In Memoriam. Jim Fitzpatrick

The sudden death of Jim on October 8th has come as a great shock to us all. He has been a member of the Society for nearly 20 years and has made a huge contribution to our understanding of Balsall Heath’s history. He was committed to collecting stories from Balsall Heath people and spent a lot of time interviewing people, writing up the results and presenting them in an illustrated form for the Gazette newsletter.

Over the years he has taken an active role in all our exhibitions, events and stalls, ever keen to promote the Society, and has also worked on some of our publications, especially Tales Out of School, and Stars of Balsall Heath. I am personally indebted to him for his massive support for the Lost Children Project in all its aspects- research, publicity, exhibitions and the play. He has been a key member of the Society and will be badly missed.

Jim was also a member of the Birmingham History Theatre Company . He used often to tell people that he originally got involved as a scenery shifter but somehow got roped in to play significant parts in a host of productions. He was willing to try his hand at anything and dress up appropriately too.

He played a wide range of characters, from an eighteenth century canal entrepreneur to Police Chiefs, a Tollhouse Keeper, a farm labourer, the Stationmaster of Camp Hill Station, a Canadian farmer and Headmaster of Fairbridge Farm School

His most recent roles were as Harry Withers, the Bournville Carilloneur and Mr Butcher, founder of the works on the Moseley Road, now the OPW, Old Print Works. He approached all his roles with great commitment and humour.

I will remember Jim for his unfailing support, his creativity, his kindness and generosity. When I had a bereavement in 2018 he stepped up to take a lead part in producing The Gazette newsletter and has continued this for the last five years, expanding and enriching the content.

After his wife, Rose, died in 2020, Jim accelerated his work for the Society. Most recently he has spent vast amounts of time on preparation work for the re publication of my book, Balsall Heath a History. I am not sure this would have been possible without Jim as a driving force.

He gave us all so much, we should honour him.

Jim’s Funeral will be held on Tuesday, November 7th at Redditch Crematorium at 11 a.m. All Welcome.

Val Hart

In Memoriam. Bron Salway.

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that one of our long standing members, Bron Salway passed away on Saturday December 10th 2022. Bron had served on our Committee for many years and was responsible for organising our programme of speakers for our monthly meetings. We will miss Bron very much, not just as a fellow Society member, but as a kind and supportive friend.

Many people will remember her as she was a teacher at Heathmount School for many years and contributed to the community in a variety of different ways. She ran our Victorian and WW2 classroom and was a sparkling presence at Balsall Heath Carnivals. Always ready to help anyone, she made a difference to so many people’s lives. Her joy in life, her sense of humour, her efficiency and her kindness, will stay with us as we remember her passing with heavy hearts. She will leave a big gap in all our lives.

A Memorial for Bron Salway.  June 2023 

A Camellia has been planted at St Paul’s Venture, Malvern St. Our thanks go to Hywel, Mark and the Evergreen Gardening Club for their help.


The Lost Children Play

The play is now available to see on Youtube via this link:

In the play we attempted to present conflicting opinions about the work of the Middlemore Homes – illustrating the desperate conditions which led to parents sending their children abroad as well as a glimpse of what happened to them in Canada. The outstanding feature of the play, however, was the music. Peter Churchill, Community Musician, has written some brilliant songs which are emotive, thought provoking and humorous.


*It was easily the best show that the Birmingham History Drama Group has performed. Peter Churchill’s songs could easily grace the Westend or a musical film out of Hollywood. A.M.

*This is a story people should know about and is told here very well. H.O.

*Great production. So well thought out. I must say the final song bought a tear to my eye. P.R.G Creative   City Projects.

* It was heart breaking. No one talks about these ‘Children in Need’ Andy.

*Wonderful performances and the songs were great. Ceri.

*Really enjoyed very heart-warming and interesting to see an unknown bit of history. Nicky.

*Wonderfully produced, thought provoking even for us who know. P & J( Relative of emigrated child)

* Congratulations to all on a superb show.  I thought it was one of the best theatrical productions I’ve ever seen. Great music and songs, well sung. J.A.

*Moving, impressive performance with community heart. Anon.

*Very, very good totally memorable performance. Well done to everyone involved. Anon.

Very moving and a part of my family’s history. Anon

A Blue Plaque for the Middlemore Homes

2022 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Children’s Emigration Homes in St Lukes Road, Highgate. Founded by John Middlemore, the Homes emigrated over 5000 children, chiefly to Canada but also Australia, between the years 1873 and 1954. The children were from desperate families who consented to their emigration as they saw it as an opportunity for a better life for them.

The original buildings were demolished in 2018 and the area has now been developed by Barratts the builders for housing. The plaque is surrounded by maple trees as a homage to Canada.

The plaque will stand as an enduring reminder of this extraordinary Commonwealth connection which is also a significant part of Birmingham’s heritage

The Unveiling Launch was a glittering occasion, attended by The Lord Mayor, Birmingham Civic Society representatives, relatives of children who were emigrated and Patricia Roberts -Pichette , the leading authority on the Homes, who flew in specially from Canada for the event.

Society Visit to the new Police Museum July 28th

The Lock-Up, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham B4 6BJ

Cost £15 per person. Please pay a £5 deposit at the meeting on May 26th or June 30th or pay by the Donate button on the Local History Society website, by the end of June. Places are limited so book early!

The Museum will be open for our group visit from 5 p.m so there is a chance to look round but you can arrive at a time of your own choosing.
Then 6.15 p.m Gather in the basement for refreshments and a talk from 6.30 to 7.30. Another half hour after that to look round until the visit finishes at 8 pm..

Discover what it was really like to spend time on both sides of the bars in our one-of-a-kind police museum, located in the heart of Birmingham. Transport
yourself back in time as you learn about two centuries of policing history

• Explore our Victorian lock-up that was built in 1891 and remained a working police cell block until 2016

• Find out about our policing pioneers, those who worked in the Lock-up and the people who paved the way for equality and inclusivity. The police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, who fought in the world wars and those who died carrying out their duty.

• Discover what life was like for those who stepped through our doors. Find out about some of Birmingham’s most notorious criminals who were held at the lock-up, including the real Peaky Blinders.

• Investigate and solve crimes in our forensics lab.

• Get hands on and join in the fun by taking part in our interactive displays, dress up in our police uniforms or take your very own mugshot.