19th Century Handsworth
During the 19th century, Handsworth was part of the county of Staffordshire. From the 13th century to the 18th century, it was a small village with a population of less than three thousand. By the late 18th century it had become an attractive area for wealthy industrialists and merchants from Birmingham to build their mansions.
In the 19th Century, Handsworth parish was divided into two manors and the joint townships of Handsworth-with-Soho and Perry Barr. It was connected to Birmingham by a turnpike and at a gentle trot, the journey took about half an hour.
Handsworth-with-Soho was a large, handsome suburb to the northwest of Birmingham. It included groupings of many large houses, several manufactories, and a considerable number of smart villas. These were mostly occupied by coal and iron masters, as well as merchants from Birmingham.
The northeast of the manor included the area of Handsworth Wood. This was a rural area that even by the end of the 19th century contained only a scattering of buildings, including some very large houses for the wealthy.
Perry Barr was a large manor, situated to the north of Handsworth-with-Soho. It contained the small village of Perry Barr, three miles northwest of Birmingham, as well as a number of scattered houses and a railway station.
Matthew Boulton puts Handsworth on the Map
The population of Handsworth started to increase with the arrival of Matthew Boulton in 1764. He lived at Soho House to the south of the manor and set up the Soho Manufactory on Handsworth Heath. As part of the development, he built accommodation for his factory workers. By 1851, there were more than 6,000 people living in the township. Boulton died in 1809, but the business was continued for a time by his son and later his grandson. In the census of 1881 there were over 32,000 thousand residents, and by 1911, this had more than doubled to 68,610.