William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B24 - Grid reference SP129909
Assholt: first record 13th century
Before the opening of the Kingsbury Turnpike in 1826, Ashold Farm stood on a main route from Birmingham to Hemlingford. There is little now to be seen at Hemlingford, but this crossing of the River Tame near Kingsbury was for a thousand years the site of the hundred moot, a combination of a modern district council and local magistrates system which continued into the 19th century.
Left: The site of Ashold Farm on the Tyburn Trading Estate, Ashold Farm Road, near the junction with Kingsbury Road. The Birmingham Post & Mail printing works has since been built on this site.
Ashold - the placename
The name of Ashold Farm is Anglo-Saxon, aesc holt, and means 'ash wood'. Ash is a tall moisture-loving tree much valued for its resilient wood. Although used only in the houses of the poor as building timber, ash trees could be coppiced or pollarded to produce long straight poles with many uses. Coppicing was commonly undertaken in woodland. Every few years a selection of trees was successively cut almost to ground level to encourage rapid long straight growth.
Coppiced woodland was a valuable asset, the wood being used for fencing, wattle, tools or firewood. Pollarding was a more difficult operation and usually undertaken only with individual trees. These might be hedgerow trees which were cut to a height of 2-3 metres to keep the new shoots above the reach of grazing animals. Pollarded and especially coppiced trees are known to live to a very great age. Examples over four hundred years old still thrive.
It is well to be wary when interpreting placenames. This may have been known as 'ash wood' because it was a wood of ash trees, or by virtue of the fact that a significant ash, perhaps a pollard, stood prominently in a wood of other tree species. Furthermore, Aesc was an Anglo-Saxon personal name, so this could have been a wood belonging to a man called Ash.
See also Ashfurlong.
Sewage beds along the Tame
After 1884 the fields west of Ashold as far as Salford Bridge were used as sewage beds for Birmingham's rapidly expanding population. An 8-foot-diameter main sewer was laid underground from the city centre to the Tyburn and over 12 hectares of meadows along the Tame were used in rotation as sewage beds from north Nechells to Tyburn.
The entire sewage output of Birmingham and that of the surrounding districts of Aston, Balsall Heath, Handsworth, Harborne, Kings Norton, Perry Barr, Saltley, Smethwick and Sutton was gravity-fed to the sewage farm.
By 1904, when the sewage works at Nechells and at Minworth had been converted to bacterial filtration, the sewage farms were no longer needed and the land was gradually sold off for industry.
An early occupant in the 1920s was the Dunlop Tyre Company which transferred its manufactory from Aston Cross to a greenfield site on the fields of Ashold Farm. Because of its remote rural location the company laid on water transport for the workers along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal which also passed close to the former factory site on the Lichfield Road in Aston.
The site of Ashold Farm is now part of extensive industrial estates along the Tame valley. These were redeveloped at the end of the 20th century and development continues into the 21st.
William Dargue 02.09.2008/ 30/07/2010
For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.
Map below reproduced from Andrew Rowbottom’s website of Old Ordnance Survey maps Popular Edition, Birmingham 1921.
Click the map to link to that website.