Balsall Heath

Balsall Heath is a working class, inner-city area of Birmingham, England. It is home to a diverse cultural mix including Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Irish and English, and the home of the Balti Triangle, a collection of Asian Balti restaurants and sweet centres.

History

Balsall Heath was agricultural land between Moseley village and the city of Birmingham until the 1850s when expansion along Moseley Road joined the two. The area was originally part of the Worcestershire parish of King's Norton, and was added to the county borough of Birmingham in Warwickshire on October 1, 1891.

During negotiations in the previous year it had been promised a public baths, to be built by the City of Birmingham Baths Department, and a free library, to be constructed by the Free Libraries Committee. In 1895 the library was opened on Moseley Road and in 1907 Balsall Heath Baths were opened in an adjoining building. The small lake ("Lady Pool" on old maps) at the end of Ladypool Road was also filled-in to create a park. In 1900 the area became home to the city's College of Art.

Balsall Heath initially had a reasonably affluent population, which can still be seen in the dilapidated grandeur of some of the larger houses. A train station on Brighton Road (on the Birmingham to Bristol line) led to further expansion and the end of the 19th century saw a proliferation of high-density small terraced houses.

A Muslim community was started in June 1940 when two Yemenis purchased an artisan cottage on Mary Street. They went on to establish the first mosque in the city. With the mosque being located in the area, more Muslim immigrants began to move into private lodgings in Balsall Heath [cite book|author=Abner Cohen|title=Urban Ethnicity|pages=96|year=2004|publisher=Routledge|isbn=0415329825]

Balsall Heath remained a respectable working-class suburb until the 1950s when street prostitution first appeared. Property values fell attracting Birmingham's poorer immigrants. By the 1970s the area was notorious for street robberies and drug dealing. Prostitutes also sat semi-naked in the windows of houses on Cheddar Road, openly touting for trade.

By 1980, many of Balsall Heath's houses were in a dilapidated condition, and some were still without bathrooms or indoor toilets. The local authority considered demolishing these properties but chose to refurbish them as part of an Urban Renewal scheme. Most of these Victorian terraces still exist and characterize the area today. The area's traditional 'brick' pavements were replaced at this time by the more modern and conventional paving slabs.

Balsall Heath’s low rents also attracted a bohemian student population. Its proximity to the University of Birmingham, the city centre and the ‘trendy’ area of Moseley were also contributing factors. There was little conflict between the students and locals despite their vastly differing lifestyles. However a knife-incident 1991 led to an article in Redbrick warning students not to live in the area.

In September 1992, a report was published encouraging the formation of a zone of tolerance towards prostitution in Balsall Heath. This was opposed by a local police inspector and by residents. The following year Samo Paull, a woman working as a prostitute, was abducted from Balsall Heath and murdered. In 1994, local residents began to organize street patrols forcing the prostitutes and street criminals out of the area. These patrols had the qualified support of the police but were regarded as vigilantes by some. During this time the Sisters of Charity, a Christian organisation, offered outreach support to the prostitutes. [cite book|author=Vicky Randall|coauthors=Georgina Waylen|title=Gender, Politics and the State|pages=97-98|year=1998|publisher=Routledge|isbn=041516401X]

The area subsequently enjoyed a slow revival. House prices are now similar to other inner-city areas while the crime rate is amongst the lowest. Property developers were also confident enough to convert the former Robinson's warehouse on Moseley Road into up-market flats, something that would have been incredible ten years earlier.

Balsall Heath was hit by a tornado in July 2005 which devastated many buildings around Church Road and Ladypool Road. Birmingham City Council offered loans to those who were unable to repair their properties and the area has now made a full recovery.

Notable people from Balsall Heath

*Alan Deakin, former Aston Villa captain.
*Don Maclean, comedian.
*Donnaleigh Bailey, actress.
*Howard R Davies, racing motorcyclist.
* John Kenneally V.C.
*Percy Bullock, Worcestershire cricketer.
*UB40, a reggae band.

References

* V.M. Hart (1992) "Balsall Heath: A History." Brewin Books Limited
* J. Moth (1951) "The City of Birmingham Baths Department 1851 – 1951."

External links

* [http://www.balsallheathforum.org.uk/start.htm About Balsall Heath]
* [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/balsallheathlibrary Balsall Heath Library]
* [http://www.digitalrailroad.net/desegershon/Production/PhotoGroupView.aspx?pbid=4&msa=1&pgid=2569929 Images of Balsall Heath in 1970]
*oscoor gbx|SP075845
*coord|52.45840|N|1.89105|W|region:GB_scale:10000_source:enwiki-osgb36(SP075845)|display=inline,title|name=Balsall Heath Geolinks for Balsall Heath


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