz Hall of Fame. BBC. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
- Rookery School
- Ofsted details for unique reference number 132138
- Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
- Simon Baddeley (1997), The Founding of Handsworth Park 1882-1898, Birmingham University
- Carl Chinn (1996), Brum Undaunted: Birmingham During the Blitz, Birmingham Library Services
- Peter Drake (1998), Handsworth, Hockley, & Handsworth Wood, Tempus, Stroud, Glos
- Allen E Everitt (1876), Handsworth Church and its Surroundings, E.C. Osborne, Birmingham
- Frederick William Hackwood (1908), Handsworth: Old & New: A History of Birmingham's Staffordshire Suburb, (re-published: A & B Books, Warley, West Midlands)
- John Morris Jones (1980), The Manor of Handsworth: An Introduction to its Historical Geography, with amendments by "Friends of Handsworth Old Town Hall" 1969. Handsworth Historical Society
- Handsworth General Purposes & other Committees - Minute Book 1880A, Handsworth Local Sanitary Board, Birmingham City Council, Central Library Archives, (ref: BCH/AD 1/1/1)
- Handsworth & Birmingham newspaper cuttings collected and arranged by G.H. Osborne between approx. 1870 and 1900, Birmingham City Council, Central Library Archive (ref: L.f30.3)
- Victor J.Price (1992), Handsworth Remembered, Studley: Brewin Books
- Birmingham City Council's Handsworth Ward pages
- Digital Handsworth
- Handsworth Historical Society
- Handsworth History
- Handsworth, West Midlands in the Domesday Book