William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B30 - Grid reference SP055800
First record 699
This lost name is recorded in the Kings Norton Charter of AD 699, its Old English name meaning 'Tilers' Clearing'. It is interesting to speculate what the modern name of Hellerelege might be had it survived - Hellerley perhaps?
It was the name of woodland around the River Rea in the Lifford area. The estate, whose bounds are described in the charter, was granted by King Offa of Mercia to the Church at Worcester thirteen centuries ago. The estate measured 3 cassati or hides in area (a hide was about 20 hectares) in loco silvatici ruris usitato nomine hellerelege - translated from the Latin of the charter, this means 'in a place of wooded country usually known as Hellerelege'. With the reference to tiles, this must be an area on clay, the woodland providing fuel for the tile-making process.
In the same charter another woodland estate of the same size at Nuthurst near Tanworth-in-Arden was granted to the Church, but the prime gift was one of 33 hides at Shottery near Stratford-upon-Avon in a fertile agricultural area south of the Forest of Arden known as the Feldon. Woodland estates were much valued additions to an estate, not just because of the value of the trees and the many uses to which they could be put, but also as pasture especially for pigs, but also for cattle, horses, goats and sheep which were brought seasonally from the main estate.
The main part of the charter was written in Latin, as was the custom for legal documents; the boundaries of the Hellerelege estate are specified in Old English:
Aerest on Leontan thaet cume on Blacan Mere;
'First from the (River) Leontan (either the Bourn or the River Rea) so that it (ie. the boundary) comes to the Black Pool.' The Bourn/ Rea confluence is at Stirchley near the junction of Cartland Road and River Brook Drive. Blackpool Field is recorded in 1843 near Pershore Road/ Hazelwell Road.
Thonne thaet cume in tha Geapan Linde;
'Then it comes to the Spreading Lime Tree. This was possibly near Allens Croft Road/ Brandwood Park Road at Lifford.
Thonon thaet cume on Lindwyrthe;
'Then it comes to Lindworth' ie. Lime Tree Farm. Lindsworth Farm was at Lindsworth Road in Brandwood End until the early 20th century.
Spa thaet cume on Ciondan;
'And so it comes to the Ciondan' ie.Chinn Brook at ?Bells Lane.
Of Ceondan thaet cume on Reodmore;
'From Chinn Brook it comes to Reed Marsh.' Perhaps near Primrose Hill.
Thonon thaet cume on tha Greatan Ac;
'Then it comes to the Great Oak.' At ?West Heath Recreation Ground north of Rednal Road.
Thonon thaet cume in tha Readan Sole;
'Then it comes to the Red Slough' ie. mire/ mud-hole. At ?Wychall Road/ Staple Lodge Road in Northfield.
Thonne thaet cume on Caerspitt;
'Then it comes to the Cress-pit' - site unknown.
Spa thaet cume in Usan Mere;
'And so it comes to Usan Pol.' Usan is Ancient British Celtic for water, found in such river names as Ouse. There is still a pool in Row Heath Park on Heath Road.
Of Usan Mere that cume eft in Leontan;
'From Usan Pool it comes again to the Leontan', either the Bourn or the River Rea.
Robert Morden's 1721 Map of Worcestershire seems to show this area as Norton Wood.
William Dargue 23.03.2009