Saturday, 19 December 2009

Living in Birmingham

Henry Green

The novelist Henry Green was born Henry Yorke in Tewkesbury, 1905, and died in London, 1973. In 1926 Eton-educated Henry dropped out of Oxford University where he seems to have spent most of his time drinking and not getting on with his tutor C.S. Lewis. It was time to learn the family trade. When Vincent Yorke married Henry's mother Maud, his father was given the Birmingham foundry H. Pontifex & Sons based at Farringdon Works, Tyseley, in Birmingham. 

The site of Farringdon Works, 2009.

In January 1927 Henry moved to the city to work there initially as a stores labourer and then later as a pattern maker. During his two years at Farringdon Works, he lived in Stockfield Hall, a large Victorian boarding house located near Acocks Green on the Stockfield Road, seen below in 1941.

Henry Yorke, labourer, was already Henry Green, novelist, having written his first novel, 'Blindness' (1926), while still at Eton. His fellow workers in Birmingham assumed Henry was being punished by his father but Henry Green was observing and absorbing himself in the life of the factory. The result was his second novel, 'Living' (1929).

The site of Stockfield Hall, 2009.

Some footage of Birmingham in the 1920s:

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Henry Green and love 'Living'. Very funny, if a bit difficult to engage with at first because of the mannered style. I have often wondered where the Pontifex foundry was. Interesting to see these pictures - thanks!