William Dargue A History of BIRMINGHAM Places & Placenames from A to Y
B8 - Grid reference SP113876
Parva Bramwyz: first record 1262
Little Bromwich was a manor of Aston whose name has now fallen out of use. It has the same derivation as Castle Bromwich and originates from Old English brom wic meaning 'broom farm'. Broom is a shrub typical of glacial drift soils, a wic is a 'dairy farm', probably a secondary settlement. In the 13th century the name is recorded as Parva Bramwyz from Latin parva meaning 'little'. This may have been to distinguish it from nearby Castle Bromwich, or there may have been some relationship between the two which is not now known. It may be that Little Bromwich was an early daughter settlement of Castle Bromwich.
There are similarities in the positions of the two settlements. Both are close to islands of glacial drift on which the medieval open fields were organised. Drift produced much lighter soils than the heavy clay and had less dense tree cover. It was therefore easier to farm as arable land. And both were near watercourses along whose banks good grazing was to be found.
Little Bromwich's open fields lay east of the Wash Brook, a stream which is still visible in Ward End Park. They stretched as far as Bromford Lane and Alum Rock Road. After being farmed as open strips for five hundred years, they were enclosed as separate fields soon after 1800. By 1658 the northern part of Little Bromwich was also being called Ward End. Alum Rock now covers the south of the former manor and, although the name of Little Bromwich has fallen out of use, it is still sometimes shown in maps at the east end of Bordesley Green.
Take a look at Little Bromwich Hall.
At the junction of Alum Rock Road and Moat House Road stands Little Bromwich Hall, the former manor house. The original hall was built here within a moat probably during the 13th or 14th century, though no visible trace of a moat survives. By the 18th century the hall had been rebuilt and was a substantial farmhouse.
It was still known as the Moat House in 1911 when it was converted into an Anglican convent of the Society of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, a religious order which ran orphanages for boys. A small chapel was built the following year and a small cemetery for members of the order.
After 1959 a new order took over the premises, which are now known as St John's House or the Convent of the Incarnation. Part of the 18th century building survives and is Grade II Listed, though most of the neo-Georgian buildings as seen date from the 20th century. By 2015 the number of nuns at the convent had dropped to five and the building was sold with the sisters moving to premises in Marston Green. St John's House is now St John’s House is the home of a local collaborative initiative, bringing together existing projects and partnering with local churches, charities and other faith groups.
The estate of Little Bromwich first appears in a court case in 1262 in which Thomas de Bromwych sued Robert de Bromwych for the title to the land, his claim based on his descent from Guy de Bromwych who had held it about one hundred years earlier. These Bromwyches derive their surname from Castle Bromwich. John Brandwood was lord of the manor in 1512 and (another?) John Brandwood was lord in 1586. The estate stayed in the family until 1788 when the manor was held by Jane Brandwood. She was succeeded by William Ward in 1797. In 1868 when his estates at Treaford Hall and Alum Rock/ Little Bromwich were sold, it seems that any manorial rights were either lost or had lapsed. By 1658 the name Ward End had probably taken over from Little Bromwich as the name of the manor.
Even by the 19th century there was only a tiny settlement at the junction of Alum Rock Road and Sladefield Road. Alum Rock Farm stood in the angle between Alum Rock Road and Sladefield Road until at least 1900.
It was not until after the World War 1 that the area began to be developed with housing, and then extensively with municipal housing after the Second World War. At this time the junction became known as the Pelham after the public house which may itself have taken its name from Pelham Road.
There seems to be no Birmingham connection with this name: it may have been taken from a streetname in Kensington, London name to add some cachet to the pub. The original pub was replaced with a new building of the same name in the late 1990s which has since been replaced by a supermarket.
William Dargue 09.12.2020
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.