Kings Oak is a large village, almost town size, on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Although the village continues to have very much a countryside feel with open spaces between the small hamlets that created Kings Oak. The ‘Kings Oak Village Guidebook’ reveals that originally the Village was called ‘Slohtran Ford’, which means “marshy ford.” The hamlet was originally inhabited by foresters who built their huts at the easiest crossing point for the River Slotter, which runs through the centre of Kings Oak.
The name Kings Oak comes from the Civil War when King Charles hid there for a night in a giant oak tree hence “the Kings in the oak tree.” In 1969 the village of Kings Oak had 750 inhabitants and was administered by its own Rural Council. The village has two churches, St Mary’s and the Methodist Church.
On the outskirts of Kings Oak, there is St Lawrence’s church. The three mainstay pubs were – The Crown – The Kings Oak and The Running Stag (Not to be confused with the nearby The Stag located just outside of the small hamlet of Peachy). Kings Oak, according to a 1964 TV World article on the village, is exactly ten miles south from Birmingham City Centre.
The village has many “meeting places”; the Kings Oak General Store was for many years a small corner shop, however, it expanded to become a small supermarket in the 1960s named Frescos (a different spelling to Weatherfield’s Freshco Freezers). The Newsagents was a gossip point for many of the ladies and The Village Post Office was also a popular place for people to catch up on the latest events. For those more refined in the village latest news, the tea rooms were the place to be seen, if not heard.
A park surrounds the River Slotter, and cricket, golf and bowling clubs also reside in the West of the village. The Kings Oak Country Hotel, Crossroads Leisure Centre, Crossroads Cafe and Fairlawn’s Hotel provide many of the residents of the area with work. The village also has its own railway station and various shops.
The village for many years also had its own Police house and the entertainment was provided by the Rivoli Cinema. In the 1980s an Indian takeaway was just one of the first new eateries to become popular in the area. The village also boasts butchers, bakers and greengrocer.
The Summers Road Timber Yard and Robin’s Warehouse are both well-known employers in the village. The early 1970s saw Kings Oak’s inhabitants rise as a brand new housing estate was created to the south of the village, Kings Hill. This development also saw a fire station built. A small airfield had been constructed during the Second World War, this was located in the grounds of what was to become the former Crossroads Motel; however, it was in later years only used for private flights, and was finally demolished in 1982. On the outskirts of Kings Oak, there are a number of farms, although over the years many have ceased trading. The most well-known ones are Stone Bank and Haywood.
There are a couple of nearby towns and villages to Kings Oak, the biggest is Heathbury – an industrial town which is six miles north of the village centre. Before the motorway was built to the West of Heathbury the road through Kings Oak to the town was the main link to Birmingham. Heathbury is well known for its mushroom farm. It also has a general hospital, Heathbury General, there is also a number of entertainment establishments including the El Dorado Nite Club.
The canal which runs near the River Slotter towards and through Heathbury has a basin in the town. The basin was home to Wilf Harvey’s canalside house, as well as Sam Carne’s adjoining cottage. The canal itself was home to a longboat first owned by Stan and Jill Harvey and later rented to a succession of villagers including Diane Parker, Jane Smith and Vera Downend.
Other local Villages
Five miles South East from the Kings Oak cross road junction is the village of Merryfields, which has very limited public amenities; a general store, post office and pub in the village centre. Fifteen miles from Kings Oak southward is the hamlet of Paxton. Made up of small cottages and Paxton Hall. This village is where Meg Mortimer had her ‘get-a-way’ home from the motel in the 1970s. A few miles north of Paxton, towards Kings Oak, is The Running Stag public house and B&B.
Four miles West from Kings Oak village centre stands the village of Castlewich. This location is around the same size as Kings Oak – although this is mainly due to mass expansion in the 1960s. Since the redevelopment, Castlewich now has more affordable residential locations than Kings Oak. These include flats, maisonettes and a council housing estate – making it a much more appealing location to live for many. It is also home to the local newspaper for the area, the Castlewich Clarion, which also covers the surrounding villages.
Other residential areas include the upper-class Droitwich, Woodford, Willow End, Woodville – where Jill Chance’s home of Chimneys was located and the small hamlet of Troy where Malcolm Ryder’s Millstone cottage was located.
To travel to Birmingham by train Kings Oak is the only station locally. Woodville, Merryfields and Castlewich are not near the track, with Kings Oak or Heathbury their nearest railway stations to Birmingham New Street. There are a number of bus services that link the local villages and towns to Birmingham.
The main one is the Kings Oak to Birmingham bus service, number 43, which runs every 30 minutes during the day and early evening. This bus is the main link to the town of Heathbury and Birmingham city centre. The 42 runs twice an hour and links the surrounding villages.
|Researched by Doug Lambert and Mike Garrett. Information from various Crossroads episodes, The Crossroads Years by Jane Rossington, various TV Times magazine features, script notes and My Life At Crossroads by Noele Gordon.
Photographs on this page were taken by CAS in 1988 by John Jameson Davis.