William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B31 - Grid reference SP021784
The site of Digbeth Farm is around the junction of Cressage Avenue and Willetts Road at Turves Green, Northfield. Recorded in the possession of Agnes Baker in 1424 it was then known as Baker's Place. The farmhouse was vacant by 1935 and in 1947 the City Council's housing department bought some 20,000 hectares of farmland in the area, including Digbeth Farm whose buildings were demolished c1950. On the farmland were built Willetts Road, Harpers Road, Cressage Avenue, Centenary Way, Purslow Grove and Adstone Grove.
This name may well have the same origin as Digbeth in the City Centre, but that meaning itself is far from certain. The name seems to include the Anglo-Saxon word dic, 'dyke', which can mean either a ditch or an embankment made alongside a ditch. The Anglo-Saxons used baeth to describe a Roman bath, though there is no Roman evidence here. The name could mean 'dyke pools', ie. pools by the dyke. But paeth was the Old English word for 'path' and perhaps the name should be interpreted as 'dyke path'.
The dyke may refer to watercourses created for a watermill. As at Digbeth near the City Centre, a mill stood here with a leat taking water from the River Rea. Northfield Mill stood on the Rea just above the point where Digbeth Brook enters the river at Mill Lane near the railway bridge under the Birmingham & Gloucester line. The mill dated from the 13th century and was a manorial corn mill. It had various names including Digbeth Mill, presumably from an ownership connection with Digbeth Farm. It still operated as a corn mill in 1908 with Walter Morris as tenant, but gradually fell into ruin from the 1930s and was subsequently demolished. Part of the waterwheel pit, walls and dry pool are still visible among bushes and trees alongside the railway.
William Dargue 01.08.2010
For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.