The History of Birmingham City

In the Saxon 6th Century, Birmingham was just one small settlement in a thick forest – the home (ham) of the tribe (ing) of a leader called Birm or Boerma.

Geography played a significant role in transforming Birmingham from a hamlet worth 20 shillings in 1086 into Britain’s centre of manufacturing in the 20th Century. It was a dry site with a good water supply, routes converging at Deritend Ford across the River Rea. There was easy access to coal, iron, and timber. A Saxon ford spanned the Rea and enabled easy access to the market town of Birmingham.

In 1154 Aelfred the Seeker and his Saxon forces from the West Midlands fought a great battle against the Danish Vikings on today’s National Indoor Arena. Aelfred and his forces beat the Danes and forced them out of the Midlands. It was a battle for control of the River Rea with the Saxons holding back its water. This battle was fought before the construction of the first stone bridge across the Rea at Coseley. The Saxon victory in the war allowed the Midlands to settle and was the first victory in British history.

The Romans came to Birmingham to build a military road on the River Rea. It is thought that the ford across the river was used by early Romans, as is suggested by the word Ford. The river crossing was the first Roman ford and became the Roman bridge. The River Rea back then was used as a military river during the Roman occupation. The Romans used the ford and later the Saxons and the Danes to get to the River Rea. All crossed it.

The Romans established their road from London, across the Midlands to the Severn. This Roman Military road now takes its course along with the River Rea. It was established in the AD60s. A Roman road ran along today’s railway line, but it was dismantled and built over. It was built of wood. The first bridge of stones was built in 1174. In the 19th Century, Coseley and Aston forged their way across the Rea. The road over the ford was the last main road to be built in the area. In the early 20th Century, the first motor road to the Midlands and out of the West Midlands started at the Coseley Bridge.

In 1837 the railway network was established between Worcester and Birmingham. The construction of the railway took 2 1/2 years. It had a cutting through the Rea valley at Bournville. It passed in a tunnel through Hockley. The railway built a cut through the Valley of the Rea as part of the route to Birmingham. It was built to the level of the ground to cross the river. The engineers of the railway at the time of the first bridge were Robert Stephenson and Richard Lane. The river crossings where the cuttings were built are the sites of several historic fords. The Birmingham-to-London railway line was the first public railway built in England. The railway opened in 1837, from Dudley Station (near Brierley Hill station) to London St Pancras.

The first road to Bournville was built in 1876. The first road was on a private road. It was the first route from Bournville to Birmingham. It was a private road until the building of the railway.

The first recorded application to build a school for girls in the area was in 1868.

The first local authority to be formed was the Birmingham Rural District Council in 1894. It was called Brierley, Birmingham, and Rea in 1895 and became the City of Birmingham in 1902. The village was in Worcestershire; the first Birmingham council house was built in Brierley Hill in 1899. It was a row of eight brick dwellings in a row. There were no planning controls at this time, and the buildings were set back from the road; the road was a public road.

The village was also the site of a major munitions factory that produced shells for the Second World War. The area near Brierley Hill where the munitions factory was was bombed on 24 and 25 May 1940 by German planes. Some 400 shells were dropped on the Rea valley. More bombs were dropped in Dudley and Hockley. In all, nearly 2000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and about 300 families were left homeless. The factory was demolished after the war.

The Birmingham Airport, which is currently being expanded, was the first international airport in Birmingham and England. It was built in 1940 as a military airfield called No. 14 Park. It then became the Birmingham International Airport in 1940. The site still exists but is no longer an airport.

The Birmingham Canal Navigations built two canals in the village. The Grand Union Canal followed the route of the Birmingham Canal from Birmingham to the Grand Union locks, which is now a branch of the Birmingham International canal. The Birmingham and Derby Junction Canal built a tunnel to access the Grand Union canal from the north. They also made a canal from the bottom of the trenches in Great Barr, where they joined the Grand Union canal. This waterway became the Rea Valley Country Park. The Great Barr canal section was closed in 1952 and filled in in 1965. The Rea Valley was a source of water to Birmingham and also supplied homes and businesses in Dudley.

References 

Origins of Birmingham | Birmingham City Council. https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/50050/culture_arts_and_heritage/1258/origins_of_birmingham

Culchie – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culchies

Category: Areas of Dudley

Category: Villages in the West Midlands (county)