Alison Jones visits one of Birmingham's most desirable suburbs.
Edgbaston has always been known as one of the most affluent parts of Birmingham, a fact evidenced by the impressively large houses capable of sheltering not just families but their servants and horses as well.
In fact it use to be known as the place "where the trees began", green spaces being a luxury only the middle and upper classes could afford, the lower orders being compressed in on top of each other in the slum quarters of the city.
The reason for its comparatively wide open spaces was down to the Gough-Calthorpe family. Sir Richard Gough bought the 1,700-acre estate back in 1717. From 1786 it became the family's intention to turn it into an exclusive suburban housing development, targeting the increasingly prosperous middle classes who wanted to escape the smoke and noise being pumped out from the city factories.
It was a practice also adopted elsewhere in the country in places such as Belgravia in London and Clifton in Bristol.
The scheme was so successful that the parish population for Edgbaston more than doubled in 30 years, swelling from just under 10,000 to more than 22,000 in 1881. Today it stands at just over 20,000.
However, by the late 1800s, market forces means that the working classes were competing for space alongside the luxurious villas. The area remains a blend of obvious wealth and sections where multi-occupancy rented accommodation and council housing dominate.
"Edgbaston ward has always been known as being very affluent and pleasant," says Deidre Alden, Edgbaston's Conservative parliamentary spokesman, "but it is really everything the city is in a very small area. It goes from million pound houses (the richest streets include Farquhar, Westfield, Somerset and Chad Roads) to tower blocks.
"There are areas of more need like the Benmore Estate, Attwood Green and Woodview, but a lot of work has been done there by Optima (Community Association).
"It is really because of Calthorpe Estates that it has stayed the way it has. There was a lot of development they didn't allow in order that it should stay a pleasant residential place to live. There was a lot of redevelopment in the 60s. Some of the houses were very big and came with coach houses. These became very unpopular and would have been knocked down to build housing estates. Others would have been turned into offices.
"Now of course big houses are massively popular again, and those that are still residential we don't want to lose."
Enthusiastic construction activity from the mid 1700s onward left Edgbaston with a clutch of Grade II listed buildings. These include 12 Ampton Road and Berrow Court Hotel, both the work of the architect John Henry Chamberlain.
Surprisingly he was no relation to the political Chamberlains, including Joseph, who became Mayor of Birmingham, and Neville, who was born in Edgbaston, educated at Mason Science College (later the University of Birmingham) before going on to became the Prime Minister most famous for failing to get Hitler to stick to his pledge that there would be peace in our time.
JH Chamberlain also built the Edgbaston Waterworks, the tower of which was, along with Perrot's Folly, the inspiration for Tolkien's two towers in the Lord of the Rings novels.
Also among the listed buildings are The Oratory Priest's house on Hagley Road. The church of the Birmingham Oratory was built in 1907 as a memorial to the John Henry Cardinal Newman, its Baroque styling and domed roof have turned it into a distinctive landmark.
Edgbaston also boasts a Grade I listed building, an Arts & Crafts house in Yateley Road, designed by Herbert Tudor Buckland.
Edgbaston Hall was originally commissioned by Sir Richard Gough in 1717. It was occupied during the 18th century by William Withering, who was famous for or the discovery of the use of digitalis. The author of British Flora was probably happier in the rough than the people currently using the house - it is now the club house for Edgbaston Golf Club.
Although it could be easy for residents in the more impoverished parts of the city to look at Edgbaston with an envious eye, Coun Alden insists that having this monied enclave - boasting no less than nine independent schools - is good for Birmingham. It attracts the type of people who might otherwise seek refuge in the shires (Gloucester, Warwick and Worcester) as soon as they have the financial means.
"We are really lucky to have such a beautiful residential area so close to the city. It is good for the economy to have wealthy people living there because they use the shops, the theatres and the restaurants."
However, Edgbaston is blighted by the fact that some of the remnants of a past era of gracious living, running along the hotel corridor of Hagley Road, have been shamefully neglected.
"Some of them are hostels, others are derelict. The council has been talking to Calthorpe for a number of years about what they are going to do because it makes an unfortunate gateway to the city. It would be nice to see some of them restored." she says.
Education is probably one of the area's greatest selling points as it's old established schools and university boast impressive academic reputations.
It includes Edgbaston High School for Girls, St Paul's School for Girls, St George's School, King Edward's School and King VI High School for Girls and The Birmingham Blue Coat School.
For further or specialist education there's Birmingham University, Queen's College, an ecumenical theological college and The Elmhurst School for Dance, the oldest vocational dance school in the UK.
Edgbaston also attracts international attention for its prestigious sporting events.
Historically, it was once part of Warwickshire, which is why Warwickshire County Cricket Club is located in a Birmingham suburb rather than being within leather-striking-willow distance of Warwick, and every summer The Edgbaston Priory Club is the venue for a major tennis tournament, not Wimbledon but its warm-up - for the women at least - the DFS Classic.
Edgbaston is a curious architectural mix of graceful old homes and developmental blots on the landscape dating back to the mid 20th century.
Happily most of the latter are currently meeting their fate at the wrong end of the wrecking ball thanks to £350 million worth of building work being undertaken by Calthorpe Estates.
Donne House and Nettleton House, both 1960s office blocks, have made way for Calthorpe House, a £40 million development of Grade A office accommodation designed to be fully in sync with the swing towards environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings.
Another Calthorpe project, 19 George Road, is Birmingham's first commercial building ever to receive the Breeam* "Excellent" rating for its green credentials.
There was an emotional farewell to Hort's wine bar - one of the city's first - in Edgbaston shopping centre last month. Regulars toasted its demise as the past its sell-by-date precinct makes way for a £110 million work, leisure and retail scheme to be known as Edgbaston Galleries.
The massive redevelopment, which will include two hotels, will change the face of Five Ways Island and is intended to act as a suitably prestigious gateway to the city centre.
Another familiar old building, Pebble Mill, the former home of the BBC in Birmingham, was made redundant once the studio was relocated to the Mailbox. The prime piece of land sandwiched between the Bristol and Pershore Roads is now the location of the £90 million University Science Park.
A collaboration between Calthorpe Estates, Advantage West Midlands, the University of Birmingham, Central Technology Belt and Birmingham City Council, it is intended to help establish Birmingham's reputation as a centre for science.
Although Coun Alden is in supportive of many of the changes taking place, she admits that she was saddened by the loss of Pebble Mill and would have rather have seen the distinctive building refurbished.
"There is this idea that the A38 should become a technology corridor, I am not sure it was necessary for all of it to be. It makes sense at Longbridge because that was already industrial, but I think the Pebble Mill site would have leant itself to a lovely residential estate."
Finally, Edgbaston Mill is to take shape opposite the cricket ground. In spite of the evocative name, there will be very little corn grinding going on. Instead the nine-acre site will feature a £100 million scheme for luxury flats, a hotel, food store, office leisure and retail facilities.
There will also be new public square for residents to enjoy, in much the same way that the newly minted middle classes were able to enjoy their suburban oasis back in the 18th century.