Saturday 28 April 2012

Castle Bromwich

Castle Bromwich is a recent name for this area of the city. It used be called Berwood for hundreds of years. For years Berwood or Castle Bromwich was a small village on the outskirts of the expanding Birmingham. It was also poor quality land and prone to flooding. During war years there was an airfield at Castle Bromwich.

Spitfires were made at Castle Bromwich by Vickers and two shadow factories produced much of the needed aircraft replenishments for the armed forces. At their peak over 300 new spitfire units per month were being built here. 

Testing for the planes took place on the airfield. Between the wars the airfield was used for a variety of events and Castle Bromwich had once hoped that it would have been chosed as the site for Birmingham Airport. Castle Vale was also the home of the British International Fairs and consequently the area drew regular visitors for large trade events or aircraft displays.

In 1900 John Dunlop opened a factory here and other manufacturing companies were slowly approaching the area. Birmingham was already on the doorstep. However, Castle Vale never succumbed to the skyline of factories, pollution and noise. It was destined for a different purpose.

Birmingham was now so close that a housing estate was built at Pype Hayes. Whilst the sub standard pre war housing was being replaced by new and modern homes for the masses, the quality and individual character of the homes was often severely lacking.

The Castle Vale housing estates really came into being in the 1960's. Tower blocks sprang up all around Castle Vale and tenants soon moved in. This 1.5 square mile site of the old airfield and surrounding outbuildings became home to over 10,000 people and 5,000 homes.                              
Over the years the quality of living in tower blocks deterioted and vandalism made life in some almost intolerable. Companies in Birmingham would refuse to set up business in the area and the B35 post code was to be avoided at all costs. 

Such was the reputation of Castle Vale. Recent years have seen great moves to provide regeneration and improvements at Castle Vale. Old tower blocks have been pulled down and new homes are going up. Refurbishments ensure that many homes are once again comfortable to live in.

The shopping centre has been turned into a retail park with Sainsbury's providing the much needed supermarket facilities. There are still issues and problems associated with living at Castle Bromwich but a dedicated band of residents with a powerful voice are doing their best to change the face of Castle Bromwich. Castle Vale Housing Action Trust won the secretary of state's Partnership in Regeneration Award in October 2000.

For photographs of Castle Bromwich click here

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