William Dargue - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y
B2 - Grid reference SP071867
High Town was originally the name of the north end of the High Street before its descent to the Bull Ring. It was so-named because of its position above the Rea valley where the manor house, St Martin's Church and the markets lay. It is now the location of the Rotunda whose site was occupied in the 18th century by one of Birmingham's foremost coaching inns, the Hen & Chickens listed by Charles Pye as one of the few inns 'where the superior class of travellers can be accommodated with horses and carriages'.
The inn must have been a constant hive of activity. Pye's Description of Modern Birmingham of 1818 lists the many destinations:
Bath, a light post coach, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday morning, at six.
Bristol, the royal mail, every evening, at five.
Cambridge, the royal pilot post coach, through Coventry, Leicester, etc. every day, at half past twelve, except Sunday.
Cheltenham, the royal post coach, through Bromsgrove, Worcester, etc. to the Plough Hotel, every morning, at eight.
Holyhead, the Prince of Wales post coach, through Shrewsbury, etc. every morning, at ten.
Lichfield, a coach, four times every day.
London, the Prince of Wales post coach, through Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, etc. to the George and Blue Boar, Holborn.
Manchester, the royal mail, every morning, at a quarter past ten.
------, the Express post coach, through Uttoxeter, Leek, Macclesfield, etc. to the Moseley Arms Inn, in twelve hours, certain, every morning, at eight.
Nottingham, the royal mail, every morning, at a quarter past nine.
Oxford, the post coach, through Henley, every evening, at six. Sheffield, the royal mail, every morning, at a quarter past nine.
------, the royal Telegraph coach, through Lichfield, Derby, etc. every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday morning, at seven.
------, the royal Telegraph, through Lichfield, Uttoxeter Ashbourne, and Bakewell, every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday morning, at six.
Wolverhampton, a coach, four times every day.
Worcester, the new True Blue post coach, every afternoon, at three.
------, the royal Defiance post coach, every morning, at eight, and returns in the evening.
The image above is a photograph of Samuel Lines' oil painting, Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip's Church in 1821 downloaded from Wikipedia and uploaded
there by JimmyGuano. The original hangs in Birmingham Museum and Art. Gallery. It is believed by the Wikipedia Foundation that this photograph has no copyright restrictions.
As the town became built-up during the 18th century on the rising hill north of the original settlement, this new district was also referred to as High Town. Bradley's map of 1750 shows High Town located between Colmore Row and the High Street. As the population increased here, there was pressure to build a church, St Philip's, for the new inhabitants of the 'high town'.
See also Birmingham City Centre.
William Dargue 24.03.09/ 03.08.2010
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.