Dictionary of Birmingham.
NOTES OF BIRMINGHAM IN THE PAST.Birmingham to the Seventh Century.
—We have no record or traces whatever of there being inhabitants inthis neighbourhood, though there can be little doubt that in the time of the invasion of the Romans someBritish strongholds were within a few miles of the place, sundry remains having been found to show thatmany battles had been fought near here. If residents there were prior to King Edward the Confessor's reign,they would probably be of Gurth's tribe, and their huts even Hutton, antiquarian and historian as he was, failedto find traces of. How the name of this our dwelling-place came about, nobody knows. Not less than twelvedozen ways have been found to spell it; a score of different derivations "discovered" for it; and guessesinnumerable given as to its origin, but we still wait for the information required.
Birmingham in the Conqueror's Days.
The Manor was held, in 1066, by Alwyne, son of Wigod the Dane,who married the sister of the Saxon Leofric, Earl of Mercia. According to "Domesday Book," in 1086, it wastenanted by Richard, who, held, under William Fitz-Ansculf, and included four hides of land and half-a-mileof wood, worth 20s.; there were 150 acres in cultivation, with but nine residents, five villeins, and fourbordarers. In 1181 there were 18 freeholders (
) in Birmingham cultivating 667 acres, and 35tenants
, holding 158 acres, the whole value being £13 8s. 2d.
Birmingham in the Feudal Period.
The number of armed men furnished by this town for Edward III.'swars were four, as compared with six from Warwick, and forty from Coventry.
Birmingham in the Time of the Edwards and Harrys.
The Manor passed from the Bermingham family in1537, through the knavish trickery of Lord L'Isle, to whom it was granted in 1545. The fraud, however, wasnot of much service to the noble rascal, as he was beheaded for treason in 1553. In 1555 the Manor was givenby Queen Mary to Thomas Marrow, of Berkswell.
Birmingham in 1538.
Leland, who visited here about this date, says in his "Itinerary""There be manysmithies in the towne that use to make knives and all manner of cutlery tooles, and many lorimers that makebittes, and a great many naylors, so that a great part of the towne is maintained by smithes, who have theiriron and seacole out of Staffordshire." He describes the town as consisting of one street, about a quarter of amile long, "a pretty street or ever I enterd," and "this street, as I remember, is called Dirtey."
Birmingham in 1586.
Camden in his "Britannica," published this year, speaks of "Bremicham, swarmingwith inhabitants, and echoing with the noise of anvils, for the most part of them are smiths."
Birmingham in 1627.
In a book issued at Oxford this year mention is made of "Bremincham inhabited withblacksmiths, and forging sundry kinds of iron utensils."
Birmingham in 1635.
As showing the status the town held at this date we find that it was assessed for "shipmoney" by Charles I. at £100, the same as Warwick, while Sutton Coldfield had to find £80 and Coventry£266.
Birmingham in 1656.
Dugdale speaks of it as "being a place very eminent for most commodities made of iron."
Birmingham in 1680-90.
Macaulay says: The population of Birmingham was only 4,000, and at that daynobody had heard of Birmingham guns. He also says there was not a single regular shop where a Bible oralmanack could be bought; on market days a bookseller named Michael Johnson (father of the great SamuelDictionary of Birmingham.2