Solihull is a town and metropolitan borough, eight miles to the south-west of Birmingham, in the county of West Midlands in England. Solihull has a population of well over 200,000, and borders Birmingham, Coventry, Worcestershire and Stratford-upon-Avon. Its motto is Urbs in Rure, meaning 'Town in the country'. This is certainly lived up to by the fact that three-quarters of Solihull is labelled Green Belt land. The town is twinned with Main-Taunus-Kreis near Frankfurt in Germany and Cholet in south-west France.
The town of Solihull is served by excellent road, rail and air links. Junction 5 of the M42 (which runs from north to south through the Borough) is just five minutes from the town centre. The M42 links with the M6 at Solihull's northern limits and with the M40 just outside its southern limits.
Birmingham International Airport (BHX) and Birmingham International Railway are situated a mere four miles from the centre of the borough. Solihull (and Widney Manor) stations provide quick and comfortable links across the country, and are within five minutes of Solihull town centre.
The area has a good bus service, mainly maintained by Travel West Midlands.
The town of Solihull was founded in the 12th Century, when the de Limesi family, who had come to Britain with William the Conqueror, were given large estates in the area in return for their service to the Norman king. In around 1180, John de Limesi planned a town along the existing crossroads of the roads between Warwick and Birmingham and Coventry and Worcester. Solihull's name derives from the Anglo-Saxon and means 'soiley hill'. The town grew at these crossroads, which were at the top of a forested hill. At the time, the small town was surrounded by the Forest of Arden, but unfortunately, most of the forest was chopped down hundreds of years ago and the outskirts of Solihull are now mostly farmland.
The successor of the de Limesi family, Lord William de Odingsells, applied for and received a royal charter from the King of the time, Henry III. Beginning that year, 1242, the charter allowed de Odingsells to hold an annual fair and weekly market in the town. Many occupants of older local villages, such as Hampton in Arden and Bickenhill, also used this market so it was very important.
Solihull at this point in time had a valuable metal industry and was becoming more important. Therefore the lord built a new church, St Alphege, of red sandstone to replace the small one at the top of the hill. This was in 1270 and the church still stands by the High Street today. Also still in place are the old Manor House, built in around 1495, and Jarvis International Hotel, part of which is in a 16th Century building. Malvern Hall, now part of St Martin's School, was built in about 1690.
During the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham was becoming quite a dirty and unsanitary city to live in. Many Birmingham workers moved to Solihull to live and only travelled to Birmingham to work. This made the town grow quickly.
Solihull has played a small part in all periods of history since its beginning. Legions of the Roman Army, travelling all over England and Wales, rested at Meriden. Anglo Saxons hunted in the area and Norman traders travelled the local area between commercial centres. William Shakespeare was from Stratford-upon-Avon, only a few miles from the town.
Solihull is a middle to upper class suburban area and is highly regarded as an area in which to live and work.
Solihull overwhelmingly votes Conservative, see the (The Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council website) for more details.
Solihull has many of the facilities that one would expect of such a town, including cinemas, sports centres, schools, colleges, golf courses, an ice rink, a bowling alley and many beautiful parks. The borough can also boast the National Motorcycle Museum.
The town and surrounding area contains several libraries, the largest of which can be found in Library Square, Touchwood. There is also an arts centre (with a 340-seat theatre) housed in the same building. This shows a large amount of professional performances, and also many amateur productions.
The National Exhibition Centre and Arena
The National Exhibition Centre is the busiest exhibition centre in Europe, staging more than 180 exhibitions each year, ranging from world-famous public shows such as Crufts Dog Show and the British International Motor Show to international trade exhibitions like IPEX and Spring Fair, Birmingham. Up to four million people visit the centre each year. With 20 halls totalling 190,000 square metres (two million square feet) it is also the biggest exhibition centre in Britain and seventh largest in Europe. The NEC is renowned for large-scale international trade fairs, but also has an active interest in helping smaller specialist shows develop, providing advice, support and essential services to organisers.
- NEC website
The NEC Arena is well known for its spectacular concerts and sporting events. Over ten million music lovers have attended concerts at the NEC Arena since the 12,000-seat facility opened. The World Figure Skating Championships in 1995 and the World Gymnastics Championships in 1993 are among some of the many sporting events that have been held at the arena.
Solihull's Tourist Office is located in the Central Library, which is easily accessed through Touchwood. The borough makes an ideal base from which to explore the Midlands. There are two large cities nearby, Birmingham and Coventry, both worth a visit. Much of Birmingham has been renovated and it is now ideal for shoppers, with extensive facilities, not to mention theatres and other entertainment facilities such as Symphony Hall. In Coventry, a visit to the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral is worth the trip. The cathedral, along with much of both cities, was bombed during World War Two and rebuilt soon afterwards.
A trip is also in order to the old town of Warwick (pronounced 'worick') and its impressive castle which has been involved in many parts of British history, as the Earls of Warwick were very powerful. Nearby, ruined Kenilworth Castle, overlooking the old market town, was built to exert the influence of the King over the Earls. It was once surrounded by a great 'Mere' or lake stretching more than a kilometre from the castle walls and was damaged in the English Civil War. It was built in 1120 and was only captured once, in the great siege of 1266. After holding out for nine months, the defenders were forced to surrender when disease broke out.
Staying in Warwickshire, Stratford-Upon-Avon (known to locals just as Stratford) is a fascinating, if busy town to visit. It is famous as the town where William Shakespeare was born and lived for some of his life. There are several houses, with guides, around which tourists can look and they are all decorated and furnished in the style of the day. These houses are all connected to Shakespeare, and one was his mother, Mary Arden's house.
There are many other places well worth a visit nearby. Hatton Country World is ideal for families with young children. It has many craft shops and a Farm Park with animals, and other activities. The National Motorcycle Museum in Bickenhill has over 700 British bikes spanning around a hundred years. Packwood House, owned and operated by the National Trust, was built in the 16th Century and its interiors were redecorated last century to look authentically Tudor.
Sarehole Mill is an 18th century water mill in Hall Green, which was famously the inspiration for Sandyman's Mill in The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien; the author lived most of his childhood nearby. The Mill has been restored and has features showing aspects of rural life.
Think tank at Millennium point in Digbeth, Birmingham is an interactive science museum coupled with an entertainment centre, featuring an IMAX screen.
If you want some more information visit the Solihull website.
Solihull has a large range of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes. These range from large hotels to farmhouses to bed and breakfasts. Many establishments are rated by a one to five star system (diamonds for guest accommodation) by the English Tourism Council.
Solihull is an excellent shopping town. The shopping facilities in the town centre are relatively modern and clean, particularly the Touchwood development. The original town centre shopping area, consisting of the High Street and the Mell Square area has many large shops such as Marks and Spencer, Beatties, WH Smith, HMV, River Island, Fire and Ice and many more, including smaller shops. Behind the High Street is the new Touchwood shopping centre, which was opened by the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee tour. Touchwood is very popular, both with locals and those from further afield. It is inside and contains lots of restaurants and snack bars as well as the shops, which include John Lewis (the only John Lewis store in the Midlands), various individual fashion shops such as Sonique, a local firm specialising in formal wear, not to mention Freespirit, The Entertainer, Books etc, Lakeland, Uni Qlo, Bodum, The Bug, The Bear Factory and Superdrug.
There are nine car parks in and around the town centre with different methods of pay and various numbers of spaces. Some car parks will necessitate a longer walk than others. There are several large multi-storey car parks which directly serve the shopping centre. These are the John Lewis Car Park, which has access directly to Touchwood, Princes Way Car Park and Lode Lane Car Park from which the High Street and Mell Square can be reached.
Further out, Shirley also has a shopping centre, which has shops like Birthdays, Woolworths, and Dolland and Aitchison, among many others. Areas like Dorridge also have some shops but not on the same scale.
If all of this isn't enough, there is always the Merry Hill shopping centre in Dudley, the Kingfisher shopping centre in Redditch or Birmingham City Centre itself.
Solihull Borough Football Club - 'The Boro' is Solihull's football team. Their ground is Damson Park.
Birmingham and Solihull Rugby Football Club are Solihull's main rugby club, nicknamed 'The Bees'.
Knowle and Dorridge Cricket Club have their own pitch in Dorridge.
The Solihull Vikings are a recreational ice hockey team which play at Solihull Ice Rink.
Solihull and Small Heath Athletic Club was formed in April 1980 following the merger of Solihull Athletic Club (Founded 1959) and Small Heath Harriers (Founded 1879). They cater for athletes of all abilities.
The borough is served by two free weekly newspapers, namely, Solihull Times and the Solihull News. There is very little difference between them and they are both owned by the same company. The BBC Midlands Today programme is shown several times a day on BBC One.
Considering the size of the town, Solihull can claim some quite well known people. Jasper Carrot the famous comedian was born locally and now lives in the town. Birmingham City FC Managing Director Karen Brady lives here and two authors are from the town: Celia Rees, author of Witch Child, its sequels and other books, and James Tonks, author of Swordwatchers. More impressively, well-known news reader Michael Buerk went to the local public school, Solihull School, and Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith went to St Peters, a local catholic school. The famous book, Diary of an Edwardian Country Lady by Edith Holden was written in Solihull where she lived and wrote her diary about the plants and wildlife she saw in the local area.