William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
Cofton Common, Cofton Hackett, Cofton Richard/s, Cofton Walteri, Coston
B45 - Grid reference SP079799
Coftune: first record 849
William Haket is known to have held Cofa in 1166. His family name was later added to cofa tun which in Anglo-Saxon meant 'cove farm'. In modern parlance the word 'cove' is generally used to describe a coastal feature, but it formerly referred to any sheltered spot. This Worcestershire manor was also known as Coston and is sometimes recorded as such from the 11th century and into the early 20th.
Hackett, the second element of the manor's name was added very early to distinguish it from the neighbouring manor of Cofton Richard, which is also recorded from 1166. This manor was held by a Richard in 1166. Cofton Walteri ie. Walter's Cofton, is recorded in 1309 and is known to have been held by a Walter in 1256.
In the late 16th century the manorial lord of Cofton Hackett also bought the rights to this manor and the two were administered together until the 18th century after which the manor of Cofton Richard is heard of no more. However, Cofton Richard Farm just north-west of Upper Bittel Reservoir still bears witness to its past existence.
The scattered settlement of Cofton Hackett was centred on Barnt Green Road/ Cofton Church Lane. Around the junction of Groveley Lane and Longbridge Lane was Cofton Common where the people of the manor had the right of free access to graze their livestock. Cofton Park was established during the second half of the 20th-century north of the village and lies east of Lickey Road.
Cofton is one of this area's earliest recorded placenames being first mentioned in AD 849 during the Anglo-Saxon period in a lease of five hides of land (c100 hectares). An estate belonging to Bishop Ealhun of Worcester was leased to King Berhtwulf. The boundaries of the estate are specified in the charter. The first stretch at Cofton is described in Old English as:
tomsetna gemaere & pencer setna foran rehtes gaet in waerburge rode -
'from the boundary of the Tomsetna and the Pencersetna at Reht's Gate (a gap in the hills) to Waerburg's long clearing'.
The location of the start of this boundary is at the junction of Redditch Road and Longbridge Lane. Both Tomsetna and Pencersetna were Anglian peoples who had originally settled the Birmingham sandstone ridge from Staffordshire southwards; the Pencersetna lived to the south of the Tomsetna.
There is great geological interest around Cofton. The oldest rocks in our area are to be found here under Cofton Hill in the Lickeys. 3500 million years ago during the late Pre-Cambrian era, Barnt Green volcanic rock was deposited as millions and millions of tonnes of volcanic ash which gradually compacted to form a hard fine-grained brown, green or purple rock.
Cofton Hall was the timber-framed manor house built in the 14th century by the Hackett family. The hall was faced in stone in the late Victorian period and nothing is now visible of the encased earlier building, except the magnificent hall inside with its roof of nine hammer-beam trusses. Two of these actually date from the 18th-century, good copies added when the six-bay hall was extended to eight. Charles I spent a victorious night here after his royalist troops had captured and burnt Hawkesley House on 14 May 1645. The property is in private hands.
The church of St Michael was a chapel of Northfield until 1866 when it became a parish church in its own right. It is a simple gothic building with a chancel and nave and at the west end a bell-turret with two bells dating from 1717. It was built in the second half of the 14th century, a little later than the hall, and although the building was restored in 1861, many features of the earlier building remain.. The windows are Victorian gothic, but the rest of the chancel is certainly 14th-century. Similarly the south wall. The entrance doorway is 15th-century and is sheltered by an old wooden porch.
In the chancel an alabaster slab commemorates William Leicester and his wives, Eleanor and Anne, their effigies under canopies; this family were the lords of the manor during the 15th and 16th centuries. There are also monuments to members of the Jolliffe family, lords of the manor in the 17th century.
In the nave is a tablet to William Babington, who died in 1625, and his wife Eleanor, Sir Edward Lyttelton's daughter who d.1671. The memorial was originally placed in the chancel as was the norm amongst wealthy families at the time. However, the view of the gothic revivalists was that such individual ostentations violated the most sacred part of the building, and during the restoration of the church in 1861 it was moved to somewhere considered more appropriate. Outside the church stands the base of an old cross of unknown date.
William Dargue 13.11.2008/ 01.08.2010
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.