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History And Us is a community of passion for people to engage with their history and heritage. Here we provide a space where people can contribute articles and share historical facts and thoughts with others. In this space people and organisations can showcase their own work and inspire others to explore history.

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History & heritage
20 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

The remains of a fortified manor house at Weoley Castle

Did you know that Weoley Castle was once a fortified manor house for the Lords of the Manor of Dudley? Dating to 1264, it was built for Roger de Somery. There is evidence of the site dating back to Norman times and being surrounded by a moat. Now owned by Birmingham City Council and run by the Birmingham Museums Trust. I saw it in December 2015 from outside of the gate / fence.

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The remains of a fortified manor house at Weoley Castle





Did you know that Weoley Castle was once a fortified manor house for the Lords of the Manor of Dudley? Dating to 1264, it was built for Roger de Somery. There is evidence of the site dating back to Norman times and being surrounded by a moat. Now owned by Birmingham City Council and run by the Birmingham Museums Trust. I saw it in December 2015 from outside of the gate / fence.


Weoley Castle

I went to check out Weoley Castle during December 2015. At the time the site was closed, so was only able to get my photos through the green gate and fence. It is located off Alwold Road in Weoley Castle (the suburb that was named after the castle / manor house).

Now run by Birmingham Museums Trust and owned by the Birmingham City Council. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II listed building. There is more details on the offical Birmingham Museums website About Weoley Castle. The ruins are well over 750 years old. The fortified manor house was built for the Lords of Dudley. The castle used to be surrounded by a large deer park which stretched for 1000 acres.

The castle had arrow slits, a moat, a curtain wall, towers and battlements. But all of that is gone now, apart from the stone remains visible above ground.

In 1264, Roger de Somery was licenced to crenellate his manor house. Fragments of a 13th century wooden buildings have been found here. There was also a detailed survey of the site in 1422. Most of the ruins we see today dates to the 1270s. The King at the time (Henry III) gave the Lords of Dudley permission to fortify his castle in stone.

Although described as a castle, it was just a fortified manor house, surrounded by a large moat. Moated sites were common across Birmingham, but none remain today.

 

On this sign below is drawing of what Weoley Castle could have looked like in it's heyday. The Bourn Brook flows under the castle site, it used to feed the water into the moat. It's now in a culvert. There had been a farmhouse on this site for many centuries, but was described by the 17th century as a ruined castle. The Birmingham Corporation bought the estate in 1930.

The nearby road Alwold Road was named after a Saxon chieftain in the local area. After the Norman Conquest the land was given to William Fitz Ansulf who became the Lord of Dudley and lived at Dudley Castle. What you see today was built for Roger de Somery, who was the Lord of Dudley at the end of the 1200s. By 1485 the castle was owned by William Berkeley, who lost the castle when he fought for Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. The Dudleys sold the land in 1531 to Richard Jervoise a wealthy cloth merchant. He didn't live here. A farmhouse was built nearby in the 18th century. It remained rural land until 1930 when Mr Ledsam the then owner of the land sold it to the Council. The archaeological digs took place here between the 1930s and 1950s.

It would have been nice to walk around the grounds, but when I went in December 2015 the gate was locked, so could only see it from the outside. I've yet to go here on an open day, but was probably best when it was closed to get it without any other people.

The ruins of the stonework to the left.

This was one of the oldest remaining buildings in Birmingham.

The moat would have gone all the way around the castle, where the lower grass levels are now.

There used to be an imposing gatehouse and a great hall, but you can't really see that now.

There would have also been private rooms for the lords and ladies of the manor, and there used to be a kitchen with a large fireplace for cooking. Bit hard to tell now where that was though.

It's remarkable that any of the stonework has survived. I suspect that it must have been destroyed by the mid 17th century (or in the 16th century?).

Probably buried for centuries until archaeologists dug up the remains. Then later the grass layers were changed to keep the stonework above ground.

More stonework details.

By this point I was running out of things to take, so was retaking the same stone wall again.

I also took a panoramic, of which a crop is seen below (was only grass to the right anyway).

More stonework details.

The ruins here reminds me a bit of the Priory Ruins in Dudley.

There also used to be a family chapel and stables on the site back in the 13th century onwards.

Also missing from Weoley Castle was a brewhouse that used to be somewhere on the site.

The ruins can be views from a Viewing Platform which is open every day. There is also tours of the site once a month from January to November each year (for a fee). Direct access to the ruins is on open days with a pre-booked guided tour. The viewing platform is free, but there is usually a charge for events.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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70 passion points
Green open spaces
19 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Gallery

West Smethwick Park a memorial to the Chance Brothers

Some of my earliest visits to Smethwick was in June 2012. I returned to Smethwick to find the Malcolm X blue plaque in West Smethwick. While there, I popped into West Smethwick Park where there is a pair of memorials for the Chance Brothers. One for James T Chance, the other for John H Chance. I didn't really explore that park at the time, so after seeing the memorials, I headed on.

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West Smethwick Park a memorial to the Chance Brothers





Some of my earliest visits to Smethwick was in June 2012. I returned to Smethwick to find the Malcolm X blue plaque in West Smethwick. While there, I popped into West Smethwick Park where there is a pair of memorials for the Chance Brothers. One for James T Chance, the other for John H Chance. I didn't really explore that park at the time, so after seeing the memorials, I headed on.


West Smethwick Park

I went to West Smethwick Park in Smethwick back in June 2012. At the time it was my second trip to Smethwick within a month (within 5 days actually), as I wanted to find the Malcolm X blue plaque on Marshall Street. While there I headed to the nearby park.

The park is located in the St Paul's ward of Smethwick. It opened on the 7th September 1895. The park features memorials to the Chance Brothers. The park was founded by Sir James Timmins Chance who donated the land as a park to the public forever. The park has memorials to both James T Chance and his brother John Homer Chance.

 

The park is located on Victoria Road in Smethwick. With Holly Lane to the east, West Park Road to the north and St Paul's Road to the west.

 

The main entrance gates from West Park Road.

On one of the terracotta gateposts it reads:

The Gift of 
James T. 
Chance 
for the 
use of the 
Public

Welcome to West Smethwick Park in Smethwick. Noticeboard with a map of all the park locations all over Sandwell.

Approaching the Memorial to James T. Chance.

The memorial is Grade II listed. It dates to abouyt 1900. Made of red brick and terracotta. In the centre is a bronze bust of James T. Chance (1814 - 1902).

Zoom in to the bronze bust of James T. Chance.

Below is this plaque which reads:

James T. Chance
M.A J.P. D.L.
For fifty years a partner in the firm 
of Chance Brothers & Co. 
at the Glass Works Smethwick 
and the Alkali Works, Oldbury
He purchased the land for the park, 
laid it out and endowed it 
and on September 7th 1895 opened it
A gift to the public for ever.
He also made the roads on its East and West boundaries.

A view slightly back of the central section of the James T. Chance memorial.

There is a fence / railings that goes all the way around the memorial.

Apart from the memorials to the Chance Brothers I also saw this outdoor gym exercise machine. A bit like rowing a boat.

Next up is the Memorial to John Home Chance. It was a stone drinking fountain. Dated to 1905.

John Homer Chance died in 1900. He joined the family firm in 1850. A ceremony took place here in June 1905 to unveil the drinking fountain.

At the top of the drinking fountain on this side it says John Homer.

On this side is says Chance A.D. 1900.

As far as I am aware the drinking fountain is no longer in use, and wasn't anything inside of it. Behind a view of the park and the trees.

The only other thing I took in West Smethwich Park was this sign, warning that there is no unauthorised access to water. And children must be supervised by their parents at all times.

I didn't have a full look around the park at the time, so I missed a large lake. Which is the Boating Lake. One day I will need to go back for a proper walk around.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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70 passion points
Modern Architecture
15 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Gallery

The Library of Birmingham and Baskerville House from 2010 to 2019

The view of the construction of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House from 2010 to 2013. Then some other views in the years until 2019. Watch the cores of the Library rise, then the golden cladding then all the circles. Was even a view from where the Edward VII statue was installed.

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The Library of Birmingham and Baskerville House from 2010 to 2019





The view of the construction of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House from 2010 to 2013. Then some other views in the years until 2019. Watch the cores of the Library rise, then the golden cladding then all the circles. Was even a view from where the Edward VII statue was installed.


Previous Library of Birmingham posts here:

Views of the Library of Birmingham next to Baskerville House. Construction from 2010 to 2013. Opened from September 2013. Views until the end of 2019.

2010

November 2010: views from the bridge on Centenary Way. The restored King Edward VII statue had just been installed in Centenary Square.

December 2010: slighty hazzy conditions at the end of the year.

2011

March 2011: A few more floors had gone up on the Library, up to about Level 3 or 4.

October 2011: The main body of the Library had reached the future home of the Shakespeare Memorial Room, while cladding had gone up to Level 3 or 4.

A perspective of the Library construction with Baskerville House from behind the statue of King Edward VII. Which had been in this spot for almost a year at this point.

December 2011: The rest of the golden cladding and windows goes up to Level 8. And the structure forms around the cylinder at the top where the Shakespeare Memorial Room and Skyline Viewpoint would be on Level 9. Cladding from Level 2 down to the ground floor was complete.

2012

November 2012: Only got a view from near the Alpha Tower towards the Library of Birmingham, Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory. From where I was would one day be part of the Arena Central development site.

2013

January 2013: A few days into the New Year and was these hoardings in front of Baskerville House. Cladding on the Library was complete.

The snow fall from the middle of January 2013. Can hardly see the Hyatt, while snow surrounds the Hall of Memory.

The snow was falling as I went past Baskerville House.

April 2013: From the bridge on Centenary Way. Compare to my earlier views from 2010 and 2011. From here the Library looked complete but wouldn't open for another 5 months. Flower beds were on the bridge over Paradise Circus Queensway.

August 2013: Near the end of the month, the hoards had gone, and the gardens opened up.

This landscaping would only last until about 2017 before Centenary Square was redeveloped again.

Broad Street panoramic including the Library of Birmingham, Baskerville House and Hall of Memory. Hanging flower pots in the middle. This is all now gone for Library Tram Stop.

September 2013: A few days after the Library had opened to the public for the first time, there was long queues as far as Baskerville House. I waited a couple of weeks more before going in for the first time.

I went into the Library of Birmingham for the first couple of times near the end of September 2013. Was still a lot of people around, but the queues were as long as when it first opened.

2014

November 2014: The Library of Birmingham had been open for 14 months and there was some scaffolding up on Baskerville House for some restoration work on the stonework. Poppies up for the annual remembrance commemorations.

2015

May 2015: A long queue on a Saturday morning at 11am to get into of the Library of Birmingham. Just two more years for this paving and the grass before Centenary Square was redeveloped again. Baskerville House shining brightly in the sunshine.

2017

December 2017: Nightshots for when the Library of Birmingham was lit up in all the colours of the rainbow when Birmingham was officially announced as the Host City of the Commonwealth Games 2022. Baskerville House lit up in bright white light. As was the Hall of Memory. Redevelopment of Centenary Square had started by this point.

2018

December 2018: Views of the Library of Birmingham from Bridge Street near the site of 5 Centenary Square at Arena Central (to date it hasn't been built). Formerly called 1 Arena Central. From here you could also see the BT Tower.

2019

December 2019: My last photos of the Library of Birmingham with Baskerville House were taken from Paradise Street, just beyond Town Hall Tram Stop. At the time Ice Skate Birmingham was in Centenary Square. Arena Central with the Alpha Tower and HSBC UK at 1 Centenary Square to the left.

West Midlands Metro trams can now go past the Library of Birmingham. The extension to Centenary Square opened in December 2019.

For more tram photos in December 2019 at Town Hall Tram Stop see this post: West Midlands Metro tram in and out of Town Hall Tram Stop on the last weekend of the Birmingham FCM (December 2019).

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Classic Architecture
14 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin

Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.

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Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin





Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.


For more on John Baskerville check out my post here: John Baskerville: creator of his own typeface.

 

Before Carillion could start building the Library of Birmingham in January 2010, archaeologists had to go on the site in the summer of 2009. For many years the land between Baskerville House and The REP had been used as a car park for the Council. Once the upper layers were dug up, they could start digging up the remains and see what was left below. Intact brick walls of Baskerville Basin were found on the site and many remains and finds. Towards the site of what is now Centenary Square used to be Gibson's Arm which was a private canal built during the 1810s. Baskerville Basin was filled in during 1938 before the proposed Civic Centre was to be built. While Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory were built, the rest of the proposals weren't indirectly due to the outbreak of World War Two.

 

A map printed in 1880, this section showing Baskerville Wharf between Cambridge Street and Broad Street. Old Wharf is below (that was later filled in as well).

I would assume that the original scanner took it from the Library of Birmingham's maps area.

Map below in the Birmingham History Galleries, BM & AG, of the location of Old Wharf. In the 18th Century where John Baskerville's house on what was Easy Row. Baskerville Wharf was located a little further to the north west of here.

Also see my post on the model of the proposed square we never got: The Centenary Square we never got in the 1940s. Had the plans gone ahead there could have been formal gardens on this site.

This model (seen below) is at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre.

 

The following 8 photos were taken down the service road between Baskerville House and the site of the Library of Birmingham during August 2009. View towards the Hyatt Hotel and The REP.

View towards The REP.

Brick walls were sticking out of the ground. I wonder if they had to dig them up, so there would be room for the basement levels of the Library?

That side of The REP would get demolished during the construction of the Library.

At this point the only hoardings were in Centenary Square.

This would be the only time that I saw the remains of the brick walls in the ground.

This canal basin / arm used to link up to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. But now City Centre Gardens and the Civic Centre Towers are built over that end beyond Cambridge Street.

One more view including the Hyatt Hotel and Symphony Hall.

I've got hundreds to thousands of photos of the Library of Birmingham, so any future post will have to be a small highlight of them. Such as during the construction or when it was first opened in 2013.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Classic Architecture
12 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

A visit to Blakesley Hall in the summer of 2014

On the first Sunday of the month you can visit Blakesley Hall for free. At the time in 2014 entry was usually £4 each. This visit to Blakesley Hall was during early August 2014. The timber framed house is located in Yardley on Blakesley  Road and was originally a farmhouse. Built in 1590 for Richard Smalbroke, whose family later gave their name to Smallbrook Queensway.

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A visit to Blakesley Hall in the summer of 2014





On the first Sunday of the month you can visit Blakesley Hall for free. At the time in 2014 entry was usually £4 each. This visit to Blakesley Hall was during early August 2014. The timber framed house is located in Yardley on Blakesley  Road and was originally a farmhouse. Built in 1590 for Richard Smalbroke, whose family later gave their name to Smallbrook Queensway.


Blakesley Hall

Taking advantage of the first Sunday of the month for free, we went to Blakesley Hall on Sunday 3rd August 2014. Normally entry would be £4. I had a chance to look around the garden as well as explore the house and all the rooms. In this post we will look at the exterior and interior of the hall.

Now for some history. Blakesley Hall is located on Blakesley Road in Yardley, now in Birmingham. It is a Grade II* listed building. At the time when it was built in 1590, Yardley was in Worcestershire. Built for a local Yardley man called Richard Smalbroke, it was built as a farmhouse. In was passed to his descendants until it ended up in the Greswolde family from 1685. They used it as a tenant farm for the next 200 years. Henry Donne bought the hall in 1899 who restored the house before selling it to the Merry family, who was the last family to live in the hall. It became a museum from 1935 onwards. Bomb damage in WW2 in 1941 meant that the hall didn't reopen until 1957. After the 1970s and with research the hall was restored to an authentic appearance as it was in 1684.

The Birmingham Museums Trust took over the running of the hall from Birmingham City Council in 2012.

There was a nearby village (which is today called Old Yardley Village and has a park called Old Yardley Park). For more on Old Yardley Village I have a post here Old Yardley Village: a hidden gem not far from Blakesley Hall.

 

Watercolour painting below of Blakesley Hall c. 1840-60 by A.E. Everitt (from a private collection).

Black and white view below of Blakesley Hall in 1890, when a pond was created by clay extraction, which was in a field opposite the house.

Black and white photo below showing the Merry family in 1910, they were preparing for haymaking. Tom Merry is at the back.

The above photos were taken from the Blakesley Hall Guide Book published by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 2003.

 

Before heading into Blakesley Hall I had a look all the way around the house from the gardens.

There was lavender growing on this side of the garden.

The right side of the house facing Blakesley Road. This was the entrance to the hall.

To the back of the house. The gardens were quite large and plenty to see in the summer.

The house has a few wings around the back. The kitchen dates to the mid 17th century. While there was an 18th century brick addition.

One more look around the back before heading inside.

The Hall

The table in the hall dates to around 1620. It was laid out like it could have been during the 1680s.

On this table in The Hall was some old newspapers, probably dating to the First World War, as one mentions British Soldier casualties in France. There was also an old inkwell and desk lamp and a framed black and white photo. Would have to assume of the Merry family who were living here during the 1914-18 War.

Spinning wheel in The Hall. Before mass production in factories, women would sew their own clothes at home for the family. This might be a modern one called an Ashford Spinning Wheel (made in New Zealand). Obviously a spinning wheel in the 17th Century would have been made in England!

The Great Parlour

This room was used for private dining, sitting and entertaining. There was a door from the garden so people could come and go without passing through the main Hall. Their is a set of replica panelled painted hangings on the wall. These depict the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament. Fireplace to the right of the table and chairs.

The Little Parlour

According to a 1684 inventory this room was a private family dining room. The most comfortable room in the house. Apparently their used to be a fireplace in here but where it is now is a mystery. Hangings were very fashionable in the 17th century, and their were reproductions in the room dyed in similar colours to what may have been used in the 17th century.

The Painted Chamber

One of the main bedrooms in the house. The tester bed dates to the 17th century. The bed curtains are replicas. Wall paintings in this room date from when the house was built and had been covered over, as at one point they were thought to be old fashioned. They were hidden until the 1950s when repairs to the house after WW2 took place.

The Servant's Chamber

Just a simple bed for the servant of the house in this room. While this room is displayed as the Servant's Chamber, the servant's would have actually slept in the attic on the second floor.

The servant had her own Spinning Wheel and bobbin in her room. Like the one on display here.

The Far-Bed Chamber

This room is furnished with replica items and reproduction wall hangings. The tester bed and other furniture in the room are accurate replicas of late 16th and 17th century pieces.

This chest has objects on top of it. They had something to do with the handmaiden cleaning the room.

Another view of the test bed in the Far Chamber. The door out to the first floor corridor.

One more view of the bed in the Far Chamber.

Heading down the stairs to the floor below.

Kitchen

This brick built kitchen was added to the back of the house in 1650. Before it was built, it is likely the Hall's original kitchen would have been in a separate building to reduce the risk of fire. The beams in the kitchen dates to 1350 suggesting that they may have been reused from the house that was previously on this site.

Typical objects in a late 17th century kitchen. Objects on the tables for preparing food. Also some early equipment for cleaning the floor, or washing the clothes.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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