Knowle and Dorridge - Supermarket wars in leafy suburbia

PUBLISHED: 17:34 21 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 20 February 2013

Knowle and Dorridge - Supermarket wars in leafy suburbia

Knowle and Dorridge - Supermarket wars in leafy suburbia

Some of Knowle and Dorridge's prettiest parts are earmarked for new supermarkets. Richard Shurey visits the battlelines and finds warm-hearted communities with plenty to recommend to the casual visitor.

Knowle and Dorridge are virtually joined together and lie some two miles south of Solihull. The local Charter Rolls of Knowle recorded the place as La Cnolle in 1251 and the derivation of the name is from the Old English knoll (a hillock) although the countryside hereabouts is only
gently undulating.
It was a drizzly Saturday morning when I made a visit here but the melancholic weather did not hide the fact that here were very nice areas with plenty of green spaces and both with caring populations that aim to maintain the attractiveness. This was evidenced when I found that in Knowle and Dorridge the main topics of conversation were the
plans of two large supermarket chains to cast their eyes on the rather exclusive places.
In Knowle the 1960s Village Hall and several dwellings that surround the Village Green with lovely mature trees would be demolished to make way for the Waitrose retail store; in Dorridge Sainsbury would replace the covered market.
Knowle is in effect a small town but older residents still like to call the place the Village. The High Street has a wonderful selection of small shops and trade seemed brisk in spite of the rain. Unlike many towns there were no empty shops. I was on my way to the lovely church but I was delayed when I was invited to take shelter from the rain in The Cobbles. This is housed in the ancient Guild House and is run by the members of the parish church next door.
The idea a couple of years ago was to offer tea and coffee and magnificent cakes to the shoppers every Saturday to bring the church and community together. That it has succeeded so well was evidenced by the difficulty in finding a spare seat. And what a magnificent selection from around a dozen cakes! I was also able to gain opinions about the invasion of Waitrose. In general they were against but one or two residents who live in the threatened cottages said they would welcome a new house.
The impressive church is set in a most beautifully maintained churchyard I would not think other churches in any best kept churchyard competition would stand a chance! This care is reflected inside the church, which was consecrated in 1402. No one could say why the building befitted from three dedications to Saints John the Baptist, Lawrence and Anne all of which are featured on the front of the timber-framed 15th century Guild House. This building was a popular place in medieval times when dukes and abbots and lesser folk came to be educated here.
I always love clerestory windows high in the naves of churches which give such a light interior and this church is no exception. It also benefits from a wonderful array of stained glass windows on every wall. The place is also proud of its Soldiers Chapel, especially its reference to the brave men of the Warwickshire Regiment on 1916 when there were no cowards or waverers, and not a man fell out. This care for our forces is carried on today with weekly prayer sessions to offer prayers to the soldiers (and population) caught up in the war in Afghanistan.
From the back of the churchyard I walked by the Infants School. This really looked a fun place for the little people here the railings were multi-coloured and the encouraging litter bins looked like giant mushrooms. For older children there is the large Arden School in Station Road which also calls itself a designated Language College. It has a fine reputation of educational success which is evidenced by the frequent press reports of its achievements and activities.
Walking along the High Street there is a fascinating assortment of buildings from the 15th century to the present day and surprisingly they complement each other to present a delightful thoroughfare pity about the traffic though! I loved the assortment of different loaves in the long-established Bread Collection shop; then a little further is Chester House that dates back to Tudor times and now houses Knowle Library and a wonderful knot garden at the rear.
It was at Chester House that I met some (of the total of 3,000) members of the Knowle Society who keep such a diligent eye to maintain the character of the village. Here one can glean so much about the past of Knowle the cinema, long gone and now a garage in Station Road, the times when there were no shops everyone produced their own food; the signpost showing the way to Knowle and Dorridge Station (now it is just Dorridge)
The projected Sainsbury supermarket has put a sad blight on Dorridge. Many shops were empty and the Forest Court arcade was lacking customers. There was little at Dorridge (that was Derrech in 1400) until a Birmingham metal manufacturer (Mr G. F. Muntz of Umberslade Hall) gave permission for the Great Western Railway to cross his land in 1852 on condition a station was.built. Muntz also was responsible for the many-gabled Forest Hotel opposite and estates of villasand so Dorridge grew rapidly especially for workers commuting to Midland cities. Gas was made in Station Road and heated the church from 1888.
St Philips was built in 1878. The land was provided by the local MP Philip Wykeham-Martin and the simple place of worship cost about a thousand pounds.
Dorridge has a lovely park. It was in 1969 that Mr Harold Ford wanted to build housing estates on his fields. When this was refused he donated the acres to the community as a wonderful natural park. When these lands were still green fields it is possible that the Edwardian Lady, Edith Holden, who lived hereabouts and whose Diary is so attractive gained inspiration on her walks and cycle rides.
After your perambulations around Knowle or Dorridge why not walk a few steps in the gentle countryside nearby. We too can walk a few steps that Edith so loved. There is a fine footpath across Dorridge Park that goes over a little brook where I have found the most glorious kingcups.
From Knowle Church walk about a quarter of a mile along Kenilworth Road. then go left down Kixley Lane to the canal. Turn right along the towing path. At the next bridge again join the Kenilworth Road back to Knowle.

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