A Brief History of Birmingham

The Bronze Age

c2000 - c600 BC


People came to Britain from France, Spain and Germany who knew how to melt copper and tin (9:1) to make bronze. Bronze did not replace stone. Although it is light and easily worked, bronze is also easily blunted and may have been used for woodworking and carpentry, and for ornaments as much as for tools. Stone is heavy and better for working with timber. The ability to make bronze need not imply a better technology, rather a different one. Great skill is needed to make the best flint arrowheads, and this skill was not lost.


It is not known how many newcomers there were compared with the native Stone Age population, nor whether the one group conquered or replaced the other, or whether they intermarried or whether it was the technology that spread from one group to the other. The size of Birmingham's Bronze Age population cannot be known, but the large number of burnt mounds discovered suggests widespread occupation. Any bronze tools found in our area are few and primitive compared with artefacts from southern England. Even Bronze Age stone implements discovered show a backwardness not typical of areas further south. No pottery has survived.


In a climate warmer than the present earthwork evidence shows that Dartmoor was extensively farmed. Villages of thatched round huts with a central wooden support have been found as well as many miles of stone field walls. About 1000 BC the climate grew colder and wetter. The higher lands of Dartmoor were abandoned never to be farmed again and the evidence of occupation was thus preserved.


By the end of the Bronze Age probably half of the country's original wildwood had been felled. However, this would not have been the case in the heavily forested area later known as the Forest of Arden. Substantial forest remained here into the Middle Ages. Nonetheless, there are significant patches of glacial drift where tree cover would not have been so dense as well as lighter soils east of Birmingham where arable farming must have taken place. But any signs of cultivated land have long since been obliterated. It also is likely that herding was important near rivers and forest areas.