NEWS: Church Road almshouses to be sold and residents given orders to vacate by March ‘23

Words & pics by Erdington Local editorial staff

Church Road’s distinctive almshouses, which were built in 1930 to give the needy a place to live, have been put on sale for £1.6 million. Residents who thought they had a home for life have been told they have to vacate the premises by March 2023.

The ten almshouses were built by The Sir Thomas Holte Trust in 1930 but ownership switched to the Sir Josiah Mason Trust in 2019.

Tommy Swaine, aged 71, has lived in his almshouse for 13 years.

He told Erdington Local: “I thought I had a house for life but then get a letter telling me I have to be out by March. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve not even had anyone round to talk about it. There are about seven of us here who are in the same position.”

He added: “These lot (Josiah Mason Trust) have only had the almshouses for three years and now they are selling them from beneath us, it’s shocking.”

Paul Cunningham, aged 77, has lived in his almshouse for 17 years. He said: “I could not believe what I was reading. Everywhere we have been offered is way more expensive and as far away as Solihull.

“I pay £128 a week and do not have to pay bills, but the places they have offered me are over £160 and will have to pay bills. I don’t know what I am going to do; I don’t want to move to Solihull.

“I’ve been here for 17 years and thought I was here for life, we all did. These houses were built to give people a safe and secure home.”

He added: “They are trying to say the almshouses are not up to their standard, but I am perfectly happy with my home.

“As they are listed, I cannot see what their plan is because they cannot build on the gardens or mess with the front of the houses – and there is no space in the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are just left to rot and then demolished. It’s such a shame as they were built for a reason, to give people a home.”

Almshouses date back to the 10th Century when churches and local landowners began building homes for needy parishioners to live in. Many of the 1,600 almshouses in the UK now date back to the Victorian era when prominent industrialists began building them for the poor of rapidly growing cities like Birmingham and Bristol.

The Church Road almshouses, just of Erdington High Street and near St Barnabas Church, were built in 1930 by the Bracebridge and Holte Trust, to replace almshouses built from the proceeds of the will of Sir Thomas Holte, who built Aston Hall, in 1650. Sir Holte, who lived on Church Road, was the former Sheriff of Warwickshire wanted to provide homes for ‘ten poor, old people, including five men and five women’ in the then Aston parish.

Ownership of the almshouses changed in July 2019 when the Sir Josiah Mason Trust took over the Bracebridge and Holte Trust. Sir Josiah Mason was a prominent Victorian industrialist who built further almshouses and an orphanage in Erdington, with a trust founded in his name in 1868.

After taking over the Church Road almshouses three years ago, the new owners Sir Josiah Mason Trust posted on Facebook when the deal was done.

They said: “The Trust is delighted to welcome Holte and Bracebridge Charity in Erdington to our family today. The charity was founded in 1650 as instructed by the will of Sir Thomas Holte, the founder of Aston Hall. The charity provides 10 almshouses, just half a mile from our original site and one mile from Mason Cottages and our former orphanage and is also a relief in need charity.

“We look forward to supporting residents and to continuing the valuable work of this very old charity.”

Estate agents Knight Frank is selling the ten Church Road almshouses on behalf of the Sir Josiah Mason Trust together as one sale, for £1.6 million.

The online listing said: “The development comprises 10 individual Almshouses set within communal gardens, erected circa 1930. Constructed of brick with Flemish detail to the end gables and single glazed windows. Locally listed Grade B.”

Still listed on the Sir Josiah Mason Trust website, the Church Road almshouses are referred to being ‘a short walk away from the High Street and set in attractive grounds.’

There is also a Wellbeing Support Worker ‘offering individual personal support’, with residents given access to the ‘communal facilities and meetings at Mason Cottages’ on Orphanage Road.

Chief Executive David Healey told Erdington Local: “The Trust are committed to providing quality housing and as people live longer, we want to provide homes that enable older people to age and remain living in the comfort of their own home.

“The current Holte and Bracebridge Almshouse are not suited to the needs of older people.”

He added: “Sir Josiah Mason Trust, which was founded in Erdington, is currently in the process of identifying a site to build new purpose-built Almshouses.

“The charity said that it is required to relocate the site to a location within the ancient Parish of Aston.”

For more on Sir Josiah Mason Trust visit

NEWS: Erdington MP steps in to secure mass COVID-19 testing site on Orphanage Road

Words by Adam Smith / Pics by Ed King

Getting tested for Covid is a matter of life and death, this was the stark warning given by Erdington MP Jack Dromey at the site of a brand new mass testing facility – which could be open in Erdington as early as next week.

Construction of the testing facility began on Friday 26th November, after Mr Dromey brokered an 11th hour agreement between the Department of Health, Birmingham City Council, and the NHS.

The Erdington based facility was the last testing site signed off by the Government, but a licensing issue held up construction and put the entire project in danger.

Speaking at the old Colliers site, Orphanage Road, where the centre is being built, Mr Dromey told Erdington Local mass testing offers a route out of Tier 3 restrictions for Birmingham.

He said: “We needed a facility that enables thousands of local people to be tested in Erdington.

“Lives would be lost if there was not a testing facility in Erdington and lives will be saved because there is a testing facility in Erdington, it is as simple as that.

“There were delays concerning it being approved but thankfully they were sorted out, it should take two days to build and then a few days to get the facility ready and it could be open as quickly as the end of next week, when the national lockdown ends.”

The MP admitted getting all the relevant agencies and departments to work together on the project was not easy.

He said: “To begin with it was like pulling teeth but progressively it got better; I’d like to thank NHS Birmingham and Birmingham City Council for their hard work in delivering the facility.”

The Erdington MP is in no doubt how important mass testing will be in the fight against controlling COVID-19 and saving lives.

He said: “Here and now, as we don’t have a vaccine yet, the message is test, test, test. So I say to the citizens of Erdington come and get tested.

“And to those who doubt the wisdom of getting tested I say come and get tested – if you are not tested and get Covid you might end up dying, you might be responsible for members of your family dying, and you might be responsible for your friends and members of the community dying. So come and get tested.”

Erdington residents will be able to book a test either online or by using 119, walk to the testing facility, take a test, and then they will be notified of the results between 24 and 72 hours later. A recent trial of mass testing in Liverpool reduced the R-Rate and helped the city escape Tier 3 restrictions.

The MP added: “We discovered this week that Birmingham will enter into the highest level of restrictions, Tier 3, following the end of lockdown on Wednesday. The whole city must now pull together in order to drive down the spread of the virus and get us out of Tier 3 as quickly as possible.

“Tier 3 restrictions will be devastating for many businesses and workers across Birmingham. In particular the hospitality industry, and the tens of thousands of people it employs in the city, will be severely impacted.”

He added: “We have seen from the recent trial in Liverpool, that mass testing is an extremely effective way for us to reduce the R-rate and exit Tier 3.

“This testing facility will therefore play a crucial role in Birmingham’s response to COVID-19 this winter and I’m very happy Erdington residents will have the best possible access.”

Joining Mr Dromey at the site to see construction begin was Damien Siviter, Group Managing Director of Seven Capital who own the former Colliers site.

He said: “This has been a great example of how the public and private sectors can work together. We were approached about two weeks ago to see if the site could be used for a testing facility and we did everything we could to make it happen.”

The Covid testing centre could be on the site between three and six months and, if needed, could be turned into a vaccination station.

Mr Siviter confirmed the long-term plan for the site remains a new supermarket and housing estate to be built.

Jack Dromey MP for Erdington talking from Orphanage Road COVID-19 mass testing site

For daily updates on COVID-19 from Public Heath England, visit

For the latest or NHS Test and Trace (England) and coronavirus testing (UK), visit