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On Some Memorials of Old
R. W. GILLESPIE.
26th January', 1887.
BELIEVE the orthodox faith in Birmingham is that the
Domesday Book is the oldest document in which Birmingham is mentioned. I do not presume to say that in this respect orthodoxy is mistaken, but I wish to suggest that further enquiry is desirable. When I read
in Mr. Sam: Timmins' article in the "Handbook of “ Birmingham ” that "eight hundred years ago the name of Birmingham first
appeared in History,” I searched, with the object of finding out where this appearance was supposed to have been made ; for I had a faint notion that I was on the track of an older reference to Birmingham. Mr. Timmins evidently referred to the Domesday Survey. He had previously said, in one of the papers read before this Section, “Domesday Book is the first chapter “of the general history of Birmingham.” Now, in the very week of the publication of the “Handbook of Birmingham,” I received from Mr. de Gray Birch, of the British Museum, his paper on “Early Territorial Names in “ England,” which he read in August, 1883, before the British Archæological Association, and which is printed in their Transactions. In that paper Mr. Birch makes a quotation, which when fully given is as follows :
“ The present greatness and importance of Birmingham is of modern and comparatively recent growth, but the town itself is undoubtedly of very great “ antiquity. Although it is singularly unconnected with events that are usually “ called historical, and has not attracted the Antiquary or Topographer, so that
the notices of it from time to time are very brief and unsatisfying, there is yet "enough of definite statement, coupled with fair inference, to show that a town " has existed here from a very remote period, and that its inhabitants were "even then engaged on a small scale in the same branch of manufacturing “industry as that still carried on on so vast a scale.”
“ But there are no historical notices of this place before the latter part of " the 6th Century, when it was given by the King of Mercia to a Saxon family originally named Ulwine or Allen, but who thenceforward took the
name of the place and were styled De Berminghams. They continued to " hold the Manor after the Conquest, but by military tenure, under the FitzAusculphs, to whom the Conqueror had granted it.”
Not being able to reconcile this mention of " Historical Notices of Bir“mingham in the 6th Century” with Mr. Timmins' statement, I wrote to Mr. Birch on the subject, and he referred me to an article on Birmingham in the “ National Gazetteer,” published by Virtue and Co., and purporting to be edited by Mr. Hamilton, of the British Museum. I immediately came over to the Reference Library, having found that most valuable Library satisfy all my previous wants in the way of books. The “Gazetteer” was not there. few days, having talked a good deal at home about the subject, my want got to the ears of a neighbour who was able to supply it, and he sent me the book, from which I have made the full extract that I have quoted above.
I have tried, hitherto without success, to obtain from the Publishers the name of the writer of the article, in order that he might be applied to, to give particulars of the historic notices of Birmingham in the 6th Century. Where I have failed, perhaps others may succeed. There must be some ground for the statement, as it is not easy to suppose that a statement on an Archæological subject could have been allowed to appear in a work edited by one eminent Archæologist, and should be quoted with approval by another at a General Meeting of the British Archæological Association, and should be printed by that Association in their Proceedings, if it were without any foundation. The question is surely worthy of further investigation by Birmingham men.
I now wish to submit to the Section a suggestion that Birmingham is actually referred to in a Charter dated in the year 984, an ancient copy of which is in the possession of Mr. Wynne, of Peniarth, near Towyn, in North Wales. It is one of an extensive collection of 13th Century Copies of Charters, nearly all of which demonstrably relate to Lands in the neighbourhood of, or not far distant from, the town of Birmingham, and which run from the year 800 to the year 1048. One of them, of the date of 964, is a Grant by Edgar, described as King of the Angles, of Land which is mentioned as partly situate at Duddestone, and partly at Ernley. The grant is made to the King's very faithful minister, who is described as being by the educated people of this Country called by the famous name of Wulfget, and in consideration of his most devoted service. Punishment of a frightful kind is to await any person who should disturb Wulfget in his possession. The Charter says:-"If any should wish to oppose that gift, Let him be put out from “the fellowship of God's Holy Church, and let him be punished with the fires “and wailings of the pit, and let him be joined with Judas, the betrayer of “ Christ, and his accomplices.”
It is satisfactory to know that Edgar, known as the peaceful, did not really mean anything special by this dreadful imprecation. It was part of what we Lawyers call " Common Form." All the Charters of the period contain some such language. One in the same collection threatens that any person violating it shall be fried by the devils on Iron Fryingpans.
But let us return to Duddeston. There may be a Duddeston somewhere else; but as nearly all the places named in Mr. Wynne's large collection can be identified with places in Warwickshire or Staffordshire, I think the presumption is strong that the place indicated is our Duddeston. Places named about which there is no doubt are Alrewas, Barton, Tatenhylle, Braunston, Stretton, Rolston, Darlaston, and Caldwell, a manor now lost, within the parish of Rushall, next to Walsall. Then there is Helm-erdington, which may be our Erdington with the prefix dropped off. Places named which are common names elsewhere, but which are also to be found in this neighbourhood, are Clifton, Hanton (spelt Hagnatun), which is possibly the Hanton afterwards known as Wulfruna's Hanton, and now Wolverhampton, Sutton, Norton, Chesterfield (near Lichfield), Newton, Little Coton, Ernley or Arley, and Aston.
This name of Aston brings us to an interesting suggestion which I hope you will not think absolutely valueless. I admit it is guesswork, and I will only offer it as such.
Aston is given under the form of Eastun, and it occurs in a Charter of King Ethelred's in 984, in conjunction with Byrhtelmingtun, meaning the town of the family, or tribe, of Byrthelm. Byrthelm is named in another of the Charters in Mr. Wynne's collection. He is there described as "miles.” My guess is that by loss of the “+” Byrthelm was worn down into Berm, and that just as Bridlington is worn down into Burlington—as Bridford has become Burfordas Erdington became Yarnton--as Barcardeslim became Burslem-as Bermundescote became Bescote—as Bodexton became Burton—and as Brightelmstone became Brighton—so Byrthelmingtun became Birmingtun, which is the same as Birmingham, meaning the town or home of the family of Byrthelm or Berm. In this Charter of Ethelred's of 984, and not in Domesday, I think the first trace of Birmingham may be seen, whilst Duddeston, as above shewn, may be seen twenty years earlier.
I have with me full Copies of both the Charters referred to. But the principal object of my being here to-night is not to deal with such an early period of Birmingham's history; it is rather to introduce to your notice documents of the Tudor period.
And in the first place I would call attention to some short Extracts from the Court Rolls of the Foren of Byrmingham, dated the 36th year of King Henry the Eighth (being A.D. 1544-45), which are now to be found in the Public Record Office, amongst the Exchequer Records of the Court of Augmentations.
I have enquired of several persons familiar with Birmingham Records, but at present I have not been able to obtain any information as to the present custody of any of the original early Court Rolls of the Foren of Birmingham.
The extracts in question are very short, and to make the few observations I have to make on them the more intelligible, I have had a few Copies printed for your present inspection.
(A Copy is appended to this paper. See Appendix A.) It has never happened to me to meet with a similar document, and I do not profess to be able wholly to explain it. But it appears from the Survey next to be mentioned that in the first of Queen Mary there were amongst the freeholders of the Manor of the Foren of Birmingham at least three persons of the same names as the first three mentioned in the Estreat Roll, and who held their tenements of the Lord of the Manor of Birmingham Foren by (amongst other services) suit of Court. At the date of these extracts (Estreats), the Manor had not been granted to the Duke of Northumberland; it was still in the hands of the King. I read the statements in the 3rd Column of the Extracts as meaning that the persons named in the 2nd Column owed suit of Court to this Court, and made default in attendance at the Court, and therefore each of them was in the mercy of the Court, &c. The amount of the amercement or fine was 2d. for each default, and the Estreats were, I
suppose, returned to the Exchequer, in order that the fines might be enforced. But I cannot quite understand the entries numbered 5 to 9 inclusive. They appear to read as if in each of those cases a fine of 2d. was imposed upon the heirs, not of persons, but of places. These places may, I think, be identified as Perry, Barr Parva, Morff, Amblecote, and Bushbury. Perhaps some gentleman present may be able to explain this ; I cannot. The only observation I would make is that at this date Perry and Barr Parva appear to have been treated as distinct places, which scarcely agrees with what Mr. Eyton says in his Domesday studies. [Since this paper was written I have found that Perry, Little Barr, Morf, Amblecote, and Bushbury are stated by Major General Wrottesley in the first vol. of the Salt Society's publications (page 189) to be “ fees which in "1166 were held by Peter de Birmingham Lord of Birmingham under the Barony “of Dudley, of which Gervase de Paganell was then Lord." This shows some connection between these 5 places and the Lord of the Manor of Birmingham —and also that Little Barr was a distinct place from Perry—although they seem now to have coalesced under the name Perry Barr.]
I now come to a much more important document, and a much longer one —too long to be printed for your inspection to-night—though it is to be hoped it may hereafter be printed in the transactions of your Section.
It is a Survey of Birmingham, dated in the year 1553, the ist year of Queen Mary's reign, though it certainly was not completed until a year or two later, as it recites leases of the ist and 2nd years of Philip and Mary. It was made on the occasion of the forfeiture of the Borough and Manor to the Crown by reason of the attainder of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, for High Treason. Hutton with characteristic force describes him as "a man of “great wealth, unbounded ambition, and one of the basest Characters of the
age.” The story of the way in which he acquired the ownership of the Manor of Birmingham is powerfully related by Hutton, and, if true, is sufficient alone to justify that description of his character. The question of the truth of that story is one eminently worthy of further enquiry. Hutton in the main follows Sir Wm. Dugdale, whose references to authorities are not sufficient to enable one readily to verify the statement. The original Assize Rolls should be searched, but on enquiry I find that to do that would be a work of time and of more expense than alone I care to incur.
To return to the Survey, and how it is that I am here to-night.
I first saw it noticed in a Catalogue of Exchequer Records which I was examining for references to Walsall. It was there described as a “Survey of Birmingham of the time of Queen Mary." I felt curious to know something about it, and I instructed Messrs. Hardy and Page, of Lincoln's Inn, to look it up, and give me some indication of its contents, and of the cost of a transcript. They sent me sufficient particulars to shew its very interesting nature, but accompanied by a statement as to the cost of transcribing, which precluded me from obtaining a copy. Shortly afterwards it occurred to me that there might be gentlemen in Birmingham who, if they did not already know of it, would like to procure a copy, and accordingly I communicated with several. In the end, the Chairman of the Free Libraries Committee authorised me to instruct Hardy and Page to make a copy, which is now here for inspection. The original is a book of very large quarto size, having been rebound apparently about 40 or 50 years ago, probably when the volume was transferred to the present Record Office.
It was formerly kept at the Chapter House, Westminster, amongst the Class of Records known as the Exchequer Treasury of Receipt. The History of this Office and the Records it contained are to be found in Thomas's Handbook to the Records, p. 431. There is bound up in the same volume with the Birmingham Survey, a Survey of the Manor of Barkeswell in this County. And the two are contained in 52 pages, written on paper in a very good condition, and the places which have been at all torn or worn have been carefully mended. The writing is a clear engrossing hand of the period, but the scribe evidently knew but little Latin, which, however, was not unusual in post Reformation Scribes.