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

Hawkesley - Longbridge

B31 - Grid reference SP017776

Hauckeslowe: first record 1275

There is unresolved confusion about two places known as Hawkesley, the one at Turves Green near Longbridge, the other at West Heath, and both in the manor of Kings Norton. The two Hawkesleys are about 1.5 miles from each other. The modern district name derives from the Hawkesley in West Heath (See the next entry), and the name Hawkesley no longer survives in Longbridge.

In Old English heafoc loh probably means 'hawk's homestead', hawk referring either to the bird, or to Hawk used as a male personal name, or a later surname. The final element of the name appears to derive not from ley, a dwelling in a woodland clearing, but from the Anglo-Saxon low, which usually refers to an artificial tumulus, perhaps a burial mound.


Hawkesley Moat photographed by Birmingham Phil and used with his kind permission. Image 'All Rights Reserved' downloaded from Flickr.
Hawkesley Moat photographed by Birmingham Phil and used with his kind permission. Image 'All Rights Reserved' downloaded from Flickr.

Take a look. The site of Hawkesley House or (Great) Hawkesley Farm is in Turves Green/ Longbridge in Rednal Yield of  the ancient manor of Northfield. Protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, it is also sometimes called confusingly, Hawkesley Hall, or Moat House. (See Hawkesley, West Heath.)

Excavations at Hawkesley Drive found evidence of settlement here from the 11th century soon after the Norman Conquest. Probably during the 13th century a moat with a sandstone wall was dug to surround the house. The original entrance to the site was from Munslow Grove where the moat is still filled with water.


Excavations prior to building in 1957 showed evidence of a timber gatehouse with a tiled roof. Evidence of timber buildings within the moat was also revealed. An unusual feature was the discovery of a 15th-century hearth where coal had been burned. Coal was an expensive commodity from the Black Country at that time, and it is not known to what use it was put. In the early 15th century the estate is referred to as the manor of 'Hawkelowes'.

About 1430 the sole heiress of the estate, Anne/ Agnes Hawkeslowe married Nicholas Middlemore, the youngest son of Thomas Middlemore of Edgbaston. In c1469 John Middlemore was described as the lord of the manor of Hawkesley, 'Iohannes Myddlemore de Kingsnorton gentellman et Dominus de Haukelow'.



The Civil War


Ardent royalists, the Middlemore's hall was seized in 1644 by Colonel Fox and held as a Parliamentary garrison under Captain Gouge. The hall became the object of raids from the Royalist stronghold at Dudley Castle.


The siege of Hawkesley began on 13 May 1645 when King Charles I's nephews, Princes Rupert and Maurice arrived from Droitwich with the main Royalist army to demand surrender.

The following day the King himself arrived with his army, having travelled the short distance from Cofton Hall where he had been staying. Some one hundred Parliamentarians endured a three-day siege and bombardment with the Royalists held at bay by the medieval moat. However, on 16 May Gouge and 120 troops were finally forced to surrender and Hawkesley House was burnt to the ground. There is a record in the 1950s of cannon balls having been unearthed at the farm.

Two years after the end of the Civil War the hall was rebuilt by William Middlemore in 1654. In the middle of the 19th century the hall had declined to the status of a farmhouse, and still in the ownership of the now absentee Middlemores until at least 1913. Robert Middlemore at the beginning of the 19th century was probably the last of the family to farm from the hall. The house was demolished in 1971 to make way for three municipal blocks of flats designed by the City Architect, A G Sheppard Fidler. Part of the site is now grassed but two water-filled arms of the medieval 135m x 90m moat still remain.

On some 50ha of the fields of Hawkesley Farm Herbert Austin built The Austin Village to house Longbridge factory workers during World War 1. The old hall was occupied by Austin's mother and sister and later by a director of the firm. It was demolished in 1958 as part of the development of extensive council house building in the area after World War 2.



Close by at Hawkesley Mill Lane was Hawkesley Mill, the top mill on the River Rea. It was first recorded in 1255 and survived as a corn mill until c1890, a run of over six hundred years.



See also Turves Green.

William Dargue 03.03.2009/ 01.08.2010


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For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.

See http://www.british-history.ac.uk/mapsheet.aspx?compid=55144&sheetid=9256&ox=650&oy=1405&zm=2&czm=2&x=215&y=275


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.