Boundaries


 
See Map 5 & 'The Boundaries of Yardley'. Boundary presentments have survived from 1495 and 1609 to give us some interesting topographical details. Twelve jurors of Yardley met by arrangement with a dozen from each of the neighbouring manors, to tread out and agree upon their mutual bounds. The men of Aston and Yardley had the Cole and Spark Brooks as indisputable (though shifting) boundaries.
 
Nowadays the Spark is nowhere visible in the Quarter; yet this trickle has in its time separated two peoples (Angles & Saxons), two kingdoms (Mercian & Hwiccan), two sees (Lichfield & Worcester), the shires of Warwick and Worcester, the Hundreds of Coleshill and Pershore (later of Hemlingford and Halfshire) the manors of Bordesley and Yardley, the parishes of Aston and Yardley, the Borough of Birmingham and the Civil Parish of Yardley, the City and the Rural District - and two wards, constituencies, and postal districts.
 
Astonians and Yardleians parted at the start of Stoney Lane, where the parishioners of Kings Norton (from Moseley Yield, one assumes) were waiting. Southward the party trudged beside the little Spark (which in 1511 was described as 'a torrent'!) along a gravelly lane called Lowe Lane after a local family - but they may have taken their name from a 'low' (burial mound) nearby, as they were first recorded as 'de lowe' in 1327. The jurors left the brook a little short of its source (south of Phipson Road, in what used to be called Spring Field) at 'the gylden corner'. This may refer to the Gilden corner, the eastern extremity of Moseley (Tax) Yield in Kings Norton Manor.
 
The 'tall oak' of 972 perhaps stood at this corner. They turned up 'the greenway', a tree-lined and little-used track which is now called Belle Walk, skirted the source of Showell Green Brook (Bull Spring?), crossing Wake Green Road, and continued south on Billesley Lane. This is a modern misnomer, replacing the ancient 'Bulley Lane'.
 
Fording Coldbath Brook the party had Greethurst on the left; this estate, first recorded in 1221, had the status of a sub-manor in succeeding centuries, and was held in succession by Holtes, Grevises, and Taylors. Part of it is now Moseley Golf Course, laid out in 1904. Part of the royal manor's waste (Kings Heath, first ref.1511) lay to the right as Bulley was circuited; that assart had been planted very near the border at a date unknown, but no latter than the C 13th. When the ancient Bulley Hall was rebuilt late last century its name was changed to Billesley Hall Farm, quite incorrectly, and soon after it became the Golf Clubhouse.
 
From Yardley's westernmost point at Bulley, the twenty-four good men and true took the tracks later called Springfield Road and Barn Lane (the latter after an Italianate barn designed by one of the Taylor ladies), which were at that time part of the highway from Birmingham to Alcester. The road straight across Kings Heath was a turnpike improvement of 1801. Leaving the highway, they went south-south-east to 'the corner of the Haunche' and 'Haunche Ditche' (brook). No distinction was then made between natural and man-made watercourses, nor were pools on bounding streams recorded.
 
Haunch Brook still runs and trees stand beside it as when the bound-beaters squelched through 'the slade called the launde' (the boggy dell), following it down to the 'water of Cheyne' (Chinne Brook). The boundary left that stream almost at once, and went up the valleyside (between Great and Little Mayos) to John Pretty's house 'called Whorstocke'. This part still lies open and pleasant on the west side of Yardley Wood Road, being the east end of Cocks Moor Woods.
 
Just south of the Stratford Canal the 'bus garage covers the site of Pretty's house, later called Warstock Farm, which lay just but only just, on the Norton side, so that the front door led into Yardley. The Whorstocke (boundary post) stood at the junction of Warstock Road and Lane. Thence the bound and its perambulators went in a straight line, a negotiated bound a half a mile south-south-east to 'a cross on Highters Heath'. The school named after the district straddles the boundary; an oak-lined path to its rear entrance is the perambulation track, which has been obliterated by modern streets therefrom. Both manors were taken into Greater Birmingham in 1912, so that their bounds then ceased to have any significance and the buildings between the wars ignored them.
 
Three lordships met at the cross, which today is the junction of Prince of Wales Lane and Gorleston Road. There the Solihull parishioners greeted the Yardleians and the Nortonians took their leave - having sworn on oath as to the correctness of the 'meares'. The 'cross' may have been no more than a crossing of tracks, as shown on the first O. S. map, but it could have been a timber preaching cross, possibly erected in thanksgiving for the royal clemency 0f 1339.
 
From earliest times the tenants of the three manors had enjoyed inter-common rights in this patchilly-wooded area; the cross was a convenient meeting-place for the settlement of disputes and exchange of strayed beasts. Close nearby Yardley Wood Brook rose; the bound followed it down the 'gullet' which separated the manors' woods (and the shires), and through another 'launde' towards Bach Mill. Modern housing and the Stratford Canal have obliterated the upper reaches of the brook and its tributaries, but it appears east of the embankment and runs through open land, a vestige of Yardley Wood Common to the north now threatened be development, to the Priory Mill Pool, thence down the mill's head and tail races to the Cole.
 
When the tailrace was lengthened northward, probably in the early C 19th, the boundary went with it. The medieval priory, a small building south of the pool, was in Solihull Lodge. East from the Cole the Shirley Brook was ascended, with Finchalls, Radmore, and Conygre on the Yardley side. They were well-named, after heath, a marsh, and a sandy slope respectively. Although it was recorded in neither presentment, there was a mill on Shirley Brook, the bed of whose pool is still traceable today between the gardens of Watwood and Geoffrey Roads.
 
The brook is culverted beneath the North Warks. Line embankment, but visible above; nor far from its source on Sandy Hill the boundary left it to go due north to Stratford Road, 'the highway to Henley'. The brook runs between Blythford Road and Sandy Hill / Stonor Roads. Houses block the perambulation track on the south side of the highway, but beyond it the Bridle Path is still a right of way. From Highters Heath to Stratford Road the ancient shire and manor bound is unchanged, but now it separates the Metropolitan Districts of Birmingham and Solihull, both in the County of West Midlands.
 
The west and south bounds of the Quarter are fully considered in 'Boundaries of Yardley' and are shown on Map 5. It will be seen that the Shirley and Yardley Wood Brooks are natural bounds in the south, their swampy valleys making a clear break through the woods. Spark and Haunch Brooks do not go far in defining the western border, however, and it is nor possible to decide whether Stoney Lane, Billesley Lane, and Barn Lane began as perambulation tracks along a negotiated line, or whether the border was fixed along existing paths. Of the 972 topographical details 'mossmoor' may have been the undrained Yardley Wood Brook valley, and 'cionda' is reasonably identified as Chinn Brook; but there is no certainty in placing 'spel brook', 'bull spring', or 'tall oak'. It can be no more than conjecture that they were Coldbath Brook, the source of Showell Green Brook, and the junction of Belle Walk with Yardley Wood Road. Why is 'spel brook' not identified with Haunch Brook, since that stream provides the boundary for three quarters of a mile?
 
This is because the Charter appears to ignore watercourses that define the border, listing only those that cross it. The vagueness of the landmarks given in the Charter may well be due to the fact that the boundary was clearly marked on the ground, either by running water or by tracks, blazed trees, perhaps by ditch and low bank, and did not need to be defined in written words that very few could read. It was not marked by hedge or fence, because it was the custom in Arden for stock to be allowed to roam freely on the common waste of the neighbour manors (but not to be driven).
 
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