William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B26 - Grid reference SP143862
Kempes Moat: first record 15th century
Kents Moat is worth a visit.
Here is a surprise in the middle of a 1930s housing estate, a deep dry medieval moat, a clearly delineated rectangle of some size, in the middle of which stand some mid-20th-century houses.
The site is off Sheldon Heath Road at Garretts Green where it is difficult now to imagine this as a rural setting eight hundred years ago, the moat filled with water and, standing on the island, a substantial timber-framed manor house whose occupants lived in style and luxury.
This moated site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a nationally important site protected by law. Nothing can be done to such sites without the permission of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. There are 13 Scheduled Ancient Monuments within the city boundary.
Kents Moat is actually Kempes Moat, named after John and Marion Kemp, the last occupants of the house during the early 15th century. The building inside the moat was first occupied in the 12th century and was a sub-manor house of Sheldon known as the West Hall; Sheldon Hall at Tile Cross being the East Hall. This moated site is unusual in Birmingham in that the moat has remained complete and retains a substantial depth. Although now dry and with trees and bushes growing in the ditch and with 1960s housing in the middle, the size and shape of a medieval moated site can very clearly be seen.
The 12th-century hall was rebuilt in the 14th century and it is from this time that evidence has been excavated, including twenty clay cooking pots, many good decorated floor tiles c1350, fragments of 14th-century stained glass, and domestic items such as iron shears, a bronze horsebit, animal bones and oyster shells; medieval English coins, a Luxembourg penny 1309-56 and a 15th-century French jetton. The occupants here clearly lived in some style. At some time during the 15th century, the hall was occupied and gradually fell into ruins. It is thought that the tower of Sheldon church was built using recycled materials from the hall.
William Hutton described the site in his History of Birmingham in 1783:
One mile farther east [of Yardley] is Kent's-moat, in which no noise is heard but the singing of birds, as if for joy that their enemy is fled, and they have regained their former habitation. This is situate on an eminence, . . . is capacious, has but one trench, supplied by its own springs; and as complete as earth and water can make it. This was part of Coleshill, and vested in the crown before the conquest, . . . It is now, with Coleshill, the property of Lord Digby; but the building has been so long gone, that tradition herself has lost it.
Open fields associated with Sheldon West Hall were Cockshutt Field around the north end of Sheldon Heath Road and Ashole Field around the south end. During the 15th century, many years after the hall's demolition, the hall's estate was emparked for deer by Sir Edward Digby.
In the perambulation of the bounds of Yardley set out in the Anglo-Saxon Yardley Charter of AD 972, one section describes the route Of Blacan Mearcan on thone Haeth Garan on Dagarding Weg; 'from the black border to the heath gore (ie. triangular ploughland), to the way of Dagard's people'. Dagarding Way is now the eastern end of Broadstone Road, Pool Way and a footpath in Kents Moat Park. It is one of the few roads named from this early period and presumably led to the settlement of the Dagardings close by, though the location of their village is not known. Here the road marked the boundary between the manors and parishes of Yardley and Sheldon. It was later known as Park Lane as it marked the boundary of the medieval deer park.
Building began on the large Kents Moat estate during the 1930s as slum demolition got underway in central Birmingham. It continued after the Second World War when the area was completely urbanised.
William Dargue 19.10.2008/ 07.10.2012
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.