Ideal Village

The Ideal Village was a product of the ambitions of the Ideal Benefit Society. This was a sickness benefit society, which paid members a pension when they retired at 65. Although this was by no means unique at the time it was still ten years before the national state pension scheme was introduced.

Francis Daniels founded the society. He was a schoolmaster from Stroud in Gloucestershire who had come to Birmingham in 1891 to take up an appointment as the District Manager of the Sceptre Life Insurance Society. It was two years later, in 1893, that he co-founded the Ideal Benefit Society. His daughter, Clara Griggs, recalled her father’s objectives in the periodical “British Housing & Planning Review” (October/November 1948). She said her father, “realised that by investing the surplus funds of the Society in housing projects, not only would he obtain for the members an adequate return upon their investments, but he would also be furthering the social betterment of the Midlands public”(1).

The scheme initially started in October 1908 when the Society submitted applications to build 225 houses and shops. The Birmingham Building Registers (2) (held in Central Library) show the applicant to be one J. Lewton. The Ideal benefit Society had leased 17.5 acres of land from Birmingham Corporation on 25th March 1908. Negotiations over the land had been ongoing for three years already by then, the land having been acquired by Birmingham in 1900.  The perimeters of the area were Bordesley Green Road (to the north), Yardley Green Road (to the south), Blakeland Street (to the west) and Belchers Lane (to the east). Back in 1890 the boundary of the borough of Birmingham was west of Blake Lane with just a few houses in Blakeland Street east of the boundary. The isolated area east which Blakeland Street was in was known as Little Bromwich. The road names reflected the country area and strangely moved around by 1905; what is now Bordesley Green Road was then Belchers Lane and what is now Belchers Lane was then Mill Lane. Mill Lane largely ran through fields all the way to the then tiny hamlet of Alum Rock.

The land in the Little Bromwich area was largely owned, before 1900, by two men. J. Weston owned the land north of the then Belchers Lane (now Bordesley Green Road) while Joseph Smallwood owned the land from Blakeland Street to the hedgerows that now follow along the line of Finnemore Road. Birmingham Corporation’s first acquisition was Smallwood’s land which they bought with the intention of building workmen’s cottages. A costing review in 1901 delayed building on the site and the land remained undeveloped. In 1905 the latest proposal to build was defeated in the Council on costs.  The land was offered out to tender  with the Ideal Benefit Society eventually purchasing it. The only significant building that did take place in this period was the construction of Bordesley Green Board School on Bordesley Green Road which opened in 1902 with accommodation for 1038 mixed infants. The official name of the school in those days was Marchmont Road.

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