The Georgians

 

It was all change in Georgian Britain, in Georgian Birmingham and even in Georgian Castle Bromwich.

 

While Birmingham was being transformed by industry (The Industrial Revolution), farming in Castle Bromwich was also changing (The Agricultural Revolution). 

 

 

Strip fields

In the Middle Ages the land in Castle Bromwich was divided up up into a few very large fields. The fields were divided into long strips. People owned or rented a number of strips in different fields and everyone had to grow the same crops, usually peas or beans or wheat or barley.

 

 

Enclosures

 

Because everyone had to work together from the poorest to the richest, it was very difficult to change things if some one wanted to try something different. So, across England the owners of large areas of land, such as Lord Bradford, got Parliament to pass laws allowing them to get rid of the strips to create the sort of fields there are now. The big landowners could then do whatever they liked with their fields. Many of them put hawthorn hedges round their enclosures and little bits of these hedgerows still survive in Castle Bromwich today.  (Take a look at the fields at the back of Kingsleigh Drive and Parkfield Drive or at Arden Hall playing fields.)


Sowing seeds by hand needed lots of workers and was slow and inefficient; a horse drill needed just one man.
Sowing seeds by hand needed lots of workers and was slow and inefficient; a horse drill needed just one man.

Enclosures helped to create a revolution in farming. It was much more efficient and productive to farm this way. 

New farming techniques were tried in rearing farm animals and different crops were planted. 

 

New farm machinery pulled by horses was introduced for sowing seeds, for hoeing the weeds and for ploughing.

 

But many poor workers on the farms lost their jobs; poorer people who used to rent farmland now had nothing to rent. Some people moved from the Castle Bromwich countryside to work in the Birmingham factories.

 

George, George, George and George again

The Georgian period is called the Georgian period because all the kings were called George, except William, and he was called William.

   George I,       George II,      George III,      George IV,      William IV

 

George I became King of Great Britain in 1714; William IV died in 1837.

                         So this is the 18th century - more or less.

 

Our next-door neighbour -

Big Birmingham

The drawing shows Birmingham in 1783. In the centre are the church towers of St Martin-in-the-Bull Ring (left) and St Philip's, now Birmingham Cathedral. To the right is Digbeth where much of the old industry was took place; to the left is (what is now) the Jewellery Quarter by the canals where new industries were being set up.

 

Six miles from tiny little Castle Bromwich the mighty town of Birmingham was booming. The Industrial Revolution had arrived with new methods of manufacturing old and new products.

 

Especially important in Birmingham were the iron trades and the manufacture of small high-quality goods known as 'toys'. These included buckles, broaches, buttons, snuff boxes, candlesticks, goblets, jewellery and door handles. 

 

Birmingham became the first manufacturing city in the world. And with the new turnpike roads and canals being built across the country, Birmingham manufacturers were able to get their goods to market in London and abroad.

 

In the hundred years from 1660 Birmingham's population grew from 5,500 to six times that number making it the third largest town in the country after London and Bristol. There was a huge amount of house building in the town. 

 

The growing town of Birmingham also affected the country areas roundabout, including Castle Bromwich which was a large country area with a population of just a few hundred people. Farmers from Castle Bromwich took their produce to Birmingham market and young people from Castle Bromwich started to move to Birmingham to work in the workshops and factories. 

 

To find out about the Georgian roads in

Castle Bromwich, click here > Turnpikes & Tolls.

 

See what happened to Castle Bromwich Hall by clicking here > Castle Bromwich Hall 

 

or click here to learn about

Castle Bromwich Church in the 18th century.


The Tale of a Redcoat Officer

1745

A Redcoat officer
A Redcoat officer

 

This is a story that happened when Sir John Bridgeman II lived at Castle Bromwich Hall. 

 

The year was 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie was trying to claim the British throne. (The Prince's grand-father was James II who had been driven from England after an argument with Parliament.)

 

Having sailed from France, Prince Charlie landed in Scotland. He was joined by an army of 6000 Scots and began to march south towards London, a journey of over 500 miles.

 

The government put the Duke of Cumberland in charge of the British army, whose soldiers were known as Redcoats. The Duke was the son of King George II and was the best general in the British army. 

The Bradford Arms
The Bradford Arms

 

In December of 1745 one of the Duke of Cumberland’s army regiments marched through Castle Bromwich. They were on their way to Scotland to do battle with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

 

The Redcoat soldiers came from the south of England, past Stonebridge then along the Chester Road past the woods at Chelmsley and Bacons End to Castle Bromwich.

 

The troops pitched their tents and made camp on Hodge Hill Common, but the army officers spent a more comfortable night at the Bradford Arms, where they tucked into the food and drank the beer and wine until late into the night. 

 

The next morning, when the officer in command was fit to travel, the officers climbed onto their horses and galloped off down the Chester Road, through Castle Bromwich, to catch up with their regiment.

 

When the party caught up with the troops at Bassetts Pole ten miles further on, the officer in charge realised that he had left his sword at the Bradford Arms.  An officer's sword was an important weapon. But it was more than that: an officer's sword was a sign of his position as an officer. Each officer had his own special sword and it was unthinkable that he should leave it behind. The redcoat officer had no choice but to ride back the ten miles to Castle Bromwich to find his weapon.

 

However, he was not down-hearted. He enjoyed his ride through the leafy Warwickshire countryside and arrived at the Bradford Arms in a good mood. 

 

He was given his sword and he bought everyone a drink to celebrate. When the officer was ready to leave the inn, he made a promise that, as long as he lived, he would pay for a feast for everyone there every year on the day on which he had marched to fight for his King and his Country - without his sword.

 

Indeed he was true to his word. Into the 19th century there were still people in Castle Bromwich who could remember going to a feast every December at the Bradford Arms paid for by the officer who forgot his sword. 

Q. And what became of Bonnie Prince Charlie?

    Did he win the war and become the King of England?

 

A. The Duke of Cumberland defeated the Prince's army at the hard-fought Battle of Culloden in Scotland on Saturday 16 April 1746. Over 2000 soldiers were killed in the fighting and more were wounded, many of them dying of their injuries after the battle. And Bonnie Prince Charlie? He escaped to France and he never came back.

 

 

The Birmingham Riots come to Castle Bromwich

1791

Dadley's Hotel stood near St Philip's church  (now Birmingham Cathedral).
Dadley's Hotel stood near St Philip's church (now Birmingham Cathedral).

It was Friday 14 July 1791. A group of friends were meeting for dinner at Dadley's Hotel close to St Philip's church in Birmingham. They were there to celebrate the French Revolution. 

 

Two years before, in 1789 a revolution in France had exploded in violence and killing. The French king had his head chopped off on the guillotine, as did many of the rich and powerful lords and ladies of France. The palaces of the wealthy were looted and some of them were burned down. And the revolutionary government took away all the power and wealth of the Church in France. 

 

In England there were some who agreed that, despite the violence, the French Revolution of 1789 had been a good thing. A selfish and dictatorial king had been overthrown and the people were trying to bring democracy to their country for the first time.

 

However, there were many other people in England who were frightened that the revolution might spread to this country. Among those who were most fearful were King George III and his government, wealthy lords and ladies, rich landowners and priests and bishops of the Church of England.

 

The gentlemen who met at Dadley’s Hotel in Birmingham were entrepreneurs, industrialists and businessmen. And they were not members of the Church of England.

 

William Hutton painted in his 60s, about the time of the Birmingham Riots
William Hutton painted in his 60s, about the time of the Birmingham Riots

Outside the hotel a mob booed and jeered as the gentlemen went in. And as they sat down to dinner, stones were thrown, smashing the hotel windows.

 

The rioters shouted, “Church & King” and it is fairly certain that they had been paid to cause trouble by wealthy people who feared an English Revolution. 

 

The gentleman diners escaped with their lives, but for three days the rioters caused trouble all around Birmingham attacking the houses of anyone they thought were friends of the gentleman diners. 

 

William Hutton was one of those unlucky people. He lived at a large house in the countryside at Washwood Heath. He is famous now for writing the first history of Birmingham, but he was best known in Georgian Birmingham as a businessman with a shop in town selling stationery and books and also as a magistrate.  

 

William Hutton's house at Bennetts Hill, Washwood Heath; it is no longer there.
William Hutton's house at Bennetts Hill, Washwood Heath; it is no longer there.

 

On the Saturday morning a gang of rioters found Hutton's house at Washwood Heath and he and his family managed to find a coachman, who would take them to the inn at Castle Bromwich, the Bridgeman Arms, 3 miles away.

 

After he left, the gang of rioters stole all his goods and then set fire to his house. 

 

But even at Castle Bromwich, Hutton was worried the rioters would find them, so he took his family first to Sutton Coldfield, about seven miles away and then on to Tamworth where they stayed the night at the Castle Inn.

 

The Bridgeman Arms is no longer an inn but a house; it is still there.
The Bridgeman Arms is no longer an inn but a house; it is still there.

The next day the family moved back to Castle Bromwich to be nearer their home.

 

While William Hutton was at the Bridgman Arms, a gentleman he didn't know came to see him. He had heard of Hutton's unhappy situation and kindly gave him some money so that he could pay his hotel bills.

 

'A real gentleman!" said Hutton.

 

Later that day Hutton went to see what remained of his house at Washwood Heath and he headed off down the Coleshill Road towards Birmingham. When he got there he found nothing but the smouldering ruins of the house where, in the past, he had spent his happiest times. 

 

When he got back to Castle Bromwich, he found some of the rioters standing at the door of the inn; they had with them four cartloads of things they had stolen from the houses they had burnt - including Hutton's own. The poor man was terrified. He dared not enter the inn and hid behind a hedge.

 

It started to get dark. Some of the people of the village found Hutton hiding behind the hedge. They said it was dangerous to stay and told him for my own safety to go elsewhere. But his family was upstairs in the Bridgeman Arms and he did not want to leave them.

 

Sometime later in the darkness of the night, a man on horseback stopped speak to him. 

"Sir, are you William Hutton? I have good news for you. I am come from Sutton Coldfield and have just seen soldiers of the light-horse regiment on their way to Birmingham.”

 

Hutton knew that the rioters would soon disappear and that the town would be safe once more.

 

He stayed that night at the Bridgeman Arms with his family, but the next day he left Castle Bromwich for Birmingham. On the way he passed the sorry sight of his house in Washwood Heath and of his shop in town, both in ruins. However, his friends were delighted to see him safe; no less than seventeen of them offered him a place to stay in their own houses.

 

'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.