Friday 9 February 2024

Off To University (5)

Ecgbald's Town** : A Bit Posh ...

... and largely under the control of the Calthorpe family who gave the land for the University. The family did not permit industrial development on their land, so it became a haven for the wealthier strata of Birmingham Society.

** Today we call it Edgbaston.

Trams, transport for the "lower orders" did not penetrate Edgbaston or Harborne leaving an empty "wedge" south west of the city centre.
The focus of bus services today is more for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital site rather than the University both of which are, of course, served by frequent trains on the cross-city line.
Todays "main line" bus routes are the X21 and X22 and those numbers sent a slight twitch via fbb's occasionally sluggish brain neurones. 

When brother-no-longer-in-law (divorced from fbb's late sister) lived in Brum, fbb visited on several occasions and was utterly intrigued by one destination blind display.

It goes with  STANKS  in Leeds and ...

... in Loughborough and is the delightful ...

... in Birmingham.

And here is a bus so adorned.
So, the question is whether today's X21 and X22 have any affinity with the original 21 and 22. The answer is yes ...
... and no! 

Back in 1959, the 21 served Weoley Castle estate and the 22 ran to Selly Oak but was extended to the estate occasionally, presumably at peak times. 

But, unlike today's X21 and X22 via the West Gate and University station, the 21 ran via Bristol Road (map below, lower right) and the 22 via Harborne Road (top left).
That structure remained for a long time. Here is a much more modern 21 at Harborne.
The pub is the Plough, a notable local hostelry. 

We do see buses diverted via the Q E Hospital in 1997 ...
... and there are two more estate names, viz Merritts Brook and Bartley Green, cosy names for new development.

You will have gathered that fbb struggles with the history of buses via the West Gate! But by 2016 we have routes similar to today's X21 and X22 but numbered 98 and 99!
They didn't go to Weoley Castle ...
... but neither did the 20 and 21.

Confusing innit! 

And in the recesses of fbb's mind the 98 used to serve Chelmsley Wood, i.e. due east of the city centre and nowhere near the Uni.
The 98 was a minibus!

Only a year later at the University, things had changed again.
The 98 had lost its 99 and was joined by an X54. For a while "X" routes were a bit of a craze and they have been revived in recent times hence X21/23.

You have to feel sorry for the poor students coping with frequent route number changes and the terrifying statue of Michael Faraday. 

It was also confusing for the residents of Weoley Castle!

Then came the big rejig of many routes south of the city centre. The University West Gate acquired main routes X20, X21 and X22, although the X20 faded quickly.
And in a "back to the future" move they also became main services to the Weoley Castle area.

Well, sort of - The X22 just grazes the north of the estate whereas the X21 serves the central shopping area ...
... that's the big roundabout called Castle Square, which is, indeed, BIG.

This is a slightly older map of buses to Weoley Castle including the X21 and X22 ...
... but that was then! Now it is somewhat different again.
The X21 is extended from Shenley Fields so that both routes now run to Bartley Green passing yet another University. 
They terminate next to a modern church and at a mini bus station ...
... where they are joined by an 18, a 23 and an 002.

You are right! fbb has chosen to ignore he other services that run to or via Q E Hospital next to University station ...
... because his brain hurts.

But at least we now all understand the X21 and the X22 as an alternative to the Cross City line and serving the new University station.
Or do we? Both posh Platinum routes are branded for the Q E Hospital and the University ...
... but they do NOT serve the nice little Hospital bus station!
From the X21/22, you have to nip across the lawns from the station stop as illustrated below or in aerial view a bit more below.
While you are sprinting between the two ...
... there may be time to enjoy a visit to Metchley Roman Fort.
It looks a tiny bit more interesting when the grass is cut.
Well, no it doesn't! Back in 1890 they only supposed it was a Roman Fort.
From new station; via a steam bridge, an ugly statue and confusing bus services to a Roman fort, such is the astounding richness of an fbb blog.

Or perhaps not!

For the record, here is a current X21/22 timetable extract. (click on the graphic to enlarge)
Look! The X22 goes to California.

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 10th February 


  1. Andrew Kleissner9 February 2024 at 09:25

    Ipswich Bus 5 "also" goes to California (see map at end):

  2. 1. The 22 (introduced in 1957 as a replacement for the 20 group, whose complexities would certainly do fbb's brain in, as they do mine - there was even a 20X variant) always ran City-Weoley Castle-Selly Oak throughout the day- i.e. fbb has misread the map.
    2. Bartley Green was first served by route 12 in 1923- hardly a new development! Merritts Brook is an interwar social housing estate though it only got a bus into the city when the trams finished in 1952 (service 61 which still runs today).
    3. Few buses serve the 'nice little hospital bus station' as it is often heavily congested, particularly with taxis. I believe the X21/22 were withdrawn from it after a brief period as they were getting badly delayed there.

  3. In the 1980s WMPTE had a route (can't remeber which now) that served both California and Hollywood (south of Birmingham near Wythall). Sadly Hereford and Worcester CC cuts ended that.

  4. Reading Buses leopard 3 also serves California (between Arborfield Green and Barkham) - or at least it does when Nine Mile Ride isn't closed for roadworks!

  5. The Plough in Harborne High Street is certainly a 'notable local hostelry'. However the pub in the backdrop to your photo of the WMPTE number 21 bus is not the Plough but the Green Man. The bus is turning right out of Metchley Lane into Harborne Road to head towards the city centre.