Georgian Terraces Nᵒ.4: Summer Lane and Another Grand Townhouse

381 Summer Lane (to the right) at the junction with Hospital Street.
Taken 14 August 1932. Held at Birmingham Archive.

A photograph of a fine Georgian townhouse at 381 Summer Lane, at the junction of Hospital Street, which goes into the distance on the left. 

The General Hospital was built on Summer Lane in 1779 which was, at that point, at the edge of the town, and yet to be built up. Although this area was fields and farmland, Summer Lane was an old route. When tenancies of the manor were taken in the mid 1500s, John Ellyott held a croft called Steledenys in Somer Lane, which had previously been occupied by Hugh Flete (T. Smith, 93), but the route was probably older. It was still spelled Somer Lane in the early 1700s.

After the erection of the hospital, the building-up of Summer Lane began in about 1789; the green and open nature of the area attracting fine townhouses such as the one above. Deeds for several properties survive, sometimes including the names of the builders such as George Jones and John Legg. It was the latter who was probably involved with the building of, what became, 381 Summer Lane, as be built a property adjoining Summer Lane and Hospital Street in about 1789. This could have been the other corner, of course. Samuel Ward, a buckle-stamper, was first associated with this property, and then Joseph Swaine, a toymaker.

Some of the Georgian architectural details of the door and window.

In the early years of the area being built up, the surrounding space was taken up by ‘guinea gardens’, which were gardens for pleasure and growing fruit and vegetables. In 1815 one such garden came up for sale which was described as ‘abounding with numerous choice, young Fruit Tree's of superior sorts, Flowering Shrubs and Vegetables, a capital Wood Summer House, and a Pump of Soft Water; the whole judiciously displayed, situate and being the third Garden on the Left Hand side of the first Walk on the Right of Summer Lane, behind the Hospital’.* Another garden was described the same year:
A large capital and highly cultivated Garden, planted with great variety of choice Fruit Trees, Flowering Shrubs and Vegetables, having a neat Arbour and Fishpond therein, and the Walks tastefully laid out, well gravelled and boxed, situated at the further end of the Avenue, near the Hospital, Summer Lane.*

These gardens can just be made out in the image below, which depicts the back of the General Hospital with the houses of Summer Lane in the distance left of the hospital, c. 1820s. 381 Summer Lane was very likely the larger building in the row. The viewpoint is probably from Shadwell Street.

View of Summer Lane and the back of the Hospital, c. 1820s.

In the painting, above, the property was being run as a japanners workshop, probably with the house occupied and the workshops stretching behind along Hospital Street. By 1809 the japanner Robert Warner was associated with the premises and between about 1830 and 1862 Richard Turley was recorded in trade directories as a papier-mâché and japan manufacturer at number 381 Summer Lane and 1 and 2 Hospital Street, showing how the available spaces were taken on for lucrative manufacturing.

The gardens, which had been such a defining feature of the area, were slowly being taken up with housing and workshops, as were the spaces behind the townhouses. These were often filled with courts of residential housing built for those working in the manufactories, and some on Summer Lane can be seen in the photographs, below. So, too, are some of the older terraced frontages.

Photo 1
357-351, on the west side of Summer Lane between Henrietta Street (not visible) and William Street North (visible on the right). These were facing the hospital. Close-up of the Summer Lane Coffee House below.** 

Photo 2
Back of 294 Summer Lane. The tower in the background was probably part of the Hospital Street school.

Photo 3
Back of 290 Summer Lane. This has obviously been left and run down for a while.

Photo 4
Unknown court on Summer Lane, c. 1920.

Other Photos

Summer Lane, from Keith Berry's collection.

Other Georgian Terraces
Other buildings on Summer Lane: General Hospital - Asylum.

*26 June 1815, Aris's Gazette; Langford, p. 315.
**Coffee Rooms run by Jeremiah Mason in 1878.
Chris Upton wrote about Summer Lane, here.
Carl Chinn has written about Summer Lane, here, and lots more photos and images on the same site, here.

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