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

Row Heath

B30 - Grid reference SP041801

Rowheath Farm barn. Image by Ted and Jen on Flickr reusable under Creative Commons licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
Rowheath Farm barn. Image by Ted and Jen on Flickr reusable under Creative Commons licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

In Old English ruh meant 'rough' ie. 'uncultivated'. Heathland is a typical feature where the underlying soil is sandy. Quick draining and agriculturally unproductive, it made poor arable land but may have been used for grazing.


Many of Birmingham's heaths lie on drift brought down by the glaciers during the last Ice Age.

This heath was around the junction of Selly Oak Road and Heath Road, while Rowheath Farm stood at the junction of Selly Oak Road and Oak Farm Road. Its 18th-century barn survives and is a seven-bay timber-framed building with two wagon entrances to the threshing floor. It is now converted into dwellings and has the status of a Grade II Listed building.

Left: Rowheath Pavilion and fishing lake © Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. Image downloaded from the Geograph website OS reference SP0480. 


The Pavilion was built at the behest of George Cadbury in 1924 as part of the facilities for his workers in Bournville. The facilities included sports fields, bowling greens, a lido and this fishing lake.


After falling into disrepair following the sale of Cadbury's, the Pavilion and many of the facilities were reopened in 1985 following a management buyout. After further financial difficulties the Pavilion is now thriving again under the auspices of the Pavilion Christian Community. Ironically the result of all these upheavals is that this is one of the few places in the former Bournville Estate which serve alcoholic drinks - something of which George Cadbury would not have approved.


Text by David Stowell on Geograph



The Kings Norton Charter records a grant of land made by King Offa of Mercia to the Church at Worcester in AD 699. It was signed by Offa himself and by Bishop Ecgwine of Worcester. Part of the boundary of the estate, which included Row Heath, passes through this area. The course of the boundary was noted by landmarks which would have been visited by a group of witnesses from each party to the agreement. While the terms of the contract were in Latin, it was usual to record the perambulation of the boundary in Old English:


  • thonon thaet cume in tha Readan Sole -‘ then it comes to the Red Slough' (ie. mire/ mud-hole)
    - This may have been near the junction of Wychall Road and Staple Lodge Road;
  • thonne thaet cume on Caerspitt -‘ then it comes to the Cress-pit'
    - The site of the pit is unknown but must have been on a clear flowing stream for watercress to thrive;
  • spa thaet cume in Usan Mere -‘ then it comes to Usan Pool'
    - This is almost certainly the pool in Rowheath Park. It was much larger than at present and feeds a stream which runs down to the River Rea. The word usan is Ancient British Celtic for ‘water' and is found in river names as 'ouse');
  • of Usan Mere that cume eft in leontan - ‘from Usan Pool it comes again to the Leontan'
    - The Leontan is either the Bourn or the River Rea.

William Dargue  12.03.2009/ 25.08.2012


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