B7 - Grid reference SP097889
Cranmoore: first record 1653
The former name of Arley Road in Washwood Heath was Crane Moor Lane, which is first found in records in 1760. This was common land at that date, but was soon to be enclosed. A moor was a topographical word used to describe the marshy land along a river, here the River Rea. Crane Moor must have been south of the point where Aston Church Road now crosses the river near Heartlands Parkway.
Before they were culverted at the end of the Victorian era, Birmingham's rivers were prone to flooding their shallow valleys in winter. These regular inundations produced fertile water meadows which were valuable for grazing livestock. This moor is named after the crane, a large bird similar though not related to the heron. It may well be, however, that the word was used for both species and that the heron is referred to here. At a distance the birds are similar: the heron measuring up to 100 cm in height, the crane a little taller at 115cm. The crane is the most common bird found in Anglo-Saxon placenames.
A native British breeding bird, the crane was common in marshland areas in the Middle Ages and was hunted as game. It is recorded, for instance, that Richard III had roast crane at his coronation banquet in 1483; it was usually served with a spicy pepper, ginger and mustard sauce. The species had become an endangered species by Tudor times partly due to excessive hunting but also because increasing marshland drainage was taking away its habitat. Along with other edible wild birds cranes were protected by law in 1534, but to no avail. By the 17th century they were extinct in Britain. However, breeding pairs have again been sighted recently in Suffolk, no doubt encouraged by the deliberate reversion of some former farmland to fens.
Crane Moor is recalled by a 19th-century streetname on the west bank of the River Rea in Nechells, Cranemoor Close, formerly Cranemoor Street.
William Dargue 02.11.08/ 01.08.2010
For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.