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Solihull ( or ) is a large town in the West Midlands of Englandmarker, with a population of 94,753. It is a part of the West Midlands conurbationmarker and is located 9 miles (14.5 km) southeast of Birminghammarker city centre. It is the largest town in, and administrative centre of, the larger Metropolitan Borough of Solihullmarker which itself has a population of 200,400.

Solihull is one of the most prosperous towns in the English Midlandsmarker. Residents of Solihull and those born in the town are referred to as Silhillians. The motto of Solihull is Urbs in Rure (Town in the Country).

History

Toponymy

Solihull derived its name from a 'dirty or muddy' or soily hill which was given by passers-by at the time. The parish church was built on a hill of stiff red marl, which turned to sticky mud in wet weather.

Early history

The town has existed since medieval times when it was founded as a market town and it later became an important coaching and mail coach stop. Solihull probably originally came into being about a thousand years ago, as a clearing in the forest to which people would come to trade. The town is noted for its historic architecture, which includes surviving examples of timber framed Tudor style houses and shops. The historic Solihull Schoolmarker dates from 1560 (although not on its present site). The red sandstone parish church of St. Alphege dates from a similar period and is a large and handsome example of classical British Church architecture, with a traditional spire 168 feet (51 metres) high, making it visible from a great distance. It is located at the head of High Street, Solihull, and is a Grade I listed building. It was founded in about 1220 by Hugh de Oddingsell. A chantry chapel was also founded there by Sir William de Oddingsell in 1277 and the upper chapel in St Alphege was built for a chantry. The priest lived and had his sacristy in a crypt chapel underneath, and the fireplace there can still be seen.

20th century

Unlike nearby Birmingham, the Industrial Revolution largely passed Solihull by and until the 20th century Solihull remained a small market town.World War II also nearly passed Solihull by. Neighbouring Coventrymarker and Birmingham were severely damaged by repeated German bombing raids but apart from some attacks on what is now the Land Rover plant, the airport and the local railway lines, Solihull escaped largely intact.

In 1901, the population of the town was just 7,500. However by the 1960s, the population had grown to over 100,000. This growth was due to a number of factors including a large slum clearance programme in Birmingham, the development of the Rover car plant, the expansion of what was then Elmdon Airportmarker into Birmingham International Airportmarker and, perhaps most significantly, the release of large tracts of land for housing development attracting inward migration of new residents from across the UK.

Until the early 1960s, the main high street remained much as it would have been in the late 19th century with several streets of Victorian terraced houses linking High Street with Warwick Road. The construction of the central shopping area known as Mell Square (named after W.Maurice Mell, the town clerk who planned the work) involved the demolition of properties in Mill Lane and Drury Lane, some of which were several hundred years old, together with that of the large Victorian Congregational Church that had stood on the corner of Union Street and Warwick Road. On the right along High Street from St Alphege's Church porch is one of the town's oldest landmarks, The George, which dates from the 16th century. It is now called the Ramada Jarvis Hotel. On the opposite side of High Street is the Manor House which dates from about 1495.

Governance

Due to its growth, Solihull was promoted from an Urban District to a municipal borough, the honour being bestowed by Princess Margaret.

In 1964, Solihull became a county borough and on this occasion The Queen bestowed the honour. In 1974, the Solihull county borough was merged with the rural district surrounding Meridenmarker to form the Metropolitan Borough of Solihullmarker. This also includes the districts known as Shirleymarker, Knowle, Dorridgemarker, Balsall Commonmarker, Castle Bromwichmarker and Chelmsley Wood marker. At this time it also moved from the county of Warwickshiremarker to the West Midlands.

Wards

There are 17 wards in Solihull; Shirley West, Blythe, Shirley South, Meridenmarker, Elmdonmarker, Lyndonmarker, Smith's Woodmarker, Chelmsley Woodmarker, Dorridgemarker and Hockley Heath, Oltonmarker, St. Alphege, Shirley East, Silhill, Kingshurstmarker, Fordbridgemarker, Castle Bromwichmarker, Knowlemarker, and Bickenhillmarker. Each ward is represented by three councillors at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, of which there are a total of 51 councillors. The mayor is elected by the Council and is currently Gary Allport of the Conservative Party, representing Shirley South.

Council structure

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council run the services in Solihull through seven directorates: Strategic Services, Customer Services, Resources, Community Services, Education and Children's Services, Public Health and Protection, Adult Social Services. At the annual meeting, the council appoints a leader of the council. The leader then appoints a cabinet which currently consists of eight members. An overview and scrutiny management board as well as five scrutiny boards have been set up by the council.

Geography

Solihull may be considered to be a dormitory town for neighbouring Birminghammarker, although many Silhillians now work within the town and many commute daily to towns and cities outside the Birmingham conurbation.

Education

Solihull has no universities, but there are five universities within 25 km of the town; three in Birmingham and two in Coventry. However, Solihull Collegemarker, formerly known as the Solihull College of Technology, offers several foundation degree and full degree courses, particularly in technical subject areas such as computer sciences and engineering.

There is also a sixth form college located on the outskirts of the town centre. This is known as the The Sixth Form College, Solihullmarker and is where students, mainly between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, complete their secondary education.

Solihull Schoolmarker is an independent school and is located on Warwick Road near the centre of the town. It was founded in 1560 and celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2010.

Saint Martin's, an independent school for girls aged 2 3/4 to 18, is located in the historic Malvern Hall, Brueton Avenue off the Warwick Road.

Solihull was the first council in the country to have their 'Wave 1' proposal of the Building Schools for the Future investment programme approved. They were awarded over £80 million to transform six schools in the north of the borough in December 2004. As a result of the funding, there will be six new schools constructed within seven years. The school curriculum will be redesigned as well as a further £6 million investment in managed ICT services. The six schools to be rebuilt are Park Hall, Smith's Wood, Archbishop Grimshaw, Lanchester Special School, and Forest Oak and Merstone special schools. Forest Oak and Merstone have been already rebuilt on one site. Lanchester, Park Hall and Smith's Wood have been built by BAM PPP, under 'Private Finance Initiative'. Archbishop Grimshaw has been built by BAM PPP under a traditional contract.

Transport

The Manor House, Solihull
A number of main roads pass through Solihull including the A41 Birmingham to Warwick road and the A34 Birmingham to Stratfordmarker road. The M42 and the M40 both pass through Solihull and provide very rapid links to Oxfordmarker and Londonmarker and to the rest of the motorway network surrounding the West Midlands.

Birmingham International Airportmarker (BHX) is located in Solihull and controlled by the Solihull Council.

Solihull railway stationmarker is on the former Great Western Railway line from Birmingham Snow Hill stationmarker to Londonmarker Marylebone stationmarker. In the first half of the 20th century, this railway line carried most of the express trains from the Midlands to the South West and South (Devonmarker and Cornwallmarker) Walesmarker, including the Cambrian Coast Express pulled by the elegant and powerful Great Western Railway King Class and Castle Class locomotives.

Solihull Station was first built on a very grand scale, with 2 island platforms complete with nearly full length canopies, and a large goods yard, boasting space for some 200+ wagons; the yard was equipped with a loading dock, goods shed and large crane. Solihull was also rare in being only one of a handful of stations in the area to have a dedicated goods relief line.

When Dr Beeching completed his dossier for British Railways the station, aloing with many others, had the slow lines and goods yard (plus relief line) closed; the latter's area is now the car park buildings close by, including the Fire station. The platform for the slow lines had the buildings demolished and the stairway bricked up, as with the other stations.

Other railway links are provided on the West Coast Main Linemarker, as Birmingham International railway stationmarker lies within the borough's boundaries and offers frequent express connections to London. Express train services to Solihull are now run by Chiltern Railways and local services by London Midland. Local people are represented by the Solihull and Leamington Rail Users Association.

The Grand Union Canalmarker passes across Solihull, coming within a mile of the town centre and linking the town to the River Thames in Londonmarker.

Local bus services are provided largely by National Express West Midlands from their Acocks Greenmarker depot in south-east Birmingham.

Housing

Residential development in Solihull comprises a variety of housing types, but features a notable preponderance of semi-detached, detached and town houses, with little or no true terraces. Many of the larger developments were constructed between 1950 and 1970. One of the earlier large scale developments centred around Beechwood Park Road and Stonor Park Road with new detached houses selling for £4,000 in 1952. Chelmsley Woodmarker to the north of Solihull town centre is a large 1960s overspill estate for Birmingham, and is currently marketed under the name of "North Solihull". In the early to mid-1980s, the new Monkspathmarker district constructed east of Shirley (and close to the M42 motorway) was the UK's single largest housing development of that decade.

Economy

Solihull offers a variety of shopping facilities. It has an open-air 1960s-style shopping centre called Mell Square which was constructed following the demolition of several terraces of Victorian houses and the original Solihull Congregational church. In recent years, the town has undergone much development, and the High Street has been pedestrianised since 1994. On July 2, 2002, a large new shopping centre, Touchwoodmarker, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

Solihull is the home of the four wheel drive car manufacturer Land Rover and a range of other major companies. The suburb of Meriden was the famous home of the Triumph motorcycles factory from 1942 -1983.

The National Exhibition Centremarker, commonly thought to be in Birminghammarker, is in fact within the borough of Solihull, as is almost all of Birmingham International Airportmarker and the ever-expanding Birmingham Business Park.

Communal facilities

Solihull has a number of parks including Malvern Park, Brueton Park, Tudor Grange Park, Elmdon Park and Shirleymarker Park. The nearest parks to the town centre are Malvern and Brueton parks. They are interlinked and cover about . Brueton Park used to be part of the grounds of Malvern Hall, which dates back to about 1690. It is home now to Saint Martin's Independent School for Girls. Solihull has numerous leisure facilities including a public swimming pool on the edge of Tudor Grange Park. This pool replaced the old Tudor Grange Sports Centre, which was demolished in 2007, to make way for the brand new leisure centre (A combination of the old Norman Green Athletics Centre, and Tudor Grange Sports Centre). These centres stood on the existing site since the 1960's when they replaced the old outdoor pool. At present there are two sports centres, the more modern Tudor Grange sports centre, and the older North Solihull Sports Centre. There is also an outdoor wooden skateboarding and in-line skating facility in Tudor Grange Park. Sailing takes place on Olton Reservoirmarker.

The borough is well served by numerous youth groups, both from the statutory and voluntary sector. Amongst these is Knowle Sea Scout Groupbased in the south of Solihull which is sponsored by the Royal Navy and provides a wide programme of activities for young people from all over Solihull aged from 6 to 18. The recently refurbished ice rink on Hobs Moat Road is home to Solihull's ice hockey teams the Solihull Barons, Solihull Vikings, a Junior ice hockey team, the Mohawks ice racing club, as well as ice dance and figure skating clubs. Above the ice rink is a Rileys snooker club.

The River Blythemarker, a headwater tributary of the River Trent, passes through parts of Solihull including Malvern and Tudor Grange Parks.

Sport

The largest football club in the town are Solihull Moors who are located in Damson Park. They are a semi-professional club and currently compete in the Conference North. The club was established in 2007 as a merger between former clubs Solihull Borough and Moor Green. They play at Damson Park, located around from the town centre. The other sports club of note are Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C., known as "the bees", they are a professional Rugby Union team who compete in the Guinness Championship just one league below the highest level of rugby union in England, the Premiership. They currently play at their ground Sharmans Cross Roadmarker.

However, in November 2007 it was announced that the Bees would be leaving their Sharmans Cross Roadmarker home to groundshare with the Moors. The proposed 'Solihull Sports Partnership' will include a multi-million pound investment into improving the Damson Park facilities, as well as the sporting infrastructure of Solihull.

Warwickshire GAA play their home matches in Páirc na hÉireann, Birminghammarker which is located in Solihull.

The town has a indoor bowling area and club. At present the under 25 section is sending many members through to national competitions and more prestigious tournaments.

Suburbs

Solihull town has several suburbs including Blossomfield, Solihull Lodge, Haslucks Green, Sharmans Cross, Shirleymarker (considered a sub-town of Solihull), Shirley Heath, Hillfield, Monkspathmarker, Widney Manor, Oltonmarker, and Lode Heath.

Solihull Borough includes several satellite towns and villages including Castle Bromwichmarker, Chelmsley Woodmarker, Cheswick Greenmarker, Dorridgemarker, Knowlemarker, Balsall Commonmarker, Meridenmarker, Hampton in Ardenmarker, Hockley Heathmarker, Eastcotemarker, Barstonmarker, Bickenhillmarker and Catherine-de-Barnesmarker.

Twin towns

Solihull is twinned with:

Notable residents

This list includes notable persons who were born or have lived in Solihull. Musical groups which were formed in or by a member from Solihull include:

References

  1. KS01 Usual resident population: Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas
  2. [1]National Statistics Neighbourhood Profile Summary showing indicators of prosperity,
  3. Solihull MBC: Council Structure
  4. Solihull MBC: Member and Committee Information
  5. Solihull MBC: G Allport (Mayor)
  6. Council Structure
  7. Solihull MBC: Building Schools for the Future


External links

http://www.solihull.towntalk.co.uk] Solihull Towntalk


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