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

Ravenhurst, Highgate

B12 - Grid reference SP082858

Ravenhurst was the name of a large house in Highgate, a double-fronted building with Dutch gables which was in existence by 1748. Ravenhurst Street probably represents its long drive. There were extensive out-buildings and a large orchard. Charles Pye described the house in his Description of Modern Birmingham:


You proceed through Deritend, up Camp-hill, and when near the summit, there is on the right hand an ancient brick building, called the Ravenhurst, the residence of Mr. John Lowe, attorney, who is equally respectable in his profession, as the house is in appearance.

St Anne's Roman Catholic Convent was set up in Ravenhurst in 1863. The building had been demolished by the end of the Second World War.

The Ravenhurst estate was adjacent to Henry Bradford's estate, which had been laid out from 1767 (See Cheapside). Although almost all of the original development has long gone, some handsome early Victorian villas survive along the Moseley Road opposite Highgate Park.

Also still standing is The Moseley Arms at the corner of Ravenhurst Street and the Moseley Road. It was certainly in existence by 1854 and had its own brewery in buildings to the rear. After supplying other local outlets for a number of years, the brewing side was bought out by a larger brewery and brewing here ceased about 1900. By 1881 the pub was also offering hotel rooms. The Moseley Arms is currently a noted live music venue.


Raven. Photograph taken by Ommarrun, Ómar Runólfsson on Flickr and reusable under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.
Raven. Photograph taken by Ommarrun, Ómar Runólfsson on Flickr and reusable under Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

The first element of the placename is that of the bird, the raven, hraefn in Old English. A large distinctive member of the crow family with glossy black plumage and beak, it would once have been a fairly common site in the rural hinterland of Birmingham. With its ponderous flight and unpleasant call, the raven was long considered a link with the supernatural. In Teutonic mythology, the god Odin/ Woden had two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who sat on his shoulders. Each morning they would circle the world to bring him news of all that was happening. The belief persisted until the Middle Ages when ravens were thought to be the familiars of witches.

In Old English a hyrst was a 'wooded hill', and this site is on top of the same ridge as nearby Camp Hill. This may or may not be an imported placename, it no longer has any currency here.


Lench's almshouses in Ravenhurst Street close to Camp Hill were built by Lench's Trust, a charity set up in Birmingham in 1526. They stood from 1801 in Dudley Street in the City Centre until that site was sold to the London & North-Western Railway in 1846 as part of the New Street Station development.


The new almshouses were opened in 1848 and are now Grade II Listed. In 1849 46 poor aged women were in residence cared for by Matron Ann Starling; residents paid 4 shillings a week for their lodging. During World War 2 a German bomb hit the almshouses killing one of the residents; the buildings were repaired in 1948.


William Dargue 16.10.2008


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