The building of new houses on green field sites near the centre of Sutton was a rare event in the first half of the nineteenth century. Large villa residences for rich industrialists wanting a Sutton address were being built, mostly along Birmingham Road, and in Boldmere there were houses for “clerks and small businessmen”. These developments were a minor irritation for Sarah Holbeche, a lady who lived in High Street and kept a notebook where she recorded events that interested her. But when new houses began to be developed nearer to the town she took more notice. Miss Holbeche noted, in November 1853, “The Ready Croft cut for building - new road made and Mr. Secker built the first house”.
The Reddicroft (between Station Street and Railway Road) is now a car park, but the next new street mentioned as being laid out, in 1860, “Duke Street alias Maney Field alias Bun Hill” is still there. Sarah Holbeche noted three new houses near the Cup Inn in 1863, and then 1864 seems to have been a boom year for builders. These were small developments by modern standards - five cottages begun by David Capel, two houses by Mr. Hicks, and single houses by Mr. Hobday, Mr. Snead and Mr. Norton.
As the year 1864 went on, Miss Holbeche began to express her disapproval: “Hateful block of houses begun”, “Brunswick Terrace - stuck up - what next?”, “Manor Hill so picturesque and pretty - cut up for villas! Disgusting.” She was particularly scornful of a new house in Tudor Hill, probably because it was built for a Birmingham man: “A square red house built by a Rev. P. Hill of St. Andrews Birmingham met my eyes! Milton House!! Absurd.”
Shortly after the Railway came to Sutton in 1862, a company was formed to build a luxury hotel. The new hotel (now the Council House) opened in May 1865, costing £9000, but it was an expensive failure, and the hotel was sold in December 1865 for only £4,000. Sarah Holbeche was not surprised, having watched its progress with astonishment at its pretension. Early in 1865 she noted the demolition of Genders’ shop to make way for an approach road (now King Edward Square) “new cut - hotel built without means of getting carriages to the door!”, but she admitted that the new approach was handsome.
All this new development had unfortunate consequences, as Sarah Holbeche noted: “1866 - sewerage question becoming very serious.”