Photo By D J Norton

M5 West of Birmingham

This may seem an odd subject but it's actually classic D. J. Norton material.  His pictures of Birmingham, railways and trams all capture a changing world and what could be more profound a change than the introduction of the motorway network.  The fact that he took pictures so close to where I now live made them all the more relevant to me.

It's not just these pictures that prove my father's interest in the M5 development.  His 1962 OS map of Birmingham had some dotted lines printed where the motorway was planned to go.  He had added the route from Bromsgrove to Quinton in pencil, a route obviously undecided when the map was printed.

I was inspired to put this page together when a major period of roadworks took place at Lydiate Ash during the first half of 2009.  The island was re-aligned to improve traffic flow.  Of course, the old bridges seen in my father's pictures could not be modified so remained untouched by the work.

M5 Release Road, Lydiate Ash
M5, Lydiate Ash
M5 release road, Lydiate Ash 1962
M5 Lydiate Ash 1962
This picture is taken from the northbound exit slip road.  Much as I would have like to have taken a modern view I thought it was too risky!
This picture shows Lydiate Ash island and was taken from the bank adjacent to the southbound entry slip road looking north.  At the time the road surface only extended to the island.  The sign on the bridge indicates that the contractors were Monk.

Site of M5, Lydiate Ash
Site of M5, Lydiate Ash 1962
Site of M5, Lydiate Ash 2009
For this view my father had moved to the middle of the island, stood to the side of the site of the southbound carriageway and was looking north.
My view of the bridge was taken from the island itself as I don't think I'd have gotten away with climbing down the bank!  The bridge looks in good order even though over 45 years have passed.

Roadworks for M5 nr Lydiate Ash
Roadworks for M5 near Lydiate Ash 1963
Roadworks for M5 near Lydiate Ash 2009
Perhaps the most dramatic picture, here we see the effect upon the countryside of the roadworks required to create the motorway.  The view is looking north from Lydiate Ash island.
The same view today with the M5 an accepted part of the landscape.

Site of M5 Service Station, Illey
Site of M5 Service Station Illey 1965
Site of M5 Service Station Illey 2009
A few months later and the motorway had made it as far as Frankley.  Looking east across the carriageway from Illey Lane, this picture shows the early stages of construction of Frankley Services, at least the part that would serve the south bound traffic.
My own picture of the services as we know them today.

Passing through Lydiate Ash every working day had given me the chance to observe that there were many clues to how things had been before the M5 arrived.  The map below shows the area as captured on a 1942 War Office map of Birmingham.  Move your mouse cursor over the map and the changes that took place are shown.  The main changes were:-

  •  Re-routing the Halesowen Road on the approach to Lydiate Ash island
  •  Re-routing Lydiate Ash Road to move the junction to a safer place
  •  Creating a link from the A38 to Lydiate Ash island and thus relegating the old Birmingham Road to a cul-de-sac
  •  A major change to the course of Manor Lane

The clues to all this are shown in my pictures and the aerial view below.

Lydiate Ash 1942


Blue - M5

Red - A38 & Lydiate Ash Road

Purple - Manor Lane

Dashed Purple - old route of Manor Lane

Move mouse over map to see changes

Old Halesowen Road towards Marlbrook
Old Halesowen Road towards Lydiate Ash
Old post, Lydiate Ash
Taken from the old section of Halesowen Road looking towards Marlbrook.
This picture was taken from the middle of Halesowen Road and clearly shows the path that the road used to take.  The view is looking towards Lydiate Ash island.
I had often wondered how old this cast iron post was!  It was close to a bus stop where Halesowen Road was diverted but was removed in September 2009.

Sign for houses on old Halesowen Road
Old course of Lydiate Ash Road
I suspect that this sign was erected when the diversion of Halesowen Road took place so that drivers could locate the few houses now set back from the main road.
Lydiate Ash Road was also re-aligned to move the junction with Halesowen Road away from the island but it's clear to see where it used to be located.

Old route of Manor Lane
Manor Lane junction with Old Birmingham Road
The 1942 map shows that Manor Lane used to connect to Sandy Lane to the west of the site of Lydiate Ash island.  The M5 would bring an end to this but the path of the old road is still clearly visible on a field between the motorway and the A38 north of Lydiate Ash.
The re-routed Manor Lane now passes under the A38 and joins with the old Birmingham Road as shown in this picture.

Old Birmingham Road
The road to nowhere...  The old Birmingham Road looking towards Rubery.  This once busy highway is now a quiet cul-de-sac.

Aerial view of Lydiate Ash c.1966
A superb aerial view of Lydiate Ash c.1966.  Note that the motorway is only two lanes and is very quiet compared with today.  The red blob at the island is a Midland Red double decker on the 144 route.