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


formerly in Staffordshire - one of the Domesday manors of Birmingham

Little Perry/ Perry Parva

Perry Barr, Perry Beeches, Perry Common, Perry Warren

B42/ B44 - Grid reference SP072927

Pirio: first record in the Domesday Book 1086


In 1959 the expansion of Hirons garden centre involved the purchase and demolition of a house in Wellington Road belonging to Mr F W Jolley. Here a very large quantity of pottery kiln debris was unearthed. The site was set in an area of red clay, ideal pot-making material. The archaeology was identified as Romano-British of the 2nd century AD. The site is just 300m west of Icknield Street, the Roman road to Wall. Remains include pieces of a cobbled floor, a wall, a large quanitity of white sand and half a tonne of broken pottery. Two types of pottery were produced here from the late 1st century to the late 2nd century. Pottery making was a rural industry and without doubt the potter lived somewhere close by.


There are a number of Perrys in England all originating from the Old English word pirige meaning 'pear tree'; this is documented as Pirio in 1086.


The name Barr meaning hill top is a rare local survival of the Ancient British Celtic. It is found in Great Barr which also refers to Barr Beacon, the highest point in West Midlands County. This is recorded as a beacon hill from Anglo-Saxon times and was clearly a place of importance to the Ancient British before them.


Little Barr and Great Barr were both Staffordshire manors recorded at Domesday. The smaller manor, Little Barr, Parva Barr or Perry Barr became part of Perry in the 14th century. Both names referred to manors rather than to settlements.


Pyrus pyraster, wild pear in blossom in Ayrshire,

image available for reuse by Roger Griffith/ Rosser1954 on Wikimedia Commons.


Left: Perry's entry in the Domesday Book from the Open Domesday Book, image reusable under Creative commons licence Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0). 

Drogo holds 3 hides from William [FitzAnsculf, Lord of Dudley Castle] in Perry. Land for 3 ploughs. In lordship 1 plough; 4 villagers and 3 smallholders. A mill at 16 pence; meadow, 4 acres; woodland 1 league long and half league wide. The value was and is 20 shillings. Leofwara held it with sac and soc [ie. with full legal jurisdiction].


This was an average-sized land unit but with a relatively small population. Unlike many manors it had not lost value between 1066 and 1086, though its value was not great anyway. The meadows would have been along the River Tame. And patches of woodland are still shown on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map around St John's Church and north along the Walsall Road.


Before the Norman Conquest the manor was held by a Saxon woman named Leofwaru. This may well be the same Leofwaru who held manors in Hertfordshire, Somerset and Suffolk. Drogo (Dreux or Drew) was the Norman lord who was given the manor after the Conquest. He also held Edgbaston and Handsworth, and jointly held (Great) Barr, as well as another Staffordshire manor and the manor of Whitley (after which he is known) near Henley in Arden.


Descent of the manor 


The manor of Perry was an area of Anglian settlement, part of the kingdom of Mercia from c585 and at the southern tip of Staffordshire from the early 900s. Much of the manor lay on clay and was well wooded until Tudor times; settlements would have been on patches of glacial drift. In common with most of the Birmingham manors, Perry passed into Norman hands after the Conquest and was held by Drogo from William FitzAnsculf. In 1323 Margaret de Sutton, one of William FitzAnsculf's descendants, inherited Perry as tenant-in-chief, after which there is no further record of the overlordship.

Perry Barr was the northern half of the ancient parish of Handsworth lying on rising ground north-east of the River Tame; the other half, confusingly also known as Handsworth, lies south-west of the river. The boundaries at the north of the parish was marked by ancient roads: Queslett Road, the Chester Road, College Road to its junction with Kingstanding Road. From there the boundary followed the line of the Roman Icknield Street down to Hockley Brook.

A lordship here was held by the de Birmingham family. In 1284, Richard of Perry held part of Perry from William de Birmingham who in turn held it of Roger de Somery, another of William FitzAnsculf's descendants. In a court case in 1346 Fulk de Birmingham sued his tenant for service: the service due was agreed as the annual gift of a rose. There is no further reference to the de Birmingham holding.


In 1242 William of Perry held Perry of Roger de Somery. The manor passed down the family but not smoothly. Records of a number of court cases over some fifty years are evidence of disputes between the Perrys and the Wyrleys to the title of the manor. However, in 1356 Roger Hillary was the tenant of property in Perry and Hamstead which belonged to Philip of Perry as lord of the manor. It is unclear how the manor came into the hands of the Thomas, Earl of Warwick, but on the accession of Henry IV in 1399, his rights were reaffirmed. Perry then descended with the earls of Warwick to the Duke of Clarence who in 1478 forfeited it to the Crown.


Perry Hall. Image from Matthew Beckett's website 'Lost Heritage - Lost Country Houses of England' used under the copyright statement on that website.
Perry Hall. Image from Matthew Beckett's website 'Lost Heritage - Lost Country Houses of England' used under the copyright statement on that website.

The manor was then leased by the Crown to a number of tenants in succession including one William Wyrley in 1546. In 1671 part of the manor of Perry and the manor of Handsworth were sold to Henry Gough. In 1844 the whole estate was inherited by Henry Gough's great-great nephew, the Honourable Frederick Gough, the 4th Baron Calthorpe. In 1908 General S J Gough-Calthorpe, 7th Baron Calthorpe was described as the lord of the manor and principal landowner in Perry.

The other part of Perry, known as a moiety (Norman French meaning 'half') had been bought by William Wyrley before 1561. It passed through the family and on to Birch family, descendants by marriage. Wyrley Birch held it in 1832 but in 1844 this moiety was bought by Lord Calthorpe bringing the manor once more under a single lord.


Site of Perry Hall, the view south-east towards Hamstead Hill. Photographed in 1967 by Phyllis Nicklin via Keith Berry.
Site of Perry Hall, the view south-east towards Hamstead Hill. Photographed in 1967 by Phyllis Nicklin via Keith Berry.

The manor house of Perry of which there is now no evidence, stood in Rocky Lane. However, not far from the entrance to Perry Hall Playing Fields off Perry Avenue is a rectangular garden surrounded by a brick-lined moat fed by a small stream which runs into the nearby River Tame. Although this has every appearance of a 20th-century park feature, it is the medieval moat of Perry Hall. The earlier hall was replaced by a timber-framed manor house built by Sir William Stanford bearing the date 1576. Perry Hall was bought in 1669 by Sir Henry Gough of Wolverhampton whose family had made a fortune in the wool trade; Henry's brother Richard bought Edgbaston Hall c1717.

The hall was extensively altered in the 1840s to create a large gabled three-storey building with similarities in style to Aston Hall. The house was square overall, was built around a courtyard and had large projecting chimneys on its east side.


After 1844 the architect S S Teulon made a number of further additions including a porch built on an arched bridge over the moat. In 1928 most of Perry Barr became part of Birmingham and the following year the hall's parkland was bought as Perry Hall Playing Fields by the City Council and the hall was demolished. The Tame was straightened c1970 by Severn Trent Water Authority and parts of the playing fields are designed to take flood overflow.



Water mills

There were a number of watermills in Perry Barr. Perry Mill was the corn mill Listed at Domesday and stood at Perry Hall Playing Fields downstream from Perry Hall. Because of the proximity of Perry to the iron of the Black Country and available wood, the mills here were involved in metal bashing at a much earlier date than those closer to Birmingham. The mill at Holford converted before 1358 from grinding corn to fulling woollen cloth and was an early mill to covert to metal working in 1591. Perry Smithy on Holbrook just north of Perry Reservoir was also a fulling mill and is probably the mill documented as an iron bloomery from 1538 using charcoal from Perry Woods. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1597 as a furnace for melting and casting iron using water-powered bellows. Out of use by 1887 it was demolished by the 1890s.


The zig-zag bridge
The zig-zag bridge


The Zig-Zag Bridge


Perry Bridge, popularly known as the Zig-Zag Bridge used to take the Aldridge Road across the River Tame. Built in 1709 this is a four-arched packhorse bridge in red sandstone which crosses the river with a span of 15m and a 50m long embankment which raises the roadway above the flood plain. The Roman river crossing was by a ford, perhaps paved, some 200m east of this bridge at Holford and may have been used as the main crossing until medieval times.

The first bridge here may have been the Hol Brugge documented in 1309; the Hol is a tributary which flows into the Tame close by (See Holford). A bridge trust was set up some time during the 17th century and a wooden horse bridge was built here in 1612. The present bridge was built 1709 by order of Staffordshire Quarter Sessions probably by Sir Henry Gough of Perry Hall to replace the old wooden one. The bridge was built with twelve arches. However, all but four have been bricked up and only three of the remainder are now partially visible above ground. Sir Henry Gough provided the materials while the rest of the costs were met by local landowners and adjacent parishes. The trust subsequently took on the building and maintenance of six more bridges including one built in 1688 over the Tame at Hamstead.

The profit from tolls was sufficient for the Handsworth Bridge Trust to found a new school in 1862 which became Handsworth Grammar School c1890. (See Handsworth.) A footbridge alongside was built when Perry Barr came under the administration of Birmingham City Council in 1928. In 1932 a new single-span bridge was built in an Art Deco style to take motor traffic and the Zig Zag bridge was restricted to pedestrians. Major repairs were undertaken in 1956 to strengthen the bridge by underpinning. Zig Zag Bridge is a quite a rare survival and is not only Grade II Listed but also a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


Image from the Library of Birmingham's Birmingham Images
Image from the Library of Birmingham's Birmingham Images

The (Old) Walsall Turnpike was among the first Birmingham toll roads, being set up in 1727. It followed the existing route via Hamstead Road, Handsworth Wood Road, Hamstead Hill, Old Walsall Road, and on to Walsall via the Birmingham Road. It was used by stagecoaches from 1752. The Old River Tame footbridge is a late-18th-century bridge over the river with added 19th-century balustrades.


William Hutton was reserved in his opinion of the road: 'The road to Walsall, ten miles, is rather below indifferent.' In 1831 a more straightforward route was made by improving lanes and field tracks with the opening of the New Walsall Road. This is the modern Birchfield Road/ Walsall Road and was the last to be turnpiked in Birmingham.


There was a tollgate near the junction of Birchfield Road and Wellington Road/ Aston Lane known as Perry Barr Gate, and one at the Scott Arms at Newton Road/ Queslett Road. 

Perry Barr Station from Warwickshire Railways website
Perry Barr Station from Warwickshire Railways website

Unusually here the railway was built before the canal. The Grand Junction line to Liverpool was Birmingham's first railway opened in 1837 and the Tame Valley was Birmingham's last canal opened in 1844. 


Perry Barr Station on Birchfield Road was one of the first stations to be opened on the line in 1838 and was presumably named after the tollgate just south of the station. This eventually led to the focus of Perry Barr moving from the hamlet on Church Road to this area where a major shopping centre, the One-Stop, was opened in the 1990s.


The station is due to be rebuilt in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.


Perry Barr Bottom Flight, Top Lock with lock keeper's house. © Nick Atty and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Geograph OS reference SP0890.
Perry Barr Bottom Flight, Top Lock with lock keeper's house. © Nick Atty and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Geograph OS reference SP0890.

Originally planned in 1794, the Tame Valley Canal was not cut until 1844, the last of Birmingham's canals. It runs from Salford Junction. now underneath Spaghetti Junction, and linked the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and the Birmingham & Warwick Junction Canal with the Walsall Canal and was designed to give access from the Black Country to the south-east of England avoiding the congested canals in central Birmingham.


Only 14 km in length it runs in a straight line through deep cuttings, along high embankments and over eight high aqueducts, has brick-lined walls, two towpaths and is 10 metres wide.

The lock flight at Perry Barr is known as the New Thirteen as opposed to the Old Thirteen at Farmers Bridge on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. From c1850 a pumping station between locks 12 and 13 pumped water by pipe from the 302-foot level to the 408-foot level.


Three steam-powered beam engines were replaced by two sets of vertical triple-expansion engines in 1895 which continued in steam until 1958, the last on the Birmingham Canal Navigations. No evidence survives, though some original canal buildings do. Off Deykin Avenue and Walsall Road are original lock-keeper's cottages. The top two locks and the Horsley cast-iron bridges are Grade II Listed.


With hamlets on Church Road at Perry itself and at Newton and Oscott, Perry Barr was very much a rural area even in 1888 when ribbon development had spread along Aston Lane and Birchfield Road between Aldridge Road and Wellhead Lane; these were the expensive houses of Birmingham business-people. By the end of the 19th century building development was continuing northwards from Handsworth especially along Birchfield Road to the junction of Aston Lane around the station, and it is from that time that this was considered to be the focus of Perry Barr.

The church of St John the Evangelist
The church of St John the Evangelist


Take a look - the Church of St John the Evangelist,in the old hamlet of Perry/ Little Perry, has every appearance of being an ancient parish church. In fact, Perry Barr was part of the ancient parish of Handsworth until 1833 when this church was consecrated. Built to serve a wealthy community on the rural fringe of Birmingham, this is a good example of Victorian gothic.


This Grade II Listed church, built in sandstone ashlar, has an embattled nave and west tower with a chancel and transepts added some fifty years later.


The bells that now hang here were originally cast in 1776 as a ring of eight and hung in St John's Deritend. When that church was demolished in 1947 they were used as part of the casting of bells for the Bishop Latimer Church in Winson Green in 1958, and only rehung at Perry in 1972.


In 1888 Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham described the urbanisation of Perry Barr:


Like other suburbs Perry Barr bids fair to become little more than an offshoot to Birmingham, the road thereto fast filling up with villa and other residences, while churches, chapels, and schools may be seen on all hands. The Literary Institute, built in 1874, at a cost of £2,000, contains reading and class rooms, lecture hall, &c., while not far off is a station on the Liverpool and North-Western line.

However, when Perry Barr was designated an urban district in 1894 it was still very much a rural area. By 1906 the southern part was beginning to be built up and to be joined by urban development to Witton. Urban development gathered pace from the 1920s and on 1 April 1928, at its own request, most of the Urban District of Perry Barr became part of the City of Birmingham. In 1928 Perry Barr was divided between West Bromwich and Birmingham, and by 1931 with the building of the Kingstanding estate its population had increased to over 20,000 from 2700 just ten years earlier. Twenty years later the population numbered nearly 80,000. However, many of these people lived in areas no longer known as Perry Barr, but as Hamstead, Kingstanding, Oscott and the Tower Hill estates.


Perry Park 1890s - image from the Library of Birmingham's Birmingham Images
Perry Park 1890s - image from the Library of Birmingham's Birmingham Images

Birmingham City Council built housing estates before World War 2 at Witton Lodge, (Perry) Warren Farm, Perry Beeches and Kettlehouse, and private housing was developed east of Perry Hall on the hall's estate, as well as east of Perry Park. The remaining farmland was developed during the 1950s. See also Kingstanding.


This is a district with many public open spaces. Perry Park was laid out around Perry Reservoir which belonged to Birmingham Waterworks in 1904 but by 1914 it belonged to the Parks Department. Perry Hall Playing Fields were set out in 1932 on the site of Perry Hall. The River Tame was straightened c1970 by Severn Trent Water Authority and parts of the playing fields are designed for flood overflow.


Odeon Cinemas, the largest cinema chain in the Britain, was created in 1930 by the Birmingham-born son of Hungarian Jewish parents, Oscar Deutsch. It is often alleged that name derived from 'Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation', but the name had been used since the 1920s for French and Italian cinemas and seems to derive from a Greek term to describe a building for musical entertainments.


Deutsch's first Odeon opened in 1930 on Birchfield Road, the first of 300 across the country. The building still stands but is no longer a cinema. The facade was completely altered when the cinema was converted into a bingo hall in the 1960s. This closed in 1997 and the building is now a conference centre. Odeon cinemas were known for their art-deco architecture which was first used on the Kingstanding Odeon (still standing and Grade II Listed) and the Warley Odeon (demolished 1973) many designed by Harry Weedon's Colmore Row practice.


Alexander Stadium at Perry Barr is Birmingham's premier athletics venue. Birmingham's High Performance Centre was completed here in 2003, a state-of-the-art facility giving athletes to the high-quality training and coaching. The stadium has hosted major events including the Amateur Athletics Association Championships, Olympic trials, national and international meets. It is the home ground of the Birchfield Harriers.


The stadium is currently being completely rebuilt as the centre for the athletic events of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 


Right: the proposed plan was approved in 2020.




The Beeches © Copyright Adrian Bailey licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Geograph OS reference SP0693.
The Beeches © Copyright Adrian Bailey licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Geograph OS reference SP0693.

Perry Beeches, originally Perry Wood, now lies north of Perry Park between the Walsall Road and the M6 motorway and was developed for housing from the 1930s onwards.


Beech trees are large distinctive trees which live to a great age; a stand of beech trees would have been a prominent landmark. Little Perry Wood stood north of the junction of Beeches Road and the Walsall Road; Great Perry Wood stood east of the Walsall Road/ Old Walsall Road junction.

Perry Common, the area north of Kings Road west of the Chester Road is shown as Perry Barr Common on the Ordnance Survey map of 1834. James Sherriff's 1798 map shows the area as Witton Common.


North of Pheasey between Beacon Road and the Chester Road was known as Great Barr Common as far north as Foley Road. Originally part of the manor of Perry Barr, the common land was enclosed by 1814.


Dovedale Road in the 1930s - image from Voices of Kingstanding website
Dovedale Road in the 1930s - image from Voices of Kingstanding website

However, the area was rural until just before the Second World War when the land of College Farm (land south and west of Oscott College) and Witton Lodge Farm (at the Circle Playground on Witton Lodge Road) was bought by the council to build some 3000 houses and named Perry Common estate. By the end of the 20th century many of these houses suffered serious problems due to their design and have been rebuilt.

Take a look. Hawthorn School has an interesting origin. Pending the building of Hastings Road Council School, it first opened in 1925 as Perry Common Temporary Council School and was held in the buildings of the former isolation hospital at the corner of Hawthorn Road and College Road. The hospital had been built by the West Bromwich Guardians of the Poor in this remote spot following a number of epidemics during the early 1890s. When the various blocks at Hastings Road, later Perry Common Primary School, were built and opened in turn by 1926, this school was reorganised and in 1935 was renamed Hawthorn Road County Primary School.

See also Holford and Perry Hill

William Dargue 04.04.2009/ 19.12.2020


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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=55192&sheetid=10073&ox=1060&oy=433&zm=2&czm=2&x=571&y=300


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.