The Parish of Berkswell
Old Waste Lane is part of an area called “Catchems Corner” which was a community well before Balsall Common came into existence. Two shops, one with a large paraffin pump mounted on the pavement, thrived at the junction of Waste and Windmill Lanes. One shop was open into the 1990’s. The area is called “Catchems Corner”, according to local legend, because local young ladies hung around the corner hoping to meet and 'catch' one of the 'navvies' building the railway as they passed on their way to and from work.
About 45 years ago, Waste Lane was straightened after a series of spectacular road crashes where vehicles ran off the road on the sharp bend. Old Waste lane is the original course of the road.
Berkswell windmill on Windmill Lane is a brick tower mill with a hand-winding wheel. It was built in 1826 on the site of an earlier post mill. The current mill was last worked by wind in 1933 but continued to be used on motor power until 1948. It was restored to workable order in 2013.
This cottage was built around 1650 and stands at the junction of Waste and Old Waste Lanes. It is an oak framed building with brick infill, sitting on sandstone foundations and constructed around a chimney which is about 8 foot across at ground level! The north, west and south facades are original although the north facade has been rendered and the visible “oak beams” are mock. The east wall was completely rebuilt in 1901 by the father of two Birmingham gunsmiths. When the current owners bought the cottage in 1956 they found a deep cistern to the east of the cottage fed by a land drain. A hand pump had been used to draw water through a lead pipe into the kitchen for daily use.
Other old cottages
The cottages to the right of this box have been here since Napoleonic times. Field Cottage was originally the cottage for the woodsman who ran a timber yard, where the modern houses behind this phone box have been built. Laburnum Farm, which is about halfway up Old Waste Lane, is also very old. Typical for its time it is built on shallow sandstone foundations which are very prominent. Sandstone will draw up water but will not cause rising damp if the sandstone is left uncovered to allow the damp to evaporate before raising much above 9 inches (22 cm)
This phone boxThe first red telephone box, designed by Charles Gilbert Scott, was installed in London in 1926 but there never was a phone box on Old Waste Lane. The mobile phone has killed the need for phone boxes and BT has a programme to remove most boxes. This one was brought here by local residents with the assistance of the Berkswell Society and Solihull Council in 2017.
Ridge and furrow fieldBehind this box, you will find sheep grazing on an ancient field. If you look carefully you will see that the surface of the field is not flat. There are very distinct wide ridges and furrows running east/west. This is evidence that the field was ploughed in medieval times. Ploughing year after year in the same direction with a non reversible plough tends to bank up the earth into distinct ridges. The small pond to the left of the phone box is fed by water seeping from this ridge and furrow field.