Built to Last: Austin Village at 100

  Model of an Austin Village home by resident Harry Blondell. Photograph by Stephen Burke.

Model of an Austin Village home by resident Harry Blondell. Photograph by Stephen Burke.

 

In collaboration with artist Stephen Burke and residents of The Austin Village in Longbridge, Built to Last tells the story of The Austin Village in Longbridge, Birmingham to tell the story of this unique place. The village is community of 200 prefabricated cedarwood bungalows that were manufactured by The Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan and purchased by Herbert Austin to house the burgeoning workforce of the Austin Motor Co. during The First World War. 

We set out to tell the story of the residents who call the village home now and capture its unique spirit through photographs, village newsletters, homemade films and more. Community volunteers have received training to enable them to collect and share oral histories, use photography and to manage the stories website long-term. 

Austin Village opened in 1917, built by Herbert Austin (founder of the Longbridge car factory) to house the burgeoning workforce of the factory, which grew from 2,500 employees in 1914 to 22,000 in 1918, in part in the response to the factory’s role in manufacturing for The First World War. Consisting of 200 cedarwood houses imported from Michigan, USA, with a series of more traditionally British suburban semis built as firebreakers throughout, it is a hidden marvel tucked away behind a more conventional housing estate and a five-minute walk from Longbridge train station. 

A new online archive of sound, video, audio recordings launches April 2018, drawing on the personal archives and living history of residents. We've been working with residents throughout, including training a group of volunteers from the village in photography, gather and share oral histories and manage the digital archive. The project is timely, as it was recently announced that Austin Village's conservation area status is currently under review by Birmingham City Council.

We're grateful to the Austin Village Preservation Society and to the Heritage Lottery Fund and players of the National Lottery for funding the project.

The Austin Village Stories will launch at the end of April and gathers together fascinating oral history interviews, photographic portraits by artist Stephen Burke and photographs submitted by residents at community sharing events. 

It gives a snapshot of life in its hundredth year, through the memories and anecdotes of residents. Their pride in living there is evident, a thread that runs through all of the interviews and conversations we’ve had. People in The Austin Village are hugely passionate about this place they call home.

The project has received grant funding from The National Lottery through Heritage Lottery Fund.

 

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