Find a Hotel

Birmingham History!

Birmingham's past undoubtably goes back as far as the Bronze age and beyond. However, very little remains from this era except the scattered flint stones and bronze artifacts that can be found in the city museum. Early Roman military roads have passed through the region. Anglo-Saxon tribes started to settle in the region around 700 A.D. Tribes such as the Hwicce and Anglian Mercians started to make the area their permanent home. Evidence of Saxon settlement is apparent from the name endings of some of Birmingham's well known localities. The suffix -ley means clearing in a forest. Therefore Selly, Yardley, Moseley and Warley are likely to have been Saxon clearings. Other place names also carry the names of their founders. The town of Birmingham was a hamlet hence ending in ham. The followers of the ingas of Birm or Beorma completes the equation and demonstrates how many town names carry the names we have today. Medieval and subsequent Norman occupation also added to the variety of interesting place names, the origin of which is often buried in a murky past. An example of medieval remains can be found at Weoley Castle.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 (Domesday Book)
Leading up to the time of the Domesday Book, the independence of the scattered communities had started to fall under the control of the large landowners. Dudley Castle under the Norman William Fitz Ansculf was a prominent influence over the region. The Domesday book of 1086 values Birmingham manor at £1. Peter de Birmingham, holder of a manor worth considerably less than neighbouring areas such as Yardley and Handsworth, was the first recorded Birmingham. At the time there were five villagers and four smallholders with two ploughs. The most populous area at Aston records 43 adults.

Aston Parish History
The next recorded entry of significance comes in 1166 when Peter de Birmingham bought the right to hold a weekly market in his castle. The market prospered and Peter laid the foundations of the town of Birmingham. In 1232 a group of citizens formalised an agreement with William de Birmingham which freed them from the compulsory haymaking duties. The tradesmen and merchants were almost undoubtedly involved in the new and lucrative cloth industry. Birmingham had started its long and winding road to manufacturing.

Birmingham on the Map
Birmingham continued to expand and by mid 1300's the town was listed as third town in size in the county of Warwickshire. Coventry and Warwick were larger. Aston, once the larger settlement now became Aston beside Birmingham. The Birmingham market grew from strength to strength with traders selling their cloth ware and metal goods. The castle of Birmingham, a focal point and power base for the town was influential in providing assistance for new chapel's, the Guild of the Holy Cross in 1392 and a chapel of St. John the Baptist at Deritend for the parishioners of Deritend and Bordesley. Between 1400 and 1450 a new Guildhall and a school were added. Birmingham had its first eductational facility. The castle's dominance was not to last. After a period of decline the castle lost its importance and influence.

At the time of Edward de Birmingham in the 1530's the manor was lost after Edward made enemies at court who confiscated his property. He spent 4 years in the tower of London and by 1538 he had died. The end of a family line, his wife Elizabeth continued to live in the town for some time after Edward's unfortunate downfall. The manor, a possession of the crown, later passed to Lord Lisle of Dudley in 1545. Lord Lisle later became the Duke of Northumberland and the most powerful man in England during the years of Edward VI. Birmingham was becoming more of a town in its own right. No longer under such heavy influence of the whims of the current landlord the officials of the town could plan its destiny with little interference. Trade and manufacturing industry was starting to take hold. Birmingham was already known for its metalworking. In 1511 the Clerk of Ordanance placed an order for horseshoes and weaponry for the Royal Army. Trade links were being forged with East Anglia and Bristol. The tanning industry was also thriving.

Birmingham Expands
In the early 1500's the population of the town of Birmingham was reaching a 1000 inhabitants. The thriving local industry was already setting the scene for greater things to come. Enter the 1600's. Things were starting to change. A prominant and wealth landowner by the name of Holte commissioned the building of a large country house in the 1620's. Completed in 1634 it stood magnificient as it does today, standing in its own grounds, a testimony to the wealth and status of the Holte family. Sir Thomas Holte, Lord of Aston manor had made a tidy sum from the breaking up of the churches and was well in with the the crown. Sir Thomas was not the nicest of gentry having taken a cleaver to one unfortunate cook, killing him in the process. Aston Hall is one of the great Jacobean country houses of England. The Holte's family seat was at Duddeston Hall. King Charles paid him a visit in 1642. A turbulent period of English history, the civil war, was soon to begin. Charles I, seeking allegiance in Birmingham was enraged that the Royal baggage train was looted and the goods sent to the Parliamentary cause. Prince Rupert descended on the town and meeting little resistance proceded to remind the townspeople of their duty to the crown by terrorising the local inhabitants . Birmingham thereafter was in favour of the Parliamentary forces.

The civil war came and went. Birmingham surpassed Coventry in size and status making it the largest town in Warwickshire. In the mid 1600's, with a population of some 7000 inhabitants, William Westley by 1700 drew up a town plan and calculated the population of Birmingham as 15,000. In fifty years the doubling of the towns population was caused by immigration from the surrounding towns and villages. Birmingham was gaining a reputation as a town where things were progressing. A trading and manufacturing town of status. Nails, metalwork, and anything in iron was being exported to London and Europe. Birmingham had a monopoly. The change to industrialisation had taken hold. Mills sprang up all around the town. Corn mills were being converted to the production of metal rolling and ironwork. An example of this which survives to this day can be found at Sarehole Mill.