Canal Boat Hostel, Wood End Lane, Erdington

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Date:1951 - 1965 (c.)

Description:The Canal Boat Hostel in Wood End Hall was not a children’s home as such. It was a hostel providing what was presumably temporary accommodation for canal boat children.

It was established in 1951 by the Education Committee in response to the 1948 Children Act which transferred responsibility for child welfare to local authorities and brought into focus the education of groups such as children living on the canals.

One of the main forms of transporting goods at the time was by narrow boat on the country's canal network. Whole families would live on their boat, constantly on the move collecting and delivering raw materials and goods.

It was thought that children could not be given a formal education while they were on the move on canal boats and so should be given hostel accommodation to enable them to attend school.

As such, Wood End Hall was the first hostel of its kind in England. It was ideally located as Birmingham has a significant network of canals and Wood End Hall itself is only a few minutes' walk from the junction of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal and the Tame Valley Canal. Known as Salford Junction, this canal meeting point is now underneath the Gravelly Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction).

The hostel had places for 29 children, and all those in the hostel attended Birches Green School in Erdington. There remains, in 2010, a school on Birches Green Road.

The hostel is thought to have closed in the 1960s when commercial haulage by canal boats ceased. Certainly, the canal boat hostel was included as a reference in the financial reports of the Birmingham Council up until 1965, but not after this date.

Wood End Hall is approximately 120 years old, and stands on the site of Littlewood End Hall.

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Image: Salford Junction sign in 2010.
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Source: This history was compiled by the Birmingham Children's Homes Project, an initiative to explore Birmingham City Council-run children’s homes between 1949 and 1990.