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A brief history of Elmdon

Elmdon Airport with a Bi-Plane waiting to take passengers on board. Elmdon is a small area on the outskirts of the conurbation of Birmingham and Solihull. To some in the Midlands, and perhaps nationwide, it is best known for its Airport which is now known as Birmingham International Airport with huge terminals and car parks. Until comparatively recently, passengers who went from Birmingham went through a listed building known as Elmdon Airport.

>More old postcards of Elmdon Airport in the 1950's

There is another side to Elmdon and clues remain to this day which probably pass people by. A stroll through Elmdon Park refreshes the spirits with its mixture of open hilltop areas, woodland, wetlands and views over the City of Birmingham. Many people visit the church for Sunday teas in the Summer months. Ramblers walk up the cobbled path from the A45 (Birmingham to Coventry Road) past a small lodge and a big brick built house behind old iron fencing known as the Rectory. Modern farming activities are carried out whilst dog walkers skirt crops along hedgerows. The old ld airport terminal building is now the cargo terminal
All these are clues to an Elmdon long gone but in its heyday this small parish boasted an illustrious past with fine buildings and noble people.


Elmdon Hall

At the heart of the 2,000-acre Elmdon Manor Estate stood Elmdon Hall. Abraham Spooner demolished the original Hall - built by John Bolelere in 1547 - in 1783 and rebuilding began. In 1788 Abraham Spooner died at the age of about 100 years and his eldest son Isaac completed the rebuilding of Elmdon Hall in 1795. It was an impressive three storey stone built Georgian mansion typical of the period. Inside there was a drawing room, three reception rooms, fifteen bedrooms, four dressing rooms and wardrobe rooms, and a splendid library with views of the lake. In addition, there was a gunroom, servant’s hall with lounge room, a kitchen scullery, larder and dairy, and large beer cellars. Elmdon Hall
chOldHall.JPG (114558 bytes) In the court yard there was an engine house with a 6bhp gas engine with dynamo, electric light plant and batteries, a bakehouse, brew house, laundry house and ironing rooms, a soft water tank and a slaughter house. In the servants yard there was a game larder, boathouse, coal house and wood house.

The stabling consisted of a coach house and also a smaller coach house, stabling for twelve horses, harness room, mews room, and open trap shed and corn store.In 1840 William Charles Alston purchased the Elmdon Estate at an auction sale at Dees Royal Hotel, Birmingham. The 1851 census of Elmdon shows William Charles Alston, his wife Elizabeth Ann, and five children living at the Hall. There was also a Coachman, Gardener, Tutor, Housekeeper, Head Nurse, Lady’s maid and seven House servants.



The Walled Garden

Old Walled Garden The 2.7 acres of walled garden were able to supply the Hall with fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers throughout the year. The rectangular shape with the long north and south facing walls was considered ideal for maximum sunshine and warmth, with plantations of trees arranged as windbreaks. These were outside the north, north-west and north-east sides of the garden walls which are 12 feet high. The head and under gardeners had cottages close by at Elmdon Farm with as many as 20 men and boys working in the kitchen and pleasure gardens.
The walled garden was intersected by wide grass paths with neat box hedges, and after the removal of the glass tax in 1845, extensive greenhouses and cold frames. Around the walls espalier and fan shaped apple trees with the more tender fruits such as nectarines and apricots occupying the south facing walls. The stables at Elmdon Farm provided a ready supply of horse manure.


The Rectory

the Rectory, built in 1803 by Isaac Spooner
The Rectory
This was the Rectory, built in 1803 by Isaac Spooner. His son William was the first occupant and he remained Rector for 54 years. He was the Archdeacon of Coventry and also held two other livings. His seventh child Catherine married A.C.Tait Headmaster of Rugby School, later to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. Living in the Rectory at the time of the 1851 census of Elmdon were nine members of the Spooner family, together with nine servants – a Butler, Housekeeper, Lady’s Maid, House maid, two servants and three nurses.


In 1948 the building was sold and became private residences with a covenant that the title "Rectory" would not be used in the name for the building.


The Old Rectory

The Old Rectory


Elmdon Parish Church

Elmdon Church c1900
Elmdon Church c1900

The existence of a Church in the parish is first recorded in the Calendar of Close Rolls for 1297 – the ‘Church of Elmdone’ had had ‘Edmund de Whitaker’ as its Parson. The Manor remained in the hands of various members of the ‘de Whitaker’ family until the mid 16th century. The Manor was then passed through several other hands until around 1760 it was sold to Abraham Spooner. It is in the period from Spooner onwards that Elmdon became a Manor with history and a great deal of interest.


Elmdon Church and
Wilberforce Hall extension

Elmdon Church and Wilberforce extention 2000

The Spooner family


The coat of Arms of the Spooner family

The Spooner family were responsible for the buildings we see today at Elmdon – some still standing and used, some just outlines on the ground. Abraham Spooner built the Present Church on the site of an old Saxon Church just before his death in 1788. Spooner, although 90 years of age, oversaw the destruction of the old church because " The Ancient Edifice is become of late so very weak and dilapidated". (This may have been the reason that Abraham and Anne Spooner traveled 7 miles to St.Martin’s, Birmingham to have each of their seven children christened, rather than walk the short distance to the old Elmdon Church.) The new church was built upon the same site, largely using the old foundations and was completed in 1782.
The estate of Elmdon passed to his son, Isaac Spooner, who rebuilt Elmdon Hall and the Rectory. On his death the estate passed to his son, Abraham Spooner Lillingston who died tragically after a tree fell on him outside Whar Hall Farm in 1834. The estate was sold in 1840 to the Alston family and remained in its possession until 1920 when a large part of the estate was sold. In 1930 the rest of the estate was auctioned off to various parties, and the glory days of Elmdon had ended. The old parkland was ploughed up for agriculture and many fine trees felled.

In 1944 the Hall and land was sold to Solihull Urban District Council. The Hall was used for housing the Home Guard during the war years, and then the building was left empty. The main staircase rotted and collapsed due to the roof letting in water as the lead had been stripped. The building became a gaunt and eerie relict of its glorious days gone by. The broken windows, unkempt lawns and cost of refurbishment had given the Hall its death sentence, and it was demolished in 1956.

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