William Dargue  A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y

Glossary A-F




This Latin term means 'arrival' and is used by historians to refer to the coming of the Anglo-Saxons after the final departure of the Roman army in 410 AD. It is used to avoid the contentious issue of whether their coming was an invasion, a migration, or by invitation. The earliest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were established in the south and east of England by 450 AD.

The raised cambered profile of a Roman road. It is still possible to make out the raised route of Icknield Street in Sutton Park.


Any type of stone that is smooth-cut and used as facing on a building. It is a common technique to reduce the cost of a stone building especially in an area such as Birmingham where local stone is not readily available.

Four Oaks Methodist Church, built in 1907, is a perpendicular-style building of brick construction which has been faced with ashlar.


An assart was land cleared and a dwelling built with the permission of the manorial lord for a rent, known as a fine. Assarts were common in woodland areas such as the Forest of Arden and usually situated on waste, ie. uncleared land, heath or woodland for which the lord was receiving little if any revenue. Many buildings on moated sites and other farms were set up in this way. A large number of their successors survived into the 19th century, and some east of Sutton Coldfield still operate as farms today.

Swanshurst Farm stood in what is now Swanshurst Park from medieval times, an assart on land belonging to Maxstoke Priory. It was demolished in 1917.




High-density and usually shoddily-built terraced housing in which a row of houses facing one way shared their rear party wall with houses facing the opposite way. Most back-to-back houses thus had three party walls and no through-ventilation. Many were built two-(rooms)-up-two-down. Toilet, water and washing facilities were in a communal courtyard surrounded by other back-to-backs.

Well-constructed substantial back-to-backs were built by mutual societies in Leeds, for example, and still survive in good condition, but the Birmingham houses were not of this quality. From the late 1870s bylaws set minimum standards for housing and back-to-back building ceased. Large numbers of poor-quality houses survived in inner-city areas such as Highgate and Hockley until the 1950s, some well into the 1970s.

A bailiff was employed by the lord of the manor to administer the manor on the his behalf, to ensure that services were given and rents were paid. The lord might appoint one of his tenants to the post.

The Firs was a mansion located on Firs Farm Drive near Hodge Hill and was the house of the bailiff of the Bradford estates in Castle Bromwich.

This is the part of a church where baptisms take place. It is usually at the west end near the entrance door, thus symbolising entry into the Church. The baptistery may be in a separate chapel, sometimes in an apse; the church of St Mary & St Ambrose on the Pershore Road has an apsidal baptistery; St Alban's in Highgate has an elaborate baptistery just inside the west entrance; the Castle Bromwich font stands at the west end of the central aisle.

The font is a usually a large stone bowl standing on a pillar and holds the water of baptism. From 1236 font covers were compulsory; some were designed to be too heavy to lift without help, others were locked to prevent their use for demonic purposes.

Holy Trinity Church, Sutton Coldfield has a Norman font over 800 years old which was given to the church from Over Whitacre after 1856. Some Baptist churches have immersion fonts in which the baptised are completely submerged: Edward Road Baptist Church in Balsall Heath has a good example at the front of the church before the pulpit.

A baulk in the Middle Ages was an earth ridge marking the boundary between ploughlands in an open strip field. In the Yardley Charter of 972 AD a baulk is used as one of the perambulation points of the manor, evidence that there were open fields in the Gilbertstone Avenue/ Coventry Road area as early as the 10th century.

Originally the section of a house, usually the front elevation, between the upright pillars of the timber frame; now generally a section of the house containing a window.

bells/ bellringing
There are over 5000 churches in England with a peal of bells, the oldest dating from the 13th century. Early towers had one or a small number of bells which hung mouth downwards and were rung (chimed) by pulling the rope, swinging the bell and allowing the clapper to hit the bell. It was difficult to control the bells in sequence one after another, as smaller bells ring faster, heavier bells more slowly. The result was similar to what may be heard in present-day continental towers, each bell ringing irrespective of the others.


Modern English ringing developed in the mid-17th century. The bells are rung full circle from mouth-up and back again. This enables the ringer to hold the bell on balance in an upturned position and so to ring more quickly or slowly in a fully controllable way. The order of the bells can then be changed by the conductor in one of two ways. He may call two consecutive bells to change places to create a new order of bells with each call (call-change ringing); or the order of the bells may be changed in a predetermined pattern with every pull (method-ringing/ change-ringing). A great many methods have been (and continue to be) composed, and tablets (peal boards) in ringing chambers record particular methods rung usually on special occasions with the names of the ringers. The oldest peal boards in Birmingham date from the 18th century.


Before the Reformation there was little distinction in ringing for religious or for secular reasons. In village and urban life the two were inextricably intertwined. Bells were rung equally for the village fair as for church services. At this time bells were not rung full circle but chimed. However, with the advent of change ringing, bell ringing, especially in towns and nearby, became a hobby rather than an expression of religion, and conflict arose regarding the religious and the secular use of bells. Chiming was considered appropriate for religious purposes; but the Rev H T Ellacombe


would quite as soon sanction foot-ball or cricket in the churchyard on a Sunday, as ringing (ie. change ringing) . . as soon give up the belfry to prize-fighting on Sunday, as prize-ringing - at all times indeed most objectionable.  


On a Sunday the bells were often change-rung full circle for pleasure well before the service, but then rung down to be chimed for the service, the ringers being paid for the latter. Bells were generally change-rung full circle for secular occasions, which were very varied. Bell ringers were paid to ring for weddings by the bride's family, as they still are; ringers were paid by the church to ring for Guy Fawkes Day. In 1830 the St Martin's ringers were paid to ring by Beardsworth, the owner of Birmingham, the horse that won the Doncaster St Leger and were consequently sacked by the rector. More controversially, when the Great Reform Bill was thrown out by the Lords in 1831, the bells of St Philip's were tolled as for a funeral in defiance of the clergy. The ring-leader, steeple keeper Thomas Bingham was forbidden to enter the tower again and he left the town never to return.


The modern practice is generally that a single bell is chimed for lesser services or for five minutes immediately before a main service. All the bells are rung full circle for half an hour either in called changes or in a method before the main Sunday service (in some towers also afterwards), the ringers performing this as a service with no payment. Bells are also rung on major feast days, Easter, Christmas, Ascension, patronal festivals etc; and also by request for funerals (single bell tolled or the peal half-muffled) or on other occasions related to the life of the parishioners or the church. Bells are also rung on national occasions: almost every ringable peal in England was heard on New Year's Day 2000 and most towers rang to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002.


Ringing is still a hobby practised evenings and weekends and generally approved by the churches concerned; some ringers enjoying the challenge of ringing complicated or unusual methods or lengthy peals, others enjoying ringing in a variety of towers.


Early bells were often cast on site by itinerant founders. The Bagleys of Chacombe near Banbury cast the bells of St Alphege Solihull 1683-1686, St Bartholomew Edgbaston 1685, and St Peter Harborne 1691, St Edburgha Yardley 1691, probably on site. Joseph Smith's foundry was at Edgbaston to the rear of the White Swan at the junction of Westbourne Road and Harborne Road. He may have cast bells there and transported them to local towers: St Mary Handsworth 1701, St Mary & St Margaret Castle Bromwich 1717, St Giles Sheldon 1723, St Laurence Northfield 1730.


A great many Birmingham bells were hung during the 18th century and their peals augmented or recast during the 19th. Bells were cast in a traditional bell shape known to produce a particular note and tuneful effect. However, the results were often hit-and-miss. Although the dominant note could be produced by shaving metal off the circumference of the bell, subsidiary notes and harmonics produced within the bell were often out of tune with the dominant note. Some peals were notorious for their dissonance. Thomas Bingham described the bells of St Philip's thus:


The Tenor, a very good bell - The Ninth cracked - The Eighth an odd bell, not of the peal - The Seventh a pot - The Sixth out of tune, too flat - The Fifth a bluster - The Fourth, a very weak bell, and false - The Third a middling good bell - The Second has a false crown - And the Treble makes shift. 


The tone and condition of these bells was typical. However, during the 1890s John Taylor of Loughborough perfected the scientific tuning of bells, whereby the various notes and harmonics were in harmony with dominant note, thus giving a melodious chord. The first true harmonic ring in Birmingham was installed at St Barnabas, Erdington by Taylor's in 1904. The bells of St Michael Boldmere are interesting because they are a rare complete ring by Barwell of Birmingham cast in 1906 in the old way. Although reasonably tuneful and well-maintained and rung, their tonal quality is certainly 19th/ 18th century.
Throughout the country there are many old bells, including medieval ones, still in use. In Birmingham, being a strong centre of bellringing, there are hardly any pre-scientific bells remaining. Most were recast during the late-19th and 20th century by Taylor's or by the Whitechapel Foundry in London in accordance with scientific tuning.


Of the remaining pre-scientific bells, St Mary's Moseley has a unique ring of 1874, cast in steel and completely untypical; Holy Trinity Sutton Coldfield has Taylor bells of 1884, though retuned by Taylor's in 1973. Only St Giles Sheldon has some unrecast old bells: No.4 by Joseph Smith of Edgbaston 1723, No.6 by Thomas Newcombe of Leicester c1580, and No.5, the oldest bell in Birmingham by an unknown founder c1400.

The St Martin's Guild of Church Bellringers for the Diocese of Birmingham was established in 1755.

berewick See Domesday Glossary below.

Birmingham Sites and Monuments Record, BSMR
A computerised database continually updated by the City Planning Archaeologist and open to public access. Its purpose is to ensure the investigation and appropriate preservation of historic sites and buildings faced with development.

For each archaeological find, site or building the BSMR gives details, original sources of information and bibliography, street locations and Ordnance Survey grid references. All statutorily Listed Buildings are to be found in the BSMR as are buildings that do not have national recognition, but are worthy of local interest. See below Conservation Area and Listed buildings.

blade mill See Glossary G-M iron making.
blast furnace See Glossary G-M iron making.
bloomery See Glossary G-M iron making.

The word derives from Anglo-Saxon burh and was originally used of any fortified place, be it the house of a wealthy person or a hilltop site - the name Wednesbury refers to 'Woden's burh'. At that time it was not generally used of a village or town settlement. However, during the time of the Viking attacks around 900 AD the term was applied to settlements which had built defensive earthworks around them for protection - there are none such in this area. Those which continued to thrive after the Vikings became known as boroughs.

The term borough, Latin burgus, was increasingly used in the Middle Ages in a legal sense to distinguish settlements with burgage tenure from other towns which were a collection of houses operating under the same conditions as if they were villages or individual houses within a rural manor.

The term, liber burgus, 'free borough' was used throughout the 13th century to assert a new status. Such boroughs negotiated charters with their manorial lords which translated debts of service into money terms and increasingly moved communities towards government by representatives of the burgesses. The status of free borough was usually adopted for new towns and the nature and extent of privileges was copied, sometimes wholesale, from the charter of a named old-established town.

See also burgage tenure immediately below.

burgage tenure
A burgage tenement was a property within a borough, usually a house with land, that was held by burgage tenure. This entailed paying money rent rather than owing labour service (usually a certain number of days' work on the demesne) to the lord as was the case in rural manors. The economic benefit of this was that it released enterprising individuals to develop commercial ventures within such boroughs without the obligation to work on the lord's agricultural land for part of the year. Furthermore, burgage property could be inherited or sold far more freely than property in rural manors, thus creating a property market.
Burgage plots/ burgages were typically large, long and narrow with the narrow end facing the street.


As town populations grew but the area of the borough did not, plots were subdivided, new buildings erected, old ones extended and new rents applied by the burgagee to each subdivision, though the original burgage rent still applied. In 1226 amongst individuals paying cash in Birmingham instead of hay-making were merchants, weavers, a tailor and a smith. A further advantage to the burgagees/ burgesses was that they did not pay market tolls to sell their goods within the town as outsiders did. Burgesses also had certain rights in the government of the borough, especially, as in Birmingham's case, where the landlord was absentee. Throughout the Middle Ages the power of many lords decreased as boroughs moved increasingly to self-government.


The manor beyond the tollbars, which were manned at every entrance to the town on market and fair days, was known as the foreign and was administered separately by its own manorial court in the same way as any other rural manor.

burnt mounds
These are intriguing evidence of the Bronze Age. Archaeologists working near rivers and streams in the late 20th century found over 25 burnt mounds in Birmingham and there could be more. Birmingham burnt mounds date from around 1200 BC. They are always near streams and are up to 2m high and 20m across, though they would originally have been much more compact. They appear to have been in use for many years. However, 3000 years later they do not look much like mounds and are not easy to spot.


When excavated, they reveal evidence only of burnt wood and heat-cracked pebbles, which were either cracked by being dropped into cold water or by having cold water poured onto them. No other evidence has been found at all. The mystery is: what were they used for? The truth is that no-one actually knows. Were they used to heat water for cooking? No animal bones have been ever found nearby. Were the burnt mounds something to do with leather or cloth making? Was it to heat water for bathing?


Burnt mounds elsewhere in Britain are not uncommon. There are many in Orkney and Shetland and in Wales. Usually archaeologists who have searched an area for burnt mounds have found them. Recent evidence from northern Europe and from native North Americans suggests that water may have been poured onto the hot stones inside a tent for a steam bath. The Birmingham burnt mounds may have been saunas, perhaps with a religious significance.
In Fox Hollies Park are two burnt mounds near Broomhall Brook, one some 14 metres in diameter.

Every manor had a site known as the butts where archery was practised. Edward IV made archery practice compulsory on Sundays and feast days to ensure that a skilled civilian force was ready against the threat of invasion. All men aged 16-60 had to own a longbow equal to their own height and each township was required to set up archery butts or targets. The targets were set up against an earth mound or bank. The statute was revived by Henry VIII 1543 for fear of French invasion, but fell into abeyance in the 17th century.


Stafford Street in the City Centre was formerly known as The Butts. Marks near the west door of Yardley church may derive from the sharpening of arrow heads on the stonework.


The term butt or butts is also used of land in an open field which lies at right angles to the other strips; this land may well be of an irregular shape so that its strips are uneven in shape and size.




Deliberate widening and deepening of rivers had been carried out in Britain from Roman times but on a small scale. The problem during the Industrial Revolution was that the rivers did not necessarily link the locations of raw materials, industrial centres or markets. Birmingham's nearest navigable rivers are the Trent and the Severn 30 some miles away. During the first half of the 18th century there was a great increase in domestic trade and the badly maintained roads did not cope well, hence the turnpikes.


In 1761 the Duke of Bridgewater hired James Brindley to design and build a canal from his coal mines at Worsley to Manchester. His financial success encouraged great interest in canal building: bills were passed in Parliament to authorise the Trent & Mersey Canal and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (from Stourport to the Trent & Mersey near Wolverhampton) which were completed in 1766 and 1777 respectively both by Brindley.


Initially there was no interest in canals in Birmingham. However, it was soon realised that the town's increasing volume of manufactured products could be transported for sale by canal more cheaply, more quickly and more safely, and that the coal needed to keep the machinery turning could be brought by canal. A public meeting was held early in 1767. Brindley drew up plans to connect Birmingham to the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near Wolverhampton with a branch to the coalfields near Wednesbury. £50 000 was raised through a share issue, Parliament passed the necessary legislation early in 1768 and work started almost immediately.


The Birmingham Canal to Wednesbury opened 1769 and the cost of transporting coal from Birmingham to Liverpool fell from £5 a ton to £1. 5 shillings a ton: one narrow boat could carry the same load as two hundred packhorses. This canal was soon the busiest in England carrying 300 tonnes of goods a day en route to London. By 1798 three boats a day went over Merry Hill, Smethwick summit, most carrying twenty tonnes of coal.

There was a rash of canal building across the country especially during the last quarter of the 18th century, though canals were still being built up to 1835. By 1840 there were some 7000 kilometres of canal in a figure-of-eight linking Liverpool, Hull, Bristol and London with Birmingham at the centre.

The impact on trade was tremendous for the landlocked manufacturing town of Birmingham: industry and commerce flocked to use the canals and to build wharves, branches, warehouses and factories close to them. By 1838 the Birmingham Canal carried 3 million tons gross per year, mostly coal. By 1900 the Birmingham Canal Navigations, the BCN, carried 8.5 million tons of goods per year, 20% of the national total. There were over 550 private canal basins in the Birmingham area. Over 31 million gallons of water were recycled from bottom to top of the system.

Across the country canal mania really took hold during the 1790s seeing locally the construction of the Birmingham & Fazeley, Worcester & Birmingham, Dudley No.2, Stratford, Warwick & Birmingham and the Wyreley & Essington canals. With the advent of the railways from 1837, however, canal use began to decline nationally, though in the west Midlands agreements with the BCN and the London & North Western Railway from 1840 resulted in the construction of canal-rail interchanges. Goods were frequently carried locally by canal to be carried further afield by rail. Tonnage carried actually increased to the end of the 19th century going against the national trend where canal use declined generally.


As the supply of raw materials in the Black Country declined at the end of the 19th century the canal trade declined. The First World War saw the first canal closures and these continued until the 1930s. Nationalisation 1948 failed to halt the trend. By the 1960s commercial carrying ceased as the interest in canals for leisure activities was beginning to take hold.


Almost all the factory branches and wharves have disappeared but most of the main canal system remains intact and in use for leisure purposes. Only Dudley No.2 Canal has been filled in and that only at the Birmingham end. Although repaired and renewed especially since 1980s, the fabric of the canals has survived with little alteration; cuttings and embankments, bridges, tunnels and locks.


Red doors or gates commonly seen from the road in canal (and river) bridges date from the Second World War and were provided for fire brigade access in the event of water mains being damaged by bombs.

Chronological list of Birmingham's canals

1769 Birmingham Canal
1789 Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
1798 Dudley No.2 Canal
1799 Digbeth Branch Canal
1799 Warwick & Birmingham Canal
1815 Worcester & Birmingham Canal
1816 Stratford Canal
1837 BCN New Main Line
1844 Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal
1844 Tame Valley Canal
1929 Grand Union Canal

With the exception of 1941 during World War 2, a national census has been carried out every 10 years since 1801. Initially only names, addresses, ages and occupations were recorded but increasingly census information became more and more comprehensive.


Prior to 1841 only statistical information is available; thereafter the enumerators' returns are preserved although only accessible after 100 years. The full 1901 returns are now available. The last census took place in 2001, the first statistical information being published 2002. Birmingham Central Library, as ever, is an excellent starting point.

The chancel is the sacred part of a church and is usually situated at the east end of the building. This is where the altar stands at which the sacrament of Holy Communion is celebrated. A chancel arch usually indicates the divide. Before the Reformation the chancel was often separated from the nave by a chancel screen. The upkeep of the chancel was formerly the responsibility of the owner of the tithes, usually the lord of the manor, while the parishioners were responsible for the nave ie. the rest of the building.


In a traditional gothic church the distinction between the chancel and the nave is quite clear. Externally the chancel is lower and smaller than the rest of the building. The chancel may represent the site of the original Anglo-Saxon or Norman church. Internally, the floor may be raised up and the chancel is likely to be more elaborately finished and more richly decorated than the nave.


By the 18th century, the celebration of the Mass in Anglican churches played a less important role and neo-classical churches had less prominent chancels, sometimes semi-circular 'add-ons' which are known as apses and described as apsidal chancels. The Gothic Revival brought back traditional chancels with a vengeance, though by the end of the 19th architects were experimenting with a more eclectic range of designs.

One of the effects of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church held during the 1960s was to physic

ally place the celebration of the Mass in a central position accessible and visible to all. Its impact carried over into Anglican church architecture.

From the 13th century a chantry was a private chapel, usually within a church, and bequeathed for the celebration of masses for the soul of the founder or his family; some chantry chapels were paid for by trade guilds for their members. Chantries were abolished under the protestant Edward VI and their funds confiscated by the Crown.

In 1344 Edward III agreed to William Paas's request to support a chantry of the Virgin Mary at Kings Norton Church; this may have been supported by a guild.

The word is used in a number of ways. It may indicate an altar other than the high altar, especially in pre-Reformation and Roman Catholic churches. Chapels were sometimes, though not necessarily, separated by a screen from the main part of the church. Castle Bromwich church has two chapels at the east end of the north and south aisles, the Remembrance Chapel dedicated after World War 1 and the Lady Chapel c1970.


A room consecrated for worship within a manor house or country house or built within its grounds was referred to as a chapel: there is a chapel inside Aston Hall; St Bartholomew Edgbaston had been built as the chapel of Edgbaston Hall by 1279.


A chapel, or chapel-of-ease, refers to an additional church in a parish run under the auspices of the mother church; St John the Baptist was built 1380 for the convenience of local people at Deritend because of the distance and difficulty of travel from their parish church at Aston. During the 19th-century house-building boom many chapels-of-ease were set up by parish churches to serve the new suburbs. These later became parish churches in their own right: St Mark's in Washwood Heath, built 1890 as a chapel of St Saviour's Saltley, was assigned its own parish 1907.


Non-conformist churches were often referred to as chapels: The former Christ Church Baptist Chapel at Aston Six Ways is an elaborate example.

Anglo-Saxon charters conveyed property rights, many of them to the church; it is thanks to the church's efficient bureaucracy which accounts for their survival. Some 1600 Anglo-Saxon charters survive especially from Wessex and the west Midlands south of Birmingham; for areas further to the north and east their survival becomes more rare. The oldest charter dates from 660 AD but more often they are 9th-11th century.


More than 800 charters also include perambulations of the estate in question and use natural features as landmarks. Rivers are frequently used as indisputable and easily observed boundaries. Strangely, the boundary stream or track itself is rarely specified or named, presumably because charters appear to ignore watercourses that define the border and list only those that cross it. This may be due to the fact that the boundary was so clearly marked on the ground and obvious to all, either by running water or by tracks, burnt trees, or perhaps by ditch and low banks, and did not need to be defined. It is often possible, particularly with reference to tithe maps or to early Ordnance Survey maps, to trace some of these boundaries even in urban areas.


The charter itself is usually in Latin and is written according to an accepted formula. The estate boundary perambulations, however, are usually written in Anglo-Saxon by witnesses who actually walked round the perimeter of the estate and surveyed the land for themselves. They are very important early survivals of placenames and of geographical and man-made features.


The surviving Birmingham charters relate to estates at Cofton, Great Barr, Kings Norton and Yardley.

The exclusive hunting ground of a landholder who had rights to hunt deer and boar; the equivalent of a park without a fence. Sutton Park was formed from part of Sutton Chase which itself had originally been part of Cannock Chase. It was the property of the Earls of Warwick.

Mercia mudstone, formerly known as keuper marl. See The Geology of Birmingham.

clay lane
An unmetalled parish road or track.If it was wide enough to have a strip of grass along each side it was often called a green lane. Some of these wider roads were set up as a result of enclosures; others may have been drovers' tracks made wide by herds of cattle on their way to market.

A Clay Lane can be found off the Coventry Road in Sheldon.

A piece of agricultural land enclosed by a hedge, fence or wall; in modern times referred to as a field. In late 20th-century street names a close denotes a cul-de-sac.

Until currency decimalisation 1971:

240d = £1 (d = Latin denarius/ denarii = penny/ pence)
12d = 1s (s = Latin solidus/ solidi = shilling/ shillings)
20s = £1 (£ = L = Latin liber/ libra = pound/ pounds)
A guinea was worth £1.1s.

Commissioners' church
In the early years of the century awareness grew that large numbers especially of the urban poor and working class were not catered for by the Established Church. At a Birmingham parish meeting in 1818 it was calculated that the churches and chapels of St Martin's parish (St Martin, St Mary, St Paul, St Bartholomew, Christ Church) offered only 7360 seats for a population of over 60 000; if High Town, Deritend and Ashted were included, some 11 000 seats catered for over 80 000 people. Even not counting appropriated sittings (ie. rented pews) of which there qwere very many, this amounts to one seat per eight people.


An Act of 1818 set up a Commission with a million pounds to build churches as a thanksgiving for victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The first Commissioners' church to be built in Birmingham was St George's on Great Hampton Row in 1819; it no longer stands. Later churches include St Thomas's Church Lee Bank 1825, of which only the Ionic colonnade still stands; Holy Trinity Bordesley, a church modelled on King's College Chapel Cambridge; St Barnabas Erdington 1822; and St Matthew's Church Duddeston 1840.

Nationally over 3400 new churches were built from 1801 to 1875, over 50% of them in the third quarter of the century. Some 867 churches were rebuilt, 74% of them during the third quarter of the century. Church-building in Birmingham reflected this: from 1800 to 1850 more than twenty new Anglican churches were built in Birmingham.


As the urban area grew outwards and the density of inner wards increased, church building grew apace; in the second half of the century an average of one church a year was built, and no less than ten from 1865 to 1869.

A medieval term usually signifying land for common grazing; see green below. Commons or wastes were lands over which manorial tenants had various rights, usually that of herbage, the right to pasture livestock. Rights varied from manor to manor: there were also rights of pannage (grazing pigs), estovers, (gathering wood for repairs to buildings, tools or carts or gorse for fuel and thatch), piscary (fishing), and rights of common in the soil (digging for sand, stone, gravel etc.) The rights of commons were crucial to the local agricultural economy and were subject to the manorial court.


Many commons were enclosed legally and illegally with the poorer tenants tending lose out. Many commons still exist and were listed and defined subsequent to the Commons Registration Act 1965.


Billesley Common and Hodge Hill Common are surviving examples.

compensation pools
Compensation reservoirs had to be built by the canal companies to compensate mill owners for the loss of water taken from rivers to feed the canals. Wychall Reservoir was built to compensate Wychall Mill. Now the mill is gone a feeder joins the canal on its west bank.

Conservation Area
An area defined in law from the mid-20th century in which certainly some, though not necessarily all the buildings are Listed. The buildings will have a group identity or a geographical integrity and the area is statutorily protected in much the same way as a Listed building.


The first Conservation Area in Birmingham was at Ryland Road Edgbaston created in 1969; the old village centres of Harborne, Kings Norton, Northfield and Yardley were designated later that year. Some 30 Conservation Areas in Birmingham include Bournville Village, Colmore Row, the Ideal Village in Bordesley Green and the Warwick Bar.

coppicing and pollarding
Coppicing was commonly undertaken in woodland and involved cutting trees every few years almost to ground level to encourage rapid long straight growth. Such woodland was a valuable asset, the wood being used for fencing, wattle, tools or firewood. Willows growing in marshy land near rivers were ideal for this. The tree would be pruned in winter or early spring; new shoots grow very rapidly and would be suitable to be cut for basket-making within a year.


Pollarding was more difficult and usually undertaken only with individual trees. These might be hedgerow trees which were cut at two to three metres in height to keep the new shoots above the grazing height of animals. Pollarded and especially coppiced trees can live to a very great age; examples over four hundred years old still thrive.

court leet
From feudal times a manorial court held usually twice a year in the presence of the lord, his steward or bailiff with extensive jurisdiction over many affairs of the manor and with the power to fine and imprison offenders. Manorial appointments such as the constable, town crier and ale-taster were the responsibility of the court leet. The courts gradually died out with the rise of municipal government from the 18th century, although some have survived in an honorary capacity, at Bromsgrove, for instance.

Battlements, as on a castle. Sir Roger de Somery paid for a royal licence to crenellate his manor house of Weoley Castle which had six towers, fortified walls and a deep moat.

Crenellations can be seen on some church towers and gothic revival houses of the 19th century; such buildings are sometimes referred to as embattled.

From medieval times an enclosed piece of land attached to a dwelling to grow domestic vegetables. Especially during the last quarter of the 20th century the names of medieval crofts have been used as street names.



Before the Reformation hundreds, probably thousands of crosses stood throughout the country. While all of them had a Christian significance, they were erected for a number of different reasons and purposes. Some wayside crosses would have been set up as memorials to loved ones and were intended for the spiritual sustenance of travellers, Some crosses served as boundary markers. Some roadside crosses may have denoted burial places. Public hangings often took place at crossroads with the body of the executed person being buried nearby. It may be that such crosses also acted as a place of burial for those such as suicides and the unbaptised who could not be buried in consecrated ground. Some crosses, usually in churchyards, were set up for preaching and may date from Anglo-Saxon times. Market crosses signified the location of a public market place and were often later replaced by a building. Many crosses were taken down during the Reformation, with most of the remainder being demolished under the Commonwealth. 


A number of Birmingham names include the element 'cross' - Allens Cross, Breedon Cross, Tile Cross, for example. However, no evidence of crosses is known to survive.
Cruck-framing was a medieval technique of building of which few examples survive in the Birmingham area. It involved sawing a curved (oak) tree lengthways (two separate trees were sometimes used) and leaning the two halves against each other to form an arch; the cruck blades were held by a tie-beam half-way up and by a collar-beam at the top. Their survival in Birmingham is rare.


Handsworth Old Town Hall is a cruck-framed building of three bays each divided by a cruck truss.

The cellar under a church usually used for burials; few Birmingham churches have crypts, although before the Reformation burials inside the church underneath the floor were common. Also known as the undercroft. The crypt of St Martin-in-the-Bull Ring excavated by Birmingham Museum 1974 was found to be almost full of disarticulated human bones.


St Philip's Cathedral 1711 has a crypt which was converted into usable space c1980.




deer park
Such parks existed in Anglo-Saxon times but were made viable by the introduction of fallow deer c1100 from Sicily; these were more manageable than the native red deer. Parks became popular after the Norman Conquest and by 1200 every wealthy landowner had one. By 1300 there were over 3000 deer parks in England usually created in existing woodland. They were especially common in wooded areas such as the Forest of Arden.


Creating a deer park required a royal licence which had to be paid for and involved a great amount of labour digging ditches and building banks topped with palings or thorny hedges; deer can jump as high as 3 metres. Sometimes fenced compartments were made within the park to prevent new plantations and coppiced woodland from being eaten by deer. Parks were expensive to create and also to maintain. The fencing had to be checked and repaired daily, the deer had to be fed throughout the winter months, the vulnerable young had to be cared for and a constant watch kept for poachers. And all this for no profit, for lords did not sell deer meat; rather they were reserved for special occasions and guests. Deer were also hunted for sport.


Towards the end of the Middle Ages they declined in popularity but were revived under Henry VIII and again in the 18th century by landscape gardeners such as Capability Brown.

Rotton Park was a deer park belonging to the manor of Birmingham. However, the de Berminghams were absentee landlords and the park had fallen into decay by the 16th century. It was disparked sometime before 1553. Banks and ditches of the deer park in Sutton Park may still be seen.

In the Middle Ages, manorial agricultural land for the lord's own use; tenants of the lord's other land owed labour which was used to work the demesne. The Domesday Book 1086 contains information about the extent of the demesne and other land. In Anglo-Saxon times the lord's land would consist of strips scattered amongst those of his tenants; in Norman times the demesne was more likely to be enclosed farmland around the home farm of the manor. The demesne was often worked from the demesne farmhouse known as the home farm.

A unit of ecclesiastical administration centred on a cathedral and under a bishop's jurisdiction. Canterbury was the earliest English diocese founded 597 AD. Of the dioceses which covered the Birmingham area Lichfield was created 669, Worcester c680, and Chester after 1540. Birmingham was created 1905. A diocese is subdivided into parishes.

Domesday Book
See below for a Domesday Glossary and list of Domesday Manors.
William the Conqueror spent Christmas 1085 in Gloucester where he asked his Council for a plan to assess the kingdom's wealth for taxation. Subsequently commissioners were chosen to travel round England taking details of who owned the land and how much it was worth. Early in 1086 the commissioners set off on their travels and on their return these records were collected and copied; the collection became known as the Domesday Book which is now held in the Public Records Office in London.


All the teams brought their reports to Winchester where the King's chief steward had them copied up in handwriting clear enough to be easily read to this day. William died in 1087 and was never able to make use of his book, but it continued to be used by kings and others for many years after, and is a unique record of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England. The country was probably travelled in seven circuits. In the Midlands, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire were covered in one circuit; Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire in another. 


The king spent Christmas with his councillors at Gloucester, and held court there for five days, which was followed by a three-day synod held by the archbishop and the clergy. At this synod Maurice was elected bishop of London and William bishop of Norfolk and Robert bishop of Cheshire: they were all chaplains of the king. After this the king had important deliberations and exhaustive discussions with his council about this land and how it was peopled, and with what sort of men.
Then he sent his men all over England into every shire to ascertain how many hundreds of 'hides' of land there were in each shire. He also had it recorded how much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, his abbots and his earls, and--though I may be going into too great detail--and what or how much each man who was a landholder here in England had in land or live-stock, and how much money it was worth. So very thoroughly did he have the inquiry carried out that there was not a single 'hide,' not one virgate of land, not even--it is shameful to record it, but it did not seem shameful for him to do--not even one ox, nor one cow, nor one pig which escaped notice in his survey. And all the surveys were subsequently brought to him.

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - translated from Latin 


The information demanded is known:


Here is subscribed the inquisition of lands as the barons of the King have made inquiry into them; that is to say by the oath of the sheriff of the shire, and of all the barons and their Frenchmen, and the whole hundred, the priests, reeves, and six villains of each manor; then, what the manor is called, who held it in the time of King Edward, who holds now; how many hides, how many ploughs in demesne, how many belonging to the men, how many villains, how many cottars, how many serfs, how many free-men, how many sokemen, how much woods, how much meadow, how many pastures, how many mills, how many fish-ponds, how much has been added or taken away, how much it was worth altogether at that time, and how much now, how much each free man or sokeman had or has. All this threefold, that is to say in the time of King Edward, and when King William gave it, and as it is now; and whether more can be had than is had.

From The Domesday Book - translated from Latin 


The names of none of the commissioners are known except those of the circuit which included Staffordshire and Worcestershire: Bishop Remegius of Lincoln, and three Norman barons, Henry Ferrers, Walter Giffard, Adam FitzHubert, the brother of the King's steward, with two monks and a clerk. It is unlikely that the commissioners visited every manor or village given the speed of the operation, but sat at county courts, main towns and hundred courts (a hundred was an Anglo-Saxon, and later, division of a county). Perhaps the main landowners or their stewards came and gave details individually. The speed with which the survey was completed strongly suggests that Anglo-Saxon manorial documents provided the basis of the information. The truth of the entry had to be sworn to by the shire reeve (sheriff), by all the barons and their Frenchmen, by the priest and the reeve (chief manor official) and by a jury of six villagers. Reports were written in Latin, much of it abbreviated, and compiled into the Domesday Book. The last section including the West Midlands appears to have been hastily written and was therefore probably the last to be copied up. Despite there being plenty of room for error, the survey is nonetheless a substantially accurate analysis of some aspects of 11th-century England.


The collection of manuscripts, first simply known as the descriptio, (Latin, usually translated as 'survey') of England, was given its ironical nickname in the 12th century, the implication being that it was as unavoidable and final as the Day of Judgement (Doomsday) in Christian belief. In Old English the word 'doom' meant a decree, law, statute, or judgement. There had been earlier doom books, ie. codes of law, one compiled by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century. In 1179 a clerk of the Exchequer wrote:


Just as the sentence of that strict and terrible Last Judgement cannot be evaded by any art or subterfuge, so, when a dispute arises in this realm concerning facts which are written down, and an appeal is made to the book itself, the evidence it gives cannot be set at nought or evaded with impunity.

Domesday manors of Birmingham:


Aston Warwickshire

William son of Ansculf holds Aston from the King and Godmund holds it from him. There are 8 hides. Land for 20 ploughteams. In the demesne land for 6 ploughteams but the ploughteams are not there. 30 villeins with a priest & a slave. 12 bordars have 18 ploughteams. A mill worth 3 shillings. Woodland 3 leagues long & half a league wide. The value was 4 pounds, now 100 shillings. Earl Edwin held it [in the time of King Edward].

Bartley Green Worcestershire See Selly Oak below.

Birmingham Warwickshire

From William [FitzAnsculf] Richard holds 4 hides in Birmingham. Land for 6 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 hide. 5 villeins & 4 bordars with 2 ploughteams. Woodland half a league long & 2 furlongs. The value was and is 20 shillings. Wulfwin held it freely in the time of King Edward.


Castle Bromwich Warwickshire

Ralph holds 3 hides from William [FitzAnsculf]. Land for 3 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 10 villeins & 3 bordars have 3 ploughteams. Woodland 1 league long & half a league wide. The value was & is 40 shillings. Brictwin held it [in the time of King Edward].


Edgbaston Warwickshire

From William [FitzAnsculf] Drogo holds 2 hides in Edgbaston. Land for 4 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 and a half ploughteams. 3 villeins & 7 bordars with 5 ploughteams. Woodland 3 furlongs wide and half a league long. The value was 20 shillings, now 30 shillings. Aski & Alfwy held it freely [in the time of King Edward].

Erdington Warwickshire

From William [FitzAnsculf] Peter holds 3 hides in Erdington. Land for 6 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 2 slaves. 9 villeins & 3 bordars with 4 ploughteams. A mill at 3 shillings. 5 acres of meadow. Woodland 1 league long and half wide but it is in the King's Enclosure. The value was 20 shillings, now 30 shillings. Earl Edwin held it [in the time of King Edward].

Frankley Worcestershire

William [FitzAnsculf] holds Frankley and Baldwin holds it from him. Wulfwin held it. 1 hide. In the demesne is 1 ploughteam. 9 bordars with 5 ploughteams & 2 slaves. Woodland 1 league long and 1/2 wide. In the time of King Edward the value was 40 shillings, now 30 shillings.

Great Barr Staffordshire

[Robert] holds from William [FitzAnsculf] 3 hides in Barr. Land for 3 ploughteams; none in the demesne & only 1 villein with 1 bordar. Woodland pasture 1 league long & 4 furlongs wide. The value was & is 5 shillings. Waga held it [in the time of King Edward].

Great Barr Staffordshire

[Drogo] holds from William [FitzAnsculf] 3 hides in Barr. Land for 3 ploughteams. In the demesne is 1 ploughteam. 2 villeins with 1 bordar have 1 ploughteam. 1 acre of meadow. Woodland 4 furlongs long & the same wide. The value was & is 5 shillings. Alfred held it with full rights to hold the manor court [in the time of King Edward].

Handsworth Staffordshire

Drogo holds from William [FitzAnsculf] 1 hide in Handsworth. Land for 2 ploughteams. In the demesne is 1 ploughteam. 6 villagers with 4 bordars have 2 ploughteams. A mill at 2 shillings & 2 acres of meadow. Woodlands half a league long & the same wide. The value was & is 20 shillings. Alfward & Alwin held it with full rights to hold the manor court [in the time of King Edward].


Harborne Staffordshire

The Bishop [of Chester] also holds Lichfield. These members belong to this manor . . . Harborne, land for 1 ploughteam, Robert holds it; Smethwick, land for 2 ploughteams; Tipton, land for 5 ploughteams, William holds it . . .


Kings Norton Worcestershire

King William holds in demesne Bromsgrove with 18 outlying manors [berewicks]: Moseley, [Kings] Norton, Lindsworth, Wythall, Wythwood, Houndsfield, Tessall, Rednal, Lea [Green], 'Comble', Burcot, Ashborough, Tutnall, Tynsall, Rockbury, Shurvenhill, Woodcote [Green], Timberhanger. Between them all including the demesne 30 hides. This manor was held by Earl Edwin in the time of King Edward. In the demesne are 2 ploughteams. 20 villeins & a reeve & a beadle with a priest & 4 times 20, & 12 [= 92] bordars. Between them all they have 77 ploughteams. There are 9 slaves & 1 female slave. 3 mills at 13 shillings and 4 pence. Woodland 7 leagues long & 4 leagues wide. 4 hawks' eyries. To this manor belong 13 salt-houses in [Droit]Wich & 3 salt-workers paying from these salt-houses 300 measures of salt. They were given in the time of King Edward 300 cartloads of timber by the keepers of the woodland. 6 lead vats [for salt-making].

Lindsworth Worcestershire See Kings Norton above.

Mackadown [Sheldon] Warwickshire

[From Thorkell] Alnoth holds Mackadown. There are 5 hides less 1 virgate. Land for 5 ploughteams. 10 villeins & 4 bordars with 3 ploughteams. 2 acres of meadow. Woodland 1 league long & half wide. The value was 20 shillings, now 40 shillings. Almund held it freely in the time of King Edward.

Minworth Warwickshire

[Godric from Thorkell] holds in Minworth 1 hide. Land for 1 ploughteam. There is 1 villein with half a ploughteam. 5 acres of meadow. Woodland half a league long and 3 furlongs wide. The value was & is 5 shillings. Godric held it freely in the time of King Edward.

Moseley Worcestershire See Kings Norton above.


Northfield Worcestershire

William [FitzAnsculf] holds Northfield. Alfwold held it. 6 hides. . . . In the demesne 1 ploughteam. A priest & 7 villeins & 16 bordars & 6 cottars with 13 ploughteams, 5 more ploughteams would be possible. 2 slaves & 1 female slave. Woodland half a league long & 3 furlongs wide. In the time of King Edward it was worth 8 pounds, now 30 shillings.

Perry Barr Staffordshire

Drogo holds from William [FitzAnsculf] 3 hides in Perry. Land for 3 ploughteams. In demesne 1 ploughteam. 4 villeins & 3 bordars. A mill there at 4 pence & 1 acre meadow. Woodland pasture 5 furlongs wide & 2 furlongs wide. The value was & is 10 shillings. Wivar held it with full rights to hold the manor court [in the time of King Edward].

Rednal Worcestershire See Kings Norton above.

Selly Worcestershire

William [FitzAnsculf] holds Selly. Tumi & Aeleva held it as 2 manors. Robert holds it from William. 1 hide. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 3 villeins & 2 bordars & 2 ploughmen & with 2 ploughteams. Woodland 1 league. In the time of King Edward the value was 20 shillings, now 15 shillings.

Selly Worcestershire

William son of Ansculf holds Selly from the King and Wibert holds it from him. Wulfwin held it. There belongs to it one outlying manor, Bartley [Green]. In total 4 hides. . . . In the demesne half a ploughteam. 2 villeins & 9 bordars with 4 ploughteams. A wood 1 league long. In the time of King Edward the value was 100 shillings, now 60 shillings.

Sutton Coldfield Warwickshire

King William holds Sutton. Earl Edwin held it. There are 8 hides & 1 virgate of land. Land for 22 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 2 slaves & 20 villeins & 4 bordars with 7 ploughteams. 10 acres of meadow. Woodland 2 leagues long & 1 wide, when exploited worth 30 shillings. The value of the whole manor was & is 4 pounds.

Wiggins Hill Warwickshire

Browning holds [from Thorkell] 3 virgates of land in Wiggins Hill. Land for 1 ploughteam. This is in the demesne. 8 acres of meadow. Woodland 2 furlongs long & the same wide. The value was and is 5 shillings. He also held it freely [in the time of King Edward].

Wishaw Warwickshire

From William Ordric holds 2 hides in Wishaw. Land for 2 ploughteams. 3 villeins with a priest & 4 bordars. Woodland 3 furlongs long & 1 wide. The value was 30 shillings, now 10 shillings. Ordric also held it freely [in the time of King Edward].

Witton Warwickshire

From William [FitzAnsculf] Stanketel holds 1 hide in Witton. Land for 4 ploughteams. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 2 slaves. 1 villein & 2 bordars with 2 ploughteams. The value was 10 shillings, now 20 shillings. Stanketel also held it freely [in the time of King Edward].

Yardley Worcestershire

The Church itself holds Beoley with one member, Yardley, 21 hides both open land & woodland. In the demesne 1 ploughteam. 8 villeins & 10 bordars & 1 radman with 9 ploughteams. Woodland 6 leagues long & 3 leagues wide which pays 40 pence. The value was 8 pounds; now 100 shillings.

Domesday Glossary

NB Populations can only be estimated: the numbers of the various classes of people are those of heads of household and should be multiplied by a factor of perhaps 5.
bordar a smallholder with a house and a small amount of land rented from the lord, though not enough to be self-sufficient. They subsisted by working on the land of others. However, craftsmen such as coopers, smiths and wheelwrights were also counted as bordars.
cottar cottager, little better than a slave, had a house and tiny amount of land paid for by labour service on the lord's demesne.
berewick a subsidiary or outlying manor/ sub-manor. The name derives from Old English bere wic 'barley (corn), (subsidiary) farm.
demesne the tenancy of the whole manor belonged to the lord of the manor (eg. Peter of Erdington) under the tenant-in-chief (eg. William FitzAnsculf) from the King. The lord of the manor then rented land to lesser tenants. The demesne, however, was the lord's own land farmed by labour owed to him as rent by his tenants. In Anglo-Saxon times the lord's land would consist of strips scattered amongst those of his tenants; by Norman times the demesne was more likely to be enclosed farmland around the home farm of the manor.
freeman paid rent but owed no labour service to the lord of the manor.
hide reckoned as 120 acres (c50 hectares); a virgate is half a hide. The size was variable depending on how easy the land was to plough. The hide was not so much a measure of area but a measure of the land's value for tax purposes.
league a measure of distance, 1 league = 12 furlongs = 1½ miles.
meadow reckoned in acres (1 acre = c2.5 ha), pastures for grazing cattle usually along rivers.
ploughteam reckoned as 8 oxen with a plough. The term is actually a unit of measurement denoting the amount of land that could be ploughed in a year. This varied according to the nature of the land. (Oxen were very gradually replaced by horses from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.)
radman a 'rider' who paid rent as service on horseback, a knightly fee; probably served as the reeve of the lord of the manor.
slave serf, personal property of the lord.
villein villager, peasants who rented a virgate of land or more from the lord of the manor and paid in kind and/ or labour service. They generally farmed enough land to be self-sufficient.
virgate See hide above.
woodland measured in leagues and furlongs; a league was 12 furlongs ie. 1½ miles (c.2.5 km), a furlong 220 yards (c200m). Woodland was generally not wildwood but a valuable commodity which was exploited through coppicing or pollarding as well as being used as pasture. In the Forest of Arden a greater amount of unexploited woodland may still have been in evidence.

dower house
In common law a widow was entitled to a third of her husband's estate until her death or remarriage; this may have included a house known as the dower house. Duddeston Hall was used as the dower house by the Holtes after the building of Aston Hall.

Also known as a pigeon house, few now survive. Originating in Ancient Rome, dovecotes were introduced to this country from Normandy during the Middle Ages. They were usually attached to the manor house for the lord's own use, and tenants were forbidden to build them. Their purpose was to ensure a supply of eggs and meat. The pigeon droppings were used to manure the fields.


Dovecotes largely fell out of use during the 18th century. The accepted thinking was that doves were used to provide a source of fresh meat during the winter months. Before the 18th century it was not usually possible to overwinter cattle due to lack of food. Most animals were slaughtered at the onset of winter and their meat stored in salt barrels. The introduction of turnips as winter feed meant that fresh meat was available throughout the winter, and fresh pigeon meat was no longer a luxury. However, it now seems that it was young pigeons that were eaten in spring prior to their taking flight. Known as squabs the birds were less than 4 weeks old, very tender and about half a kilogram in weight.

The 18th-century brick-built Moseley Dovecote belonged to the South Farm of Moseley Hall and is now regularly open to the public.




(See also Glossary N-S open fields.)
During the 18th century Birmingham's rural hinterland was increasingly turned over to sheep for wool production; cattle were also reared but most were slaughtered annually as the problem of winter-feeding had not yet been solved. Most farms were mixed, however, and many self-subsistence only; local arable crops sold at Birmingham market included flax, wheat and oats, beans and root crops, fruit and dairy produce and craft work.


Piecemeal enclosure of open fields began by mutual agreement in the Middle Ages even while new open fields were still being created. This entailed combining the separate strips into blocks of land that were easier to manage. Hedges often of hawthorn were planted round enclosures, known then as closes, now generally called fields. Although this was time-consuming and expensive it was reckoned that enclosed fields were worth three times the value of the same land in strips. Commons and wastes were also shared amongst those who had rights over them. However, manorial lords with large amounts of waste as in much of the Forest of Arden allowed assarting, ie. the setting up of private enclosures, which brought in extra rental without prejudicing the amount of available grazing.


Parliamentary enclosure actually marked the final stages of this evolving process. The earliest such enclosure had been at Radipole in Dorset in 1604; the last took place in 1914; but the majority were between 1750-1830. An Act of Parliament had to be passed when not all land-owners agreed to enclose, but where 75-80% were in favour. Many enclosures were mutually agreed. Commissioners were authorised by Parliament to parcel up the land which they usually did in regular rectangular fields; surviving enclosure awards and the accompanying maps are available at Birmingham Central Library. Public highways were also often legally defined in the process and the roads between enclosed fields were often straight for long stretches within a parish, although not necessarily aligned with roads in the neighbouring parish.


The tendency of enclosure was to make the rich richer and the poor poorer: ownership sometimes had to be proved by documentary evidence which poorer people were less likely to have, plots had to be enclosed by fence or hedge which poorer families could not afford to do.


The present popular stereotypical view of the English countryside dates from the hedgerows and trees planted at the time of field enclosure. Prior to this the open-field landscape would have appeared to the modern eye as wide and bare with a few surviving woods.

When used in placenames, 'end' may have the meaning of a locality on the edge of a land unit. Although the manor of Yardley was centred on Yardley village, this part was known as Church End. Because of the long thin nature of the manor, the church and village stand at the northern limit some 7 miles from its southern extent. 'End' may also have had the meaning of a site settled away from the main settlement, possibly by squatters on common land.

Many manorial tenants had the right of estovers ie. to gather wood on common land or waste.




A canal feeder is a length of canal bringing water from a stream, river or reservoir; it may or may not be navigable.
Icknield Port Loop/ Rotton Park Loop on the Birmingham Canal is a navigable feeder from Edgbaston Reservoir.

In earliest Anglo-Saxon times a field signified open land as opposed to forest; the land may have been cleared by incoming settlers, cleared by previous peoples or it may have been an area of land without natural tree cover. The placename Northfield includes this meaning.


Subsequently field came to refer to one of the large open fields which was divided into separate strips and allocated to the villagers; the street name Yardley Fields Road recalls this meaning. Most of Birmingham's villages had open fields near them; ridge and furrow can be seen of the open fields of Kings Norton on Kings Norton playing fields in Wharf Lane.

The word field is used nowadays to refer to what was formerly called a close, an enclosed area of land belonging to an individual.

Archaeologists walking side by side in line across ploughed fields deliberately searching for objects. In Sutton Coldfield the Manorial Wood flints, 16 flints in two fields were found by this method.

finery See Glossary G-M iron making.

A road crossing through a river or stream; almost all fords are now replaced by bridges, main roads especially from the introduction of the turnpikes in the 18th century. A rare example of a ford survives at Green Road crossing the River Cole near Sarehole Mill. The importance of good or even mediocre fords across rivers and even small streams cannot be over-estimated in Birmingham.


Much of the area east of Birmingham lies on heavy clay whose tiny grains of clay stick together when wet; water cannot pass through and a slimy sticky surface is created. Travel over clay lands in wet weather can be very difficult especially at river crossings. Furthermore along the rivers was an accumulation of thousands of years of alluvium, fertile mud or river silt washed down into the valleys. From time immemorial roads and tracks followed ridges between rivers over lighter drier soils on glacial drift wherever possible and forded rivers at points where glacial drift makes crossing easier.


At Coleshill the gravelly riverbed of the former ford can clearly be seen from the bridge where the old Lichfield Road crosses the River Cole.

foreign See burgage tenure above.

A fordrough or foredrove was an unmetalled farm track. A number are recalled in street names. The Fordrough at Ley Hill in Sutton Coldfield was the track up to Ley Hill Farm.

From the Middle Ages some watermills were used for fulling rather than for grinding corn. Fulling is the process of washing woollen cloth using wooden mallets and fuller's earth, a type of clay which took the grease out of the wool. It was the first industrial process to be mechanised. The cloth was subsequently stretched back to size and shape on wooden frames. Fulling had previously been done by foot and was known as walking, hence some fulling mills were referred to as 'walk mills'. See also Glossary T-Z watermills.


Thimble Mill on Hockley Brook in Aston was a fulling mill before turning to blade making in the 17th century.



William Dargue 08.04.09