Andrew Carnegie was not the only philanthropist dedicated to educating working class people! Bournville’s own George Cadbury was responsible for building this Selly Oak Institute in 1894. It was initially a Quaker Meeting Place and an Adult Education Centre. Cadbury’s most famous legacy is his chocolate factory in Bournville, but his influence on Selly Oak is almost as profound. Many of his workers lived over this way and he took responsibility for improving the area. As well as the Selly Oak Institute, he built the Cadbury Hall further down Bristol Road which is now leased to the University of Birmingham Drama and Theatre Arts Department for just three pounds a year!
Across the road, you might be able to spot the Selly Oak Water Tower. The tower was built in 1878 and was partly responsible for saving Birmingham from crumbling under the cholera disease! Until the tower was built, water in Birmingham was polluted by sewage seeping through the ground into the water supply, causing sickness and death throughout the city. The water tower was one of six towers in Birmingham that pumped water from deep enough below the ground that it was unpolluted and safer to drink.
The pump had to be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week so the engineers lived in the cottages you can see in front of the tower. Can you spot Birmingham’s coat of arms and one-word motto in the brickwork? ‘Forward’ has been Birmingham’s motto since 1839 and it feels fitting for an industrial, ever-developing and ambitious city.