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Asylum for the Poor, Summer Lane

Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
A heartbreaking place... The Asylum for the Infant Poor. Summer Lane.....

In 1797, an "Asylum for the Infant Poor" was opened an Asylum Road, at the east side of Summer Lane. William Hutton's 1836 History of Birmingham records that: "The Asylum for the Infant Poor, established in Summer Lane in 1797, is conducted by a committee of guardians and overseers. The manufacture of pins, straw-plait, lace, &c., is carried on for the purpose of employing the children, whose labour produces a profit to the parish. There is a bath, garden, play-ground, school, and chapel connected with this institution. There are usually from two hundred to two hundred and fifty children in this parish family."
The Asylum closed in around 1852.

The asylum was founded in 1797 by the Guardians of the Poor as an industrial residence and school for 250 children.
Standing close to where Milton Street would emerge, it was closed and knocked down in 1846, although the Beehive carved over the door remained on the ruins for a few years afterwards.

Asylum Road recalls this institution. Its older name, however, was Bread Lane.
On the opposite side of Summer Lane to the Asylum, in Wilkinson's childhood were "the brick-kiln fields, more than a hundred acres of grass lands, stretching away over the sandhills to the Lozells. These fields for many years afforded free pasturage for anybody's horses, donkeys, or pigs, and it was also the playground for the young folks in our part of town."

In his vicinity was a hollow where "there was a large pool where we fished for minnows. Farther down the lane, nearly opposite the asylum, there was a smaller pool, where we waded for bullrushes".

Then, in the bend of Summer Lane, where it went into what would become Asylum Road, not far from the Walsall Road, "was one of Birmingham's oldest pleasure resorts, The Cherry Gardens, where, for a few coppers, you could eat your fill of that delicious fruit."


Asylum School, 1797
Established in connection with the poor house in 1797 for the education of the poor and destitute, being supported from the poor rates.

There are 190 scholars; namely 120 boys who are taught Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and 70 girls who learn Reading, Serving and Writing. Moral and Religious instruction are communicated according to the principles of the Church of England. The boys are employed 4 hours and the girl's 3 hours daily, the former in pin making and the latter in domestic work.

The National system is pursued in the school and the guardians of the poor are the appointed visitors.
Connected to the establishment is also an infant's school on the system of Samuel Wilderspin, with 65 scholars namely 36 boys and 29 girls, in which Reading the elements of useful knowledge and Moral and Religious duties are taught to those children under 7 years of age, which are inmates of the Poor House. A lending library of suitable books is attached to the establishment.

This Asylum school was in Summer lane directly opposite Alma Street, There were no house's or any buildings of any kind, it stood all on it's own, surrounded by fields as the Summer Lane continued from the Asylum school it met up with Newtown Row a few hundred yards away. The bottom half of Summer Lane from the Asylum school was later to be known as Asylum Road, prior to this it was known as Bread Street.

There were to many changes to the surrounding area over the years, on this site of the Asylum school. A brass foundry, a shop and a Saw mill and packing case works and at this time in history. Newtown shopping centre, what will the future bring to this historical site? The asylum school was in existence well before Samuel Wilderspin was born, and his methods where adopted in the later days of the schools existence.

The Asylum school was closed about 1838 exact date not known at this time. Why was it that there was so many adults and children, where unable to read and write, when this man Samuel Wilderspin was setting up schools in the early 19th century. Yet council schools where not being built, till the latter end of the 19th century.




31894547_10214045560004282_4150909454327480320_o.jpgSummer Lane 1830 map.jpgAsylum of Poor Map 1830 .jpg31749449_10214045559324265_68066190735441920_o.jpg31766441_10214045560924305_6099665210354696192_o.jpg31880728_10214045560484294_5322778138441154560_o.jpg
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Hi Dennis,

My great grandfather was brought into the Infant Asylum for the Poor in 1835, allegedly a foundling, and was given the name James TAYLOR. When older, he was asked what he, presumably from a short selection of trades, wanted to be, and he chose to be a tailor, and the staff did start to train him in that trade. He was apprenticed to master tailor Robert Bennett, and when training was completed, he started his own business.

He lived at & worked from 53 Howard Street, back of 20 Summer Lane, first 50 & then 13 Great King Street, and finally 48 Heaton Street. A proper Brummie kid! Sadly, no records of the Infant Asylum have survived. He had six children, of which I remember three of the four daughters.

Maurice
 

Lady Penelope

master brummie
Maurice, the only thing I remember about the area was that we used to get off the 5A bus at Asylum Road to go to my aunt's cafe in St Stephen Street. When I was old enough to think about it I always imagined it to be a lunatic asylum as that was the only use I had heard for the word. Nobody explained and I never though to ask.
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Lady P,

My grandmother didn't die until I was 21 and told both my mother and me that her father said that the staff were very kind to him and he certainly had no complaints. But why was he called James Taylor. His understanding was that he was given that name by the staff, but that has always puzzled me, and why I would have liked to find some staff records.

He was told that he was literally found on a doorstep, in which case, the staff never knew his name. Were his names taken from members of staff, or drawn out of a hat? We shall never know, and there doesn't appear to be a staff member of that name on the 1841 census. TAYLOR is a very common surname in Birmingham.

I do know from the 1861 census that he was "partially deaf" at the age of 30. My grandmother was profoundly deaf for most of her life. My mother was very deaf during the last 20 years of her life, as am I, and two of my sons are going deaf. Doctors have also confirmed that my deafness is inherited. It is likely that James' mother was unmarried, but that is the end of the line. I will simply never know who his parents were. Definitely a brick wall! :cool:

Maurice
 

Lady Penelope

master brummie
Yes, we all moan about 'brick walls', Maurice but very few are like yours. I always think about the mothers and how desperate his mother must have felt to leave him on a doorstep and wonder about the circumstances. Very sad.
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Lady P,

Well. there are compensations as the same grandmother married into the Longmores and I have them back to 1610 in Darlaston. We can't have luck all the time! :) But the disappointment is the real lack of information about the Infant Asylum for the Poor and its demolition before the advent of the photograph.

Maurice :cool:
 

Astoness

TRUE BRUMMIE MODERATOR
Staff member
i have always wondered why the asylum only lasted for about 41 years...wonder if there is anything written about the reason for closure and demo

lyn
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Can’t be sure but the infant poor may have been absorbed into the “new” workhouse? The buildings look to be sold according to this advert, and a new estate started.

B293A9C3-06D5-404E-9E78-1B64E4B689AF.jpeg
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Looking a little earlier in 1850 it is said that the corner stone of the new workhouse will be laid on 9 September.

A report from March 1853 gave the average weekly inmates in the new workhouse during 1853 to be 680 including infant poor.
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Lyn,

It seems that the building simply wasn't big enough and they wanted adults and children under the same roof. The population was expanding at a considerable rate, and I feel that my ggrandfather was far better in the old building than he would have been in the new one.

Maurice
 

Lady Penelope

master brummie
Maurice, I'm sure you must have thought of it already but have you looked at Birmingham Archives to see if there are any records there. If there are I'm happy to go and look at them for you. If you can't find anything I will ask on my next visit as they also have lists of things which aren't on the website.

Penny
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Thank you very much, Penny, but yes, I have been to the Archives and they say that nothing survived. I have been chasing this since around 1990 and they also said that there were no records for the newer workhouse before 1880. I think that they were destroyed long before the advent of more compact methods of storage such as microfilm.

When I worked at BCT from 1953 to 59, in the Accounts Office they had suppliers' invoices back to 1906, and these included things such things as hay for the horses. I bet they have not survived the transition to WMPTE! Companies House have similarly destroyed the records of defunct companies once they were 20 years old, but that has only happened since they moved the headquarters to Cardiff. Back in the late 1980s, you could buy a microfiche of documents for £1 and it was prepared while you waited. How times have changed.........

Maurice
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Dennis, there seem to be two dates in the first post for the closure of the Asylum, around 1852 and around 1838.

In 1843 there were meetings to discus whether to have a new Workhouse for adults only, and to hold about 600, or if it was better to have a combined Workhouse and Asylum for all ages and classes, the number would then be about 1,000. In the second case the present site would be unsuitable for rebuilding and expanding. They eventually opted for the new site and a combined Workhouse and Asylum, which opened in 1852.

For Maurice a Guardian’s meeting from 1836...

72746664-86C7-47B9-A63E-73A1D1B55C49.jpegA1638836-1E94-4AF6-BB17-6C86909298C7.jpegC0B98FED-2796-447B-8F01-F1D1F6C4D77E.jpegDABBAB90-5F5E-4B88-8E11-7FC0135109AA.jpeg57A73B55-4A06-4CF6-A734-84BCD4CAA44A.jpegA7F21412-67E2-460C-8367-664D22FA4BCE.jpeg
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Yes, Pedro, definitely not 1838 as my ggrandfather was still there along with many others on the 1841 census.

Maurice
 
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