The Early History of Castle Bromwich

   .   .   .   or is it Prehistory?

Until the Middle Ages much of the Birmingham area was part of the Forest of Arden. Around Castle Bromwich there would have been a lot of woodland, mainly oak and ash trees with holly, briars and brambles.

 

Along the River Tame and River Cole was marshland which made travel difficult in the valleys. Before bridges were built, the rivers could be crossed easily only where they flowed over sand and gravel. 


 

Travellers could cross the River Tame at Castle Bromwich by a ford. They had to wade through the river. The site now lies beneath the M6 motorway. Even in Stone Age times the ford at Castle Bromwich was part of a long-distance route which ran from the north-west of England to the south-east.

 

The New Stone Age

 

Stone Age tools have been found in Birmingham. A hundred years ago workers in Digbeth found an axe made of stone from Cumbria. An axe found at Bournville was made of stone from North Wales. It is very likely that Stone Age travellers carried them along the Chester Road over 5000 years ago.

 

The Birmingham axes are similar to this one.

 

(Below) This is not the ford crossing the River Tame at Castle Bromwich - but it may have looked like this.

 

This is the Chester Road bridge over the River Tame where the ancient ford used to be. Overhead is the M6 motorway.



 

New Stone Age (Neolithic) people began to clear the forest trees to make fields for farming. However, there was still dense forest on the clay soils east of Birmingham, including Castle Bromwich. The people of the New Stone Age grew crops for food and kept cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses and dogs. They made clay pots and learnt to spin wool and weave cloth.

 

A New Stone Age village may have looked like this.
A New Stone Age village may have looked like this.

Castle Bromwich was a good place for New Stone Age farmers. They could grow crops on the gravelly sandy soil around Castle Bromwich village where there weren't so many trees. And they could keep their farm animals down by the River Tame and the River Cole where the grass grew long and lush.

 

When archaeologists excavated the Castle Hill, they dug up some pieces of broken pottery. The pots had been made 5000 years ago, made in Castle Bromwich by New Stone Age people. 

 

 

The Bronze Age

A recreated Bronze Age house in Bedfordshire
A recreated Bronze Age house in Bedfordshire

Also at the Castle Hill, the archaeologists of Birmingham University dug up pieces of Bronze Age pottery as well as finding the marks of post-holes. These were evidence that a wooden building stood here 3000 years ago. The hut was probably one of a small village of farming people. They grew food crops nearby and kept  farm animals near the river. 

 

By the end of the Bronze Age half of England's wildwood had been felled. But the Forest of Arden around Castle Bromwich was still mostly covered with trees.

 

The Iron Age

Modern recreation of an Iron Age village in Denmark
Modern recreation of an Iron Age village in Denmark

For 500 years until the Romans came, Celtic tribes came from Europe to live in Britain. They had learned to make fire hot enough to smelt iron. Iron axes, iron ploughs, iron sickles made farming easier and iron swords made very good weapons.

 

It was the Celts gave this island its name, Britain. They called the people who were here before them 'the painted people', in Celtic pretanni, 'Britons.' However, the Romans then used the name for the Celts and called our island Britannia.

 

The Celts have left very little evidence in the Birmingham area. A small piece of Iron Age pottery was found in Selly Oak and here at Castle Bromwich a white and yellow glass bead was found on the land near the Hall Gardens in 1960. When the M6 Toll motorway was built archaeologists discovered evidence of an Iron Age village near Sutton Coldfield.

 

Map showing the main Celtic tribes of Britain
Map showing the main Celtic tribes of Britain

Celtic Tribes

 

The Celts were organised in tribes. Birmingham lay on the borders of three tribal areas.

 

To the west of Birmingham were the Cornovii with a capital on the Wrekin;

east of Birmingham were the Corieltauvi with their capital at Leicester;

to the south were the Dobunii with their capital at Cirencester.

 

It may be that the River Cole was the boundary between the Corieltauvi and the Cornovii. A small Romano-British temple has been discovered near Coleshill; temples were often built in no-man's land between tribes.

 

In the years after 43 AD the Celtic tribes were conquered, one by one, by the Roman army. 

 

Click the map to enlarge it.

 

Weblinks

 

 

 

Find out more about Early Britain on the BBC History website. Click the picture of Stonehenge to open the website on a new page.

'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers website if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.