In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the area which includes the present parish became substantially urbanised outwards from the city centre through Digbeth. The development of the Birmingham Small Arms works, from its small beginnings in 1861, provided a magnet for employment and for housing development. By 1868, established on its 25 acre site in Small Heath, it was the largest private arms company in Europe. Other manufacturing companies and building companies such as Bryants progressively established themselves in Small Heath.
From its first mentions as far back as 1461, the area of Small Heath had been largely farmland in the Manor of Bordesley, with the south side of the Coventry Road owned by James Taylor and developed from the 1860's; and the north side owned by Charles Digby, and developed between 1895 and 1915. Many of the streets of that part of the parish - Charles, Mansel, Bankes, Floyer and Dora are named after members of the Digby family
By the 1880's much of the area was fully urbanised with long terraced streets, courtyards and back houses with little alley ways between them, some few of which remain to this day. The area had its better off parts - for example around Small Heath Park; and its rather worse off areas for example around some parts of Dixon Road.
So far as the Church of England was concerned, the major part of what is now Small Heath was originally in the vast parish of Aston. From the first part of the 19th Century it began to be subdivided: from 1846 the parish of St Andrew, Bordesley to the north of the Coventry Road was created; subsequently much of the rest of Small Heath became the parish of All Saints which was said to have had a population of some 18,000 in 1890.
Two new mission parishes were created out of the old All Saints parish whose church building was in Oakley Road. First came St Aidan's in 1891, initially as a Conventional District and perpetual curacy. Also from the south eastern part of the old All Saints parish a mission chapel of the Good Shepherd (known as an "iron church" from its construction) was created at the turn of the century in 1900; in turn it was demolished and the Church of St Gregory the Great began life as an independent parish. A third mission parish of St Oswald of Worcester, also initially a small "iron church" had been created in 1882, but this time out of the parish St Andrew's, Bordesley. It was from St Oswald that the next parish along - St Benedict - was created in 1898.
By the early part of the twentieth century, Small Heath, consisted of three parishes - St Aidan (though technically initially a Conventional District), St Oswald, St Gregory, (whose building was constructed in two stages before and after the Great War and never completed), and part of two others: All Saints and St Andrew. It was a time of rapid growth in the "Churching" of the area, and a time in which the Church enthusiastically responded to the vast changes going on in the community around it. The Churches' response - and this included the Roman Catholic and Baptist Churches who built at the same time, provided a solid foundation for the next seventy years until the 1970's when again vast change overtook the area.
St. Aidans 1861 - 1909
A word about one aspect of Church history of the time may be helpful at this point, as it is not possible to understand the development of the Small Heath Churches without knowing something of the renewal of the catholic tradition in the Church of England.More...
St. Aidans 1910 - 1969
In 1910, some seventeen years after the first dedication, a new phase was entered during which some of the now familiar and much loved decorative features were added to the church building under the supervision of Frederick Bligh Bond and his partner Ellery Anderson.More...
Small Heath Parish 1970 - 1992
It was however, at the end of the 1960's and the beginnings of the 1970's that a wave of change began to take place in Small Heath which has come to alter almost every aspect of the community...More...