HotFreeBooks.com
An History of Birmingham (1783)
by William Hutton
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

AN

HISTORY

OF

BIRMINGHAM.



THE SECOND EDITION,

WITH CONSIDERABLE ADDITIONS.

By W. HUTTON.



PREFACE.

A preface rather induces a man to speak of himself, which is deemed the worst subject upon which he can speak. In history we become acquainted with things, but in a preface with the author; and, for a man to treat of himself, may be the most difficult talk of the two: for in history, facts are produced ready to the hand of the historian, which give birth to thought, and it is easy to cloath that thought in words. But in a preface, an author is obliged to forge from the brain, where he is sometimes known to forge without fire. In one, he only reduces a substance into form; but in the other, he must create that substance.

As I am not an author by profession, it is no wonder if I am unacquainted with the modes of authorship; but I apprehend, the usual method of conducting the pen, is to polish up a founding title-page, dignified with scraps of Latin, and then, to hammer up a work to fit it, as nearly as genius, or want of genius, will allow.

We next turn over a new leaf, and open upon a pompous dedication, which answers many laudable purposes: if a coat of arms, correctly engraven, should step first into view, we consider it a singular advantage gained over a reader, like the first blow in a combat. The dedication itself becomes a pair of stilts, which advance an author something higher.

As a horse-shoe, nailed upon the threshold of a cottage, prevents the influence of the witch; so a first-rate name, at the head of a dedication, is a total bar against the critic; but this great name, like a great officer, sometimes unfortunately stands at the head of wretched troops.

When an author is too heavy to swim of himself, it serves as a pair of bladders, to prevent his sinking.

It is farther productive of a solid advantage, that of a present from the patron, more valuable than that from the bookseller, which prevents his sinking under the pressure of famine.

But, being wholly unknown to the great names of literary consequence, I shall not attempt a dedication, therefore must lose the benefit of the stilt, the bladder, and the horse-shoe.

Were I to enter upon a dedication, I should certainly address myself, "To the Inhabitants of Birmingham." For to them I not only owe much, but all; and I think, among that congregated mass, there is not one person to whom I wish ill. I have the pleasure of calling many of those inhabitants Friends, and some of them share my warm affections equally with myself. Birmingham, like a compassionate nurse, not only draws our persons, but our esteem, from the place of our nativity, and fixes it upon herself: I might add, I was hungry, and she fed me; thirsty, and she gave me drink; a stranger, and she took me in. I approached her with reluctance, because I did not know her; I shall leave her with reluctance, because I do.

Whether it is perfectly confident in an author, to solicit the indulgence of the public, though it may stand first in his wishes, admits a doubt; for, if his productions will not bear the light, it may be said, why does he publish? but, if they will, there is no need to ask a favor; the world receives one from him. Will not a piece everlastingly be tried by its merit? Shall we esteem it the higher, because it was written at the age of thirteen? because it was the effort of a week? delivered extempore? hatched while the author stood upon one leg? or cobbled, while he cobbled a shoe? or will it be a recommendation, that it issues forth in gilt binding? The judicious world will not be deceived by the tinselled purse, but will examine whether the contents are sterling.

Will it augment the value of this history, or cover its blunders, to say, that I have never seen Oxford? That the thick fogs of penury, prevented the sun of science from beaming upon the mind? That necessity obliged me to lay down the battledore, before I was master of the letters? And that, instead of handling systems of knowledge, my hands, at the early period of seven, became callous with labour?

But, though a whole group of pretences will have no effect with the impartial eye, yet one reason pleads strongly in my favor—no such thing ever appeared as An History of Birmingham. It is remarkable, that one of the most singular places in the universe is without an historian: that she never manufactured an history of herself, who has manufactured almost every thing else; that so many ages should elapse, and not one among her numerous sons of industry, snatch the manners of the day from oblivion, group them in design, with the touches of his pen, and exhibit the picture to posterity. If such a production had ever seen the light, mine most certainly would never have been written; a temporary bridge therefore may satisfy the impatient traveller, till a more skilful architect shall accommodate him with a complete production of elegance, of use, and of duration.—Although works of genius ought to come out of the mint doubly refined, yet history admits of a much greater latitude to the author. The best upon the subject, though defective, may meet with regard.

It has long been a complaint, that local history is much wanted. This will appear obvious, if we examine the places we know, with the histories that treat of them. Many an author has become a cripple, by historically travelling through all England, who might have made a tolerable figure, had he staid at home. The subject is too copious for one performance, or even the life of one man. The design of history is knowledge: but, if simply to tell a tale, be all the duty of an historian, he has no irksome task before him; for there is nothing more easy than to relate a fact; but, perhaps, nothing more difficult than to relate it well.

The situation of an author is rather precarious—if the smiles of the world chance to meet his labours, he is apt to forget himself; if otherwise, he is soon forgot. The efforts of the critic may be necessary to clip the wings of a presuming author, lest his rising vanity becomes insupportable: but I pity the man, who writes a book which none will peruse a second time; critical exertions are not necessary to pull him down, he will fall of himself. The sin of writing carries its own punishment, the tumultuous passions of anxiety and expectation, like the jarring elements in October, disturb his repose, and, like them, are followed by stirility: his cold productions, injured by no hand but that of time, are found sleeping on the shelf unmolested. It is easy to describe his fears before publication, but who can tell his feelings after judgment is passed upon his works? His only consolation is accusing the critic of injustice, and thinking the world in the wrong. But if repentence should not follow the culprit, hardened in scribbling, it follows, his bookseller, oppressed with dead works. However, if all the evils in Pandora's box are emptied on a blasted author, this one comfort remains behind—The keeper of a circulating library, or the steward of a reading society can tell him, "His book is more durable than the others."

Having, many years ago, entertained an idea of this undertaking, I made some trifling preparations; but, in 1775, a circumstance of a private nature occurring, which engaged my attention for several years, I relinquished the design, destroyed the materials, and meant to give up the thought for ever. But the intention revived in 1780, and the work followed.

I may be accused of quitting the regular trammels of history, and sporting in the fields of remark: but, although our habitation justly stands first in our esteem, in return for rest, content, and protection; does it follow that we should never stray from it? If I happen to veer a moment from the polar point of Birmingham, I shall certainly vibrate again to the center. Every author has a manner peculiar to himself, nor can he well forsake it. I should be exceedingly hurt to omit a necessary part of intelligence, but more, to offend a reader.

If GRANDEUR should censure me for sometimes recording the men of mean life, let me ask, Which is preferable, he who thunders at the anvil, or in the senate? The man who earnestly wishes the significant letters, ESQ. spliced to the end of his name, will despise the question; but the philosopher will answer, "They are equal."

Lucrative views have no part in this production: I cannot solicit a kind people to grant what they have already granted; but if another finds that pleasure in reading, which I have done in writing, I am paid.

As no history is extant, to inform me of this famous nursery of the arts, perfection in mine must not be expected. Though I have endeavoured to pursue the road to truth; yet, having no light to guide, or hand to direct me, it is no wonder if I mistake it: but we do not condemn, so much as pity the man for losing his way, who first travels an unbeaten road.

Birmingham, for want of the recording hand, may be said to live but one generation; the transactions of the last age, die in this; memory is the sole historian, which being defective, I embalm the present generation, for the inspection of the future.

It is unnecessary to attempt a general character, for if the attentive reader is himself of Birmingham, he is equally apprized of that character; and, if a stranger, he will find a variety of touches scattered through the piece, which, taken in a collective view, form a picture of that generous people, who merit his esteem, and possess mine.



THE

CONTENTS.



Some Account of the Derivation of the Name of Birmingham, ..................................... page 1 Situation, ..................................... 3 Soil, .......................................... 6 Water, ......................................... 7 Baths, ......................................... 8 Air, ........................................... *8 Longevity, ..................................... 9 Ancient State of Birmingham, ................... 13 Battle of Camp-hill, ........................... *41 Modern State of Birmingham, .................... 40 Streets, and their Names, ...................... 53 Trade, ......................................... 57 Button, ...................................... 75 Buckle, ...................................... 76 Guns, ........................................ 78 Leather, ..................................... 79 Steel, ....................................... 80 Nails, ....................................... *83 Bellows, ..................................... *85 Thread, ...................................... *89 Printing, by John Baskerville, ............... *90 Brass foundry, ............................... *94 Hackney Coaches, ............................. 81 Bank, .......................................... 83 Government, .................................... ibid Constables, .................................. 92 Bailiffs, .................................... 94 Court of Requests, ............................. *99 Lamp Act, ...................................... 99 Religion and Politics, ......................... 105 Places of Worship, ............................. 111 St. John's Chapel, Deritend, ................. 112 St. Bartholomew's, ........................... 113 St. Mary's, .................................. 115 St. Paul's, .................................. ibid Old Meeting, ................................. 116 New Meeting, ................................. 117 Carr's-lane Meeting, ......................... 118 Baptist Meeting, ............................. ibid Quaker's Meeting, ............................ 120 Methodist Meeting, ........................... 121 Romish Chapel, ............................... *125 Jewish Synagogue, ............................ *128 Theatres, ...................................... 123 Amusements, .................................... 127 Hotel, ......................................... *132 Wakes, ......................................... 132 Clubs, ......................................... 135 Ikenield street, ............................... 140 Lords of the Manor, ............................ 153 Uluuine, 1050, ............................... 156 Richard, 1066, ............................... ibid William, 1130, ............................... 161 Peter de Birmingham, 1154, ................... 161 William de Birmingham, 1216, ................. 163 William de Birmingham, 1246, ................. 164 William de Birmingham, 1265, ................. 165 William de Birmingham, 1306, ................. 166 Sir Fouk de Birmingham, 1340, ................ 168 Sir John de Birmingham, 1376, ................ 169 Lord Clinton, ................................ ibid Edmund, Lord Ferrers, ........................ 170 William de Birmingham, 1430, ................. ibid Sir William Birmingham, 1479, ................ 171 Edward Birmingham, 1500, ..................... 172 John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, 1537, ... 177 Thomas Marrow, 1555, ......................... 180 Thomas Archer, 1746, ......................... 181 Andrew, Lord Archer, ......................... 181 Sarah, Lady Archer, 1781, .................... ibid Manor house, ................................... 182 Pudding-brook, ................................. 186 Priory, ........................................ 187 John a Dean's Hole, ............................ 195 Lench's Trust, ................................. 196 Fentbam's Trust, ............................... 200 Crowley's Trust, ............................... 201 Scott's Trust, ................................. 202 Free School, ................................... 203 Charity School, ................................ 209 Dissenting Charity School, ..................... 214 Workhouse, ..................................... 215 Old Cross, ..................................... 227 Welch Cross, ................................... 229 St. Martin's, .................................. 232 St. Philip's, .................................. 246 Births and Burials, ............................ 253 General Hospital, .............................. 256 Public Roads, .................................. 259 Canal, ......................................... 266 Deritend Bridge, ............................... 269 Soho, .......................................... 271 Danes Camp, Danes Bank, or Bury Fields, ........ 272 Gentlemen's Seats, ............................. 273 The Moats, ................................... 276 Black Greves, ................................ ibid Ulverley, or Culverley, ...................... 277 Hogg's Moat, ................................. 278 Yardley, ..................................... 281 Kent's Moat, ................................. 282 Sheldon, ..................................... 283 King's hurst, ................................ ibid Coleshill, ................................... 287 Duddeston, ................................... 289 Saltley, ..................................... 292 Ward-end ..................................... 293 Castle Bromwich, ............................. 295 Park hall, ................................... 299 Berwood, ..................................... 300 Erdington, ................................... 301 Pipe, ........................................ 303 Aston, ....................................... 306 Witton, ...................................... 309 Blakeley, .................................... 312 Weoley, ...................................... 313 Sutton Coldfield, .............................. 320 Petition for a Corporation, .................... 324 Brass Works, ................................... 329 Prison, ........................................ 332 Clodshale's Chantry, ........................... 336 Occurrences, ................................... 340 Earthquake, .................................. ibid Pitmore and Hammond, ......................... 343 Riots, ....................................... 345 The Conjurers, ............................... 350 Military Association, .......................... 353 Bilston Canal Act, ............................. 357 Workhouse Bill, ................................ 361 The Camp, ...................................... 370 Mortimer's Bank, ............................... 372



DIRECTIONS

TO THE

BINDERS,

FOR PLACING THE

COPPER-PLATES.

Prospect of Birmingham, to face the Title. Plan, ........................................ 43 Alm's-houses, ................................ *58 St. John's Chapel, Deritend, ................. 111 St. Bartholomew's, ........................... 113 St. Mary's, .................................. 115 St. Paul's, .................................. 116 Old and New Meetings, ........................ 117 New Theatre, ................................. 123 Hotel, ....................................... 130 Free School, ................................. 203 Charity School, .............................. 209 Workhouse, ................................... 215 Old and Welch Cross, ......................... 229 St. Martin's Church, ......................... 232 St. Philip's, ................................ 246 General Hospital, ............................ 256 Canal, ....................................... 265 Navigation Office, ........................... 267 Brass Works, ................................. 329



AN

HISTORY &c.

* * * * *

Some account of the derivation of the name of Birmingham.

The word Birmingham, is too remote for certain explanation. During the last four centuries it has been variously written Brumwycheham, Bermyngeham, Bromwycham, Burmyngham, Bermyngham, Byrmyngham, and Birmingham; nay, even so late as the seventeenth century it was written Bromicham. Dugdale supposes the name to have been given by the planter, or owner, in the time of the Saxons; but, I suppose it much older than any Saxon, date: besides, it is not so common for a man to give a name to, as to take one from, a place. A man seldom gives his name except he is the founder, as Petersburg from Peter the Great.

Towns, as well as every thing in nature, have exceedingly minute beginnings, and generally take a name from situation, or local circumstances. Would the Lord of a manor think it an honour to give his name to two or three miserable huts? But, if in a succession of ages these huts swell into opulence, they confer upon the lord an honour, a residence, and a name. The terminations of sted, ham, and hurst, are evidently Saxon, and mean the same thing, a home.

The word, in later ages reduced to a certainty, hath undergone various mutations; but the original seems to have been Bromwych; Brom perhaps, from broom a shrub, for the growth of which the soil is extremely favourable; Wych, a descent, this exactly corresponds with the declivity from the High Street to Digbeth. Two other places also in the neigbourhood bear the same name, which serves to strengthen the opinion.

This infant colony, for many centuries after the first buddings of existence, perhaps, had no other appellation than that of Bromwych. Its center, for many reasons that might be urged, was the Old Cross, and its increase, in those early ages of time must have been very small.

A series of prosperity attending it, its lord might assume its name, reside in it, and the particle ham would naturally follow. This very probably happened under the Saxon Heptarchy, and the name was no other than Bromwycham.



SITUATION.

It lies near the centre of the kingdom, in the north-west extremity of the county of Warwick, in a kind of peninsula, the northern part of which is bounded by Handsworth, in the county of Stafford, and the southern by King's-norton, in the county of Worcester; it is also in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, and in the deanery of Arden.

Let us perambulate the parish from the bottom of Digbeth, thirty yards north of the bridge. We will proceed south-west up the bed of the river, with Deritend, in the parish of Aston, on our left. Before we come to the Floodgates, near Vaughton's Hole, we pass by the Longmores, a small part of King's-norton. Crossing the river Rea, we enter the vestiges of a small rivulet, yet visible, though the stream hath been turned, perhaps, a thousand years, to supply the moat. We now bear rather west, nearly in a straight line for three miles, to Shirland brook, with Edgbaston on the left. At the top of the first meadow from the river Rea, we meet the little stream above-mentioned, in the pursuit of which, we cross the Bromsgrove road a little east of the first mile stone. Leaving Banner's marlpit to the left, we proceed up a narrow lane crossing the old Bromsgrove road, and up to the turnpike at the five ways in the road to Hales Owen. Leaving this road also to the left we proceed down the lane towards Ladywood, cross the Icknield street, a stone's cast east of the observatory, to the north extremity of Rotton Park. We now meet with Shirland Brook, which leads us east, and across the Dudley road, at the seven mile stone, having Smethwick in the county of Stafford, on the left, down to Pigmill. We now leave Handsworth on the left, following the stream through Hockley great pool; cross the Wolverhampton road, and the Ikenield-street at the same time down to Aston furnace, with that parish on the left. At the bottom of Walmer-lane we leave the water, move over the fields, nearly in a line to the post by the Peacock upon Gosty-green. We now cross the Lichfield road, down Duke-street, then the Coleshill road at the A B house. From thence down the meadows, to Cooper's mill; up the river to the foot of Deritend bridge; and then turn sharp to the right, keeping the course of a drain in the form of a sickle, through John a Dean's hole, into Digbeth, from whence we set out. In marching along Duke-street, we leave about seventy houses to the left, and up the river Rea, about four hundred more in Deritend, reputed part of Birmingham, though not in the parish.

This little journey, nearly of an oval form, is about seven miles. The longest diameter from Shirland brook to Deritend bridge is about three, and the widest, from the bottom of Walmer Lane to the rivulet, near the mile-stone, upon the Bromsgrove road, more than two.

The superficial contents of the parish may be upwards of four miles, about three thousand acres.

Birmingham is by much the smallest parish in the neighbourhood, those of Aston and Sutton are each about five times as large, Yardley four, and King's-Norton eight.

When Alfred, that great master of legislation, parished out his kingdom, or rather, put the finishing hand to that important work; where he met with a town, he allotted a smaller quantity of land, because the inhabitants chiefly depended upon commerce; but where there was only a village, he allotted a larger, because they depended upon agriculture.

This observation goes far in proving the antiquity of the place, for it is nine hundred years since this division took effect.

The buildings occupy the south east part of the parish; perhaps, with their appendages, about six hundred acres.

This south east part, being insufficient for the extraordinary increase of the inhabitants, she has of late extended her buildings along the Bromsgrove road, near the boundaries of Edgbaston; and actually on the other side planted three of her streets in the parish of Aston. Could the sagacious Alfred have seen into futurity, he would have augmented her borders.

As no part of the town lies flat, the showers promote both cleanliness and health, by removing obstructions.

The approach is on every side by ascent, except that from Hales-Owen, north west, which gives a free access of air, even to the most secret recesses of habitation.

Thus eminently situated, the sun can exercise his full powers of exhalation.

The foundation upon which this mistress of the arts is erected, is one solid mass of dry reddish sand.

The vapours that rise from the earth are the great promoters of disease; but here, instead of the moisture ascending to the prejudice of the inhabitant, the contrary is evident; for the water descends through the pores of the sand, so that even our very cellars are habitable.

This accounts for the almost total extinction of the ague among us:—During a residence of thirty years, I have never seen one person afflicted with it, though, by the opportunities of office, I have frequently visited the repositories of the sick.

Thus peculiarly favoured, this happy spot, enjoys four of the greatest benefits that can attend human existence—water, air, the fun, and a situation free from damps.

All the past writers upon Birmingham have viewed her as low and watery, and with reason; because Digbeth, then the chief street, bears that description. But all the future writers will view her on an eminence, and with as much reason; because, for one low street, we have now fifty elevated.

Birmingham, like the empire to which she belongs, has been, for many centuries, travelling up hill; and, like that, rising in consequence.



SOIL.

The soil is rather light, sandy, and weak; and though metals, of various sorts, are found in great plenty, above the surface, we know of nothing below, except sand and gravel, stone and water. All the riches of the place, like those of an empiric, in laced cloaths, appear on the outside.

The northern part of the parish, for about four hundred acres, to the disgrace of the age, is yet a shameful waste.

A small part of the land near the town, is parcelled out into little gardens, at ten or twenty shillings each, amounting to about sixteen pounds per acre.

These are not intended so much for profit, as health and amusement.

Others are let in detached pieces for private use, at about four pounds per acre. So that this small parish cannot boast of more than six or eight farms, and these of the smaller size, at about two pounds per acre. Manure from the sty brings about 16s. per waggon load, that from the stable about 12, and that from the fire and the street, five.



WATER.

I think there is not any natural river runs through the parish, but there are three that mark the boundaries of it, for about half its circumference, described above; none of these supply family use. After penetrating into a body of sand, interspersed with a small strata of soft Rock, and sometimes of gravel; at the depth of about twenty yards, we come to plenty of water, rather hard. There are in the lower parts of the town, two excellent springs of soft water, suitable for most purposes; one at the top of Digbeth, the other, Lady-Well. Or rather, one spring, or bed of water, with many out-lets, continuing its course along the bottom of the hill, parallel with Small-brook-street, Edgbaston street, St. Martin's-lane, and Park-street; sufficiently copious to supply the whole city of London. Water is of the first consequence, it often influences disease, always the habit of body: that of Birmingham is in general productive of salutary effects.

That dreadful disorder, the stone, is seldom found among us. I can recollect but very few, in my time, under this severe complaint, which is perhaps owing to that valuable element. I mentioned this remark to an eminent surgeon, who assured me, that, in his long course of practice, he had never been concerned in one operation in that unhappy disorder.



BATHS.

At Lady-Well, are the most complete baths in the whole Island. There are seven in number; erected at the expence of 2000l. Accommodation is ever ready for hot or cold bathing; for immersion or amusement; with conveniency for sweating. That, appropriated for swimming, is eighteen Yards by thirty-six, situated in the centre of a garden, in which are twenty four private undressing-houses, the whole surrounded by a wall 10 feet high. Pleasure and health are the guardians of the place. The gloomy horrors of a bath, sometimes deter us from its use, particularly, if aided by complaint; but the appearance of these is rather inviting. We read of painted sepulchres, whose outsides are richly ornamented, but within are full of corruption and death. The reverse is before us. No elegance appears without, but within are the Springs of life! The expence was great, the utility greater.

I do not know any author, who has reckoned man among the amphibious race of animals, neither do I know any animal who better deserves it. Man is lord of the little ball on which he treads, one half of which, at least, is water. If we do not allow him to be amphibious, we deprive him of half his sovereignty. He justly bears that name, who can live in the water. Many of the disorders incident to the human frame are prevented, and others cured, both by fresh and salt bathing; so that we may properly remark, "He lives in the water, who can find life, nay, even health in that friendly element."

The greatest treasure on earth is health; but, a treasure, of all others, the least valued by the owner. Other property is best rated when in possession, but this, can only be rated when lost. We sometimes observe a man, who, having lost this inestimable jewel, seeks it with an ardour equal to its worth; but when every research by land, is eluded, he fortunately finds it in the water. Like the fish, he pines away upon shore, but like that, recovers again in the deep.

Perhaps Venus is represented as rising from the ocean, which is no other then a bath of the larger size, to denote, that bathing is the refiner of health, consequently, of beauty; and Neptune being figured in advanced life, indicates, that it is a preservative to old age.

The cure of disease among the Romans, by bathing, is supported by many authorities; among others, by the number of baths frequently discovered, in which, pleasure, in that warm climate, bore a part. But this practice seemed to decline with Roman freedom, and never after held the eminence it deserved. Can we suppose, the physician stept between disease and the bath, to hinder their junction; or, that he lawfully holds, by prescription, the tenure of sickness, in fee?

The knowledge of this singular art of healing, is at present only in infancy. How far it may prevent, or conquer disease; to what measure it may be applied, in particular cases, and the degrees of use, in different constitutions, are enquiries that will be better understood by a future generation.



AIR.

As we have passed through the water, let us now investigate her sister fluid, the air. They are both necessary to life, and the purity of both to the prolongation of it; this small difference lies between them, a man may live a day without water, but not an hour without air: If a man wants better water, it may be removed from a distant place for his benefit; but if he wants air, he must remove himself.—The natural air of Birmingham, perhaps, cannot be excelled in this climate, the moderate elevation and dry soil evinces this truth; but it receives an alloy from the congregated body of fifty thousand people; also from the smoke of an extraordinary number of fires used in business; and perhaps, more from the various effluvia arising from particular trades. It is not uncommon to see a man with green hair or a yellow wig, from his constant employment in brass; if he reads, the green vestiges of his occupation remain on every leaf, never to be expunged. The inside of his body, no doubt, receives the same tincture, but is kept clean by being often washed with ale. Some of the fair sex, likewise are subject to the same inconvenience, but find relief in the same remedy.



LONGEVITY.

Man is a time-piece. He measures out a certain space, then stops for ever. We see him move upon the earth, hear him click, and perceive in his face the uses of intelligence. His external appearance will inform us whether he is old-fashioned, in which case, he is less valuable upon every gambling calculation. His face also will generally inform us whether all is right within. This curious machine is filled with a complication of movements, very unfit to be regulated by the rough hand of ignorance, which sometimes leaves a mark not to be obliterated even by the hand of an artist. If the works are directed by violence, destruction is not far off. If we load it with the oil of luxury, it will give an additional vigor, but in the end, clog and impede the motion. But if the machine is under the influence of prudence, she will guide it with an even, and a delicate hand, and perhaps the piece may move on 'till it is fairly worn out by a long course of fourscore years.

There are a set of people who expect to find that health in medicine, which possibly might be found in regimen, in air, exercise, or serenity of mind.

There is another class amongst us, and that rather numerous, whose employment is laborious, and whose conduct is irregular. Their time is divided between hard working, and hard drinking, and both by a fire. It is no uncommon thing to see one of these, at forty, wear the aspect of sixty, and finish a life of violence at fifty, which the hand of prudence would have directed to eighty.

The strength of a kingdom consists in the multitude of its inhabitants; success in trade depends upon the manufacturer; the support and direction of a family, upon the head of it. When this useful part of mankind, therefore, are cut off in the active part of life, the community sustains a loss, whether we take the matter in a national, a commercial, or a private view.

We have a third class, who shun the rock upon which these last fall, but wreck upon another; they run upon scylla though they have missed charybdis; they escape the liquid destruction, but split upon the solid. These are proficients in good eating; adepts in culling of delicacies, and the modes of dressing them. Matters of the whole art of cookery; each carries a kitchen in his head. Thus an excellent constitution may be stabbed by the spit. Nature never designed us to live well, and continue well; the stomach is too weak a vessel to be richly and deeply laden. Perhaps more injury is done by eating than by drinking; one is a secret, the other an open enemy: the secret is always supposed the most dangerous. Drinking attacks by assault, but eating by sap: luxury is seldom visited by old age. The best antidote yet discovered against this kind of slow poison is exercise; but the advantages of elevation, air, and water, on one hand, and disadvantages of crowd, smoke, and effluvia on the other, are trifles compared to intemperance.

We have a fourth class, and with these I shall shut up the clock. If this valuable machine comes finished from the hand of nature; if the rough blasts of fortune only attack the outward case, without affecting the internal works, and if reason conduces the piece, it may move on, with a calm, steady, and uninterrupted pace to a great extent of years, 'till time only annihilates the motion.

I personally know amongst us a Mrs. Dallaway, aged near 90; George Davis, 85; John Baddally, Esq; and his two brothers, all between 80 and and 90; Mrs. Allen, 92; Mrs. Silk, 84; John Burbury, 84; Thomas Rutter, 88; Elizabeth Bentley, 88; John Harrison and his wife, one 86, the other 88; Mrs. Floyd, 87; Elizabeth Simms, 88; Sarah Aston, 98; Isaac Spooner, Esq; 89; Joseph Scott, Esq; 94; all at this day, January 9, 1780, I believe enjoy health and capacity. This is not designed as a complete list of the aged, but of such only as immediately occur to memory. I also knew a John England who died at the age of 89; Hugh Vincent, 94; John Pitt, 100; George Bridgens, 103; Mrs. More, 104. An old fellow assured me he had kept the market 77 years: he kept it for several years after to my knowledge. At 90 he was attacked by an acute disorder, but, fortunately for himself, being too poor to purchase medical assistance, he was left to the care of nature, who opened that door to health which the physician would have locked for ever. At 106 I heard him swear with all the fervency of a recruit: at 107 he died. It is easy to give instances of people who have breathed the smoak of Birmingham for threescore years, and yet have scarcely left the precincts of of youth. Such are the happy effects of constitution, temper, and conduct!



Ancient State of Birmingham.

We have now to pass through the very remote ages of time, without staff to support us, without light to conduct us, or hand to guide us. The way is long, dark, and slippery. The credit of an historian is built upon truth; he cannot assert, without giving his facts; he cannot surmise, without giving his reasons; he must relate things as they are, not as he would have them. The fabric founded in error will moulder of itself, but that founded in reality will stand the age and the critic.

Except half a dozen pages in Dugdale, I know of no author who hath professedly treated of Birmingham. None of the histories which I have seen bestow upon it more than a few lines, in which we are sure to be treated with the noise of hammers and anvils; as if the historian thought us a race of dealers in thunder, lightning, and wind; or infernals, puffing in blast and smoak.

Suffer me to transcribe a passage from Leland, one of our most celebrated writers, employed by Henry the VIIIth to form an itinerary of Britain, whose works have stood the test of 250 years. We shall observe how much he erred for want of information, and how natural for his successors to copy him.

"I came through a pretty street as ever I entered, into Birmingham town. This street, as I remember, is called Dirtey (Deritend). In it dwells smithes and cutlers, and there is a brook that divides this street from Birmingham, an hamlet, or member, belonging to the parish therebye.

"There is at the end of Dirtey a propper chappel and mansion-house of timber, (the moat) hard on the ripe, as the brook runneth down; and as I went through the ford, by the bridge, the water came down on the right hand, and a few miles below goeth into Tame. This brook, above Dirtey, breaketh in two arms, that a little beneath the bridge close again. This brook riseth, as some say, four or five miles above Birmingham, towards Black-hills.

"The beauty of Birmingham, a good market-town in the extreme parts of Warwickshire, is one street going up alonge, almost from the left ripe of the brook, up a meane hill, by the length of a quarter of a mile, I saw but one parish-church in the town.

"There be many smithes in the town that use to make knives and all manner of cutting tools, and many loriners that make bittes, and a great many naylers; so that a great part of the town is maintained by smithes, who have their iron and sea-coal out of Staffordshire."

Here we find some intelligence, and more mistake, cloathed in the dress of antique diction, which plainly evinces the necessity of modern history.

It is matter of surprise that none of those religious drones, the monks, who hived in the priory for fifteen or twenty generations, ever thought of indulging posterity with an history of Birmingham. They could not want opportunity, for they lived a life of indolence; nor materials, for they were nearer the infancy of time, and were possessed of historical fads now totally lost. Besides, nearly all the little learning in the kingdom was possessed by this class of people; and the place, in their day, must have enjoyed an eminent degree of prosperity.

Though the town has a modern appearance, there is reason to believe it of great antiquity; my Birmingham reader, therefore, must suffer me to carry him back into the remote ages of the Ancient Britons to visit his fable ancestors.

We have no histories of those times but what are left by the Romans, and these we ought to read with caution, because they were parties in the dispute. If two antagonists write each his own history, the discerning reader will sometimes draw the line of justice between them; but where there is only one, partiality is expected. The Romans were obliged to make the Britons war-like, or there would have been no merit in conquering them: they must also sound forth their ignorance, or there would have been none in improving them. If the Britons were that wretched people they are represented by the Romans, they could not be worth conquering: no man subdues a people to improve them, but to profit by them. Though the Romans at that time were in their meridian of splendor, they pursued Britain a whole century before they reduced it; which indicates that they considered it as a valuable prize. Though the Britons were not masters of science, like the Romans; though the fine arts did not flourish here, as in Rome, because never planted; yet by many testimonies it is evident they were masters of plain life; that many of the simple arts were practiced in that day, as well as in this; that assemblages of people composed cities, the same as now, but in an inferior degree; and that the country was populous is plain from the immense army Boadicia brought into the field, except the Romans increased that army that their merit might be greater in defeating it. Nay, I believe we may with propriety carry them beyond plain life, and charge them with a degree of elegance: the Romans themselves allow the Britons were complete masters of the chariot; that when the scythe was fixed at each end of the axle-tree, they drove with great dexterity into the midst of the enemy, broke their ranks, and mowed them down. The chariot, therefore, could not be made altogether for war, but, when the scythes were removed, it still remained an emblem of pride, became useful in peace, was a badge of high-life, and continues so with their descendants to this day.

We know the instruments of war used by the Britons were a sword, spear, shield and scythe. If they were not the manufacturers, how came they by these instruments? We cannot allow either they or the chariots were imported, because that will give them a much greater consequence: they must also have been well acquainted with the tools used in husbandry, for they were masters of the field in a double sense. Bad also as their houses were, a chest of carpentry tools would be necessary to complete them. We cannot doubt, therefore, from these evidences, and others which might be adduced, that the Britons understood the manufactory of iron. Perhaps history cannot produce an instance of any place in an improving country, like England, where the coarse manufactory of iron has been carried on, that ever that laborious art went to decay, except the materials failed; and as we know of no place where such materials have failed, there is the utmost reason to believe our fore-fathers, the Britons, were supplied with those necessary implements by the black artists of the Birmingham forge. Iron-stone and coal are the materials for this production, both which are found in the neighbourhood in great plenty. I asked a gentleman of knowledge, if there was a probability of the delphs failing? He answered, "Not in five thousand years."

The two following circumstances strongly evince this ancient British manufactory:—

Upon the borders of the parish stands Aston-furnace, appropriated for melting ironstone, and reducing it into pigs: this has the appearance of great antiquity. From the melted ore, in this subterranean region of infernal aspect, is produced a calx, or cinder, of which there is an enormous mountain. From an attentive survey, the observer would suppose so prodigious a heap could not accumulate in one hundred generations; however, it shows no perceptible addition in the age of man.

There is also a common of vast extent, called Wednesbury-old-field, in which are the vestiges of many hundreds of coal-pits, long in disuse, which the curious antiquarian would deem as long in sinking, as the mountain of cinders in rising.

The minute sprig of Birmingham, no doubt first took root in this black soil, which, in a succession of ages, hath grown to its present opulence. At what time this prosperous plant was set, is very uncertain; perhaps as long before the days of Caesar as it is since. Thus the mines of Wednesbury empty their riches into the lap of Birmingham, and thus she draws nurture from the bowels of the earth.

The chief, if not the only manufactory of Birmingham, from its first existence to the restoration of Charles the Second, was in iron: of this was produced instruments of war and of husbandry, furniture for the kitchen, and tools for the whole system of carpentry.

The places where our athletic ancestors performed these curious productions of art, were in the shops fronting the street: some small remains of this very ancient custom are yet visible, chiefly in Digbeth, where about a dozen shops still exhibit the original music of anvil and hammer.

As there is the highest probability that Birmingham produced her manufactures long before the landing of Caesar, it would give pleasure to the curious enquirer, could he be informed of her size in those very early ages; but this information is for ever hid from the historian, and the reader. Perhaps there never was a period in which she saw a decline, but that her progress has been certain, though slow, during the long space of two or three thousand years before Charles the Second.

The very roads that proceed from Birmingham, are also additional indications of her great antiquity and commercial influence.

Where any of these roads lead up an eminence, they were worn by the long practice of ages into deep holloways, some of them twelve or fourteen yards below the surface of the banks, with which they were once even, and so narrow as to admit only one passenger.

Though modern industry, assisted by various turnpike acts, has widened the upper part and filled up the lower, yet they were all visible in the days of our fathers, and are traceable even in ours. Some of these, no doubt, were formed by the spade, to soften the fatigue of climbing the hill, but many were owing to the pure efforts of time, the horse, and the showers. As inland trade was small, prior to the fifteenth century, the use of the wagon, that great destroyer of the road, was but little known. The horse was the chief conveyor of burthen among the Britons, and for centuries after: if we, therefore, consider the great length of time it would take for the rains to form these deep ravages, we must place the origin of Birmingham, at a very early date.

One of these subterranean passages, in part filled up, will convey its name to posterity in that of a street, called Holloway-head, 'till lately the way to Bromsgrove and to Bewdley, but not now the chief road to either. Dale-end, once a deep road, has the same derivation. Another at Summer-hill, in the Dudley road, altered in 1753. A remarkable one is also between the Salutation and the Turnpike, in the Wolverhampton road. A fifth at the top of Walmer-lane, changed into its present form in 1764. Another between Gosta-green and Aston-brook, reduced in 1752.

All the way from Dale-end to Duddeston, of which Coleshill-street now makes a part, was sunk five or six feet, though nearly upon a flat, 'till filled up in 1756 by act of Parliament: but the most singular is that between Deritend and Camp-hill, in the way to Stratford, which is, even now, many yards below the banks; yet the seniors of the last age took a pleasure in telling us, they could remember when it would have buried a wagon load of hay beneath its present surface.

Thus the traveller of old, who came to purchase the produce of Birmingham, or to sell his own, seemed to approach her by sap.

British traces are, no doubt, discoverable in the old Dudley-road, down Easy-hill, under the canal; at the eight mile-stone, and at Smethwick: also in many of the private roads near Birmingham, which were never thought to merit a repair, particularly at Good-knaves-end, towards Harborne; the Green-lane, leading to the Garrison; and that beyond Long-bridge, in the road to Yardley; all of them deep holloways, which carry evident tokens of antiquity. Let the curious calculator determine what an amazing length of time would elapse in wearing the deep roads along Saltleyfield, Shaw-hill, Allum-rock, and the remainder of the way to Stichford, only a pitiful hamlet of a dozen houses.

The ancient centre of Birmingham seems to have been the Old Cross, from the number of streets pointing towards it. Wherever the narrow end of a street enters a great thorough-fare, it indicates antiquity, this is the case with Philip-street, Bell-street, Spiceal-street, Park-street, and Moor-street, which not only incline to the centre above-mentioned, but all terminate with their narrow ends into the grand passage. These streets are narrow at the entrance, and widen as you proceed: the narrow ends were formed with the main street at first, and were not, at that time, intended for streets themselves. As the town increased, other blunders of the same kind were committed, witness the gateway late at the east end of New-street, the two ends of Worcester-street, Smallbrook-street, Cannon-street, New-meeting-streer, and Bull street; it is easy to see which end of a street was formed first; perhaps the south end of Moor street is two thousand years older than the north; the same errors are also committing in our day, as in Hill and Vale streets, the two Hinkleys and Catharine-street. One generation, for want of foresight, forms a narrow entrance, and another widens it by Act of Parliament.

Every word in the English language carries an idea: when a word, therefore, strikes the ear, the mind immediately forms a picture, which represents it as faithfully as the looking-glass the face.—Thus, when the word Birmingham occurs, a superb picture instantly expands in the mind, which is best explained by the other words grand, populous, extensive, active, commercial and humane. This painting is an exact counter-part of the word at this day; but it does not correspond with its appearance, in the days of the ancient Britons—We must, therefore, for a moment, detach the idea from the word.

Let us suppose, then, this centre surrounded with less than one hundred stragling huts, without order, which we will dignify with the name of houses; built of timber, the interfaces wattled with sticks, and plaistered with mud, covered with thatch, boards or sods; none of them higher than the ground story. The meaner sort only one room, which served for three uses, shop, kitchen, and lodging room; the door for two, it admitted the people and the light. The better sort two rooms, and some three, for work, for the kitchen, and for rest; all three in a line, and sometimes fronting the street.

If the curious reader chooses to see a picture of Birmingham, in the time of the Britons, he will find one in the turnpike road, between Hales-owen and Stourbridge, called the Lie Waste, alias Mud City. The houses stand in every direction, composed of one large and ill-formed brick, scoped into a tenement, burnt by the sun, and often destroyed by the frost: the males naked; the females accomplished breeders. The children, at the age of three months, take a singular hue from the sun and the soil, which continues for life. The rags which cover them leave no room for the observer to guess at the sex. Only one person upon the premisses presumes to carry a belly, and he a landlord. We might as well look for the moon in a coal-pit, as for stays or white linen in the City of Mud. The principal tool in business is the hammer, and the beast of burden, the ass.

The extent of our little colony of artists, perhaps reached nearly as high as the east end of New-street, occupied the upper part of Spiceal-street, and penetrated down the hill to the top of Digbeth, chiefly on the east.

Success, which ever waits on Industry, produced a gradual, but very slow increase: perhaps a thousand years elapsed without adding half that number of houses.

Thus our favourite plantation having taken such firm root, that she was able to stand the wintry blasts of fortune, we shall digress for a moment, while she wields her sparkling heat, according to the fashion of the day, in executing the orders of the sturdy Briton; then of the polite and heroic Roman; afterwards of our mild ancestors, the Saxons. Whether she raised her hammer for the plundering Dane is uncertain, his reign being short; and, lastly, for the resolute and surly Norman.

It does not appear that Birmingham, from its first formation, to the present day, was ever the habitation of a gentleman, the lords of the manor excepted. But if there are no originals among us, we can produce many striking likenesses—The smoke of Birmingham has been very propitious to their growth, but not to their maturity.

Gentlemen, as well as buttons, have been stamped here; but, like them, when finished, are moved off.

They both originate from a very uncouth state, without form or comeliness; and pass through various stages, uncertain of success. Some of them, at length, receive the last polish, and arrive at perfection; while others, ruined by a flaw, are deemed wasters.

I have known the man of opulence direct his gilt chariot out of Birmingham, who first approached her an helpless orphan in rags. I have known the chief magistrate of fifty thousand people, fall from his phaeton, and humbly ask bread at a parish vestry.

Frequently the wheel of capricious fortune describes a circle, in the rotation of which, a family experiences alternately, the heighth of prosperity and the depth of distress; but more frequently, like a pendulum, it describes only the arc of a circle, and that always at the bottom.

Many fine estates have been struck out of the anvil, valuable possessions raised by the tongs, and superb houses, in a two-fold sense, erected by the trowel.

The paternal ancestor of the late Sir Charles Holte was a native of this place, and purchaser, in the beginning of Edward the Third, of the several manors, which have been the honour and the support of his house to the present time.

Walter Clodshale was another native of Birmingham, who, in 1332, purchased the manor of Saltley, now enjoyed by his maternal descendant, Charles Bowyer Adderley, Esq.

Charles Colmore, Esq; holds a considerable estate in the parish; his predecessor is said to have occupied, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, that house, now No. 1, in the High-street, as a mercer, and general receiver of the taxes.

A numerous branch of this ancient family flourishes in Birmingham at this day.

The head of it, in the reign of James the First, erected New-hall, and himself into a gentleman. On this desirable eminence, about half a mile from the buildings, they resided till time, fashion, and success, removed them, like their predecessors, the sons of fortune, to a greater distance.

The place was then possessed by a tenant, as a farm; but Birmingham, a speedy traveller, marched over the premises, and covered them with twelve hundred houses, on building leases; the farmer was converted into a steward: his brown hempen frock, which guarded the outside of his waistcoat, became white holland, edged with ruffles, and took its station within: the pitchfork was metamorphosed into a pen, and his ancient practice of breeding up sheep, was changed into that of dressing their skins.

Robert Philips, Esq; acquired a valuable property in the seventeenth century; now possessed by his descendant, William Theodore Inge, Esquire.

A gentleman of the name of Foxall, assured me, that the head of his family resided upon the spot, now No. 101, in Digbeth, about four hundred years ago, in the capacity of a tanner.

Richard Smallbroke, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, in the reign of George II. was a native of Birmingham, as his ancestors were for many ages, with reputation: he is said to have been born at number 2 in the High-street, had great property in the town, now enjoyed by his descendants, though they have left the place. The families also of Weaman, Jennings, Whalley, etc. have acquired vast property, and quitted the meridian of Birmingham; and some others are at this day ripe for removal. Let me close this bright scene of prosperity, and open another, which can only be viewed with a melancholy eye. We cannot behold the distresses of man without compassion; but that distress which follows affluence, comes with double effect.

We have amongst us a family of the name of Middlemore, of great antiquity, deducible from the conquest; who held the chief possessions, and the chief offices in the county, and who matched into the first families in the kingdom, but fell with the interest of Charles the First; and are now in that low ebb of fortune, that I have frequently, with a gloomy pleasure, relieved them at the common charity-board of the town. Such is the tottering point of human greatness.

Another of the name of Bracebridge, who for more than six hundred years, figured in the first ranks of life.

A third of the name of Mountfort, who shone with meridian splendor, through a long train of ages. As genealogy was ever a favourite amusement, I have often conversed with these solitary remains of tarnished lustre, but find in all of them, the pride of their family buried with its greatness:—they pay no more attention to the arms of their ancestors, than to a scrap of paper, with which they would light their pipe. Upon consulting one of the name of Elwall, said to be descended from the Britons, I found him so amazingly defective, that he could not stretch his pedigree even so high as his grandfather.

A fifth family amongst us, of the name of Arden, stood upon the pinnacle of fame in the days of Alfred the Great, where perhaps they had stood for ages before: they continued the elevation about seven hundred years after; but having treasonable charges brought against them, in the days of Queen Elizabeth, about two hundred years ago, they were thrown from this exalted eminence, and dashed to pieces in the fall. In various consultations with a member of this honourable house, I found the greatness of his family not only lost, but the memory of it also. I assured him, that his family stood higher in the scale of honour, than any private one within my knowledge: that his paternal ancestors, for about seven generations, were successively Earls of Warwick, before the Norman conquest: that, though he could not boast a descent from the famous Guy, he was related to him: that, though Turchell, Earl of Warwick at the conquest, his direct ancestor, lost the Earldom in favour of Roger Newburgh, a favourite of William's; yet, as the Earl did not appear in arms, against the Conqueror, at the battle of Hastings, nor oppose the new interest, he was allowed to keep forty-six of his manors: that he retired upon his own vast estate, which he held in dependence, where the family resided with great opulence, in one house, for many centuries, 'till their reduction above-mentioned. He received the information with some degree of amazement, and replied with a serious face,—"Perhaps there may have been something great in my predecessors, for my grandfather kept several cows in Birmingham and sold milk."

The families of those ancient heroes, of Saxon and Norman race, are, chiefly by the mutations of time, and of state, either become extinct, or as above, reduced to the lowest verge of fortune. Those few therefore, whose descent is traceable, may be carried higher than that of the present nobility; for I know none of these last, who claim peerage beyond Edward the first, about 1295. Hence it follows, that for antiquity, alliance, and blood, the advantage is evidently in favour of the lowest class.

Could one of those illustrious shades return to the earth and inspect human actions, he might behold one of his descendants, dancing at the lathe; another tippling with his dark brethren of the apron; a third humbly soliciting from other families such favours as were formerly granted by his own; a fourth imitating modern grandeur, by contracting debts he never designs to pay; and a fifth snuff of departed light, poaching, like a thief in the night, upon the very manors, possessed by his ancestors.

Whence is it that title, pedigree, and alliance, in superior life, are esteemed of the highest value; while in the inferior, who have a prior claim, are totally neglected? The grand design of every creature upon earth, is to supply the wants of nature. No amusements of body or mind can be adopted, till hunger is served. When the appetite calls, the whole attention of the animal, with all its powers, is bound to answer. Hence arise those dreadful contests in the brute creation, from the lion in the woods, to the dog, who seizes the bone. Hence the ship, when her provisions are spent, and she becalmed, casts a savage eye, upon human sacrifices; and hence, the attention of the lower ranks of men, are too far engrossed for mental pursuit. They see, like Esau, the honours of their family devoured with a ravenous appetite. A man with an empty cupboard would make but a wretched philosopher. But if fortune should smile upon one of the lower race, raise him a step above his original standing, and give him a prospect of independence, he immediately begins to eye the arms upon carriages, examines old records for his name, and inquires where the Herald's office is kept. Thus, when the urgency of nature is set at liberty, the bird can whistle upon the branch, the fish play upon the surface, the goat skip upon the mountain, and even man himself, can bask in the sunshine of science. I digress no farther.

The situation of St. Martin's church is another reason for fixing the original centre of Birmingham at the Old Cross. Christianity made an early and a swift progress in this kingdom; persecution, as might be expected, followed her footsteps, increased her votaries, and, as was ever the case, in all new religions, her proselytes were very devout.

The religious fervor of the christians displayed itself in building churches. Most of those in England are of Saxon original, and were erected between the fourth and the tenth century; that of St. Martin's is ancient beyond the reach of historical knowledge, and probably rose in the early reigns of the Saxon kings.

It was the custom of those times, to place the church, if there was but one, out of the precincts of the town; this is visible at the present day in those places which have received no increase.

Perhaps it will not be an unreasonable supposition to fix the erection of St. Martin's, in the eighth century; and if the inquisitive reader chooses to traverse the town a second time, he may find its boundaries something like the following. We cannot allow its extension northward beyond the east end of New-street; that it included the narrow parts of Philip street, Bell street, Spiceal street, Moor street, and Park street. That the houses at this period were more compact than heretofore; that Digbeth and Deritend, lying in the road to Stratford, Warwick, and Coventry, all places of antiquity, were now formed. Thus the church stood in the environs of the town, unincumbered with buildings. Possibly this famous nursery of arts might, by this time, produce six hundred houses. A town must increase before its appendages are formed; those appendages also must increase before there is a necessity for an additional chapel, and after that increase, the inhabitants may wait long before that necessity is removed. Deritend is an appendage to Birmingham; the inhabitants of this hamlet having long laboured under the inconveniency of being remote from the parish church of Aston, and too numerous for admission into that of Birmingham, procured a grant in 1381 to erect a chapel of their own. If we, therefore, allow three hundred years for the infancy of Deritend, three hundred more for her maturity, and four hundred since the erection of her chapel, which is a very reasonable allowance. It will bring us to the time I mentioned.

It does not appear that Deritend was attended with any considerable augmentation, from the Norman conquest to the year 1767, when a turnpike-road was opened to Alcester, and when Henry Bradford publicly offered a freehold to the man who should first build upon his estate; since which time Deritend has made a rapid progress: and this dusky offspring of Birmingham is now travelling apace along her new formed road.

I must again recline upon Dugdale.—In 1309, William de Birmingham, Lord of the Manor, took a distress of the inhabitants of Bromsgrove and King's-norton, for refusing to pay the customary tolls of the market. The inhabitants, therefore, brought their action and recovered damage, because it was said, their lands being the ancient demesne of the crown, they had a right to sell their produce in any market in the King's dominions.

It appeared in the course of the trial, that the ancestors of William de Birmingham had a MARKET HERE before the Norman conquest! I shall have occasion, in future, to resume this remarkable expression. I have also met with an old author, who observes, that Birmingham was governed by two Constables in the time of the Saxons; small places have seldom more than one. These evidences prove much in favour of the government, population, and antiquity of the place.

In Domesday-book it is rated at four hides of land. A hide was as much as a team could conveniently plough in a year; perhaps at that time about fifty acres: I think there is not now, more than two hundred ploughed in the parish.

It was also said to contain woods of half a mile in length, and four furlongs in breadth. What difference subsisted between half a mile and four furlongs, in ancient time, is uncertain; we know of none now. The mile was reduced to its present standard in the reign of Queen Elizabeth: neither are there the least traces of those woods, for at this day it is difficult to find a stick that deserves the name of a tree, in the whole manor.—Timber is no part of the manufactory of Birmingham.

Let us survey the town a third time, as we may reasonably suppose it stood in the most remarkable period of English history, that of the conquest.

We cannot yet go farther North of the centre than before, that is, along the High-street, 'till we meet the East end of New street. We shall penetrate rather farther into Moor-street, none into Park-street, take in Digbeth, Deritend, Edgbaston-street, as being the road to Dudley, Bromsgrove, and the whole West of England; Spiceal-street, the Shambles, a larger part of Bell street, and Philip-street.

The ancient increase of the town was towards the South, because of the great road, the conveniency of water, the church, and the manor-house, all which lay in that quarter: but the modern extension was chiefly towards the North, owing to the scions of her trades being transplanted all over the country, in that direction, as far as Wednesbury, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. But particularly her vicinity to the coal delphs, which were ever considered as the soul of her prosperity. Perhaps by this time the number of houses might have been augmented to seven hundred: but whatever was her number, either in this or any other period, we cannot doubt her being populous in every aera of her existence.

The following small extract from the register, will show a gradual increase, even before the restoration:

Year. Christenings. Weddings. Burials 1555, 37, 15, 27. 1558, 48, 10, 47. 1603, 65, 14, 40. 1625, 76, 18, 47. 1660, 76, from April to Dec. inclusive.

In 1251, William de Birmingham, Lord of the Manor, procured an additional charter from Henry the Third, reviving some decayed privileges and granting others; among the last was that of the Whitsuntide fair, to begin on the eve of Holy Thursday, and to continue four days. At the alteration of the style, in 1752, it was prudently changed to the Thursday in Whitsun week; that less time might be lost to the injury of work and the workman. He also procured another fair, to begin on the eve of St. Michael, and continue for three days. Both which fairs are at this day in great repute.

By the interest of Audomore de Valance, earl of Pembroke, a licence was obtained from the crown, in 1319 to charge an additional toll upon every article sold in the market for three years, towards paving the town. Every quarter of corn to pay one farthing, and other things in proportion.

We have no reason to believe that either the town or the market were small at that time, however, at the expiration of the term, the toll was found inadequate to the expence, and the work lay dormant for eighteen years, till 1337, when a second licence was obtained, equal to the first, which completed the intention.

Those streets, thus dignified with a pavement, or rather their sides, to accommodate the foot passenger, probably were High-street, the Bull-ring, Corn-cheaping, Digbeth, St. Martin's-lane, Moat-lane, Edgbaston-street, Spiceal-street, and part of Moor-street.

It was the practice, in those early days, to leave the center of a street unpaved, for the easier passage of carriages and horses; the consequence was, in flat streets the road became extremely dirty, almost impassable, and in a descent, the soil was quickly worn away, and left a causeway on each side. Many instances of this ancient practice are within memory.

The streets, no doubt, in which the fairs were held, mark the boundaries of the town in the thirteenth century. Though smaller wares were sold upon the spot used for the market, the rougher articles, such as cattle, were exposed to sale in what were then the out-streets. The fair for horses was held in Edgbaston-street, and that for beasts in the High-street, tending towards the Welch Cross.

Inconvenient as these streets seem for the purpose, our dark ancestors, of peaceable memory, found no detriment, during the infant state of population, in keeping them there. But we, their crowded sons, for want of accommodation, have wisely removed both; the horse-fair, in 1777, to Brick-kiln-lane, now the extreme part of the town; and that for beasts, in 1769, into the open part of Dale-end.

Whatever veneration we may entertain for ancient custom, there is sometimes a necessity to break it. Were we now to solicit the crown for a fair, those streets would be the last we should fix on.

If we survey Birmingham in the twelfth century, we shall find her crowded with timber, within and without; her streets dirty and narrow; but considering the distant period, much trodden, yet, compared with her present rising state, but little.

The inhabitant became an early encroacher upon nor narrow streets, and sometimes the lord was the greatest. Her houses were mean and low, but few reaching higher than one story, perhaps none more than two; composed of wood and plaister—she was a stranger to brick. Her public buildings consisted solely of one, the church.

If we behold her in the fourteenth century, we shall observe her private buildings multiplied more than improved; her narrow streets, by trespass, become narrower, for she was ever chargeable with neglect; her public buildings increased to four, two in the town, and two at a distance, the Priory, of stone, founded by contribution, at the head of which stood her lord; the Guild, of timber, now the Free School; and Deritend Chapel, of the same materials, resembling a barn, with something like an awkward dove-coat, at the west end, by way of steeple. All these will be noticed in due course.

If we take a view of the inhabitants, we shall find them industrious, plain, and honest; the more of the former, generally, the less of dishonesty, if their superiors lived in an homelier stile in that period, it is no wonder they did. Perhaps our ancestors acquired more money than their neighbours, and not much of that; but what they had was extremely valuable: diligence will accumulate. In curious operations, known only to a few, we may suppose the artist was amply paid.

Nash, in his History of Worcestershire, gives us a curious list of anecdotes, from the church-wardens ledger, of Hales-Owen. I shall transcribe two, nearly three hundred years old. "Paid for bread and ale, to make my Lord Abbot drink, in Rogation week, 2d." What should we now think of an ecclesiastical nobleman, accepting a two-penny treat from a country church-warden?

This displays an instance of moderation in a class of people famous for luxury. It shows also the amazing reduction of money: the same sum which served my Lord Abbot four days, would now be devoured in four minutes.—"1498, paid for repeyling the organs, to the organmaker at Bromicham, 10s." Birmingham then, we find, discovered the powers of genius in the finer arts, as well as in iron. By 'the organmaker,' we mould suppose there was but one.

It appears that the art of acquiring riches was as well understood by our fathers, as by us; while an artist could receive as much money for tuning an organ, as would purchase an acre of land, or treat near half a gross of Lord Abbots.



BATTLE OF CAMP-HILL.

1643.

Clarendon reproaches with virulence, our spirited ancestors, for disloyalty to Charles the First.—The day after the King left Birmingham, on his march from Shrewsbury, in 1642, they seized his carriages, containing the royal plate and furniture, which they conveyed, for security, to Warwick Castle. They apprehended all messengers and suspected persons; frequently attacked, and reduced small parties of the royalists, whom they sent prisoners to Coventry.—Hence the proverbial expression of a refractory person, Send him to Coventry.

In 1643, the King ordered Prince Rupert, with a detachment of two thousand men, to open a communication between Oxford and York. In his march to Birmingham, he found a company of foot, kept for the parliament, lately reinforced by a troop of horse from the garrison at Lichfield: but, supposing they would not resist a power of ten to one, sent his quarter masters to demand lodging, and offer protection.

But the sturdy sons of freedom, having cast up slight works at each end of the town, and barricaded the lesser avenues, rejected the offer and the officers. The military uniting in one small and compact body, assisted by the inhabitants, were determined the King's forces mould not enter. Their little fire opened on the Prince: but bravery itself, though possessed of an excellent spot of ground for defence, was obliged to give way to numbers. The Prince quickly put them to silence; yet, under the success of his own arms, he was not able to enter the town, for the inhabitants had choaked up, with carriages, the deep and narrow road, then between Deritend and Camp-hill, which obliged the Prince to alter his route to the left, and proceed towards Long-bridge.

The spirit of resistance was not yet broken; they sustained a second attack, but to no purpose, except that of laughter. A running fight continued through the town; victory declared loudly for the Prince; the retreat became general: part of the vanquished took the way to Oldbury.

William Fielding, Earl of Denbigh, a volunteer under the Prince, being in close pursuit of an officer in the service of the parliament, and both upon the full gallop, up Shirland-lane, in the manor of Smethwick, the officer instantly turning, discharged a pistol at the Earl, and mortally wounded him with a random shot.

The parliament troops were animated in the engagement by a clergyman, who acted as governor, but being taken in the defeat, and refusing quarter, was killed in the Red Lion-inn.

The Prince, provoked at the resistance, in revenge, set fire to the town. His wrath is said to have kindled in Bull-street, and consumed several houses near the spot, now No. 12.

He obliged the inhabitants to quench the flames with a heavy fine, to prevent farther military execution. Part of the fine is said to have been shoes and stockings for his people.

The parliament forces had formed their camp in that well chosen angle, which divides the Stratford and Warwick roads, upon Camp-hill.

The victorious Prince left no garrison, because their insignificant works were untenable; but left an humbled people, and marched to the reduction of Lichfield.

In 1665, London was not only visited with the plague, but many other parts of England, among which, Birmingham felt this dreadful mark of the divine judgment.

The infection is said to have been caught by a box of clothes, brought by the carrier, and lodged at the White-hart. Depopulation ensued. The church-yard was insufficient for the reception of the dead, who were conveyed to Ladywood-green, one acre of waste land, then denominated the Pelt Ground.

The charter for the market has evidently been repeated by divers kings, both Saxon and Norman, but when first granted is uncertain, perhaps at an early Saxon date; and the day seems never to have been changed from Thursday.

The lords were tenacious of their privileges; or, one would think, there was no need to renew their charter. Prescription, necessity, and increasing numbers, would establish the right.

Perhaps, in a Saxon period, there was room sufficient in our circumscribed market-place, for the people and their weekly supplies; but now, their supplies would fill it, exclusive of the people.

Thus by a steady and a persevering hand, she kept a constant and uniform stroke at the anvil, through a vast succession of ages: rising superior to the frowns of fortune: establishing a variety of productions from iron: ever improving her inventive powers, and perhaps, changing a number of her people, equal to her whole inhabitants, every sixteen years, till she arrived at another important period, the end of the civil wars of Charles the first.



MODERN STATE

OF

BIRMINGHAM.

It is the practice of the historian, to divide ancient history from modern, at the fall of the Roman Empire. For, during a course of about seven hundred years, while the Roman name beamed in meridian splendour, the lustre of her arms and political conduct influenced, more or less, every country in Europe. But at the fall of that mighty empire, which happened in the fifth century, every one of the conquered provinces was left to stand upon its own basis. From this period, therefore, the history of nations takes a material turn. The English historian divides his ancient account from the modern, at the extinction of the house of Plantagenet, in 1485, the fall of Richard the Third. For, by the introduction of letters, an amazing degree of light was thrown upon science, and also, by a new system of politics, adopted by Henry the Seventh, the British constitution, occasioned by one little act of parliament, that of allowing liberty to sell land, took a very different, and an important course.

But the ancient and modern state of Birmingham, must divide at the restoration of Charles the Second. For though she had before, held a considerable degree of eminence; yet at this period, the curious arts began to take root, and were cultivated by the hand of genius. Building leases, also, began to take effect, extension followed, and numbers of people crowded upon each other, as into a Paradise.

As a kind tree, perfectly adapted for growth, and planted in a suitable soil, draws nourishment from the circumjacent ground, to a great extent, and robs the neighbouring plants of their support, that nothing can thrive within its influence; so Birmingham, half whose inhabitants above the age of ten, perhaps, are not natives, draws her annual supply of hands, and is constantly fed by the towns that surround her, where her trades are not practised. Preventing every increase to those neighbours who kindly contribute to her wants. This is the case with Bromsgrove, Dudley, Stourbridge, Sutton, Lichfield, Tamworth, Coleshill, and Solihull.

We have taken a view of Birmingham in several periods of existence, during the long course of perhaps three thousand years. Standing sometimes upon presumptive ground. If the prospect has been a little clouded, it only caused us to be more attentive, that we might not be deceived. But, though we have attended her through so immense a space, we have only seen her in infancy. Comparatively small in her size, homely in her person, and coarse in her dress. Her ornaments, wholly of iron, from her own forge.

But now, her growths will be amazing; her expansion rapid, perhaps not to be paralleled in history. We shall see her rise in all the beauty of youth, of grace, of elegance, and attract the notice of the commercial world. She will also add to her iron ornaments, the lustre of every metal, that the whole earth can produce, with all their illustrious race of compounds, heightened by fancy, and garnished with jewels. She will draw from the fossil, and the vegetable kingdoms; press the ocean for shell, skin and coral. She will also tax the animal, for horn, bone, and ivory, and she will decorate the whole with the touches of her pencil.

I have met with some remarks, published in 1743, wherein the author observes, "That Birmingham, at the restoration, probably consisted only of three streets." But it is more probable it consisted of fifteen, though not all finished, and about nine hundred houses.

I am sensible, when an author strings a parcel of streets together, he furnishes but a dry entertainment for his reader, especially to a stranger. But, as necessity demands intelligence from the historian, I must beg leave to mention the streets and their supposed number of houses.

Digbeth, nearly the same as now, except the twenty-tree houses between the two Mill-lanes, which are of a modern date, about 110 Moat-lane (Court-lane) 12 Corn-market and Shambles 40 Spiceal-street 50 Dudley-street 50 Bell-street 50 Philip-street 30 St. Martin's-lane 15 Edgbaston-street 70 Lee's-lane 10 Park-street, extending from Digbeth nearly to the East end of Freeman-street 80 More-street, to the bottom of Castle-street, 70 Bull-street, not so high as the Minories, 50 High-street, 100 Deritend; 120 Odd houses scattered round the verge of the town 50 —— 907 The number of inhabitants, 5,472.

The same author farther observes, "That from the Restoration to the year 1700, the streets of Birmingham were increased to thirty one." But I can make their number only twenty-eight, and many of these far from complete. Also, that the whole number of houses were 2,504, and the inhabitants 15,032. The additional streets therefore seem to have been Castle-street, Carr's-lane, Dale-end, Stafford-street, Bull lane, Pinfold-street, Colmore-street, the Froggery, Old Meeting-street, Worcester-street, Peck-lane, New-street, (a small part,) Lower Mill-lane.

From the year 1700 to 1731, there is said to have been a farther addition of twenty-five streets, I know of only twenty-three: and also of 1,215 houses, and 8,250 inhabitants. Their names we offer as under;—Freeman-street, New Meeting-street, Moor-street, (the North part), Wood-street, the Butts, Lichfield-street; Thomas's-street, John's-street, London-'prentice street, Lower priory, The Square, Upper-priory, Minories, Steel-house-lane, Cherry-street, Cannon-street, Needless-alley, Temple-street, King's street, Queen-street, Old Hinkleys, Smallbrook-street, and the East part of Hill-street.

I first saw Birmingham July 14, 1741, and will therefore perambulate its boundaries at that time with my traveller, beginning at the top of Snow-hill, keeping the town on our left, and the fields that then were, on our right.

Through Bull-lane we proceed to Temple-street; down Peck lane, to the top of Pinfold-street; Dudley-street, the Old Hinkleys to the top of Smallbrook street, back through Edgbaston-street, Digbeth, to the upper end of Deritend. We shall return through Park-street, Mass-house-lane, the North of Dale end, Stafford-street, Steel-house-lane, to the top of Snow-hill, from whence we set out.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse