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

Glossary T-Z




tithes/ tithe maps
The word tithe derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a tenth. In the Bible God gave the Law for the Israelites to the Prophet Moses which included a command to give a tenth of their farm produce as a thanksgiving to God (Deuteronomy 12:5-6). By the 8th century in Anglo-Saxon England this had become enshrined in law. Although cash payments were made in some parishes, most tithes were originally paid in kind.

However, as time went on the system became very complicated, especially where priests were non-resident and appointed a vicar in their place. the system grew evermore complex after the Reformation when the Crown confiscated the tithes of parishes held by monasteries and sold them on to lay people. From the 17th century Quakers refused to pay tithes to the Church of England and by the 19th century large numbers of non-conformists also strongly objected to the system.

The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 set up the Tithe Commission to assess land use and tithe payments and to convert them into rent charges. These lasted until 1936 when a procedure was arranged to completely phase them all out by 1996. The resulting paperwork is invaluable to local historians in that detailed local information is available between 1836 to 1852 regarding landowners, tenants, land use, field names and detailed local maps often the earliest made of the area.
Tithe maps exist of the Birmingham manors and may be used in conjunction with the tithe apportionments, ie. the lists of landowners and tenants: Aston 1845, Birmingham, 1848, Erdington, 1852, Elmdon 1839, Handsworth, 1843, Kings Norton 1840, Northfield 1839, Ridgacre (Quinton) 1844, Sheldon 1840, Warley 1845, Yardley 1843/ 1847. They are available to view at Birmingham Central Library.

Tollhouses were built on turnpiked roads to collect the revenues due. See turnpikes below.
They were also built alongside canals by the canal companies to collect dues; one survives at the head of Farmers Bridge locks c1789 on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. In the case of a wide canal such as the BCN New Main Line they were built on islands in the middle of the canal; an island without its tollhouse survives at Smethwick at Bromford Junction where the Old and New Main Lines meet.

In the 18th century brass assumed increasingly greater importance for Birmingham and was used especially for small fashionable items known then as 'toys', such as buckles, buttons, door handles, snuff boxes ornaments and jewellery. They required small investment but a high degree of skill; being small they were easy to transport from an inland town. About 1680 Birmingham toys were referred to disparagingly as 'Brummagem ware' after counterfeit groats made here, but increasingly Birmingham products gained a name for innovation and quality, much of this reputation attributable to Matthew Boulton. Birmingham was known at this time as the Toyshop of Europe.

By 1833 horse omnibuses ran between Birmingham and seven local towns, stopping wherever they were hailed. Suburban omnibus services began in 1834 along the Bristol Road, Hagley Road and Soho Road. After the removal of the tollgates in 1872 when the counties were given responsibility for highway maintenance, horse-drawn buses were run from Birmingham along the former turnpikes to surrounding villages and hamlets, such as Hall Green, which then had no railway line, or which had a railway but no station. Many of these were to be replaced by trams: first horse-trams, steam and then electric trams, although some horse bus routes continued into the early 1900s.

On 20 May 1872 the first (horse) tram line in the Midlands was opened by Birmingham & District Tramways and ran from the Birmingham boundary at Hockley Brook (now Hockley Flyover) along the Soho Road/ Holyhead Road through Handsworth to West Bromwich. In 1873 Birmingham Corporation laid a line from Snow Hill Station via Hockley Hill to meet the Birmingham & District line. By the end of the 19th century most of Birmingham's main roads were laid with tramlines from the town centre to the boundary. By 1904 Birmingham Corporation owned all tracks within its boundary and began its own tramway operations. When the lease on Birmingham's section of the Birmingham & Aston Tramways expired the Corporation took over the line, electrified it and re-opened it from Steelhouse Lane to the boundary. From 1906 all routes were gradually electrified using overhead cables.

After World War 1 the city's tramway system was developed into a network of long routes from the city centre to the boundaries with connections beyond. 1922 marked the beginning of the end of the tramway system. Trams were now causing hold-ups to the increasing road traffic. One of the worst causes for complaint was the tram route to Nechells where trams were abandoned and replaced by trolleybuses. In 1930 the routes to Boulton Road and along the Hagley Road were abandoned. By 1939 the Dudley, Lozells, Stratford Road, West Bromwich and Yardley routes had all been closed. Much of the system remained in use, however, throughout the Second World War until 1947 when wholesale closure started. On 4 July 1953 the last three routes to Erdington, Short Heath and Pype Hayes closed simultaneously.

A turnpike was a toll road authorised by Parliament during the 18th century, the word deriving from a military term describing a movable spiked defensive barrier across a road. By the 18th century the system of road maintenance by local parishes was failing to provide for increasing regional and national trade. Roads were unmetalled and erratically maintained. Local people resented the expense of upkeep and repair of long distance highways which they themselves rarely used. Consequently, toll roads were authorised by Parliament with the money raised to be spent on road improvement. The first parliamentary act was passed as early as 1663 for a stretch of the Great North Road, and by 1750 most major roads had been turnpiked.

Turnpiking continued to gather pace and, between 1751 and 1772, there were 389 new turnpike trusts were set up. Most were improvements of existing routes, but some later roads replaced inconvenient ones: Pershore Road, for example, and Alcester Road across Kings Heath were largely new routes.

By 1820 some 22 000 miles of British roads were controlled by 1000 trusts at 7000 tollgates. Stagecoach services ran within a thirty-mile radius of London as early as the 1630s; the first Midland evidence is of the London-Chester coach running via Castle Bromwich in 1659. This line operated until the 1830s with only a single year's gap during the Great Plague of 1665. By 1700 Birmingham had three posts a week to London which were carried by horse-riders with connections across the English Channel; by 1746 there were six posts a week. From 1784 the Royal Mail was carried by stagecoach, by which time it took 20 hours from Birmingham to London; in 1700 it was a 21/2 day journey.

The impact on trade locally and nationally was enormous: business- and salespeople could travel the country far more quickly and reliably than ever before, and their goods could be shipped in greater quantities and faster than ever before.

The two miles between Hastings and Hollington in Sussex was the last authorised turnpike in 1836. A period of railway mania had begun. The opening of the London-Birmingham Railway 1838 caused an immediate fall in takings along affected roads. From that same year the Royal Mail was carried from London to Birmingham by rail. Turnpikes could not compete with the speed or capacity of railways for long-distance traffic and many trusts ran into debt leading to a deterioration in road conditions.

By 1840 all the Birmingham-London stagecoach services had ceased and by 1850 only a few services were left running to towns which were not on the railway network. Most trusts were dissolved in the 1870s and all were finally abolished 1888 when responsibility for trunk roads went to the new county councils, and responsibility for local roads to parishes and townships.

The Stratford Road was the first Birmingham turnpike and followed an existing route. In 1831 the New Walsall Road was the last turnpike and, as a trunk road, was largely a new creation. At intervals along all turnpike roads were tollgates at which a tollhouse was built; resident keepers collected the dues. Colletts Brook Farm is the only such surviving building in Birmingham; more typical would be the tollhouse which survives on Smethwick High Street built in 1818.

Chronological list of Birmingham's turnpikes


1726 Stratford Turnpike
1726 Warwick Turnpike
1727 (Old) Walsall Turnpike
1727 Bromsgrove Turnpike
1727 Wednesbury Turnpike
1745 Coventry Turnpike
1753 Halesowen Turnpike
1759 Chester Road Turnpike
1760 Castle Bromwich Turnpike
1761 Dudley Turnpike
1766 Northfield - Wootton Wawen Turnpike
1767 Alcester Turnpike
1803 Sutton Coldfield - West Bromwich Turnpike
1807 Lichfield Turnpike
1807 Sutton Coldfield - Bassetts Pole Turnpike
1825 Pershore Turnpike
1826 Kingsbury Turnpike
1831 New Walsall Turnpike






A medieval, and later, term describing the area of responsibility in the charge of a forest keeper. By Tudor times Sutton Chase was divided into four areas or walks, Coldfield, Berwood, Lindridge and Hillwood, each in the charge of a forester or gamekeeper. The Coldfield walk was sometimes referred to as Sutton Walk.
See also Glossary A-F deer park.

walk mill See watermills below.

The word derives from Old French meaning a 'game park', but by Late Middle English generally referred to an enclosure set aside for the breeding of rabbits. Rabbits were first introduced from the Mediterranean in early Norman times and farmed commercially on a wide scale by the 13th century. Whether for food or fur they were an expensive luxury for the rich. However, these were not the fast-burrowing, fast-breeding rabbits that are now naturalised in Britain, but a species that needed to be carefully nurtured in the English climate. Warrens, sometimes known as pillow mounds, were created for them, and a light soil was ideal.
free warren
A grant by royal licence to a lord of the manor or estate owner giving the sole right to hunt, on their demesne, what were known as 'beasts of the warren' ie. badgers, foxes, hares, partridge, pheasant and pine marten, polecats, rabbits and wild cats.

water meadows or meadows
Rich pasture on alluvial river flood plains. Birmingham's rivers Cole, Rea and Tame and some of their tributaries wander through wide shallow valleys which were prone to winter floods until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when balancing lakes and culverts were designed to counteract this. Such meadows were especially valuable as flooding made for lusher grass the next season. Not only did the long grass provide summer grazing but also winter hay.

Boundaries between the territories of settlements usually followed the middles of rivers and streams wherever possible. However earlier settlements were able to claim both banks of the river to the disadvantage of later settlers. The manor of Birmingham, for instance, owned the land on both banks of the River Rea.

Until water power was harnessed in Anglo-Saxon times all work was done by the strength of people and animals. The investment of time and labour needed to build a watermill was such that only the lord of the manor could afford such an expense. His tenants then had to pay to grind their corn at the manorial mill. Early millwheels worked directly from the river and were horizontal, while later mills with vertical wheels were built further away from the river to avoid the risk of flooding. Water was supplied via mill leats, artificial channels dug from the river to the mill.

Later, to ensure a more even supply of water, mill pools were built. These served a dual purpose as ponds for fish, valuable protein in the lean winter months. All early mills were used only to grind corn. It is reckoned that half the manors in England had a watermill at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086. The reason they were recorded in the Domesday Book is that they were a valuable and taxable resource. What is not known is whether the mills recorded were existing Anglo-Saxon mills, or mills newly built by an incoming Norman lord.

From the Middle Ages, with the increasing importance of wool production as against wheat, some mills were turned over to fulling ie. washing and pre-shrinking woollen cloth by wooden mallets in as mixture of water and fuller's earth, a type of clay used to degrease the wool. The cloth was subsequently stretched back to shape and size on wooden frames. This was the first industrial process to be mechanised. Previously laboriously undertaken by foot, the process was known as walking, hence some mills were referred to as walk mills.

During the Tudor period coal mining and iron production was being developed around the headwaters of the River Tame. By the end of the 16th century watermills were being used for iron processes powering blast furnace bellows smelting iron ore with charcoal, and lifting tilt hammers at finery forges to reduce bulky pigs of cast iron into iron bars. From the 17th century many mills were used for sharpening blades. This required little water and could be carried out on small streams.
Other industrial uses including drawing wire and grinding gun barrels. During the 19th century some watermills began to supplement the unreliable water supply with steam power. Initially engines were used simply to pump water back to the millpond for re-use, but as steam power became more efficient, it was used to replace the water power to operate the machinery. By the end of the century some mills ceased to use water power altogether.
The last watermills ceased commercial operations c1930, in some cases after continuous use of the site for more than a thousand years. Some mills subsequently became the focus of industrial development and are still industrial sites today.

Sarehole Mill, a City Museum was Birmingham's only surviving working watermill until the restoration of New Hall Mill in Sutton Coldfield.

Windmills for grinding corn are found in England from the 12th century and by their size and high position would have been significant local landmarks. The earliest were post mills which consisted of a movable wooden structure holding the sails and the internal grinding mechanism. The entire structure could be rotated on the massive central post on a bearing at the top. Such mills needed constant maintenance and repair.

Post mills were gradually replaced by tower mills. These were fixed brick or stone buildings often built on a raised mound of which only the wooden cap holding the sails rotated. Smock mills similarly constructed but of wood are found from late Tudor times.

No visible traces remain of any Birmingham windmills, though a restored mill at Berkswell can be visited on advertised occasions. Most Birmingham mills are traceable only by documentary evidence: Lyndon Green Mill does not appear on early 18th-century maps but is evidenced by Windmill Close on the 1840 Sheldon tithe map. A few windmills were not used for grinding corn but for industrial purposes: Tower Mill or Huttons Mill in Lozells was built in 1759 for paper making by the Birmingham historian, bookseller and stationer, William Hutton.

Post-medieval windmills were often built for grinding corn when the nearby watermill was turned over to metal work, although some were also used for a variety of industrial uses.








William Dargue 08.04.09