Erdington

formerly in Warwickshire - one of the Domesday manors of Birmingham

B23/ B24 - Grid reference SP110917

Hardintone: first record in the Domesday Book 1086, Yardington 1517, Yarnton 1576

Generic image of a handaxe
Generic image of a handaxe

One of Birmingham's oldest man-made objects was found lying on the surface of a garden in Court Lane, Erdington. A handaxe just 13cm long, it had been fashioned out of quartzite a quarter of a million years ago by Neanderthal people and is now exhibited in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.


The first human beings to reach Britain had walked across the wide plain which lay between this 'island' and northern France, the Netherlands and Germany half a million years ago, bringing with them the skill of making tools out of stone, bone and wood. Although only a small number of Old Stone Age tools have been found in Birmingham, they are evidence of a tiny population of hunter-gatherers who lived here on temporary sites in open well-drained country above the flood plains.

 

Although they were early humans, the Neanderthals are not our direct ancestors and were completely replaced by our own species about forty thousand years ago. No human remains have been found near Birmingham, but in Warwickshire and Worcestershire have been discovered the bones of Old Stone Age animals including hippopotamus, hyena, mammoth and wolf. Evidence was unearthed at nearby Shustoke of auroch, the ancestor of domestic cattle, of elephant and stag, and at Dudley and Minworth mammoth bones were uncovered.


Erdington was an Anglian settlement set up in the Early Middle Ages and by the time of the Norman Conquest was a sub-manor of Aston. Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon, Eardred ing tun meaning 'Eardred's people's farm' or perhaps the 'village of the Eardredings'. The settlers were either followers of a man called Eardred, or perhaps a clan called with the surname, Eardreding, meaning Eardred's people. The name Erdington also evolved via Hardintone into Yarnton, and later Yenton. In his First Impressions of Birmingham in 1837, the Birmingham Post journalist Eliezer Edwards wrote that Erdington, was then universally called 'Yarnton', implying that at the time of publication in 1877, this was no longer the case.


Arable land was cultivated here on the Birmingham sandstone ridge. The soils were not especially fertile and they drained quickly, but they were easier to work than the fertile but unforgiving clay lands to the east. It is not known where the original Anglo-Saxon settlement lay, but by medieval times the village was already centred on Erdington High Street between Six Ways and Holly Lane and straddling the ancient road from Bristol via Lichfield to the north-east of England.

 

Erdington's entry in the Domesday Book from Open Domesday. See Acknowledgements to link to that website.
Erdington's entry in the Domesday Book from Open Domesday. See Acknowledgements to link to that website.

Descent of the manor

 

Erdington was one of many manors owned before the Norman Conquest by the Anglo-Saxon, Earl Edwin of Mercia. However, by 1086 it was in the hands of the Norman overlord, William FitzAnsculf from whom it was held by Peter, also a Norman. Sometime between 1135 and 1166 Gervase Paynel, then overlord of Erdington, confirmed the manorial rights to Henry de Erdington, who may well have been a descendant of Peter.


Sometime before 1218 the manor was divided between three coheirs: Thomas de Erdington, Roger de Erdington and Walter Maunsel (possibly the husband of a de Erdington daughter), each of whose portions was deemed to be a manor.

 

Roger de Erdington's estate passed through various owners until its sale in 1604 after which the manor lapsed. Walter Maunsel's portion later became the manor of Pype, while Thomas de Erdington's lands descended through the family until, in 1467, a later Thomas de Erdington died without issue and the manor reverted to the Crown.

Erdington Hall. Image from Harrison & Willis 1879 The Great Jennens Case from Google Books, a work now in the public domain
Erdington Hall. Image from Harrison & Willis 1879 The Great Jennens Case from Google Books, a work now in the public domain

Thereafter, the way that the manor then descended is typical of many. It was granted by the Crown to George, Duke of Clarence, who sold it to Robert Wright, who granted it to Sir Reynold Bray, who left it to his nephew Sir Edmund Bray, who sold it to Thomas Englefield, who left it to his son Francis, who sold it to Humphrey Dymmock, whose son passed it on to his brother, Sir Henry Dymmock, who left it to Sir Walter Earle, who sold the manor to Sir Walter Devereux, Viscount Hereford, from whom it was bought in 1647 by Sir Thomas Holte of Aston Hall.

 

The descent of the manor of Erdington then followed the same descent as that of Aston. The property of manors and manorial rights were never hereditory but could be bequeathed or sold.


The de Erdington family lived at Erdington Hall near the Bromford crossing of the River Tame, some way from the village of Erdington. (See Bromford for the manorial corn mill.) Erdington Hall was a fortified and unusually double-moated manor-house which stood on the left bank of the river above Bromford Bridge. There was a double-moat on three sides with the River Tame running to the rear. In the 13th and 14th centuries there was a private chapel here, the remains of which could still be seen in the 17th century in the ruined timber-framed house.


In 1650 a new brick mansion with dutch gables was built by the wealthy ironmaster, John Jennens. Built in fashionable brick close to the original site, the new hall had three storeys and Dutch gables. The Jennens family occupied the hall until the 18th century. By 1858 the house had lost its former status and was occupied by farmer, William Wheelwright who cut Wheelwright Road for access to Gravelly Hill. Although still occupied as a farm in 1908, the house was demolished by 1912, the site now lying beneath the Tyburn Road near Abbotts Road.

Erdington Six Ways © Copyright Edward Hunt and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence - Geograph OS reference SP1091 - See Acknowledgements.
Erdington Six Ways © Copyright Edward Hunt and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence - Geograph OS reference SP1091 - See Acknowledgements.

The junction at the beginning of the High Street with Gravelly Hill North, Reservoir Road, Summer Road, Wood End Lane and Wood End Road was known as Erdington Six Ways after the cutting of the latter in the 1880s as part of a prospective housing development up to Church Road.


Although Erdington Station had opened on the Sutton Coldfield Branch line in 1862, there was only limited urban development around the High Street until the early 20th century when the High Street developed as an important local shopping centre.

 

At the north end of the High Street the original site of Erdington Green was in the north-east corner of the junction of Mason Road and Orphanage Road. It was laid out to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. The green was not to last for long, however.


Erdington Library was built on the Green in 1906 and the baths and fire station close by; the Green then became a small triangle at the junction of the High Street and Orphanage Road. Traffic problems began to dominate the High Street in the later years of the 20th century and parts are now pedestrianised. In 2002 the Lord Mayor, Mahmood Hussain opened the renovated village green at the centre of which is an unusual and striking new water fountain.

The Green Man c1939. Image, now free of copyright, downloaded from the late Peter Gamble's Virtual Brum website. See Acknowledgements.
The Green Man c1939. Image, now free of copyright, downloaded from the late Peter Gamble's Virtual Brum website. See Acknowledgements.

 

The Green Man


A medieval building which still stands on Bromford Lane is the Old Green Man whose timbers were dendrochronolgically dated in 2006 as having been felled in spring 1400. One of the oldest inns still in continuous use in England, it is a rare example in Birmingham of a cruck-framed building.

 

Much of the building as seen dates from the 14th and 15th centuries with further 16th-century alterations and extensions. This pub which is also known as The Lad in the Lane, was a private residence until the 18th century.

 

 

Most pre-Victorian survivals are of substantial houses belonging to people of some wealth. Such buildings are rightly given Listed status. Erdington, however, boasts more lowly examples. In Greenside Road archaeologists made a surprising discovery. Traces were found of the post holes of an oval-shaped building.

 

The Lad in the Lane 2008
The Lad in the Lane 2008

The evidence pointed to a small house measuring 5 metres by 3 which was constructed of timber around a central supporting post. It was presumably thatched as no tile fragments were found, and it had a floor of beaten clay which had been brought in for the purpose.

 

This is evidence of a medieval house, the remains of a kind of building made for hundreds of years by ordinary people using natural local materials. Little usually survives of these simple houses other than marks in the soil, so this is a remarkable find in an urban area.


In Station Road are cottages which were constructed as a single timber-framed building sometime during the 16th century. They are believed to have been a barn attached to a substantial farm which was recorded here in 1660. In the 18th century the barn was converted into tenements and faced with brick. The cottages, which are Grade II Listed, were restored in 1992 with some of the old timber being left visible.


At the other end of the scale is Tudor-style Grange bought by Benjamin Stone in 1877 in three hectares of grounds. The house is now the John Taylor Hospice. Stone was a remarkable man, a wealthy industrialist with wide interests who is chiefly remembered by local historians for his vast collection of photographs of which over ten thousand negatives are held by Birmingham Central Library. In his spare time Stone was the Member of Parliament for Birmingham East and the first Mayor of Sutton Coldfield from 1886 to 1890.

 

Erdington Cottage Homes
Erdington Cottage Homes

Take a look at Erdington Cottage Homes.


Built in 1898 on Fentham Road as the Aston Union Cottage Homes, this small estate is designed in Queen Anne style. The homes include the cottages, a school, a chapel, a hall and the warden's house. Inside the ornate gates is the Lodge where incoming children were registered, and on an island in the drive the chiming clock on the tower was donated by W J Adams, the Chairman of the Aston Union Board of Guardians.


There were seven cottages for girls, nine for boys and an infirmary with two wards of twenty beds.

 

Children attended what later became Featherstone School which was managed by the Cottage Homes until 1950 when it became a county primary school. In the 1960s the Cottage Homes was a children's home and school known as the Lindens; it now houses Social Services offices.

 

 

Erdington Orphanage 1869
Erdington Orphanage 1869

No longer surviving is Mason's Orphanage on Orphanage Road which was established by the pen millionaire and philanthropist, Sir Josiah Mason. Paid for entirely by Mason himself, it cost £60 000 to which he added endowments of £200 000, sums that staggered his contemporaries.

 

The orphanage was a very large gabled building of three-storeys with two tall square towers designed in an Italianate style. The clock tower had a 25 cwt hour bell, and four chiming bells. The children were housed, fed, clothed and educated here. By 1874 the orphanage could accommodate two hundred girls, one hundred and twenty boys and thirty infants. On his death in 1881 Mason was buried as he requested in the grounds as were fifty-three orphans who had died while at the Orphanage.


In 1964 the trustees decided that the orphanage was out-of-date and too expensive to maintain. Prior to the building's demolition Mason's remains were disinterred, cremated with those of wife and the orphans and the ashes scattered at Perry Barr Crematorium. The site was sold for housing and the profits used to build old people's housing in Olton.

 

The Orphanage had its own school, Mason's Orphanage School which opened in 1868 and transferred to Birmingham Education Department in 1950 as Chester Road County Primary School. Two years later the school was again renamed, not in honour of its benefactor, but as Yenton School, allegedly after the pub up the road. A bronze bust of Josiah Mason erected in 1952 stands on the Chester Road island looking across to Orphanage Road.

 

 

Take a look at St Barnabas Church.


From Anglo-Saxon times Erdington lay within the extensive parish of Aston. As house building began to gather pace in the village, St Barnabas Church was built as a chapel-of-ease to serve the needs of a population who lived at some distance from their mother church. Consecrated in 1824, the church was designed by Thomas Rickman in 14th-century decorated style and is possibly the only surviving work of this pioneer of the Gothic Revival. The church was served by curates of Aston until it was given its own parish in 1858. Birmingham architect J A Chatwin enlarged the building in 1883 also in decorated gothic, but the west tower and nave still remain of Rickman's original. The eight bells by Taylor's of Loughborough are noted as the first scientific true-harmonic ring to be installed in Birmingham.


The building was badly damaged by fire in 2007; it was rebuilt and reopened in 2012.

 

 

Erdington Abbey, the Church of St Edmund & St Thomas of Canterbury
Erdington Abbey, the Church of St Edmund & St Thomas of Canterbury

 

Well worth a visit - Erdington Abbey

 
On Sutton Road stands the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas & St Edmund of Canterbury, usually known as Erdington Abbey. It was designed in 1848 by Charles Hansom under the guidance of the church's founder, a former Anglican priest, Fr Daniel Haigh who met the greatest part of the costs himself. The church is in sandstone and is built in a careful 14th-century decorated gothic style with elaborate internal detail. Unlike St Barnabas which was an early pioneering gothic church and important for that, this is a later building and a fine example of the Gothic Revival.


In 1876 Fr Haigh handed the church over to a group of Prussian Benedictine monks who had been exiled from their homeland for their faith. The adjoining Priory of St Thomas was built for them in 1880. In 1896 Pope Leo XIII made the priory into an abbey, the first Roman Catholic Benedictine abbey to be opened since the Reformation. As numbers increased, a school for novitiates was opened here. The building was extended in 1898 and again six years later.

 

The Abbey was taken over in 1922 by the Redemptorists, members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, who sold the premises to Highclare private school c1995. The church is still served by Redemptorist priests.

 

 

Take a look at Rookery House.

 

The present house in Rookery Park, originally known as Birches Green House, probably stands on the site of an earlier medieval building. It was built early in the Georgian period perhaps around 1730 by Birmingham ironmaster Abraham Spooner who ran both Bromford Forge and Aston Furnace. He moved to Elmdon Hall in 1760 and his son Isaac and family lived here until Abraham's death in 1789 when they moved to Elmdon. One of the family, Dorothy Spooner married the celebrated anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce. Birmingham's first Tory Member of Parliament, Richard Spooner (served 1844-1847) was born here in 1783.


From 1816 Rookery House was occupied by the noted glass manufacturer, Brueton Gibbons who installed here the first etched plate-glass doors in the country. From 1871 wealthy pencil-case manufacturer William Wiley leased the house, which then became known as Rookery House.

 

In 1894 Erdington separated from Aston manor to which it had belonged since before the Norman Conquest to become a self-governing urban district council. Rookery House was subsequently bought for use as Erdington's Council House. At the same its gardens were opened as Erdington's first public park, Rookery Park. The house was so used until 1911 when Erdington amalgamated with Birmingham. Although the park is well maintained, the house, a Grade II Listed building and the property of Birmingham City Council, is currently in a sadly neglected state. 

 

 

William Dargue 11.12.08

 

  

Google Maps - If you lose the original focus of the Google map, press function key F5 on your keyboard to refresh the screen. The map will then recentre on its original location.


For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.

See http://www.british-history.ac.uk/mapsheet.aspx?compid=55141&sheetid=8816&ox=650&oy=433&zm=2&czm=2&x=3&y=-25 

and http://www.british-history.ac.uk/mapsheet.aspx?compid=55141&sheetid=8815&ox=650&oy=2804&zm=2&czm=2&x=-34&y=375

 

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.