By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: An History of Birmingham (1783)
Author: Hutton, William, 1723-1815
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An History of Birmingham (1783)" ***





[Illustration: the-text-caption]





A preface rather induces a man to speak of himself, which is deemed the
worst subject upon which he _can_ speak. In history we become acquainted
with things, but in a preface with the author; and, for a man to treat
of himself, may be the most _difficult_ talk of the two: for in history,
facts are produced ready to the hand of the historian, which give birth
to thought, and it is easy to cloath that thought in words. But in a
preface, an author is obliged to forge from the brain, where he is
sometimes known to forge without fire. In one, he only reduces a
substance into form; but in the other, he must create that substance.

As I am not an author by profession, it is no wonder if I am
unacquainted with the modes of authorship; but I apprehend, the usual
method of conducting the pen, is to polish up a founding title-page,
dignified with scraps of Latin, and then, to hammer up a work to fit it,
as nearly as genius, or want of genius, will allow.

We next _turn over a new leaf_, and open upon a pompous dedication,
which answers many laudable purposes: if a coat of arms, correctly
engraven, should step first into view, we consider it a singular
advantage gained over a reader, like the first blow in a combat. The
dedication itself becomes a pair of stilts, which advance an author
something higher.

As a horse-shoe, nailed upon the threshold of a cottage, prevents the
influence of the witch; so a first-rate name, at the head of a
dedication, is a total bar against the critic; but this great name, like
a great officer, sometimes unfortunately stands at the head of
wretched troops.

When an author is too _heavy_ to swim of himself, it serves as a pair of
bladders, to prevent his sinking.

It is farther productive of a _solid_ advantage, that of a present from
the patron, more valuable than that from the bookseller, which prevents
his sinking under the pressure of famine.

But, being wholly unknown to the great names of literary consequence, I
shall not attempt a dedication, therefore must lose the benefit of the
stilt, the bladder, and the horse-shoe.

Were I to enter upon a dedication, I should certainly address myself,
"_To the Inhabitants of Birmingham_." For to them I not only owe much,
but all; and I think, among that congregated mass, there is not one
person to whom I wish ill. I have the pleasure of calling many of those
inhabitants _Friends_, and some of them share my warm affections equally
with myself. Birmingham, like a compassionate nurse, not only draws our
persons, but our esteem, from the place of our nativity, and fixes it
upon herself: I might add, _I was hungry, and she fed me_; _thirsty, and
she gave me drink_; _a stranger, and she took me in_. I approached her
with reluctance, because I did not know her; I shall leave her with
reluctance, because I do.

Whether it is perfectly confident in an author, to solicit the
indulgence of the public, though it may stand first in his wishes,
admits a doubt; for, if his productions will not bear the light, it may
be said, why does he publish? but, if they will, there is no need to ask
a favor; the world receives one from him. Will not a piece everlastingly
be tried by its merit? Shall we esteem it the higher, because it was
written at the age of thirteen? because it was the effort of a week?
delivered extempore? hatched while the author stood upon one leg? or
cobbled, while he cobbled a shoe? or will it be a recommendation, that
it issues forth in gilt binding? The judicious world will not be
deceived by the tinselled purse, but will examine whether the _contents_
are sterling.

Will it augment the value of this history, or cover its blunders, to
say, that I have never seen _Oxford?_ That the thick fogs of penury,
prevented the sun of science from beaming upon the mind? That necessity
obliged me to lay down the battledore, before I was master of the
letters? And that, instead of handling systems of knowledge, my hands,
at the early period of seven, became callous with labour?

But, though a whole group of pretences will have no effect with the
impartial eye, yet one reason pleads strongly in my favor--no such thing
ever appeared as _An History of Birmingham_. It is remarkable, that one
of the most singular places in the universe is without an historian:
that she never manufactured an history of herself, who has manufactured
almost every thing else; that so many ages should elapse, and not one
among her numerous sons of industry, snatch the manners of the day from
oblivion, group them in design, with the touches of his pen, and exhibit
the picture to posterity. If such a production had ever seen the light,
mine most certainly would never have been written; a temporary bridge
therefore may satisfy the impatient traveller, till a more skilful
architect shall accommodate him with a complete production of elegance,
of use, and of duration.--Although works of genius ought to come out of
the mint doubly refined, yet history admits of a much greater latitude
to the author. The best upon the subject, though defective, may meet
with regard.

It has long been a complaint, that local history is much wanted. This
will appear obvious, if we examine the places we know, with the
histories that treat of them. Many an author has become a cripple, by
historically travelling through _all England_, who might have made a
tolerable figure, had he staid at home. The subject is too copious for
one performance, or even the life of one man. The design of history is
knowledge: but, if simply to tell a tale, be all the duty of an
historian, he has no irksome task before him; for there is nothing more
easy than to relate a fact; but, perhaps, nothing more difficult than to
relate it well.

The situation of an author is rather precarious--if the smiles of the
world chance to meet his labours, he is apt to forget himself; if
otherwise, he is soon forgot. The efforts of the critic may be necessary
to clip the wings of a presuming author, lest his rising vanity becomes
insupportable: but I pity the man, who writes a book which none will
peruse a second time; critical exertions are not necessary to pull him
down, he will fall of himself. The sin of writing carries its own
punishment, the tumultuous passions of anxiety and expectation, like
the jarring elements in October, disturb his repose, and, like them, are
followed by stirility: his cold productions, injured by no hand but that
of time, are found sleeping on the shelf unmolested. It is easy to
describe his fears before publication, but who can tell his feelings
after judgment is passed upon his works? His only consolation is
accusing the critic of injustice, and thinking the world in the wrong.
But if repentence should not follow the culprit, hardened in scribbling,
it follows, his bookseller, oppressed with _dead works_. However, if all
the evils in Pandora's box are emptied on a blasted author, this one
comfort remains behind--The keeper of a circulating library, or the
steward of a reading society can tell him, "His book is more _durable_
than the others."

Having, many years ago, entertained an idea of this undertaking, I made
some trifling preparations; but, in 1775, a circumstance of a private
nature occurring, which engaged my attention for several years, I
relinquished the design, destroyed the materials, and meant to give up
the thought for ever. But the intention revived in 1780, and the
work followed.

I may be accused of quitting the regular trammels of history, and
sporting in the fields of remark: but, although our habitation justly
stands first in our esteem, in return for rest, content, and protection;
does it follow that we should never stray from it? If I happen to veer a
moment from the polar point of Birmingham, I shall certainly vibrate
again to the center. Every author has a manner peculiar to himself, nor
can he well forsake it. I should be exceedingly hurt to omit a
necessary part of intelligence, but more, to offend a reader.

If GRANDEUR should censure me for sometimes recording the men of mean
life, let me ask, _Which is preferable_, he who thunders at the anvil,
or in the senate? The man who earnestly wishes the significant letters,
ESQ. spliced to the end of his name, will despise the question; but the
philosopher will answer, "They are equal."

Lucrative views have no part in this production: I cannot solicit a kind
people to grant what they have already granted; but if another finds
that pleasure in reading, which I have done in writing, I am paid.

As no history is extant, to inform me of this famous nursery of the
arts, perfection in mine must not be expected. Though I have
endeavoured to pursue the road to truth; yet, having no light to guide,
or hand to direct me, it is no wonder if I mistake it: but we do not
_condemn_, so much as _pity_ the man for losing his way, who first
travels an unbeaten road.

Birmingham, for want of the recording hand, may be said to live but one
generation; the transactions of the last age, die in this; memory is the
sole historian, which being defective, I embalm the present generation,
for the inspection of the future.

It is unnecessary to attempt a general character, for if the attentive
reader is himself of Birmingham, he is equally apprized of that
character; and, if a stranger, he will find a variety of touches
scattered through the piece, which, taken in a collective view, form a
picture of that generous people, who _merit his_ esteem, and
_possess mine_.



_Some Account of the Derivation of the Name of
Birmingham_, ..................................... page 1
_Situation_, .....................................      3
_Soil_, ..........................................      6
_Water_, .........................................      7
_Baths_, .........................................      8
_Air_, ...........................................     *8
_Longevity_, .....................................      9
_Ancient State of Birmingham_, ...................     13
_Battle of Camp-hill_, ...........................    *41
_Modern State of Birmingham_, ....................     40
_Streets, and their Names_, ......................     53
_Trade_, .........................................     57
  _Button_, ......................................     75
  _Buckle_, ......................................     76
  _Guns_, ........................................     78
  _Leather_, .....................................     79
  _Steel_, .......................................     80
  _Nails_, .......................................    *83
  _Bellows_, .....................................    *85
  _Thread_, ......................................    *89
  _Printing, by John Baskerville_, ...............    *90
  _Brass foundry_, ...............................    *94
  _Hackney Coaches_, .............................     81
_Bank_, ..........................................     83
_Government_, ....................................   ibid
  _Constables_, ..................................     92
  _Bailiffs_, ....................................     94
_Court of Requests_, .............................    *99
_Lamp Act_, ......................................     99
_Religion and Politics_, .........................    105
_Places of Worship_, .............................    111
  _St. John's Chapel, Deritend_, .................    112
  _St. Bartholomew's_, ...........................    113
  _St. Mary's_, ..................................    115
  _St. Paul's_, ..................................   ibid
  _Old Meeting_, .................................    116
  _New Meeting_, .................................    117
  _Carr's-lane Meeting_, .........................    118
  _Baptist Meeting_, .............................   ibid
  _Quaker's Meeting_, ............................    120
  _Methodist Meeting_, ...........................    121
  _Romish Chapel_, ...............................   *125
  _Jewish Synagogue_, ............................   *128
_Theatres_, ......................................    123
_Amusements_, ....................................    127
_Hotel_, .........................................   *132
_Wakes_, .........................................    132
_Clubs_, .........................................    135
_Ikenield street_, ...............................    140
_Lords of the Manor_, ............................    153
  _Uluuine_, 1050, ...............................    156
  _Richard_, 1066, ...............................   ibid
  _William_, 1130, ...............................    161
  _Peter de Birmingham_, 1154, ...................    161
  _William de Birmingham_, 1216, .................    163
  _William de Birmingham_, 1246, .................    164
  _William de Birmingham_, 1265, .................    165
  _William de Birmingham_, 1306, .................    166
  _Sir Fouk de Birmingham_, 1340, ................    168
  _Sir John de Birmingham_, 1376, ................    169
  _Lord Clinton_, ................................   ibid
  _Edmund, Lord Ferrers_, ........................    170
  _William de Birmingham_, 1430, .................   ibid
  _Sir William Birmingham_, 1479, ................    171
  _Edward Birmingham_, 1500, .....................    172
  _John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland_, 1537, ...    177
  _Thomas Marrow_, 1555, .........................    180
  _Thomas Archer_, 1746, .........................    181
  _Andrew, Lord Archer_, .........................    181
  _Sarah, Lady Archer_, 1781, ....................   ibid
_Manor house_, ...................................    182
_Pudding-brook_, .................................    186
_Priory_, ........................................    187
_John à Dean's Hole_, ............................    195
_Lench's Trust_, .................................    196
_Fentbam's Trust_, ...............................    200
_Crowley's Trust_, ...............................    201
_Scott's Trust_, .................................    202
_Free School_, ...................................    203
_Charity School_, ................................    209
_Dissenting Charity School_, .....................    214
_Workhouse_, .....................................    215
_Old Cross_, .....................................    227
_Welch Cross_, ...................................    229
_St. Martin's_, ..................................    232
_St. Philip's_, ..................................    246
_Births and Burials_, ............................    253
_General Hospital_, ..............................    256
_Public Roads_, ..................................    259
_Canal_, .........................................    266
_Deritend Bridge_, ...............................    269
_Soho_, ..........................................    271
_Danes Camp, Danes Bank, or Bury Fields_, ........    272
_Gentlemen's Seats_, .............................    273
  _The Moats_, ...................................    276
  _Black Greves_, ................................   ibid
  _Ulverley, or Culverley_, ......................    277
  _Hogg's Moat_, .................................    278
  _Yardley_, .....................................    281
  _Kent's Moat_, .................................    282
  _Sheldon_, .....................................    283
  _King's hurst_, ................................   ibid
  _Coleshill_, ...................................    287
  _Duddeston_, ...................................    289
  _Saltley_, .....................................    292
  _Ward-end_ .....................................    293
  _Castle Bromwich_, .............................    295
  _Park hall_, ...................................    299
  _Berwood_, .....................................    300
  _Erdington_, ...................................    301
  _Pipe_, ........................................    303
  _Aston_, .......................................    306
  _Witton_, ......................................    309
  _Blakeley_, ....................................    312
  _Weoley_, ......................................    313
_Sutton Coldfield_, ..............................    320
_Petition for a Corporation_, ....................    324
_Brass Works_, ...................................    329
_Prison_, ........................................    332
_Clodshale's Chantry_, ...........................    336
_Occurrences_, ...................................    340
  _Earthquake_, ..................................   ibid
  _Pitmore and Hammond_, .........................    343
  _Riots_, .......................................    345
  _The Conjurers_, ...............................    350
_Military Association_, ..........................    353
_Bilston Canal Act_, .............................    357
_Workhouse Bill_, ................................    361
_The Camp_, ......................................    370
_Mortimer's Bank_, ...............................    372






Prospect of Birmingham,          to face the Title.
Plan, ........................................   43
Alm's-houses, ................................  *58
St. John's Chapel, Deritend, .................  111
St. Bartholomew's, ...........................  113
St. Mary's, ..................................  115
St. Paul's, ..................................  116
Old and New Meetings, ........................  117
New Theatre, .................................  123
Hotel, .......................................  130
Free School, .................................  203
Charity School, ..............................  209
Workhouse, ...................................  215
Old and Welch Cross, .........................  229
St. Martin's Church, .........................  232
St. Philip's, ................................  246
General Hospital, ............................  256
Canal, .......................................  265
Navigation Office, ...........................  267
Brass Works, .................................  329



       *       *       *       *       *

_Some account of the derivation of the name of Birmingham_.

The word Birmingham, is too remote for certain explanation. During the
last four centuries it has been variously written _Brumwycheham,
Bermyngeham, Bromwycham, Burmyngham, Bermyngham, Byrmyngham_, and
_Birmingham_; nay, even so late as the seventeenth century it was
written _Bromicham_. Dugdale supposes the name to have been given by the
planter, or owner, in the time of the Saxons; but, I suppose it much
older than any Saxon, date: besides, it is not so common for a man to
give a name to, as to take one from, a place. A man seldom gives his
name except he is the founder, as Petersburg from Peter the Great.

Towns, as well as every thing in nature, have exceedingly minute
beginnings, and generally take a name from situation, or local
circumstances. Would the Lord of a manor think it an honour to give his
name to two or three miserable huts? But, if in a succession of ages
these huts swell into opulence, they confer upon the lord an honour, a
residence, and a name. The terminations of _sted_, _ham_, and _hurst_,
are evidently Saxon, and mean the same thing, a home.

The word, in later ages reduced to a certainty, hath undergone various
mutations; but the original seems to have been _Bromwych_; _Brom_
perhaps, from broom a shrub, for the growth of which the soil is
extremely favourable; _Wych_, a descent, this exactly corresponds with
the declivity from the High Street to Digbeth. Two other places also in
the neigbourhood bear the same name, which serves to strengthen
the opinion.

This infant colony, for many centuries after the first buddings of
existence, perhaps, had no other appellation than that of Bromwych. Its
center, for many reasons that might be urged, was the Old Cross, and its
increase, in those early ages of time must have been very small.

A series of prosperity attending it, its lord might assume its name,
reside in it, and the particle _ham_ would naturally follow. This very
probably happened under the Saxon Heptarchy, and the name was no other
than _Bromwycham_.


It lies near the centre of the kingdom, in the north-west extremity of
the county of Warwick, in a kind of peninsula, the northern part of
which is bounded by Handsworth, in the county of Stafford, and the
southern by King's-norton, in the county of Worcester; it is also in the
diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, and in the deanery of Arden.

Let us perambulate the parish from the bottom of Digbeth, thirty yards
north of the bridge. We will proceed south-west up the bed of the river,
with Deritend, in the parish of Aston, on our left. Before we come to
the Floodgates, near Vaughton's Hole, we pass by the Longmores, a small
part of King's-norton. Crossing the river Rea, we enter the vestiges of
a small rivulet, yet visible, though the stream hath been turned,
perhaps, a thousand years, to supply the moat. We now bear rather west,
nearly in a straight line for three miles, to Shirland brook, with
Edgbaston on the left. At the top of the first meadow from the river
Rea, we meet the little stream above-mentioned, in the pursuit of which,
we cross the Bromsgrove road a little east of the first mile stone.
Leaving Banner's marlpit to the left, we proceed up a narrow lane
crossing the old Bromsgrove road, and up to the turnpike at the five
ways in the road to Hales Owen. Leaving this road also to the left we
proceed down the lane towards Ladywood, cross the Icknield street, a
stone's cast east of the observatory, to the north extremity of Rotton
Park. We now meet with Shirland Brook, which leads us east, and across
the Dudley road, at the seven mile stone, having Smethwick in the county
of Stafford, on the left, down to Pigmill. We now leave Handsworth on
the left, following the stream through Hockley great pool; cross the
Wolverhampton road, and the Ikenield-street at the same time down to
Aston furnace, with that parish on the left. At the bottom of
Walmer-lane we leave the water, move over the fields, nearly in a line
to the post by the Peacock upon Gosty-green. We now cross the Lichfield
road, down Duke-street, then the Coleshill road at the A B house. From
thence down the meadows, to Cooper's mill; up the river to the foot of
Deritend bridge; and then turn sharp to the right, keeping the course of
a drain in the form of a sickle, through John a Dean's hole, into
Digbeth, from whence we set out. In marching along Duke-street, we leave
about seventy houses to the left, and up the river Rea, about four
hundred more in Deritend, reputed part of Birmingham, though not in
the parish.

This little journey, nearly of an oval form, is about seven miles. The
longest diameter from Shirland brook to Deritend bridge is about three,
and the widest, from the bottom of Walmer Lane to the rivulet, near the
mile-stone, upon the Bromsgrove road, more than two.

The superficial contents of the parish may be upwards of four miles,
about three thousand acres.

Birmingham is by much the smallest parish in the neighbourhood, those of
Aston and Sutton are each about five times as large, Yardley four, and
King's-Norton eight.

When Alfred, that great master of legislation, parished out his kingdom,
or rather, put the finishing hand to that important work; where he met
with a town, he allotted a smaller quantity of land, because the
inhabitants chiefly depended upon commerce; but where there was only a
village, he allotted a larger, because they depended upon agriculture.

This observation goes far in proving the antiquity of the place, for it
is nine hundred years since this division took effect.

The buildings occupy the south east part of the parish; perhaps, with
their appendages, about six hundred acres.

This south east part, being insufficient for the extraordinary increase
of the inhabitants, she has of late extended her buildings along the
Bromsgrove road, near the boundaries of Edgbaston; and actually on the
other side planted three of her streets in the parish of Aston. Could
the sagacious Alfred have seen into futurity, he would have augmented
her borders.

As no part of the town lies flat, the showers promote both cleanliness
and health, by removing obstructions.

The approach is on every side by ascent, except that from Hales-Owen,
north west, which gives a free access of air, even to the most secret
recesses of habitation.

Thus eminently situated, the sun can exercise his full powers of

The foundation upon which this mistress of the arts is erected, is one
solid mass of dry reddish sand.

The vapours that rise from the earth are the great promoters of disease;
but here, instead of the moisture ascending to the prejudice of the
inhabitant, the contrary is evident; for the water descends through the
pores of the sand, so that even our very cellars are habitable.

This accounts for the almost total extinction of the ague among
us:--During a residence of thirty years, I have never seen one person
afflicted with it, though, by the opportunities of office, I have
frequently visited the repositories of the sick.

Thus peculiarly favoured, this happy spot, enjoys four of the greatest
benefits that can attend human existence--water, air, the fun, and a
situation free from damps.

All the _past_ writers upon Birmingham have viewed her as low and
watery, and with reason; because Digbeth, then the chief street, bears
that description. But all the future writers will view her on an
eminence, and with as much reason; because, for one low street, we have
now fifty elevated.

Birmingham, like the empire to which she belongs, has been, for many
centuries, travelling _up hill_; and, like that, rising in consequence.


The soil is rather light, sandy, and weak; and though metals, of various
sorts, are found in great plenty, _above_ the surface, we know of
nothing below, except sand and gravel, stone and water. All the riches
of the place, like those of an empiric, in laced cloaths, appear on the

The northern part of the parish, for about four hundred acres, to the
disgrace of the age, is yet a shameful waste.

A small part of the land near the town, is parcelled out into little
gardens, at ten or twenty shillings each, amounting to about sixteen
pounds per acre.

These are not intended so much for profit, as health and amusement.

Others are let in detached pieces for private use, at about four pounds
per acre. So that this small parish cannot boast of more than six or
eight farms, and these of the smaller size, at about two pounds per
acre. Manure from the sty brings about 16s. per waggon load, that from
the stable about 12, and that from the fire and the street, five.


I think there is not any natural river runs through the parish, but
there are three that mark the boundaries of it, for about half its
circumference, described above; none of these supply family use. After
penetrating into a body of sand, interspersed with a small strata of
soft Rock, and sometimes of gravel; at the depth of about twenty yards,
we come to plenty of water, rather hard. There are in the lower parts of
the town, two excellent springs of soft water, suitable for most
purposes; one at the top of Digbeth, the other, Lady-Well. Or rather,
one spring, or bed of water, with many out-lets, continuing its course
along the bottom of the hill, parallel with Small-brook-street,
Edgbaston street, St. Martin's-lane, and Park-street; sufficiently
copious to supply the whole city of London. Water is of the first
consequence, it often influences disease, always the habit of body: that
of Birmingham is in general productive of salutary effects.

That dreadful disorder, the stone, is seldom found among us. I can
recollect but very few, in my time, under this severe complaint, which
is perhaps owing to that valuable element. I mentioned this remark to an
eminent surgeon, who assured me, that, in his long course of practice,
he had never been concerned in one operation in that unhappy disorder.


At Lady-Well, are the most complete baths in the whole Island. There are
seven in number; erected at the expence of 2000_l_. Accommodation is
ever ready for hot or cold bathing; for immersion or amusement; with
conveniency for sweating. That, appropriated for swimming, is eighteen
Yards by thirty-six, situated in the centre of a garden, in which are
twenty four private undressing-houses, the whole surrounded by a wall 10
feet high. Pleasure and health are the guardians of the place. The
gloomy horrors of a bath, sometimes deter us from its use, particularly,
if aided by complaint; but the appearance of these is rather inviting.
We read of painted sepulchres, whose _outsides_ are richly ornamented,
but _within_ are full of corruption and death. The reverse is before us.
No elegance appears without, but within are the Springs of life! The
expence was great, the utility greater.

I do not know any author, who has reckoned man among the amphibious race
of animals, neither do I know any animal who better deserves it. Man is
lord of the little ball on which he treads, one half of which, at least,
is water. If we do not allow him to be amphibious, we deprive him of
half his sovereignty. He justly bears that name, who can _live_ in the
water. Many of the disorders incident to the human frame are prevented,
and others cured, both by fresh and salt bathing; so that we may
properly remark, "_He lives in the water_, who can find life, nay, even
_health_ in that friendly element."

The greatest treasure on earth is health; but, a treasure, of all
others, the least valued by the owner. Other property is best rated when
in possession, but this, can only be rated when lost. We sometimes
observe a man, who, having lost this inestimable jewel, seeks it with an
ardour equal to its worth; but when every research by land, is eluded,
he fortunately finds it in the water. Like the fish, he pines away upon
shore, but like that, recovers again in the deep.

Perhaps Venus is represented as rising from the ocean, which is no other
then a bath of the larger size, to denote, that bathing is the refiner
of health, consequently, of beauty; and Neptune being figured in
advanced life, indicates, that it is a preservative to old age.

The cure of disease among the Romans, by bathing, is supported by many
authorities; among others, by the number of baths frequently discovered,
in which, pleasure, in that warm climate, bore a part. But this practice
seemed to decline with Roman freedom, and never after held the eminence
it deserved. Can we suppose, the physician stept between disease and the
bath, to hinder their junction; or, that he lawfully holds, by
prescription, the tenure of sickness, in _fee_?

The knowledge of this singular _art of healing_, is at present only in
infancy. How far it may prevent, or conquer disease; to what measure it
may be applied, in particular cases, and the degrees of use, in
different constitutions, are enquiries that will be better understood by
a future generation.


As we have passed through the water, let us now investigate her sister
fluid, the air. They are both necessary to life, and the purity of both
to the prolongation of it; this small difference lies between them, a
man may live a day without water, but not an hour without air: If a man
wants better water, it may be removed from a distant place for his
benefit; but if he wants air, he must remove himself.--The natural air
of Birmingham, perhaps, cannot be excelled in this climate, the moderate
elevation and dry soil evinces this truth; but it receives an alloy from
the congregated body of fifty thousand people; also from the smoke of an
extraordinary number of fires used in business; and perhaps, more from
the various effluvia arising from particular trades. It is not uncommon
to see a man with green hair or a yellow wig, from his constant
employment in brass; if he reads, the green vestiges of his occupation
remain on every leaf, never to be expunged. The inside of his body, no
doubt, receives the same tincture, but is kept clean by being often
washed with ale. Some of the fair sex, likewise are subject to the same
inconvenience, but find relief in the same remedy.


Man is a time-piece. He measures out a certain space, then stops for
ever. We see him move upon the earth, hear him click, and perceive in
his face the uses of intelligence. His external appearance will inform
us whether he is old-fashioned, in which case, he is less valuable upon
every gambling calculation. His face also will generally inform us
whether all is right within. This curious machine is filled with a
complication of movements, very unfit to be regulated by the rough hand
of ignorance, which sometimes leaves a mark not to be obliterated even
by the hand of an artist. If the works are directed by violence,
destruction is not far off. If we load it with the oil of luxury, it
will give an additional vigor, but in the end, clog and impede the
motion. But if the machine is under the influence of prudence, she will
guide it with an even, and a delicate hand, and perhaps the piece may
move on 'till it is fairly worn out by a long course of fourscore years.

There are a set of people who expect to find that health in medicine,
which possibly might be found in regimen, in air, exercise, or
serenity of mind.

There is another class amongst us, and that rather numerous, whose
employment is laborious, and whose conduct is irregular. Their time is
divided between hard working, and hard drinking, and both by a fire. It
is no uncommon thing to see one of these, at forty, wear the aspect of
sixty, and finish a life of violence at fifty, which the hand of
prudence would have directed to eighty.

The strength of a kingdom consists in the multitude of its inhabitants;
success in trade depends upon the manufacturer; the support and
direction of a family, upon the head of it. When this useful part of
mankind, therefore, are cut off in the active part of life, the
community sustains a loss, whether we take the matter in a national, a
commercial, or a private view.

We have a third class, who shun the rock upon which these last fall, but
wreck upon another; they run upon scylla though they have missed
charybdis; they escape the liquid destruction, but split upon the solid.
These are proficients in good eating; adepts in culling of delicacies,
and the modes of dressing them. Matters of the whole art of cookery;
each carries a kitchen in his head. Thus an excellent constitution may
be stabbed by the spit. Nature never designed us to live well, and
continue well; the stomach is too weak a vessel to be richly and deeply
laden. Perhaps more injury is done by eating than by drinking; one is a
secret, the other an open enemy: the secret is always supposed the most
dangerous. Drinking attacks by assault, but eating by sap: luxury is
seldom visited by old age. The best antidote yet discovered against this
kind of slow poison is exercise; but the advantages of elevation, air,
and water, on one hand, and disadvantages of crowd, smoke, and effluvia
on the other, are trifles compared to intemperance.

We have a fourth class, and with these I shall shut up the clock. If
this valuable machine comes finished from the hand of nature; if the
rough blasts of fortune only attack the outward case, without affecting
the internal works, and if reason conduces the piece, it may move on,
with a calm, steady, and uninterrupted pace to a great extent of years,
'till time only annihilates the motion.

I personally know amongst us a Mrs. Dallaway, aged near 90; George
Davis, 85; John Baddally, Esq; and his two brothers, all between 80 and
and 90; Mrs. Allen, 92; Mrs. Silk, 84; John Burbury, 84; Thomas Rutter,
88; Elizabeth Bentley, 88; John Harrison and his wife, one 86, the other
88; Mrs. Floyd, 87; Elizabeth Simms, 88; Sarah Aston, 98; Isaac Spooner,
Esq; 89; Joseph Scott, Esq; 94; all at this day, January 9, 1780, I
believe enjoy health and capacity. This is not designed as a complete
list of the aged, but of such only as immediately occur to memory. I
also knew a John England who died at the age of 89; Hugh Vincent, 94;
John Pitt, 100; George Bridgens, 103; Mrs. More, 104. An old fellow
assured me he had kept the market 77 years: he kept it for several years
after to my knowledge. At 90 he was attacked by an acute disorder, but,
fortunately for himself, being too poor to purchase medical assistance,
he was left to the care of nature, who opened that door to health which
the physician would have locked for ever. At 106 I heard him swear with
all the fervency of a recruit: at 107 he died. It is easy to give
instances of people who have breathed the smoak of Birmingham for
threescore years, and yet have scarcely left the precincts of of youth.
Such are the happy effects of constitution, temper, and conduct!

_Ancient State of Birmingham_.

We have now to pass through the very remote ages of time, without staff
to support us, without light to conduct us, or hand to guide us. The way
is long, dark, and slippery. The credit of an historian is built upon
truth; he cannot assert, without giving his facts; he cannot surmise,
without giving his reasons; he must relate things as they are, not as he
would have them. The fabric founded in error will moulder of itself, but
that founded in reality will stand the age and the critic.

Except half a dozen pages in Dugdale, I know of no author who hath
professedly treated of Birmingham. None of the histories which I have
seen bestow upon it more than a few lines, in which we are sure to be
treated with the noise of hammers and anvils; as if the historian
thought us a race of dealers in thunder, lightning, and wind; or
infernals, puffing in blast and smoak.

Suffer me to transcribe a passage from Leland, one of our most
celebrated writers, employed by Henry the VIIIth to form an itinerary of
Britain, whose works have stood the test of 250 years. We shall observe
how much he erred for want of information, and how natural for his
successors to copy him.

"I came through a pretty street as ever I entered, into Birmingham town.
This street, as I remember, is called Dirtey (Deritend). In it dwells
smithes and cutlers, and there is a brook that divides this street from
Birmingham, an hamlet, or member, belonging to the parish therebye.

"There is at the end of Dirtey a propper chappel and mansion-house of
timber, (the moat) hard on the ripe, as the brook runneth down; and as I
went through the ford, by the bridge, the water came down on the right
hand, and a few miles below goeth into Tame. This brook, above Dirtey,
breaketh in two arms, that a little beneath the bridge close again. This
brook riseth, as some say, four or five miles above Birmingham, towards

"The beauty of Birmingham, a good market-town in the extreme parts of
Warwickshire, is one street going up alonge, almost from the left ripe
of the brook, up a meane hill, by the length of a quarter of a mile, I
saw but one parish-church in the town.

"There be many smithes in the town that use to make knives and all
manner of cutting tools, and many loriners that make bittes, and a
great many naylers; so that a great part of the town is maintained by
smithes, who have their iron and sea-coal out of Staffordshire."

Here we find some intelligence, and more mistake, cloathed in the dress
of antique diction, which plainly evinces the necessity of
modern history.

It is matter of surprise that none of those religious drones, the monks,
who hived in the priory for fifteen or twenty generations, ever thought
of indulging posterity with an history of Birmingham. They could not
want opportunity, for they lived a life of indolence; nor materials, for
they were nearer the infancy of time, and were possessed of historical
fads now totally lost. Besides, nearly all the little learning in the
kingdom was possessed by this class of people; and the place, in their
day, must have enjoyed an eminent degree of prosperity.

Though the town has a modern appearance, there is reason to believe it
of great antiquity; my Birmingham reader, therefore, must suffer me to
carry him back into the remote ages of the Ancient Britons to visit his
fable ancestors.

We have no histories of those times but what are left by the Romans, and
these we ought to read with caution, because they were parties in the
dispute. If two antagonists write each his own history, the discerning
reader will sometimes draw the line of justice between them; but where
there is only one, partiality is expected. The Romans were obliged to
make the Britons war-like, or there would have been no merit in
conquering them: they must also sound forth their ignorance, or there
would have been none in improving them. If the Britons were that
wretched people they are represented by the Romans, they could not be
worth conquering: no man subdues a people to improve them, but to profit
by them. Though the Romans at that time were in their meridian of
splendor, they pursued Britain a whole century before they reduced it;
which indicates that they considered it as a valuable prize. Though the
Britons were not masters of science, like the Romans; though the fine
arts did not flourish here, as in Rome, because never planted; yet by
many testimonies it is evident they were masters of plain life; that
many of the simple arts were practiced in that day, as well as in this;
that assemblages of people composed cities, the same as now, but in an
inferior degree; and that the country was populous is plain from the
immense army Boadicia brought into the field, except the Romans
increased that army that their merit might be greater in defeating it.
Nay, I believe we may with propriety carry them beyond plain life, and
charge them with a degree of elegance: the Romans themselves allow the
Britons were complete masters of the chariot; that when the scythe was
fixed at each end of the axle-tree, they drove with great dexterity into
the midst of the enemy, broke their ranks, and mowed them down. The
chariot, therefore, could not be made altogether for war, but, when the
scythes were removed, it still remained an emblem of pride, became
useful in peace, was a badge of high-life, and continues so with their
descendants to this day.

We know the instruments of war used by the Britons were a sword, spear,
shield and scythe. If they were not the manufacturers, how came they by
these instruments? We cannot allow either they or the chariots were
imported, because that will give them a much greater consequence: they
must also have been well acquainted with the tools used in husbandry,
for they were masters of the field in a double sense. Bad also as their
houses were, a chest of carpentry tools would be necessary to complete
them. We cannot doubt, therefore, from these evidences, and others which
might be adduced, that the Britons understood the manufactory of iron.
Perhaps history cannot produce an instance of any place in an improving
country, like England, where the coarse manufactory of iron has been
carried on, that ever that laborious art went to decay, except the
materials failed; and as we know of no place where such materials have
failed, there is the utmost reason to believe our fore-fathers, the
Britons, were supplied with those necessary implements by the black
artists of the Birmingham forge. Iron-stone and coal are the materials
for this production, both which are found in the neighbourhood in great
plenty. I asked a gentleman of knowledge, if there was a probability of
the delphs failing? He answered, "Not in five thousand years."

The two following circumstances strongly evince this ancient British

Upon the borders of the parish stands Aston-furnace, appropriated for
melting ironstone, and reducing it into pigs: this has the appearance of
great antiquity. From the melted ore, in this subterranean region of
infernal aspect, is produced a calx, or cinder, of which there is an
enormous mountain. From an attentive survey, the observer would suppose
so prodigious a heap could not accumulate in one hundred generations;
however, it shows no perceptible addition in the age of man.

There is also a common of vast extent, called Wednesbury-old-field, in
which are the vestiges of many hundreds of coal-pits, long in disuse,
which the curious antiquarian would deem as long in sinking, as the
mountain of cinders in rising.

The minute sprig of Birmingham, no doubt first took root in this black
soil, which, in a succession of ages, hath grown to its present
opulence. At what time this prosperous plant was set, is very uncertain;
perhaps as long before the days of Caesar as it is since. Thus the mines
of Wednesbury empty their riches into the lap of Birmingham, and thus
she draws nurture from the bowels of the earth.

The chief, if not the only manufactory of Birmingham, from its first
existence to the restoration of Charles the Second, was in iron: of this
was produced instruments of war and of husbandry, furniture for the
kitchen, and tools for the whole system of carpentry.

The places where our athletic ancestors performed these curious
productions of art, were in the shops fronting the street: some small
remains of this very ancient custom are yet visible, chiefly in Digbeth,
where about a dozen shops still exhibit the original music of anvil
and hammer.

As there is the highest probability that Birmingham produced her
manufactures long before the landing of Caesar, it would give pleasure
to the curious enquirer, could he be informed of her size in those very
early ages; but this information is for ever hid from the historian, and
the reader. Perhaps there never was a period in which she saw a decline,
but that her progress has been certain, though slow, during the long
space of two or three thousand years before Charles the Second.

The very roads that proceed from Birmingham, are also additional
indications of her great antiquity and commercial influence.

Where any of these roads lead up an eminence, they were worn by the long
practice of ages into deep holloways, some of them twelve or fourteen
yards below the surface of the banks, with which they were once even,
and so narrow as to admit only one passenger.

Though modern industry, assisted by various turnpike acts, has widened
the upper part and filled up the lower, yet they were all visible in the
days of our fathers, and are traceable even in ours. Some of these, no
doubt, were formed by the spade, to soften the fatigue of climbing the
hill, but many were owing to the pure efforts of time, the horse, and
the showers. As inland trade was small, prior to the fifteenth century,
the use of the wagon, that great destroyer of the road, was but little
known. The horse was the chief conveyor of burthen among the Britons,
and for centuries after: if we, therefore, consider the great length of
time it would take for the rains to form these deep ravages, we must
place the origin of Birmingham, at a very early date.

One of these subterranean passages, in part filled up, will convey its
name to posterity in that of a street, called Holloway-head, 'till
lately the way to Bromsgrove and to Bewdley, but not now the chief road
to either. Dale-end, once a deep road, has the same derivation. Another
at Summer-hill, in the Dudley road, altered in 1753. A remarkable one is
also between the Salutation and the Turnpike, in the Wolverhampton road.
A fifth at the top of Walmer-lane, changed into its present form in
1764. Another between Gosta-green and Aston-brook, reduced in 1752.

All the way from Dale-end to Duddeston, of which Coleshill-street now
makes a part, was sunk five or six feet, though nearly upon a flat,
'till filled up in 1756 by act of Parliament: but the most singular is
that between Deritend and Camp-hill, in the way to Stratford, which is,
even now, many yards below the banks; yet the seniors of the last age
took a pleasure in telling us, they could remember when it would have
buried a wagon load of hay beneath its present surface.

Thus the traveller of old, who came to purchase the produce of
Birmingham, or to sell his own, seemed to approach her by sap.

British traces are, no doubt, discoverable in the old Dudley-road, down
Easy-hill, under the canal; at the eight mile-stone, and at Smethwick:
also in many of the private roads near Birmingham, which were never
thought to merit a repair, particularly at Good-knaves-end, towards
Harborne; the Green-lane, leading to the Garrison; and that beyond
Long-bridge, in the road to Yardley; all of them deep holloways, which
carry evident tokens of antiquity. Let the curious calculator determine
what an amazing length of time would elapse in wearing the deep roads
along Saltleyfield, Shaw-hill, Allum-rock, and the remainder of the way
to Stichford, only a pitiful hamlet of a dozen houses.

The ancient centre of Birmingham seems to have been the Old Cross, from
the number of streets pointing towards it. Wherever the narrow end of a
street enters a great thorough-fare, it indicates antiquity, this is the
case with Philip-street, Bell-street, Spiceal-street, Park-street, and
Moor-street, which not only incline to the centre above-mentioned, but
all terminate with their narrow ends into the grand passage. These
streets are narrow at the entrance, and widen as you proceed: the narrow
ends were formed with the main street at first, and were not, at that
time, intended for streets themselves. As the town increased, other
blunders of the same kind were committed, witness the gateway late at
the east end of New-street, the two ends of Worcester-street,
Smallbrook-street, Cannon-street, New-meeting-streer, and Bull street;
it is easy to see which end of a street was formed first; perhaps the
south end of Moor street is two thousand years older than the north; the
same errors are also committing in our day, as in Hill and Vale streets,
the two Hinkleys and Catharine-street. One generation, for want of
foresight, forms a narrow entrance, and another widens it by Act of

Every word in the English language carries an idea: when a word,
therefore, strikes the ear, the mind immediately forms a picture, which
represents it as faithfully as the looking-glass the face.--Thus, when
the word Birmingham occurs, a superb picture instantly expands in the
mind, which is best explained by the other words grand, populous,
extensive, active, commercial and humane. This painting is an exact
counter-part of the word at this day; but it does not correspond with
its appearance, in the days of the ancient Britons--We must, therefore,
for a moment, detach the idea from the word.

Let us suppose, then, this centre surrounded with less than one hundred
stragling huts, without order, which we will dignify with the name of
houses; built of timber, the interfaces wattled with sticks, and
plaistered with mud, covered with thatch, boards or sods; none of them
higher than the ground story. The meaner sort only one room, which
served for three uses, shop, kitchen, and lodging room; the door for
two, it admitted the people and the light. The better sort two rooms,
and some three, for work, for the kitchen, and for rest; all three in a
line, and sometimes fronting the street.

If the curious reader chooses to see a picture of Birmingham, in the
time of the Britons, he will find one in the turnpike road, between
Hales-owen and Stourbridge, called the Lie Waste, alias Mud City. The
houses stand in every direction, composed of one large and ill-formed
brick, scoped into a tenement, burnt by the sun, and often destroyed by
the frost: the males naked; the females accomplished breeders. The
children, at the age of three months, take a singular hue from the sun
and the soil, which continues for life. The rags which cover them leave
no room for the observer to guess at the sex. Only one person upon the
premisses presumes to carry a belly, and he a landlord. We might as well
look for the moon in a coal-pit, as for stays or white linen in the City
of Mud. The principal tool in business is the hammer, and the beast of
burden, the ass.

The extent of our little colony of artists, perhaps reached nearly as
high as the east end of New-street, occupied the upper part of
Spiceal-street, and penetrated down the hill to the top of Digbeth,
chiefly on the east.

Success, which ever waits on Industry, produced a gradual, but very slow
increase: perhaps a thousand years elapsed without adding half that
number of houses.

Thus our favourite plantation having taken such firm root, that she was
able to stand the wintry blasts of fortune, we shall digress for a
moment, while she wields her sparkling heat, according to the fashion of
the day, in executing the orders of the sturdy Briton; then of the
polite and heroic Roman; afterwards of our mild ancestors, the Saxons.
Whether she raised her hammer for the plundering Dane is uncertain, his
reign being short; and, lastly, for the resolute and surly Norman.

It does not appear that Birmingham, from its first formation, to the
present day, was ever the habitation of a gentleman, the lords of the
manor excepted. But if there are no originals among us, we can produce
many striking likenesses--The smoke of Birmingham has been very
propitious to their growth, but not to their maturity.

Gentlemen, as well as buttons, have been stamped here; but, like them,
when finished, are moved off.

They both originate from a very uncouth state, _without form or
comeliness_; and pass through various stages, uncertain of success. Some
of them, at length, receive the last polish, and arrive at perfection;
while others, ruined by a flaw, are deemed _wasters_.

I have known the man of opulence direct his gilt chariot _out_ of
Birmingham, who first approached her an helpless orphan in rags. I have
known the chief magistrate of fifty thousand people, fall from his
phaeton, and humbly ask bread at a parish vestry.

Frequently the wheel of capricious fortune describes a circle, in the
rotation of which, a family experiences alternately, the heighth of
prosperity and the depth of distress; but more frequently, like a
pendulum, it describes only the arc of a circle, and that always at
the bottom.

Many fine estates have been struck out of the anvil, valuable
possessions raised by the tongs, and superb houses, in a two-fold sense,
erected by the trowel.

The paternal ancestor of the late Sir Charles Holte was a native of this
place, and purchaser, in the beginning of Edward the Third, of the
several manors, which have been the honour and the support of his house
to the present time.

Walter Clodshale was another native of Birmingham, who, in 1332,
purchased the manor of Saltley, now enjoyed by his maternal descendant,
Charles Bowyer Adderley, Esq.

Charles Colmore, Esq; holds a considerable estate in the parish; his
predecessor is said to have occupied, in the reign of Henry the Eighth,
that house, now No. 1, in the High-street, as a mercer, and general
receiver of the taxes.

A numerous branch of this ancient family flourishes in Birmingham at
this day.

The head of it, in the reign of James the First, erected New-hall, and
himself into a gentleman. On this desirable eminence, about half a mile
from the buildings, they resided till time, fashion, and success,
removed them, like their predecessors, the sons of fortune, to a
greater distance.

The place was then possessed by a tenant, as a farm; but Birmingham, a
speedy traveller, marched over the premises, and covered them with
twelve hundred houses, on building leases; the farmer was converted into
a steward: his brown hempen frock, which guarded the _outside_ of his
waistcoat, became white holland, edged with ruffles, and took its
station _within_: the pitchfork was metamorphosed into a pen, and his
ancient practice of breeding up sheep, was changed into that of
_dressing their skins_.

Robert Philips, Esq; acquired a valuable property in the seventeenth
century; now possessed by his descendant, William Theodore
Inge, Esquire.

A gentleman of the name of Foxall, assured me, that the head of his
family resided upon the spot, now No. 101, in Digbeth, about four
hundred years ago, in the capacity of a tanner.

Richard Smallbroke, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, in the reign of
George II. was a native of Birmingham, as his ancestors were for many
ages, with reputation: he is said to have been born at number 2 in the
High-street, had great property in the town, now enjoyed by his
descendants, though they have left the place. The families also of
Weaman, Jennings, Whalley, etc. have acquired vast property, and quitted
the meridian of Birmingham; and some others are at this day ripe for
removal. Let me close this bright scene of prosperity, and open another,
which can only be viewed with a melancholy eye. We cannot behold the
distresses of man without compassion; but that distress which follows
affluence, comes with double effect.

We have amongst us a family of the name of Middlemore, of great
antiquity, deducible from the conquest; who held the chief possessions,
and the chief offices in the county, and who matched into the first
families in the kingdom, but fell with the interest of Charles the
First; and are now in that low ebb of fortune, that I have frequently,
with a gloomy pleasure, relieved them at the common charity-board of the
town. Such is the tottering point of human greatness.

Another of the name of Bracebridge, who for more than six hundred years,
figured in the first ranks of life.

A third of the name of Mountfort, who shone with meridian splendor,
through a long train of ages. As genealogy was ever a favourite
amusement, I have often conversed with these solitary remains of
tarnished lustre, but find in all of them, the pride of their family
buried with its greatness:--they pay no more attention to the arms of
their ancestors, than to a scrap of paper, with which they would light
their pipe. Upon consulting one of the name of Elwall, said to be
descended from the Britons, I found him so amazingly defective, that he
could not stretch his pedigree even so high as his grandfather.

A fifth family amongst us, of the name of Arden, stood upon the pinnacle
of fame in the days of Alfred the Great, where perhaps they had stood
for ages before: they continued the elevation about seven hundred years
after; but having treasonable charges brought against them, in the days
of Queen Elizabeth, about two hundred years ago, they were thrown from
this exalted eminence, and dashed to pieces in the fall. In various
consultations with a member of this honourable house, I found the
greatness of his family not only lost, but the memory of it also. I
assured him, that his family stood higher in the scale of honour, than
any private one within my knowledge: that his paternal ancestors, for
about seven generations, were successively Earls of Warwick, before the
Norman conquest: that, though he could not boast a descent from the
famous Guy, he was related to him: that, though Turchell, Earl of
Warwick at the conquest, his direct ancestor, lost the Earldom in favour
of Roger Newburgh, a favourite of William's; yet, as the Earl did not
appear in arms, against the Conqueror, at the battle of Hastings, nor
oppose the new interest, he was allowed to keep forty-six of his manors:
that he retired upon his own vast estate, which he held in dependence,
where the family resided with great opulence, in one house, for many
centuries, 'till their reduction above-mentioned. He received the
information with some degree of amazement, and replied with a serious
face,--"Perhaps there may have been something great in my predecessors,
for my grandfather kept several cows in Birmingham and sold milk."

The families of those ancient heroes, of Saxon and Norman race, are,
chiefly by the mutations of time, and of state, either become extinct,
or as above, reduced to the lowest verge of fortune. Those few
therefore, whose descent is traceable, may be carried higher than that
of the present nobility; for I know none of these last, who claim
peerage beyond Edward the first, about 1295. Hence it follows, that for
antiquity, alliance, and blood, the advantage is evidently in favour of
the lowest class.

Could one of those illustrious shades return to the earth and inspect
human actions, he might behold one of his descendants, dancing at the
lathe; another tippling with his dark brethren of the apron; a third
humbly soliciting from other families such favours as were formerly
granted by his own; a fourth imitating modern grandeur, by contracting
debts he never designs to pay; and a fifth snuff of departed light,
poaching, like a thief in the night, upon the very manors, possessed by
his ancestors.

Whence is it that title, pedigree, and alliance, in superior life, are
esteemed of the highest value; while in the inferior, who have a prior
claim, are totally neglected? The grand design of every creature upon
earth, is to supply the wants of nature. No amusements of body or mind
can be adopted, till hunger is served. When the appetite calls, the
whole attention of the animal, with all its powers, is bound to answer.
Hence arise those dreadful contests in the brute creation, from the lion
in the woods, to the dog, who seizes the bone. Hence the ship, when her
provisions are spent, and she becalmed, casts a savage eye, upon human
sacrifices; and hence, the attention of the lower ranks of men, are too
far engrossed for mental pursuit. They see, like Esau, the honours of
their family devoured with a ravenous appetite. A man with an empty
cupboard would make but a wretched philosopher. But if fortune should
smile upon one of the lower race, raise him a step above his original
standing, and give him a prospect of independence, he immediately begins
to eye the arms upon carriages, examines old records for his name, and
inquires where the Herald's office is kept. Thus, when the urgency of
nature is set at liberty, the bird can whistle upon the branch, the fish
play upon the surface, the goat skip upon the mountain, and even man
himself, can bask in the sunshine of science. I digress no farther.

The situation of St. Martin's church is another reason for fixing the
original centre of Birmingham at the Old Cross. Christianity made an
early and a swift progress in this kingdom; persecution, as might be
expected, followed her footsteps, increased her votaries, and, as was
ever the case, in all new religions, her proselytes were very devout.

The religious fervor of the christians displayed itself in building
churches. Most of those in England are of Saxon original, and were
erected between the fourth and the tenth century; that of St. Martin's
is ancient beyond the reach of historical knowledge, and probably rose
in the early reigns of the Saxon kings.

It was the custom of those times, to place the church, if there was but
one, out of the precincts of the town; this is visible at the present
day in those places which have received no increase.

Perhaps it will not be an unreasonable supposition to fix the erection
of St. Martin's, in the eighth century; and if the inquisitive reader
chooses to traverse the town a second time, he may find its boundaries
something like the following. We cannot allow its extension northward
beyond the east end of New-street; that it included the narrow parts of
Philip street, Bell street, Spiceal street, Moor street, and Park
street. That the houses at this period were more compact than
heretofore; that Digbeth and Deritend, lying in the road to Stratford,
Warwick, and Coventry, all places of antiquity, were now formed. Thus
the church stood in the environs of the town, unincumbered with
buildings. Possibly this famous nursery of arts might, by this time,
produce six hundred houses. A town must increase before its appendages
are formed; those appendages also must increase before there is a
necessity for an additional chapel, and after that increase, the
inhabitants may wait long before that necessity is removed. Deritend is
an appendage to Birmingham; the inhabitants of this hamlet having long
laboured under the inconveniency of being remote from the parish church
of Aston, and too numerous for admission into that of Birmingham,
procured a grant in 1381 to erect a chapel of their own. If we,
therefore, allow three hundred years for the infancy of Deritend, three
hundred more for her maturity, and four hundred since the erection of
her chapel, which is a very reasonable allowance. It will bring us to
the time I mentioned.

It does not appear that Deritend was attended with any considerable
augmentation, from the Norman conquest to the year 1767, when a
turnpike-road was opened to Alcester, and when Henry Bradford publicly
offered a freehold to the man who should first build upon his estate;
since which time Deritend has made a rapid progress: and this dusky
offspring of Birmingham is now travelling apace along her new
formed road.

I must again recline upon Dugdale.--In 1309, William de Birmingham, Lord
of the Manor, took a distress of the inhabitants of Bromsgrove and
King's-norton, for refusing to pay the customary tolls of the market.
The inhabitants, therefore, brought their action and recovered damage,
because it was said, their lands being the ancient demesne of the crown,
they had a right to sell their produce in any market in the King's

It appeared in the course of the trial, that the ancestors of William de
Birmingham had a MARKET HERE before the Norman conquest! I shall have
occasion, in future, to resume this remarkable expression. I have also
met with an old author, who observes, that Birmingham was governed by
two Constables in the time of the Saxons; small places have seldom more
than one. These evidences prove much in favour of the government,
population, and antiquity of the place.

In Domesday-book it is rated at four hides of land. A hide was as much
as a team could conveniently plough in a year; perhaps at that time
about fifty acres: I think there is not now, more than two hundred
ploughed in the parish.

It was also said to contain woods of half a mile in length, and four
furlongs in breadth. What difference subsisted between half a mile and
four furlongs, in ancient time, is uncertain; we know of none now. The
mile was reduced to its present standard in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth: neither are there the least traces of those woods, for at
this day it is difficult to find a stick that deserves the name of a
tree, in the whole manor.--Timber is no part of the manufactory of

Let us survey the town a third time, as we may reasonably suppose it
stood in the most remarkable period of English history, that of the

We cannot yet go farther North of the centre than before, that is, along
the High-street, 'till we meet the East end of New street. We shall
penetrate rather farther into Moor-street, none into Park-street, take
in Digbeth, Deritend, Edgbaston-street, as being the road to Dudley,
Bromsgrove, and the whole West of England; Spiceal-street, the Shambles,
a larger part of Bell street, and Philip-street.

The ancient increase of the town was towards the South, because of the
great road, the conveniency of water, the church, and the manor-house,
all which lay in that quarter: but the modern extension was chiefly
towards the North, owing to the scions of her trades being transplanted
all over the country, in that direction, as far as Wednesbury, Walsall,
and Wolverhampton. But particularly her vicinity to the coal delphs,
which were ever considered as the soul of her prosperity. Perhaps by
this time the number of houses might have been augmented to seven
hundred: but whatever was her number, either in this or any other
period, we cannot doubt her being populous in every æra of her

The following small extract from the register, will show a gradual
increase, even before the restoration:

     Year.  Christenings. Weddings.  Burials
     1555,  37,           15,        27.
     1558,  48,           10,        47.
     1603,  65,           14,        40.
     1625,  76,           18,        47.
     1660,  76, from April to Dec. inclusive.

In 1251, William de Birmingham, Lord of the Manor, procured an
additional charter from Henry the Third, reviving some decayed
privileges and granting others; among the last was that of the
Whitsuntide fair, to begin on the eve of Holy Thursday, and to continue
four days. At the alteration of the style, in 1752, it was prudently
changed to the Thursday in Whitsun week; that less time might be lost to
the injury of work and the workman. He also procured another fair, to
begin on the eve of St. Michael, and continue for three days. Both which
fairs are at this day in great repute.

By the interest of Audomore de Valance, earl of Pembroke, a licence was
obtained from the crown, in 1319 to charge an additional toll upon every
article sold in the market for three years, towards paving the town.
Every quarter of corn to pay one farthing, and other things in

We have no reason to believe that either the town or the market were
small at that time, however, at the expiration of the term, the toll
was found inadequate to the expence, and the work lay dormant for
eighteen years, till 1337, when a second licence was obtained, equal to
the first, which completed the intention.

Those streets, thus dignified with a pavement, or rather their sides, to
accommodate the foot passenger, probably were High-street, the
Bull-ring, Corn-cheaping, Digbeth, St. Martin's-lane, Moat-lane,
Edgbaston-street, Spiceal-street, and part of Moor-street.

It was the practice, in those early days, to leave the center of a
street unpaved, for the easier passage of carriages and horses; the
consequence was, in flat streets the road became extremely dirty, almost
impassable, and in a descent, the soil was quickly worn away, and left a
causeway on each side. Many instances of this ancient practice are
within memory.

The streets, no doubt, in which the fairs were held, mark the boundaries
of the town in the thirteenth century. Though smaller wares were sold
upon the spot used for the market, the rougher articles, such as cattle,
were exposed to sale in what were then the _out-streets_. The fair for
horses was held in Edgbaston-street, and that for beasts in the
High-street, tending towards the Welch Cross.

Inconvenient as these streets seem for the purpose, our dark ancestors,
of peaceable memory, found no detriment, during the infant state of
population, in keeping them there. But we, their crowded sons, for want
of accommodation, have wisely removed both; the horse-fair, in 1777, to
Brick-kiln-lane, now the extreme part of the town; and that for beasts,
in 1769, into the open part of Dale-end.

Whatever veneration we may entertain for ancient custom, there is
sometimes a necessity to break it. Were we now to solicit the crown for
a fair, those streets would be the last we should fix on.

If we survey Birmingham in the twelfth century, we shall find her
crowded with timber, within and without; her streets dirty and narrow;
but considering the distant period, much trodden, yet, compared with her
present rising state, but little.

The inhabitant became an early encroacher upon nor narrow streets, and
sometimes the lord was the greatest. Her houses were mean and low, but
few reaching higher than one story, perhaps none more than two;
composed of wood and plaister--she was a stranger to brick. Her public
buildings consisted solely of one, _the church_.

If we behold her in the fourteenth century, we shall observe her private
buildings multiplied more than improved; her narrow streets, by
trespass, become narrower, for she was ever chargeable with neglect; her
public buildings increased to four, two in the town, and two at a
distance, the Priory, of stone, founded by contribution, at the head of
which stood her lord; the Guild, of timber, now the Free School; and
Deritend Chapel, of the same materials, resembling a barn, with
something like an awkward dove-coat, at the west end, by way of steeple.
All these will be noticed in due course.

If we take a view of the inhabitants, we shall find them industrious,
plain, and honest; the more of the former, generally, the less of
dishonesty, if their superiors lived in an homelier stile in that
period, it is no wonder _they_ did. Perhaps our ancestors acquired more
money than their neighbours, and not much of that; but what they had was
extremely valuable: diligence will accumulate. In curious operations,
known only to a few, we may suppose the artist was amply paid.

Nash, in his History of Worcestershire, gives us a curious list of
anecdotes, from the church-wardens ledger, of Hales-Owen. I shall
transcribe two, nearly three hundred years old. "_Paid for bread and
ale, to make my Lord Abbot drink, in Rogation week, 2d._" What should we
now think of an ecclesiastical nobleman, accepting a two-penny treat
from a country church-warden?

This displays an instance of moderation in a class of people famous for
luxury. It shows also the amazing reduction of money: the same sum which
served my Lord Abbot four days, would now be devoured in four
minutes.--"1498, _paid for repeyling the organs, to the organmaker at
Bromicham_, 10_s_." Birmingham then, we find, discovered the powers of
genius in the finer arts, as well as in iron. By '_the_ organmaker,' we
mould suppose there was but one.

It appears that the art of acquiring riches was as well understood by
our fathers, as by us; while an artist could receive as much money for
tuning an organ, as would purchase an acre of land, or treat near half a
gross of Lord Abbots.



Clarendon reproaches with virulence, our spirited ancestors, for
disloyalty to Charles the First.--The day after the King left
Birmingham, on his march from Shrewsbury, in 1642, they seized his
carriages, containing the royal plate and furniture, which they
conveyed, for security, to Warwick Castle. They apprehended all
messengers and suspected persons; frequently attacked, and reduced small
parties of the royalists, whom they sent prisoners to Coventry.--Hence
the proverbial expression of a refractory person, _Send him to

In 1643, the King ordered Prince Rupert, with a detachment of two
thousand men, to open a communication between Oxford and York. In his
march to Birmingham, he found a company of foot, kept for the
parliament, lately reinforced by a troop of horse from the garrison at
Lichfield: but, supposing they would not resist a power of ten to one,
sent his quarter masters to demand lodging, and offer protection.

But the sturdy sons of freedom, having cast up slight works at each end
of the town, and barricaded the lesser avenues, rejected the offer and
the officers. The military uniting in one small and compact body,
assisted by the inhabitants, were determined the King's forces mould not
enter. Their little fire opened on the Prince: but bravery itself,
though possessed of an excellent spot of ground for defence, was obliged
to give way to numbers. The Prince quickly put them to silence; yet,
under the success of his own arms, he was not able to enter the town,
for the inhabitants had choaked up, with carriages, the deep and narrow
road, then between Deritend and Camp-hill, which obliged the Prince to
alter his route to the left, and proceed towards Long-bridge.

The spirit of resistance was not yet broken; they sustained a second
attack, but to no purpose, except that of laughter. A running fight
continued through the town; victory declared loudly for the Prince; the
retreat became general: part of the vanquished took the way to Oldbury.

William Fielding, Earl of Denbigh, a volunteer under the Prince, being
in close pursuit of an officer in the service of the parliament, and
both upon the full gallop, up Shirland-lane, in the manor of Smethwick,
the officer instantly turning, discharged a pistol at the Earl, and
mortally wounded him with a random shot.

The parliament troops were animated in the engagement by a clergyman,
who acted as governor, but being taken in the defeat, and refusing
quarter, was killed in the Red Lion-inn.

The Prince, provoked at the resistance, in revenge, set fire to the
town. His wrath is said to have kindled in Bull-street, and consumed
several houses near the spot, now No. 12.

He obliged the inhabitants to quench the flames with a heavy fine, to
prevent farther military execution. Part of the fine is said to have
been shoes and stockings for his people.

The parliament forces had formed their camp in that well chosen angle,
which divides the Stratford and Warwick roads, upon Camp-hill.

The victorious Prince left no garrison, because their insignificant
works were untenable; but left an humbled people, and marched to the
reduction of Lichfield.

In 1665, London was not only visited with the plague, but many other
parts of England, among which, Birmingham felt this dreadful mark of the
divine judgment.

The infection is said to have been caught by a box of clothes, brought
by the carrier, and lodged at the White-hart. Depopulation ensued. The
church-yard was insufficient for the reception of the dead, who were
conveyed to Ladywood-green, one acre of waste land, then denominated the
Pelt Ground.

The charter for the market has evidently been repeated by divers kings,
both Saxon and Norman, but when first granted is uncertain, perhaps at
an early Saxon date; and the day seems never to have been changed
from Thursday.

The lords were tenacious of their privileges; or, one would think, there
was no need to renew their charter. Prescription, necessity, and
increasing numbers, would establish the right.

Perhaps, in a Saxon period, there was room sufficient in our
circumscribed market-place, for the people and their weekly supplies;
but now, their supplies would fill it, exclusive of the people.

Thus by a steady and a persevering hand, she kept a constant and uniform
stroke at the anvil, through a vast succession of ages: rising superior
to the frowns of fortune: establishing a variety of productions from
iron: ever improving her inventive powers, and perhaps, changing a
number of her people, equal to her whole inhabitants, every sixteen
years, till she arrived at another important period, the end of the
civil wars of Charles the first.




It is the practice of the historian, to divide ancient history from
modern, at the fall of the Roman Empire. For, during a course of about
seven hundred years, while the Roman name beamed in meridian splendour,
the lustre of her arms and political conduct influenced, more or less,
every country in Europe. But at the fall of that mighty empire, which
happened in the fifth century, every one of the conquered provinces was
left to stand upon its own basis. From this period, therefore, the
history of nations takes a material turn. The English historian divides
his ancient account from the modern, at the extinction of the house of
Plantagenet, in 1485, the fall of Richard the Third. For, by the
introduction of letters, an amazing degree of light was thrown upon
science, and also, by a new system of politics, adopted by Henry the
Seventh, the British constitution, occasioned by one little act of
parliament, that of allowing liberty to sell land, took a very
different, and an important course.

But the ancient and modern state of Birmingham, must divide at the
restoration of Charles the Second. For though she had before, held a
considerable degree of eminence; yet at this period, the curious arts
began to take root, and were cultivated by the hand of genius. Building
leases, also, began to take effect, extension followed, and numbers of
people crowded upon each other, as into a Paradise.

As a kind tree, perfectly adapted for growth, and planted in a suitable
soil, draws nourishment from the circumjacent ground, to a great extent,
and robs the neighbouring plants of their support, that nothing can
thrive within its influence; so Birmingham, half whose inhabitants above
the age of ten, perhaps, are not natives, draws her annual supply of
hands, and is constantly fed by the towns that surround her, where her
trades are not practised. Preventing every increase to those neighbours
who kindly contribute to her wants. This is the case with Bromsgrove,
Dudley, Stourbridge, Sutton, Lichfield, Tamworth, Coleshill,
and Solihull.

We have taken a view of Birmingham in several periods of existence,
during the long course of perhaps three thousand years. Standing
sometimes upon presumptive ground. If the prospect has been a little
clouded, it only caused us to be more attentive, that we might not be
deceived. But, though we have attended her through so immense a space,
we have only seen her in infancy. Comparatively small in her size,
homely in her person, and coarse in her dress. Her ornaments, wholly of
iron, from her own forge.

But now, her growths will be amazing; her expansion rapid, perhaps not
to be paralleled in history. We shall see her rise in all the beauty of
youth, of grace, of elegance, and attract the notice of the commercial
world. She will also add to her iron ornaments, the lustre of every
metal, that the whole earth can produce, with all their illustrious race
of compounds, heightened by fancy, and garnished with jewels. She will
draw from the fossil, and the vegetable kingdoms; press the ocean for
shell, skin and coral. She will also tax the animal, for horn, bone, and
ivory, and she will decorate the whole with the touches of her pencil.

I have met with some remarks, published in 1743, wherein the author
observes, "That Birmingham, at the restoration, probably consisted only
of three streets." But it is more probable it consisted of fifteen,
though not all finished, and about nine hundred houses.

I am sensible, when an author strings a parcel of streets together, he
furnishes but a dry entertainment for his reader, especially to a
stranger. But, as necessity demands intelligence from the historian, I
must beg leave to mention the streets and their supposed number
of houses.

     Digbeth, nearly the same as now, except
       the twenty-tree houses between the two
       Mill-lanes, which are of a modern date,
       about                                      110
     Moat-lane (Court-lane)                        12
     Corn-market and Shambles                      40
     Spiceal-street                                50
     Dudley-street                                 50
     Bell-street                                   50
     Philip-street                                 30
     St. Martin's-lane                             15
     Edgbaston-street                              70
     Lee's-lane                                    10
     Park-street, extending from Digbeth nearly
       to the East end of Freeman-street           80
     More-street, to the bottom of Castle-street,  70
     Bull-street, not so high as the Minories,     50
     High-street,                                 100
     Deritend;                                    120
     Odd houses scattered round the verge of
       the town                                    50
         The number of inhabitants,   5,472.

The same author farther observes, "That from the Restoration to the year
1700, the streets of Birmingham were increased to thirty one." But I can
make their number only twenty-eight, and many of these far from
complete. Also, that the whole number of houses were 2,504, and the
inhabitants 15,032. The additional streets therefore seem to have been
Castle-street, Carr's-lane, Dale-end, Stafford-street, Bull lane,
Pinfold-street, Colmore-street, the Froggery, Old Meeting-street,
Worcester-street, Peck-lane, New-street, (a small part,) Lower

From the year 1700 to 1731, there is said to have been a farther
addition of twenty-five streets, I know of only twenty-three: and also
of 1,215 houses, and 8,250 inhabitants. Their names we offer as
under;--Freeman-street, New Meeting-street, Moor-street, (the North
part), Wood-street, the Butts, Lichfield-street; Thomas's-street,
John's-street, London-'prentice street, Lower priory, The Square,
Upper-priory, Minories, Steel-house-lane, Cherry-street, Cannon-street,
Needless-alley, Temple-street, King's street, Queen-street, Old
Hinkleys, Smallbrook-street, and the East part of Hill-street.

I first saw Birmingham July 14, 1741, and will therefore perambulate its
boundaries at that time with my traveller, beginning at the top of
Snow-hill, keeping the town on our left, and the fields that then were,
on our right.

Through Bull-lane we proceed to Temple-street; down Peck lane, to the
top of Pinfold-street; Dudley-street, the Old Hinkleys to the top of
Smallbrook street, back through Edgbaston-street, Digbeth, to the upper
end of Deritend. We shall return through Park-street, Mass-house-lane,
the North of Dale end, Stafford-street, Steel-house-lane, to the top of
Snow-hill, from whence we set out.

If we compare this account with that of 1731, we shall not find any
great addition of streets; but those that were formed before, were much
better filled up. The new streets erected during these ten years were
Temple-row, except about six houses. The North of Park-street, and of
Dale-end; also, Slaney-street, and a small part of the East side of
Snow hill.

From 1741, to the present year 1780, Birmingham seems to have acquired
the amazing augmentation of seventy one streets, 4172 houses, and
25,032 inhabitants.

Thus her internal property is covered with new-erected buildings, tier
within tier. Thus she opens annually, a new aspect to the traveller; and
thus she penetrates along the roads that surround her, as if to unite
with the neighbouring towns, for their improvement in commerce, in arts,
and in civilization.

I have often led my curious enquirer round Birmingham, but, like the
thread round the swelling clue, never twice in the same tract. We shall
therefore, for the last time, examine her present boundaries. Our former
journey commenced at the top of Snow-hill, we now set off from
the bottom.

The present buildings extend about forty yards beyond the Salutation, on
the Wolverhampton road. We now turn up Lionel-street, leaving St.
Paul's, and about three new erected houses, on the right[1]; pass close
to New-Hall, leaving it on the left, to the top of Great Charles-street,
along Easy-hill: we now leave the Wharf to the right, down
Suffolk-street, in which are seventy houses, leaving two infant streets
also to the right, in which are about twelve houses each: up to
Holloway-head, thence to Windmill-hill, Bow-street, Brick-kiln-lane,
down to Lady-well, along Pudding-brook, to the Moat, Lloyd's
Slitting-mill, Digbeth, over Deritend bridge, thence to the right, for
Cheapside; cross the top of Bradford-street, return by the Bridge to
Floodgate-street, Park-street, Bartholomew's-chapel, Grosvenor-street,
Nova scotia-street, Woodcock-lane, Aston-street, Lancaster-street,
Walmer-lane, Price's-street, Bath-street, to the bottom of Snow-hill.

[Footnote 1: The above was written in May 1780, and the three houses are
now, March 14, 1781, multiplied into fifty-five.]

The circle I have described is about five miles, in which is much ground
to be filled up. There are also beyond this crooked line, five clumps of
houses belonging to Birmingham, which may be deemed hamlets.

At the Sand-pits upon the Dudley-road, about three furlongs from the
buildings, are fourteen houses.

Four furlongs from the Navigation-office, upon the road to Hales-owen,
are twenty-nine.

One furlong from Exeter row, towards the hand, are thirty-four.

Upon Camp-hill, 130 yards from the junction of the Warwick and Coventry
roads, which is the extremity of the present buildings, are thirty-one.

And two furlongs from the town, in Walmer-lane, are seventeen more.

I shall comprize, in one view, the state of Birmingham in eight
different periods of time. And though some are imaginary, perhaps they
are not far from real.

                               Streets.   Houses.    Souls.
       In the time of the ancient
     Britons,                                 80       400
      A.D.     750,                  8       600      3000
              1066,                  9       700      3500
              1650,                 15       900      5472
              1700,                 28      2504     15032
              1731,                 51      3717     23286
              1741,                 54      4114     24660
              1780,                125      8382     50295

In 1778, Birmingham, exclusive of the appendages, contained 8042 houses,
48252 inhabitants.

At the same time, Manchester consisted of 3402, houses, and 22440

In 1779, Nottingham contained 3191 houses, and 17711 souls.

It is easy to see, without the spirit of prophecy, that Birmingham hath
not yet arrived at her zenith, neither is she likely to reach it for
ages to come. Her increase will depend upon her manufactures; her
manufactures will depend upon the national commerce; national commerce,
will depend upon a superiority at sea; and this superiority may be
extended to a long futurity.

The interior parts of the town, are like those of other places,
parcelled out into small free-holds, perhaps, originally purchased of
the Lords of the Manor; but, since its amazing increase, which began
about the restoration, large tracts of land have been huxtered out upon
building leases.

Some of the first that were granted, seem to have been about Worcester
and Colmore streets, at the trifling annual price of one farthing per
yard, or under.

The market ran so much against the lesor, that the lessee had liberty to
build in what manner he pleased; and, at the expiration of the term,
could remove the buildings unless the other chose to purchase them. But
the market, at this day, is so altered, that the lessee gives four-pence
per yard; is tied to the mode of building, and obliged to leave the
premisses in repair.

The itch for building is predominant: we dip our fingers into mortar
almost as soon as into business. It is not wonderful that a person
should be hurt by the _falling_ of a house; but, with us, a man
sometimes breaks his back by _raising_ one.

This private injury, however, is attended with a public benefit of the
first magnitude; for every "_House to be Let_," holds forth a kind of
invitation to the stranger to settle in it, who, being of the laborious
class, promotes the manufactures.

If we cannot produce many houses of the highest orders in architecture,
we make out the defect in numbers. Perhaps _more_ are erected here, in a
given time, than in any place in the whole island, London excepted.

It is remarkable, that in a town like Birmingham, where so many houses
are built, the art of building is so little understood. The stile of
architecture in the inferior sort, is rather showy than lasting.

The proprietor generally contracts for a house of certain dimensions, at
a stipulated price: this induces the artist to use some ingredients of
the cheaper kind, and sometimes to try whether he can cement the
materials with sand, instead of lime.

But a house is not the only thing spoilt by the builder; he frequently
spoils himself: out of many successions of house-makers, I cannot
recollect one who made a fortune.

Many of these edifices have been brought forth, answered the purposes
for which they were created, and been buried in the dust, during my
short acquaintance with Birmingham. One would think, if a man can
survive a house, he has no great reason to complain of the shortness
of life.

From the external genteel appearance of a house, the stranger would be
tempted to think the inhabitant possessed at least a thousand pounds;
but, if he looks within, he sees only the ensigns of beggary.

We have people who enjoy four or five hundred pounds a year in houses,
none of which, perhaps, exceed six pounds per annum. It may excite a
smile, to say, I have known two houses erected, one occupied by a man,
his wife, and three children; the other pair had four; and twelve
guineas covered every expence.

Pardon, my dear reader, the omission of a pompous encomium on their
beauty, or duration.

I am inclined to think two thirds of the houses in Birmingham stand upon
new foundations, and all the places of worship, except Deritend Chapel.

About the year 1730, Thomas Sherlock, late Bishop of London, purchased
the private estate of the ladies of the manor, chiefly land, about four
hundred per annum.

In 1758, the steward told me it had increased to twice the original
value. The pious old Bishop was frequently solicited to grant building
leases, but answered, "His land was valuable, and if built upon, his
successor, at the expiration of the term, would have the rubbish to
carry off:" he therefore not only refused, but prohibited his successor
from granting such leases.

But Sir Thomas Gooch, who succeeded him, seeing the great improvement of
the neighbouring estates, and wisely judging fifty pounds per acre
preferable to five, procured an act in about 1766, to set aside the
prohibiting clause in the Bishop's will.

Since which, a considerable town may be said to have been erected upon
his property, now about 1600_l_. per annum.

An acquaintance assured me, that in 1756 he could have purchased the
house he then occupied for 400_l_. but refused. In 1770, the same house
was sold for 600_l_. and in 1772, I purchased it for eight hundred and
thirty-five guineas, without any alteration, but what time had made for
the worse: and for this enormous price I had only an old house, which I
was obliged to take down. Such is the rapid improvement in value, of
landed property, in a commercial country.

Suffer me to add, though foreign to my subject, that these premises were
the property of an ancient family of the name of Smith, now in decay;
where many centuries ago one of the first inns in Birmingham, and well
known by the name of the Garland House, perhaps from the sign; but
within memory, Potter's Coffee-house.

Under one part was a room about forty-five feet long, and fifteen wide,
used for the town prison.

In sinking a cellar we found a large quantity of tobacco-pipes of a
angular construction, with some very antique earthen ware, but no coin;
also loads of broken bottles, which refutes the complaint of our pulpits
against modern degeneracy, and indicates, the vociferous arts of getting
drunk and breaking glass, were well understood by our ancestors.

In penetrating a bed of sand, upon which had stood a work-shop, about
two feet below the surface we came to a tumolus six feet long, three
wide, and five deep, built very neat, with tiles laid flat, but no
cement. The contents were mouldered wood, and pieces of human bone.

I know of no house in Birmingham, the inns excepted, whose annual rent
exceeds eighty pounds. By the lamp books, the united rents appear to be
about seventy thousand, which if we take at twenty years purchase, will
compose a freehold of 1,400,000_l_. value.

If we allow the contents of the manor to be three thousand acres, and
deduct six hundred for the town, five hundred more for roads, water, and
waste land; and rate the remaining nineteen hundred, at the average rent
of 2_l_. 10s. per acre; we shall raise an additional freehold of
4,750_l_. per ann.

If we value this landed property at thirty years purchase, it will
produce 142,500_l_. and, united with the value of the buildings, the
fee-simple of this happy region of genius, will amount to 1,542,500_l_.




We accuse our short-sighted ancestors, and with reason, for leaving us
almost without a church-yard and a market-place; for forming some of our
streets nearly without width, and without light. One would think they
intended a street without a passage, when they erected Moor-street; and
that their successors should light their candles at noon.

Something, however, may be pleaded in excuse, by observing the concourse
of people was small, therefore a little room would suffice; and the
buildings were low, so that light would be less obstructed: besides, we
cannot guess at the future but by the present. As the increase of the
town was slow, the modern augmentation could not then be discovered
through the dark medium of time; but the prospect into futurity is at
this day rather brighter, for we plainly see, and perhaps with more
reason, succeeding generations will blame us for neglect. We occupy the
power to reform, without the will; why else do we suffer enormities to
grow, which will have taken deep root in another age? If utility and
beauty can _be joined together_ in the street, why are they ever _put
asunder_? It is easy for Birmingham to be as rapid in her improvement,
as in her growth.

The town consists of about 125 streets, some of which acquired their
names from a variety of causes, but some from no cause, and others, have
not yet acquired a name.

Those of Bull street, Cannon street, London Prentice street, and Bell
street, from the signs of their respective names.

Some receive theirs from the proprietors of the land, as Smallbrook
street, Freeman street, Colmore street, Slaney street, Weaman street,
Bradford street, and Colmore row.

Digbeth, or Ducks Bath, from the Pools for accommodating that animal,
was originally Well street, from the many springs in its neighbourhood.

Others derive a name from caprice, as Jamaica row, John, Thomas, and
Philip streets.

Some, from a desire of imitating the metropolis, as, Fleet-street,
Snow-hill, Ludgate-hill, Cheapside, and Friday-street.

Some again, from local causes, as High-street, from its elevation, St.
Martin's-lane, Church-street, Cherry-street, originally an orchard,
Chapel-street, Bartholomew-row, Mass-house-lane, Old and New
Meeting-streets, Steelhouse-lane, Temple-row and Temple-street, also
Pinfold-street, from a pinfold at No. 85, removed in 1752.

Moor-street, anciently Mole-street, from the eminence on one side, or
the declivity on the other.

Park-street seems to have acquired its name by being appropriated to the
private use of the lord of the manor, and, except at the narrow end next
Digbeth, contained only the corner house to the south, entering
Shut-lane, No. 82, lately taken down, which was called The Lodge.

Spiceal-street, anciently Mercer-street, from the number of mercers
shops; and as the professors of that trade dealt in grocery, it was
promiscuously called Spicer-street. The present name is only a
corruption of the last.

The spot, now the Old Hinkleys, was a close, till about 1720, in which
horses were shown at the fair, then held in Edgbaston-street. It was
since a brick-yard, and contained only one hut, in which the
brick-maker slept.

The tincture of the smoky shops, with all their _black furniture_, for
weilding gun-barrels, which afterwards appeared on the back of
Small-brooke-street, might occasion the original name _Inkleys_; ink is
well known; leys, is of British derivation, and means grazing ground; so
that the etymology perhaps is _Black pasture_.

The Butts; a mark to shoot at, when the bow was the fashionable
instrument of war, which the artist of Birmingham knew well how to make,
and to use.

Gosta Green (Goose-stead-Green) a name of great antiquity, now in
decline; once a track of commons, circumscribed by the Stafford road,
now Stafford-street, the roads to Lichfield and Coleshill, now Aston and
Coleshill-streets, and extending to Duke-street, the boundary of
the manor.

Perhaps, many ages after, it was converted into a farm, and was, within
memory, possessed by a person of the name of Tanter, whence,

Sometimes a street fluctuates between two names, as that of Catharine
and Wittal, which at length terminated in favour of the former.

Thus the names of great George and great Charles stood candidates for
one of the finest streets in Birmingham, which after a contest of two or
three years, was carried in favour of the latter.

Others receive a name from the places to which they direct, as
Worcester-street, Edgbaston-street, Dudley-street, Lichfield-street,
Aston-street, Stafford-street, Coleshill-street, and Alcester-street.

A John Cooper, the same person who stands in the list of donors in St.
Martin's church, and who, I apprehend, lived about two hundred and fifty
years ago, at the Talbot, now No. 20, in the High-street, left about
four acres of land, between Steelhouse-lane, St. Paul's chapel, and
Walmer-lane, to make love-days for the people of Birmingham; hence,

Various sounds from the trowel upon the premises, in 1758, produced the
name of _Love-day-street_ (corrupted into Lovely-street.)

This croft is part of an estate under the care of Lench's Trust; and, at
the time of the bequest, was probably worth no more than ten shillings
per annum.

At the top of Walmer-lane, which is the north east corner of this croft,
stood about half a dozen old alms-houses, perhaps erected in the
beginning of the seventeenth century, then at a considerable distance
from the town. These were taken down in 1764, and the present
alms-houses, which are thirty-six, erected near the spot, at the expence
of the trust, to accommodate the same number of poor widows, who have
each a small annual stipend, for the supply of coals.

This John Cooper, for some services rendered to the lord of the manor,
obtained three privileges, That of regulating the goodness and price of
beer, consequently he stands in the front of the whole liquid race of
high tasters; that he should, whenever he pleased, beat a bull in the
Bull-ring, whence arises the name; and, that he should be allowed
interment in the south porch of St. Martin's church. His memory ought to
be transmitted with honor, to posterity, for promoting the harmony of
his neighbourhood, but he ought to have been buried in a dunghill, for
punishing an innocent animal.--His wife seems to have survived him, who
also became a benefactress, is recorded in the same list, and their
monument, in antique sculpture, is yet visible in the porch.



Perhaps there is not by nature so much difference in the capacities of
men, as by education. The efforts of nature will produce a ten-fold crop
in the field, but those of art, fifty.

Perhaps too, the seeds of every virtue, vice, inclination, and habit,
are sown in the breast of every human being, though not in an equal
degree. Some of these lie dormant for ever, no hand inviting their
cultivation. Some are called into existence by their own internal
strength, and others by the external powers that surround them. Some of
these seeds flourish more, some less, according to the aptness of the
soil, and the modes of assistance. We are not to suppose infancy the
only time in which these scions spring, no part of life is exempt. I
knew a man who lived to the age of forty, totally regardless of music. A
fidler happening to have apartments near his abode, attracted his ear,
by frequent exhibitions, which produced a growing inclination for that
favourite science, and he became a proficient himself. Thus in advanced
periods a man may fall in love with a science, a woman, or a bottle.
Thus avarice is said to shoot up in ancient soil, and thus, I myself
bud forth in history at fifty-six.

The cameleon is said to receive a tincture from the colour of the object
that is nearest him; but the human mind in reality receives a bias from
its connections. Link a man to the pulpit, and he cannot proceed to any
great lengths in profligate life. Enter him into the army, and he will
endeavour to swear himself into consequence. Make the man of humanity an
overseer of the poor, and he will quickly find the tender feelings of
commiseration hardened. Make him a physician, and he will be the only
person upon the premises, the heir excepted, unconcerned at the prospect
of death. Make him a surgeon, and he will amputate a leg with the same
indifference with which a cutler saws a piece of bone for a knife
handle. You commit a rascal to prison because he merits transportation,
but by the time he comes out he merits a halter. By uniting also with
industry, we become industrious. It is easy to give instances of people
whose distinguishing characteristic was idleness, but when they breathed
the air of Birmingham, diligence became the predominant feature. The
view of profit, like the view of corn to the hungry horse, excites
to action.

Thus the various seeds scattered by nature into the soul at its first
formation, either lie neglected, are urged into increase by their own
powers, or are drawn towards maturity by the concurring circumstances
that attend them.

The late Mr. Grenville observed, in the House of Commons, "That commerce
tended to corrupt the morals of a people." If we examine the expression,
we shall find it true in a certain degree, beyond which, it tends to
improve them.

Perhaps every tradesman can furnish out numberless instances of small
deceit. His conduct is marked with a littleness, which though allowed by
general consent, is not strictly just. A person with whom I have long
been connected in business, asked, if I had dealt with his relation,
whom he had brought up, and who had lately entered into commercial life.
I answered in the affirmative. He replied, "He is a very honest fellow."
I told him I saw all the finesse of a tradesman about him. "Oh, rejoined
my friend, a man has a right to say all he can in favour of his own
goods." Nor is the seller alone culpable. The buyer takes an equal share
in the deception. Though neither of them speak their sentiments, they
well understand each other. Whilst the treaty is agitating, the profit
of the tradesman vanishes, yet the buyer pronounces against the article;
but when finished, the seller whispers his friend, "It is well sold,"
and the buyer smiles if a bargain.

Thus is the commercial track a line of minute deceits.

But, on the other hand, it does not seem possible for a man in trade to
pass this line, without wrecking his reputation; which, if once broken,
can never be made whole. The character of a tradesman is valuable, it is
his all; therefore, whatever seeds of the vicious kind shoot forth in
the mind, are carefully watched and nipped in the bud, that they may
never blossom into action.

Thus having slated the accounts between morality and trade, I shall
leave the reader to draw the ballance. I shall not pronounce after so
great a master, and upon so delicate a subject, but shall only ask,
"Whether the people in trade are more corrupt than those out?"

If the curious reader will lend an attentive ear to a pair of farmers in
the market, bartering for a cow, he will find as much dissimulation as
at St. James's, or at any other saint's, but couched in homelier phrase.
The man of well-bred deceit is '_infinitely_ your friend--It would give
him _immense_ pleasure to serve you!' while the man in the frock 'Will
be ---- if he tells you a word of a lye!' Deception is an innate
principle of the human heart, not peculiar to one man, or one

Having occasion for a horse, in 1759, I mentioned it to an acquaintance,
and informed him of the uses: he assured me, he had one that would
exactly suit; which he showed in the stable, and held the candle pretty
high, _for fear of affecting the straw_. I told him it was needless to
examine him, for I should rely upon his word, being conscious he was too
much my friend to deceive me; therefore bargained, and caused him to be
sent home. But by the light of the sun, which next morning illumined the
heavens, I perceived the horse was _greased_ on all fours. I therefore,
in gentle terms, upbraided my friend with duplicity, when he replied
with some warmth, "I would cheat my own brother in a horse." Had this
honourable friend stood a chance of selling me a horse once a week, his
own interest would have prevented him from deceiving me.

A man enters into business with a view of acquiring a fortune--A
laudable motive! That property which rises from honest industry, is an
honour to its owner; the repose of his age; the reward of a life of
attention: but, great as the advantage seems, yet, being of a private
nature, it is one of the least in the mercantile walk. For the
intercourse occasioned by traffic, gives a man a view of the world, and
of himself; removes the narrow limits that confine his judgment; expands
the mind; opens his understanding; removes his prejudices; and polishes
his manners. Civility and humanity are ever the companions of trade;
the man of business is the man of liberal sentiment; a barbarous and
commercial people, is a contradiction; if he is not the philosopher of
nature, he is the friend of his country, and well understands her
interest. Even the men of inferior life among us, whose occupations, one
would think, tend to produce minds as callous as the mettle they work;
lay a stronger claim to civilization, than in any other place with which
I am acquainted. I am sorry to mutilate the compliment, when I mention
the lower race of the other sex: no lady ought to be publicly insulted,
let her appear in what dress she pleases. Both sexes, however, agree in
exhibiting a mistaken pity, in cases of punishment, particularly by
preventing that for misconduct in the military profession.

It is singular, that a predilection for Birmingham, is entertained by
every denomination of visitants, from Edward Duke of York, who saw us in
1765, down to the presuming quack, who, griped with necessity, boldly
discharges his filth from the stage. A paviour, of the name of Obrien,
assured me in 1750, that he only meant to sleep one night in Birmingham,
in his way from London to Dublin. But instead of pursuing his journey
next morning, as intended, he had continued in the place thirty-five
years: and though fortune had never elevated him above the pebbles of
the street, yet he had never repented his stay.

It has already been remarked that I first saw Birmingham in 1741,
accidentally cast into those regions of civility; equally unknown to
every inhabitant, nor having the least idea of becoming one myself.
Though the reflections of an untaught youth of seventeen cannot be
striking, yet, as they were purely natural, permit me to describe them.

I had been before acquainted with two or three principal towns. The
environs of all I had seen were composed of wretched dwellings, replete
with dirt and poverty; but the buildings in the exterior of Birmingham
rose in a style of elegance. Thatch, so plentiful in other towns, was
not to be met with in this. I was surprised at the place, but more so at
the people: They were a species I had never seen: They possessed a
vivacity I had never beheld: I had been among dreamers, but now I saw
men awake: Their very step along the street showed alacrity: Every man
seemed to know and prosecute his own affairs: The town was large, and
full of inhabitants, and those inhabitants full of industry. I had seen
faces elsewhere tinctured with an idle gloom void of meaning, but here,
with a pleasing alertness: Their appearance was strongly marked with the
modes of civil life: I mixed a variety of company, chiefly of the lower
ranks, and rather as a silent spectator: I was treated with an easy
freedom by all, and with marks of favour by some: Hospitality seemed to
claim this happy people for her own, though I knew not at that time from
what cause.

I did not meet with this treatment in 1770, twenty nine years after, at
Bosworth, where I accompanied a gentleman, with no other intent, than to
view the field celebrated for the fall of Richard the third. The
inhabitants enjoyed the cruel satisfaction of setting their dogs at us
in the street, merely because we were strangers. Human figures, not
their own, are seldom seen in those inhospitable regions: Surrounded
with impassable roads, no intercourse with man to humanise the mind, no
commerce to smooth their rugged manners, they continue the boors
of nature.

Thus it appears, that characters are influenced by profession. That the
great advantage of private fortune, and the greater to society, of
softening and forming the mind, are the result of trade. But these are
not the only benefits that flow from this desirable spring. It opens the
hand of charity to the assistance of distress; witness the Hospital and
the two Charity Schools, supported by annual donation: It adds to the
national security, by supplying the taxes for internal use, and, for
the prosecution of war. It adds to that security, by furnishing the
inhabitants with riches, which they are ever anxious to preserve, even
at the risk of their lives; for the preservation of private wealth,
tends to the preservation of the state.

It augments the value of landed property, by multiplying the number of
purchasers: It produces money to improve that land into a higher state
of cultivation, which ultimately redounds to the general benefit, by
affording plenty.

It unites bodies of men in social compact, for their mutual interest: It
adds to the credit and pleasure of individuals, by enabling them to
purchase entertainment and improvement, both of the corporeal and
intellectual kind.

It finds employment for the hand that would otherwise be found in
mischief: And it elevates the character of a nation in the scale of

Birmingham, by her commercial consequence, has, of late, justly assumed
the liberty of nominating one of the representatives for the county;
and, to her honor, the elective body never regretted her choice.

In that memorable contest of 1774, we were almost to a man of one mind:
if an _odd dozen_ among us, of a different _mould_, did not assimulate
with the rest, they were treated, as men of free judgment should ever be
treated, _with civility_, and the line of harmony was not broken.

If this little treatise happens to travel into some of our corporate
places, where the fire of contention, blown by the breath of party, is
kept alive during seven years, let them cast a second glance over the
above remark.

Some of the first words after the creation, _increase and multiply_, are
applicable to Birmingham; but as her own people are insufficient for the
manufactures, she demands assistance for two or three miles round her.
In our early morning walks, on every road proceeding from the town, we
meet the sons of diligence returning to business, and bringing _in_ the
same dusky smuts, which the evening before they took out. And though
they appear of a darkish complexion, we may consider it is the property
of every metal to sully the user; money itself has the same effect, and
yet he deems it no disgrace who is daubed by fingering it; the disgrace
lies with him who has none to finger.

The profits arising from labour, to the lower orders of men, seem to
surpass those of other mercantile places. This is not only visible in
the manufactures peculiar to Birmingham, but in the more common
occupations of the barber, taylor, shoe-maker, etc. who bask in the rays
of plenty.

It is entertaining to the curious observer, to contemplate the variation
of things. We know of nothing, either in the natural or moral world,
that continues in the same state: From a number of instances that might
be adduced, permit me to name one--that of money. This, considered in
the abstract, is of little or no value; but, by the common consent of
mankind, is erected into a general arbitrator, to fix a value upon all
others: a medium through which every thing passes: a balance by which
they must be weighed: a touchstone to which they must be applied to find
their worth: though we can neither eat nor drink it, we can neither eat
nor drink without it.--He that has none best knows its use.

It has long been a complaint, that the same quantity of that medium,
money, will not produce so much of the necessaries of life, particularly
food, as heretofore; or, in other words, that provisions have been
gradually rising for many ages, and that the milling, which formerly
supported the laborious family a whole week, will not now support it
one day.

In times of remarkable scarcity, such as those in 1728, 41, 56, 66, and
74, the press abounded with publications on the subject; but none, which
I have seen, reached the question, though short.

It is of no consequence, whether a bushel of corn sells for six _pence_,
or six _shillings_, but, what _time_ a man must labour before he
can earn one?

If, by the moderate labour of thirty-six hours, in the reign of Henry
the Third, he could acquire a groat, which would purchase a bushel of
wheat; and if, in the reign of George the Third, he works the same
number of hours for eight shillings, which will make the same purchase,
the balance is exactly even. If, by our commercial concerns with the
eastern and the western worlds, the kingdom abounds with bullion, money
must be cheaper; therefore a larger quantity is required to perform the
same use. If money would go as far now as in the days of Henry the
Third, a journeyman in Birmingham might amass a ministerial fortune.

Whether provisions abound more or less? And whether the poor fare better
or worse, in this period than in the other? are also questions dependant
upon trade, and therefore worth investigating.

If the necessaries of life abound more in this reign, than in that of
Henry the Third, we cannot pronounce them dearer.

Perhaps it will not be absurd to suppose, that the same quantity of
land, directed by the superior hand of cultivation, in the eighteenth
century, will yield twice the produce, as by the ignorant management of
the thirteenth. We may suppose also, by the vast number of new
inclosures which have annually taken place since the revolution, that
twice the quantity of land is brought into cultivation: It follows, that
four times the quantity of provisions is raised from the earth, than was
raised under Henry the Third; which will leave a large surplus in hand,
after we have deducted for additional luxury, a greater number of
consumers, and also for exportation.

This extraordinary stock is also a security against famine, which our
forefathers severely felt.

It will be granted, that in both periods the worst of the meat was used
by the poor. By the improvements in agriculture, the art of feeding
cattle is well understood, and much in practice; as the land improves,
so will the beast that feeds upon it: if the productions, therefore, of
the slaughter house, in this age, surpass those of Henry the Third, then
the fare of the poor is at least as much superior now, as the worst of
fat meat is superior to the worst of lean.

The poor inhabitants in that day, found it difficult to procure bread;
but in this, they sometimes add cream and butter.

Thus it appears, that through the variation of things a balance is
preserved: That provisions have not advanced in price, but are more
plentiful: And that the lower class of men have found in trade, that
intricate, but beneficial clue, which guides them into the confines
of luxury.

Provisions and the manufactures, like a pair of scales, will not
preponderate together; but as weight is applied to the one, the other
will advance.

As labour is irksome to the body, a man will perform no more of it than
necessity obliges him; it follows, that in those times when plenty
preponderates, the manufactures tend to decay: For if a man can support
his family with three days labour, he will not work six.

As the generality of men will perform no more work than produces a
maintenance, reduce that maintenance to half the price, and they will
perform but half the work: Hence half the commerce of a nation is
destroyed at one blow, and what is lost by one kingdom will be recovered
by another, in rivalship.

A commercial people, therefore, will endeavour to keep provisions at a
superior rate, yet within reach of the poor.

It follows also, that luxury is no way detrimental to trade; for we
frequently observe ability and industry exerted to support it.

The practice of the Birmingham manufacturer, for, perhaps, a hundred
generations, was to keep within the warmth of his own forge.

The foreign customer, therefore, applied to him for the execution of
orders, and regularly made his appearance twice a year; and though this
mode of business is not totally extinguished, yet a very different one
is adopted.

The merchant stands at the head of the manufacturer, purchases his
produce, and travels the whole island to promote the sale: A practice
that would have astonished our fore fathers. The commercial spirit of
the age, hath also penetrated beyond the confines of Britain, and
explored the whole continent of Europe; nor does it stop there, for the
West-Indies, and the American world, are intimately acquainted with the
Birmingham merchant; and nothing but the exclusive command of the
East-India Company, over the Asiatic trade, prevents our riders from
treading upon the heels of each other, in the streets of Calcutta.

To this modern conduct of Birmingham, in sending her sons to the foreign
market, I ascribe the chief cause of her rapid increase.

By the poor's books it appears, there are not three thousand houses in
Birmingham, that pay the parochial rates; whilst there are more then
five thousand that do not, chiefly through inability. Hence we see what
an amazing number of the laborious class of mankind is among us. This
valuable part of the creation, is the prop of the remainder. They are
the rise and support of our commerce. From this fountain we draw our
luxuries and our pleasures. They spread our tables, and oil the wheels
of our carriages. They are also the riches and the defence of
the country.

How necessary then, is it to direct with prudence, the rough passions of
this important race, and make them subservient to the great end of civil
society. The deficiency of conduct in this useful part of our species
ought to be supplied by the superior.

Let not the religious reader be surprised if I say, their follies, and
even their vices, under certain restrictions, are beneficial. Corruption
in the community, as well as in the natural body, accelerates vital

Let us survey one of the men, who begin life at the lowest ebb; without
property, or any other advantage but that of his own prudence.

He comes, by length of time and very minute degrees, from being directed
himself, to have the direction of others. He quits the precincts of
servitude, and enters the dominions of command: He laboured for others,
but now others labour for him. Should the whole race, therefore, possess
the same prudence, they would all become masters. Where then could be
found the servant? Who is to perform the manual part? Who to execute the
orders of the merchant? A world consisting only of masters, is like a
monster consisting only of a head. We know that the head is no more than
the leading power, the members are equally necessary. And, as one member
is placed in a more elevated state than another, so are the ranks of
men, that no void may be left. The hands and the feet, were designed to
execute the drudgery of life; the head for direction, and all are
suitable in their sphere.

If we turn the other side of the picture, we shall see a man born in
affluence, take the reins of direction; but like Phæton, not being able
to guide them, blunders on from mischief to mischief, till he involves
himself in destruction, comes prone to the earth, and many are injured
by his fall. From directing the bridle, he submits to the bit; seeks for
bread in the shops, the line designed him by nature; where his hands
become callous with the file, and where, for the first time in his life,
he becomes useful to an injured society.

Thus, from imprudence, folly, and vice, is produced poverty;--poverty
produces labour; from labour, arise the manufactures; and from these,
the riches of a country, with all their train of benefits.

It would be difficult to enumerate the great variety of trades practised
in Birmingham, neither would it give pleasure to the reader. Some of
them, spring up with the expedition of a blade of grass, and, like that,
wither in a summer. If some are lasting, like the sun, others seem to
change with the moon. Invention is ever at work. Idleness; the
manufactory of scandal, with the numerous occupations connected with the
cotton; the linen, the silk, and the woollen trades, are little
known among us.

Birmingham begun with the productions of the anvil, and probably will
end with them. The sons of the hammer, were once her chief inhabitants;
but that great croud of artists is now lost in a greater: Genius seems
to increase with multitude.

Part of the riches, extension, and improvement of Birmingham, are owing
to the late John Taylor, Esq; who possessed the singular powers of
perceiving things as they really were. The spring, and consequence of
action, were open to his view; whom we may justly deem the Shakespear
or the Newton of his day. He rose from minute beginnings, to
shine in the commercial hemisphere, as they in the poetical and
philosophical--Imitation is part of the human character. An example of
such eminence in himself, promoted exertion in others; which, when
prudence guided the helm, led on to fortune: But the bold adventurer who
crouded sail, without ballast and without rudder, has been known to
overset the vessel, and sink insolvent.

To this uncommon genius we owe the gilt-button, the japanned and gilt
snuff-boxes, with the numerous race of enamels--From the same fountain
also issued the paper snuff-box, at which one servant earned three
pounds ten shillings per week, by painting them at a farthing each.

In his shop were weekly manufactured buttons to the amount of 800_l_
exclusive of other valuable productions.

One of the present nobility, of distinguished taste, examining the
works, with the master, purchased some of the articles, amongst others,
a toy of eighty guineas value, and, while paying for them, observed with
a smile, "he plainly saw he could not reside in Birmingham for less than
two hundred pounds a day."

The toy trades first made their appearance in Birmingham, in the
beginning of Charles the second, in an amazing variety, attended with
all their beauties and their graces. The first in pre-eminence is


This beautiful ornament appears with infinite variation; and though the
original date is rather uncertain, yet we well remember the long coats
of our grandfathers covered with half a gross of high-tops, and the
cloaks of our grandmothers, ornamented with a horn button nearly the
size of a crown piece, a watch, or a John apple, curiously wrought, as
having passed through the Birmingham press.

Though the common round button keeps on with the steady pace of the day,
yet we sometimes see the oval, the square, the pea, and the pyramid,
flash into existence. In some branches of traffic the wearer calls
loudly for new fashions; but in this, the fashions tread upon each
other, and crowd upon the wearer. The consumption of this article is
astonishing. There seem to be hidden treasures couched within this magic
circle, known only to a few, who extract prodigious fortunes out of
this useful toy, whilst a far greater number, submit to a statute of

Trade, like a restive horse, can rarely be managed; for, where one is
carried to the end of a successful journey, many are thrown off by the
way. The next that calls our attention is


Perhaps the shoe, in one form or other, is nearly as ancient as the
foot. It originally appeared under the name of, sandal; this was no
other than a sole without an upper-leather. That fashion hath since been
inverted, and we now, sometimes, see an upper-leather nearly without a
sole. But, whatever was the cut of the shoe, it always demanded a
fastening. Under the house of Plantagenet, it shot horizontally from the
foot, like a Dutch scait, to an enormous length, so that the extremity
was fattened to the knee, sometimes, with a silver chain, a silk lace,
or even a pack-thread string, rather than avoid _genteel taste_.

This thriving beak, drew the attention of the legislature, who were
determined to prune the exorbitant shoot. For in 1465 we find an order
of council, prohibiting the growth of the shoe toe, to more than two
inches, under the penalty of a dreadful curse from the priest, and,
which was worse, the payment of twenty shillings to the king.

This fashion, like every other, gave way to time, and in its stead, the
rose began to bud upon the foot. Which under the house of Tudor, opened
in great perfection. No shoe was fashionable, without being fattened
with a full-blown rose. Under the house of Stuart, the rose withered,
which gave rise to the shoe-string.

The beaus of that age, ornamented their lower tier with double laces of
silk, tagged with silver, and the extremities beautified with a small
fringe of the same metal. The inferior class, wore laces of plain silk,
linen, or even a thong of leather; which last is yet to be met with in
the humble plains of rural life. But I am inclined to think, the artists
of Birmingham had no great hand in fitting out the beau of the
last century.

The revolution was remarkable, for the introduction of William, of
liberty, and the minute buckle; not differing much in size and shape
from the horse bean.

This offspring of fancy, like the clouds, is ever changing. The fashion
of to-day, is thrown into the casting pot to-morrow.

The buckle seems to have undergone every figure, size and shape of
geometrical invention: It has passed through every form in the whole
zodiac of Euclid. The large square buckle is the _ton_ of the present
day. The ladies also, have adopted the reigning taste: It is difficult
to discover their beautiful little feet, covered with an enormous shield
of buckle; and we wonder to see the active motion under the massive
load. Thus the British fair support the manufactures of Birmingham, and
thus they kill by weight of metal.


Though the sword and the gun are equal companions in war, it does not
appear they are of equal original. I have already observed, that the
sword was the manufacture of Birmingham, in the time of the Britons.

But tradition tells us, King William was once lamenting "That guns were
not manufactured in his dominions, but that he was obliged to procure
them from Holland at a great expence, and greater difficulty."

One of the Members for Warwickshire being present, told the King, "He
thought his constituents could answer his Majesty's wishes."--The King
was pleased with the remark, and the Member posted to Birmingham. Upon
application to a person in Digbeth, whose name I forget, the pattern was
executed with precision, which, when presented to the royal board, gave
entire satisfaction. Orders were immediately issued for large numbers,
which have been so frequently repeated that they never lost their road;
and the ingenious artists have been so amply rewarded, that they have
rolled in their carriages to this day.--Thus the same instrument which
is death to one man, is genteel life to another.


It may seem singular to a modern eye, to view this place in the light of
one vast tan-yard.--Though there is no appearance of that necessary
article among us, yet Birmingham was once a famous market for leather.
Digbeth not only abounded with tanners, but large numbers of hides
arrived weekly for sale, where the whole country found a supply. When
the weather would allow, they were ranged in columns in the High-street,
and at other times deposited in the Leather-hall, at the East end of
New-street, appropriated for their reception.

This market was of great antiquity, perhaps not less than seven hundred
years, and continued till the beginning of the present century. We have
two officers, annually chosen, by the name of _leather-sealers_, from a
power given them by ancient charter, to mark the vendible hides; but now
the leather-sealers have no duty, but that of taking an elegant dinner.
Shops are erected upon tan-fats; the Leather-hall is gone to
destruction, and we are reduced to one solitary tanner.


The progress of the arts, is equal to the progress of time; they began,
and will end together. Though some of both are lost, yet they both

The manufacture of iron, in Birmingham, is ancient beyond research; that
of steel is of modern date.

Pride is inseparable from the human character, the man without it, is
the man without breath: we trace it in various forms, through every
degree of people; but like those objects about us, it is best
discovered in our own sphere; those above, and those below us, rather
escape our notice; envy attacks an equal.

Pride induced the Pope to look with contempt on the European Princes,
and now induces them to return the compliment; it taught insolence to
the Spaniard, selfishness to the Dutch; it teaches the rival nations of
France and England to contend for power.

Pride preserves a man from mean actions, it throws him upon meaner; it
whets the sword for destruction; it urges the laudable acts of humanity;
it is the universal hinge on which we move; it glides the gentle stream
of usefulness, it overflows the mounds of reason, and swells into a
destructive flood; like the sun, in his milder rays, it animates and
draws us towards perfection; but, like him, in his fiercer beams, it
scorches and destroys.

Money is not the necessary attendant of pride, for it abounds no where
more than in the lowest ranks. It adds a sprucer air to a sunday dress;
casts a look of disdain from a bundle of rags; it boasts the _honor_ of
a family, while poverty unites a sole and upper-leather with a bandage
of shop-thread. There are people who even _pride_ themselves in

This dangerous _good_, this necessary _evil_, supports the female
character; without it, the brightest part of the creation would

It will be asked, "What portion may be allowed?" Prudence will answer,
"As much as you please, but _not_ to disgust."

It is equally found in the senate-house, or the button-shop; the scene
of action is the scene of pride; and I, unable to adorn this work with
erudition, take a pride in cloathing a worn-out subject afresh, and that
pride will increase, should the world smi ---- "But why, says my friend,
do you forsake the title of your chapter, and lead us a dance through
the mazes of pride? Can there be any connexion between that sovereign
passion, and forging a bar of steel?" Yes, he who makes steel prides
himself in carrying the art one step higher than he who makes iron.

This art appeared among us in the seventeenth century; was introduced by
the family of Kettle. The name of Steelhouse-lane will convey to
posterity the situation of the works, the commercial spirit of
Birmingham, will convey the produce to the Antipodes.

From this warm, but dismal climate, issues the button, which shines on
the breast, and the bayonet, intended to pierce it; the lancet, which
bleeds the man, and the rowel, the horse; the lock, which preserves the
beloved bottle, and the screw, to uncork it; the needle, equally
obedient to the thimble and the pole.


In most occupations, the profit of the master and the journeyman bear a
proportion: if the former is able to figure in genteel life, the latter
is able to figure in silk stockings. If the matter can afford to allow
upon his goods ten per cent. discount for money, the servant can afford
to squander half his wages. In a worn-down trade, where the tides of
profit are reduced to a low ebb, and where imprudence sets her foot upon
the premises, the matter and the man starve together. Only _half_ this
is our present case.

The art of nail-making is one of the most ancient among us; we may
safely charge its antiquity with four figures.

We cannot consider it a trade _in_, so much as _of_ Birmingham; for we
have but few nail-makers left in the town: our nailers are chiefly
masters, and rather opulent. The manufacturers are so scattered round
the country, that we cannot travel far, in any direction, out of the
sound of the nail-hammer. But Birmingham, like a powerful magnet, draws
the produce of the anvil to herself.

When I first approached her, from Walsall, in 1741, I was surprized at
the prodigious number of blacksmiths shops upon the road; and could not
conceive how a country, though populous, could support so many people of
the same occupation. In some of these shops I observed one, or more
females, stript of their upper garment, and not overcharged with their
lower, wielding the hammer with all the grace of the sex. The beauties
of their face were rather eclipsed by the smut of the anvil; or, in
poetical phrase, the tincture of the forge had taken possession of those
lips, which might have been taken by the kiss.

Struck with the novelty, I inquired, "Whether the ladies in this country
shod horses?" but was answered, with a smile, "They are nailers."

A fire without heat, a nailer of a fair complexion, or one who despises
the tankard, are equally rare among them. His whole system of faith may
be comprised in one article--That the slender two-penny mug, used in a
public house, _is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked_.

While the master reaps the harvest of plenty, the workman submits to the
scanty gleanings of penury, a thin habit, an early old age, and a
figure bending towards the earth. Plenty comes not near his dwelling,
except of rags, and of children. But few recruits arise from his
nail-shop, except for the army. His hammer is worn into deep hollows,
fitting the fingers of a dark and plump hand, hard as the timber it
wears. His face, like the moon, is often seen through a cloud.


Man first catches the profession; the profession afterwards moulds the

In whatever profession we engage, we assume its character, become a part
of it, vindicate its honor, its eminence, its antiquity; or feel a wound
through its sides.

Though there may be no more pride in a minister of state, who opens a
budget, than in a tinker who carries one, yet they equally contend for
the honor of their trade.

Every man, from the attorney's clerk to the butcher's apprentice, feels
his own honor, with that of his profession, wounded by travelling on
foot. To be caught on his feet, is nearly the same as to be caught in a
crime. The man who has gathered up his limbs, and hung them on a horse,
looks _down_ with dignity on him who has not; while the man on foot
offers his humble bow, afraid to look up--If providence favours us with
feet, is it a disgrace to use them?--I could instance a person who
condescended to quit London, that center of trick, lace, and equipage;
and in 1761, open a draper's shop in Birmingham: but his feet, or his
_pride_, were so much hurt by walking, that he could scarcely travel ten
doors from his own without a post-chaise--the result was, he became such
an adept in riding, that in a few months, he rode triumphant into the
Gazette. Being quickly scoured bright by the ill-judged laws of
bankruptcy, he rode, for the last time, _out_ of Birmingham, where he
had so often rode _in_: but his injured creditors were obliged to _walk_
after the slender dividend of eighteen pence in the pound. The man who
_can_ use his feet, is envied by him who _cannot_; and he, in turn,
envies him who _will_ not. Our health and our feet, in a double sense,
go together. The human body has been justly compared to a musical
instrument; I add, this instrument was never perfectly in tune, without
a due portion of exercise.

The man of military character, puts on, with his scarlet, that martial
air, which tells us, "he has formed a resolution to kill:" and we
naturally ask, "Which sex?"

Some "_pert and affected author_" with anxiety on his brow, will be apt
to step forward, and say, "Will you celebrate the man of the sword, who
transfers the blush of his face to his back, and neglect the man of the
quill, who, like the pelican, portions out his vitals to feed others?
Which is preferable, he who lights up the mental powers, or he who puts
them out? the man who stores the head with knowledge, or he who stores
it with a bullet?"

The antiquarian supports his dignity with a solemn aspect; he treats a
sin and a smile as synonimous; one half of which has been discarded from
his childhood. If a smile in the house of religion, or of mourning, be
absurd, is there any reason to expel it from those places where it is
not? A tale will generally allow of two ingredients, _information_ and
_amusement_: but the historian and the antiquarian have, from time
immemorial, used but _one_. Every smile, except that of contempt, is
beneficial to the constitution; they tend to promote long life, and
pleasure while that life lasts. Much may be said in favour of tears of
joy, but more on joy without tears. I wonder the lively fancy of Hogarth
never sketched the _dull_ historian, in the figure of an ass, plodding
to market under his panniers, laden with the fruits of antiquity, and
old time driving up the _rear_, with his scythe converted into an

The bellows-maker proclaims the _honor_ of his art, by observing, he
alone produces that instrument which commands the winds; his soft
breeze, like that of the south, counter-acts the chill blasts of winter:
by his efforts, like those of the sun, the world receives light: he
creates when he pleases, and gives _breath_ when he creates. In his
caverns the winds deep at pleasure; and by his _orders_ they set Europe
in flames.

He pretends, that a gentle puff in the eyes of a _reviewer_, from a pair
of his bellows, would tend to clear the sight, and enable him to
distinguish between a smile and a serious face: that his circular board,
like a ferula, applied by the handle to an inferior part, would induce
him to peruse the _whole treatise_, and not partially pronounce from
the preface.

He farther pretends, that the _antiquity_ of his occupation will appear
from the plenty of elm, once in the neighbourhood, but long cut up for
his use: that the leather-market in Birmingham, for many ages, furnished
him with sides; and though the manufacture of iron is allowed to be
extremely ancient, yet the smith could not procure his heat without a
blast, nor could that blast be raised without the bellows.

Two inferences arise from these remarks, that the antiquarian will frown
on this little history; and that bellows-making is one of the oldest
trades in Birmingham.


We, who reside in the interior parts of the kingdom, may observe the
first traces of a river issue from its fountain; the current so
extremely small, that if a bottle of liquor, distilled through the
urinary vessels, was discharged into its course, it would manifestly
augment the water, and quicken the stream: the reviving bottle, having
added spirits to the man, seems to add spirits to the river.--If we
pursue this river, winding through one hundred and thirty miles, we
shall observe it collect strength as it runs, expand its borders, swell
into consequence, employ multitudes of people, carry wealth in its
bosom, and exactly resemble _thread-making_ in Birmingham.

If we represent to our idea, a man able to employ three or four people,
himself in an apron, one of the number; but being _unable_ to write his
name, shows his attachment to the christian religion, by signing the
_cross_ to receipts; whose method of book-keeping, like that of the
publican, is _a door and a lump of chalk;_ producing a book which none
can peruse but himself: who, having manufactured 40lb. weight of thread,
of divers colours, and rammed it into a pair of leather bags, something
larger than a pair of boots, which we might deem the arms of his trade
_empaled_; flung them on a horse, and placed himself on the top, by way
of a _crest_; visits an adjacent market, to starve with his goods at a
stall, or retail them to the mercer, nor return without the money--we
shall see a thread-maker of 1652.

If we pursue this occupation, winding through the mazes of one hundred
and thirty _years_, we shall see it enlarge its boundaries, multiply its
people, increase its consequence and wealth, till 1782, when we behold
the matter in possession of correct accounts, the apron thrown aside,
the stall kicked over, the bags tossed into the garret, and the mercer
overlooked in the grand prospect of exportation. We farther behold him
take the lead in provincial concerns, step into his own carriage, and
hold the king's commission as a magistrate.



The pen of an historian rejoices in the actions of the great; the fame
of the deserving, like an oak tree, is of sluggish growth; and, like the
man himself, they are not matured in a day. The present generation
becomes debtor to him who excels, but the future will discharge that
debt with more than simple interest. The still voice of fame may warble
in his ears towards the close of life, but her trumpet seldom sounds in
full clarion, till those ears are stopped with the finger of death.

This son of genius was born at Wolverley, in the county of Worcester, in
1706; heir to a paternal estate of 60_l_. per annum, which, fifty years
after, while in his own possession, had increased to 90_l_. He was
trained to no occupation; but, in 1726, became a writing-matter in
Birmingham.--In 1737, he taught school in the Bull-ring, and is said to
have written an excellent hand.

As painting suited his talents, he entered into the lucrative branch of
japanning, and resided at No. 22, in Moor-street.

He took, in 1745, a building lease of eight acres, two furlongs north
west of the town, to which he gave the name of _Easy-hill_, converted it
into a little Eden, and built a house in the center: but the town, as if
conscious of his merit, followed his retreat, and surrounded it with
buildings.--Here he continued the business of a japanner for life: his
carriage, each pannel of which was a distinct picture, might be
considered _the pattern-card of his trade_, and was drawn by a beautiful
pair of cream-coloured horses.

His inclination for letters induced him, in 1750, to turn his thoughts
towards the press. He spent many years in the uncertain pursuit; sunk
600_l_. before he could produce one letter to please himself, and some
thousands before the shallow stream of profit began to flow.

His first attempt, in 1756, was a quarto edition of Virgil, price one
guinea, now worth several.--He afterwards printed Paradise Lost, the
Bible, Common Prayer, Roman and English Classics, etc. in various sizes,
with more satisfaction to the literary world than emolument to himself.

In 1765, he applied to his friend, Dr. Franklin, then at Paris, and now
Ambassador from America, to sound the literati, respecting the purchase
of his types; but received for answer, "That the French, reduced by the
war of 1756, were so far from pursuing schemes of taste, that they were
unable to repair their public buildings, but suffered the scaffolding to
rot before them."

In private life he was a humorist; idle in the extreme; but his
invention was of the true Birmingham model, active. He could well
design, but procured others to execute; wherever he found merit he
caressed it: he was remarkably polite to the stranger; fond of show: a
figure rather of the smaller size, and delighted to adorn that figure
with gold lace.--Although constructed with the light timbers of a
frigate, his movement was solemn as a ship of the line.

During the twenty-five years I knew him, though in the decline of life,
he retained the singular traces of a handsome man. If he exhibited a
peevish temper, we may consider good-nature and intense thinking are
not always found together.

Taste accompanied him through the different walks of agriculture,
architecture, and the finer arts. Whatever passed through his fingers,
bore the lively marks of John Baskerville.

His aversion to christianity would not suffer him to lie among
christians; he therefore erected a mausoleum in his own grounds for his
remains, and died without issue, in 1775, at the age of 69.--Many
efforts were used after his death, to dispose of the types; but, to the
lading discredit of the British nation, no purchaser could be found in
the whole commonwealth of letters. The universities coldly rejected the
offer. The London booksellers understood no science like that of profit.
The valuable property, therefore, lay a dead weight, till purchased by a
literary society at Paris, in 1779, for 3700_l_.

It is an old remark, that no country abounds with genius so much as this
island; and it is a remark nearly as old, that genius is no where so
little rewarded; how else came Dryden, Goldsmith, and Chatterton to want
bread? Is merit, like a flower of the field, too common to attract
notice? or is the use of money beneath the care of exalted talents?

Invention seldom pays the inventor. If you ask, what fortune Baskerville
ought to have been rewarded with? "The _most_ which can be comprised in
five figures." If you farther ask, what he possessed? "The _least_;" but
none of it squeezed from the press. What will the shade of this great
man think, if capable of thinking, that he has spent a fortune of
opulence, and a life of genius, in carrying to perfection the greatest
of all human inventions; and his productions, slighted by his country,
were hawked over Europe, in quest of a bidder?

We must _revere_, if we do not _imitate_, the taste and economy of the
French nation, who, brought by the British arms, in 1762, to the verge
of ruin, rising above distress, were able, in 17 years, to purchase
Baskerville's elegant types, refused by his own country, and expend an
hundred thousand pounds in printing the works of Voltaire!


The curious art before us is perhaps less ancient than profitable, and
less healthful than either. I shall not enquire whose grandfather was
the first brass-founder here, but shall leave their grandsons to settle
that important point with my successor who shall next write the History
of Birmingham. Whoever was the first, I believe he figured in the reign
of King William; but, though he sold his productions at an excessive
price, he did not, like the moderns, possess the art of acquiring a
fortune: but now the master knows the way to affluence, and the servant
to liquor.

To enumerate the great variety of occupations amongst us, would be as
useless, and as unentertaining to the reader, perhaps to the writer, as
to count the pebbles in the street.

Having therefore visited a few, by way of specimen, I shall desist from
farther pursuit, and wheel off in a


Wherever the view of profit opens, the eyes of a Birmingham man are open
to see it.

In 1775, a person was determined to try if a Hackney Coach would take
with the inhabitants. He had not mounted the box many times before he
inadvertently dropped the expression, "Thirty shillings a day!" The word
was attended with all the powers of magic, for instantly a second rolled
into the circus.

And these elevated sons of the lash are now augmented to fifteen, whom
we may justly denominate a club of tippling deities, who preside over
weddings, christenings, and pleasurable excursions.

It would give satisfaction to the curious calculator, could any mode be
found of discovering the returns of trade, made by the united
inhabitants. But the question is complicated. It only admits of surmise.
From comparing many instances in various ranks of life among us, I have
been led to suppose, that the weekly returns exceed the annual rent of
the buildings. And as these rents are nearly ascertained, perhaps, we
may conclude, that those returns are about 80,000. If we deduct for four
weeks holidays, the annual returns will be--3,840,000_l_.

Now we have entered the visionary regions of fancy, let us pursue the
thought a stage farther; and consider Birmingham as one great family,
possessed of a capital of Eight Millions. Her annual returns in trade as
above, from which we will deduct for the purchase of

     Raw materials  -   -   -   -   -   -   -    1,920,000
     House rent, repairs and taxes  -   -   -      100,000
     Losses in trade    -   -   -   -   -   -       50,000
     Maintenance, clothing, and pleasurable
       expences, for 50,000 people, at 10_s_.
       per week     -   -   -   -   -   -   -    1,300,000
     Annual addition to the capital -   -   -      470,000

Should a future antagonist arise, and attack me in numbers, I promise
beforehand to relinquish the field; for I profess only, to stand upon
ideal ground.


Perhaps a public bank is as necessary to the health of the commercial
body, as exercise to the natural. The circulation of the blood and
spirits are promoted by one, so are cash and bills by the other; and a
stagnation is equally detrimental to both. Few places are without: Yet
Birmingham, famous in the annals of traffic, could boast no such claim.
To remedy this defect therefore, about every tenth trader was a banker,
or, a retailer of cash. At the head of whom were marshalled the whole
train of drapers and grocers, till the year 1765, when a regular bank
was established by Messrs. Taylor and Lloyd, two opulent tradesmen,
whose credit being equal to that of the bank of England, quickly
collected the shining rays of sterling property into its focus.


Have you, my dear reader, seen a sword hilt, of curious, and of
Birmingham manufactory, covered with spangles of various sizes, every
one of which carries a separate lustre, but, when united, has a dazzling
effect? Or, have you seen a ring, from the same origin, set with
diamonds of many dimensions, the least of which, sparkles with amazing
beauty, but, when beheld in cluster, surprize the beholder? Or, have
you, in a frosty evening, seen the heavens bespangled with refulgent
splendor, each stud shining with intrinsic excellence, but, viewed in
the aggregate, reflect honour upon the maker, and enliven the
hemisphere? Such is the British government. Such is that excellent
system of polity, which shines, the envy of the stranger, and the
protector of the native.

Every city, town and village in the English hemisphere, hath a separate
jurisdiction of its own, and may justly be deemed _a stud in the
grand lustre_.

Though the British Constitution is as far from perfection, as the glory
of the ring and the hilt is from that of the sun which causes it, or the
stars from the day; yet perhaps it stands higher in the scale of
excellence, than that of its neighbours. We may, with propriety, allow
that body to shine with splendor, which hath been polishing for
seventeen hundred years. Much honour is due to the patriotic merit
which advanced it to its present eminence.

Though Birmingham is but one sparkle of the brilliant clustre, yet she
is a sparkle of the first _water_, and of the first _magnitude_.

The more perfect any system of government, the happier the people. A
wise government will punish for the commission of crimes, but a wiser
will endeavour to prevent them. Man is an active animal: If he is not
employed in some useful pursuit, he will employ himself in mischief.
Example is also prevalent: If one man falls into error, he often draws
another. Though heaven, for wise purposes, suffers a people to fulfil
the measure of their iniquities, a prudent state will nip them in
the bud.

It is easy to point out some places, only one third the magnitude of
Birmingham, whose frequent breaches of the law, and quarrels among
themselves, find employment for half a dozen magistrates, and four times
that number of constables; whilst the business of this, was for many
years conducted by a single Justice, the late John Wyrley, Esq. If the
reader should think I am mistaken and object, that parish affairs cannot
be conducted without a second? Let me reply, He conducted that
second also.

As human nature is nearly the same, whether in or out of Birmingham; and
as enormities seem more prevalent out than in, we may reasonably ascribe
the cause to the extraordinary industry of the inhabitants, not allowing
time to brood over, and bring forth mischief, equal to places of
inferior diligence.

We have at present two acting magistrates to hold the beam of justice,
the Rev. Benjamin Spencer, and Joseph Carles, Esq; who both reside at
a distance.

Many of our corporate towns received their charters from that amiable,
but unfortunate prince, Henry the Second. These were the first dawnings
of British liberty, after fixing the Norman yoke. They were afterwards
ratified and improved by the subsequent Kings of England; granting not
only the manors, but many exclusive privileges. But at this day, those
places which were so remarkably favoured with the smiles of royalty, are
not quite so free as those that were not. The prosperity of this happy
place proves the assertion, of which every man is free the moment
he enters.

We often behold a pompous corporation, which sounds well in history,
over something like a dirty village--This is a head without a body. The
very reverse is our case--We are a body without a head. For though
Birmingham has undergone an amazing alteration in extension, riches and
population, yet the government is nearly the same as the Saxons left it.
This part of my important history therefore must suffer an eclipse: This
illustrious chapter, that rose in dazling brightness, must be veiled in
the thick clouds of obscurity: I shall figure with my corporation in a
despicable light. I am not able to bring upon the stage, a mayor and a
group of aldermen, dressed in antique scarlet, bordered with fur,
drawing a train of attendants; the meanest of which, even the pinder, is
badged with silver: Nor treat my guest with a band of music, in scarlet
cloaks with broad laces. I can grace the hand of my Birmingham fidler
with only a rusty instrument, and his back with barely a whole coat;
neither have I a mace for the inaugeration of the chief magistrate. The
reader, therefore, must either quit the place, or be satisfied with such
entertainment as the company affords.

The officers, who are annually chosen, to direct in this prosperous feat
of fortune, are

     An High Bailiff.   Two High Tasters.
     Low Bailiff.       Two Low Tasters.
     Two Constables.    Two Asseirers. And
     Headborough.       Two Leather Sealers.

All which, the constables excepted, are no more than servants to the
lord of the manor; and whose duty extends no farther, than to the
preservation of the manorial rights.

The high bailiff is to inspect the market, and see that justice takes
place between buyer and seller; to rectify the weights and dry measures
used in the manor.

The low bailiff summons a jury, who choose all the other officers, and
generally with prudence. But the most important part of his office is,
to treat his friends at the expence of about Seventy Pounds.

The headborough is only an assistant to the constables, chiefly in time
of absence.

High tasters examine the goodness of beer, and its measure.

Low tasters inspect the meat exposed to sale, and cause that to be
destroyed which is unfit for use.

Asseirers ratify the chief rent and amercements, between the lord and
the inhabitant. And the

Leather sealers, stamped a public seal upon the hides, when Birmingham
was a market for leather.

These manorial servants, instituted by ancient charter, chiefly possess
a name, without an office. Thus order seems assisted by industry, and
thus a numerous body of inhabitants are governed without a governor.

Exclusive of the choice of officers, the jury impannelled by the low
bailiff, have the presentation of all encroachments upon the lord's
waste, which has long been neglected.

The duties of office are little known, except that of taking a generous
dinner, which is punctually observed. It is too early to begin business
till the table is well stored with bottles, and too late afterwards.

During the existence of the house of Birmingham, the court-leet was held
at the Moat, in what we should now think a large and shabby room,
conducted under the eye of the low bailiff, at the expence of the lord.

The jury, twice a year, were witnesses, that the famous dish of roast
beef, ancient as the family who gave it, demanded the head of the table.
The court was afterwards held at the Leather-hall, and the expence,
which was trifling, borne by the bailiff. Time, prosperity, and
emulation, are able to effect considerable changes. The jury, in the
beginning of the present century, were impannelled in the Old Cross,
then newly erected, from whence they adjourned to the house of the
bailiff, and were feasted at the growing charge of _two or
three pounds_.

This practice continued till about the year 1735, when the company,
grown too bulky for a private house, assembled at a tavern, and the
bailiff enjoyed the singular privilege of consuming ten pounds upon
his guests.

It is easier to advance in expences than to retreat. In 1760, they had
increased to forty pounds, and in the next edition of this work, we may
expect to see the word _hundred_.

The lord was anciently founder of the feast, and treated his bailiff;
but now that custom is inverted, and the bailiff treats his lord.

The proclamation of our two fairs, is performed by the high bailiff, in
the name of the Lord of the Manor; this was done a century ago, without
the least expence. The strength of his liquor, a silver tankard, and the
pride of shewing it, perhaps induced him, in process of time, to treat
his attendants.

His ale, without a miracle, was, in a few years, converted into wine,
and that of various sorts; to which was added, a small collation; and
now his friends are complimented with a card, to meet him at the Hotel,
where he incurs an expence of twenty pounds.

While the spirit of the people refines by intercourse, industry, and the
singular jurisdiction among us, this insignificant pimple, on our head
of government, swells into a wen.

Habits approved are soon acquired: a third entertainment has, of late
years, sprung up, termed _the constables feast_, with this difference,
_it is charged to the public_. We may consider it a wart on the
political body, which merits the caustic.

Deritend, being a hamlet of Birmingham, sends her inhabitants to the
court-leet, where they perform suit and service, and where her constable
is chosen by the same jury.

I shall here exhibit a defective list of our principal officers during
the last century. If it should be objected, that a petty constable is
too insignificant, being the lowest officer of the crown, for admission
into history; I answer, by whatever appellation an officer is accepted,
he cannot be insignificant who stands at the head of 50,000 people.
Perhaps, therefore, the office of constable may be sought for in
future, and the officer himself assume a superior consequence.

The dates are the years in which they were chosen, fixed by charter,
within thirty days after Michaelmas.


1680   John Simco          John Cottrill
1681   John Wallaxall      William Guest
1682   George Abel         Samuel White
1683   Thomas Russell      Abraham Spooner
1684   Roger Macham        William Wheely
1685   Thomas Cox          John Green
1686   Henry Porter        Samuel Carless
1687   Samuel Banner       John Jesson
1690   Joseph Robinson     John Birch
1691   John Rogers         Richard Leather
1692   Thomas Robins       Corbet Bushell
1693   Joseph Rann         William Sarjeant
1694   Rowland Hall        John Bryerly
1695   Richard Scott       George Wells
1696   Joseph Haddock      Robert Mansell
1697   James Greir         John Foster
1698   John Baker          Henry Camden
1699   William Kettle      Thomas Gisborn
1700   John Wilson         Joseph Allen
1701   Nicholas Bakewell   Richard Banner
1702   William Collins     Robert Groves
1703   Henry Parrot        Benjamin Carless
1704   William Brierly     John Hunt
1705   Jonathan Seeley     Thomas Holloway
1706   Robert Moore        John Savage
1707   Isaac Spooner       Samuel Hervey
1708   Richard Weston      Thomas Cope
1709   Samuel Walford      Thomas Green
1710   John Foxall         William Norton
1711   Stephen Newton      John Taylor
1712   William Russel      John Cotterell
1713   John Shaw           Thomas Hallford
1714   Randall Bradburn    Joseph May
1715   Stephen Newton      Samuel Russell
1716   Stephen Newton      Joseph Carless
1717   Abraham Foxall      William Spilsbury
1718   John Gisborn        Henry Carver
1719   Samuel Hays         Joseph Smith
1720   John Barnsley       John Humphrys
1721   William Bennett     Thomas Wilson
1722   John Harrison       Simon Harris




Of the TOWN of BIRMINGHAM, from 1732, to 1782.


1732  Thomas Wilson    John Webster      Joseph Bradnock    John Wilson
1733  John Webster     Joseph Kettle     Thomas Nickin      James Baker
1734  John Wickins     Thomas Lakin   [2]Joseph Scott, esq; James Taylor
1735  Joseph Marston   John Russell      John Webster       Thomas Ashfield
1736  Joseph Bradnock  Robert Moore      Thomas Wickins     Joseph Fullelove
1737  James Baker      Isaac Ingram      John Kettle        Richard Porter
1738  Joseph Smith     William Mason     William Hunt       Henry Hun
1739  Thomas Wickens   William Harvey    Edward Burton      John England
1740  Simon Harris     Thomas Russel     Joseph Richards    T. Honeyborn
1741  Daniel Gill      George Abney      Thomas Turner      John Bedford
1743  Josiah Jefferys  William Kettle    John Russel        Thomas
1744  George Davies    J. Humphrys, Jr.  William Mason      William Ward
1745  Edward Burton    Robert Moore      Joseph Wollaston   John Turner
1747  Thomas Ashwell   J. Taylor, esq;   Joseph Walker      Josiah Hunt
1748  Thomas Wickens   John Roe          Robert Moore       John Horton
1749  Joseph Fullelove Richard Brett     Henry Hunt         Joseph Ruston
1750  Thomas Lakin     Joseph Smith      John Gill          Luke Bell
1751  Thomas Turner    Benj. Mansell     John Walters       W. Walsingham
1752  James Baker      John Taylor       Price Thomas       Joseph Thomas
1753  E. Jordan, esq;  Samuel Harvey     Samuel Birch       Samuel Richards
1754  Thomas Cottrell  Joseph Richards   John Bellears      John Camden
1755  Joseph Walker    John Wells[3]     Stephen Colmore    John Powell
1756  John Bellears    J. Kettle, esq;   Ambrose Foxall     John Gray
1757  William Patteson Joseph Webster    J. Darbyshire      Richard Brett
1758  James Horton     T. Lawrence       Thomas Richards    Sam. Pemberton
1759  John Walker      Thomas Abney      G. Spilsbury       Edward Weston
1760  John Turner      Abel Humphrys     Richard Dingley    Web Marriott
1761  John Baskerville Stephen Bedford   Michael Lakin      Nehemiah Bague
1762  Joseph Thomas    James Jackson     George Birch       John Green
1763  John Gold        John Lee          William Parks      John Daws
1764  Richard Hicks    J. Ryland         S. Bradburn, esq;  Geo. Anderton
1765  Thomas Vallant   Sam. Richards     Ed. H. Noble       Elias Wallin
1766  John Lane        Henry Venour      John Lane          Joseph Adams
1767  John Horn        Jo. Wilkinson     Richard Rabone     Thomas Care
1768  Gregory Hicks    W. Russell, esq;  Thomas Bingham     John Moody
1769  James Male       Samuel Ray        Thomas Gisborne    William Mansell
1770  Joshua Glover    Thomas Russell    T. Lutwyche        Thomas Barker
1771  John Harris      J. Hornblower     Thomas Cooper      Walter Salt
1772  William Holden   Jos. Tyndall      R. Anderton        T. Hunt
1773  Thomas Westley   John Richards     Ob. Bellamy        John Smart
1774  John Ward        John Francis      W. Hodgkins        Thomas Wight
1775  Thomas Hurd      John Taylor, esq; John Startin       T. Everton
1776  E.W. Patteson    Josiah Rogers     Thomas Corden      Joseph Wright
1777  Ed. Thomason     S. Pemberton      Joseph Jukes       Joseph Sheldon
1778  Joseph Green     William Hunt      Thomas Wright      John Allen[4]
1779  T. Faulconbridge W. Humphrys       John Guest         Jonathan Wigley
1780  Daniel Winwood   William Scott     William Thomas     John Bird
1781  William Hicks    W. Taylor, esq;   John Dallaway      Richard Porter
1782  Thomas Carless   G. Humphrys       John Holmes        Thomas Barrs

[Footnote 2: Joseph Scott, Esq; not choosing the official part, procured
a substitute to perform it, in the person of the late Constable
James Baker.]

[Footnote 3: in office, Benjamin Mansell was chosen in his stead.]

[Footnote 4: was charged with a fine of 25_l_. by the lady of the manor,
and John Miles chosen in his stead.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Three of the Inhabitants have, since I knew the place, served the Office
of SHERIFF for the County, viz.

     John Taylor, Esquire, in - - - - 1756.
     Edward Jordan, Esquire, in - - - 1757.
     And Isaac Spooner, Esquire, in - 1763.


Law is the very basis of civil society, without it man would quickly
return to his original rudeness; the result would be, robbery and
blood:--and even laws themselves are of little moment, without a due
execution of them--there is a necessity to annex punishment.

But there is no necessity to punish the living, who are innocent, by
hanging the dead bodies of criminals in the air. This indecent and
inhuman custom, which originated from the days of barbarism, reflects an
indelible disgrace upon a civilized age. The intention, no doubt, was
laudable; to prevent the commission of crimes, but does it answer that

In 1759, two brothers, of the name of Darby, were hung in chains near
Hales-Owen, since which time there has been only one murder committed in
the whole neighbourhood, and that under the very gibbet upon which
they hung[5].

[Footnote 5: Joseph Skidmore, a carrier of Stourbridge, having Ann
Mansfield, a young woman of Birmingham, under his care, ravished and
murdered her in the evening of December 10, 1774.]

Justice, however, points out a way wherein the dead body, by conveying
chirurgical knowledge, may be serviceable to the living.

Laws generally tend, either directly, or remotely, to the protection of

All wise legislators have endeavoured to proportion the punishment to
the crime, but never to exceed it: a well conducted state holds forth a
scale of punishments for transgressions of every dimension, beginning
with the simple reprimand, and proceeding downwards even to
death itself.

It will be granted, that the line of equity ought to be drawn with
critical exactness.

If by fair trade, persuasion, or finesse, I get the property of another
into my hands, even to the trifling value of a shilling, my effects
ought to be responsible for that sum.

If I possess no effects, he certainly retains a right of punishing to
that amount: for if we do not lay this line in the boundaries of strict
justice, it will not lie upon any other ground. And if I am allowed
fraud in one shilling, I am allowed it in a greater sum. How far
punishment may be softened by concurring circumstances, is
another question.

It therefore follows of course, that if my creditor has a right to
recover his unfortunate property, those laws are the nearest to
perfection, that will enable him to recover it with the most expedition,
and the least expence and trouble to us both.

If the charge of recovery is likely to exceed the debt, he will be apt
to desist, I to laugh at him, and to try my skill at a second

Trade and credit cannot be well separated; they are as closely connected
as the wax and the paper. The laws of credit, therefore, ought to rest
upon a permanent foundation: neither is law necessary to restrain
credit; for if, in a commercial state, it becomes detrimental by its
over growth, it finds itself a remedy.

Much has been said, and perhaps more than has been thought, concerning
the court before us. The loser is expected to complain, and his friends
to give him a partial hearing; and though he breathes _vengeance_
against his antagonist, it ends in a _breath_.

The looker-on can easily spy an error in the actor. If a fault is
committed, we are glad it was done by another; besides, it is no new
thing for the _outs_ to complain of the _ins_. It will plead strongly in
excuse, to say, the intention was right, if the judgment was wrong. If
perfection is required, she does not reside upon earth.

But if these pleadings are not found a balance against prejudice, and a
man suffers his wrath to kindle against a valuable institution, because
perfection does not preside over it, let him peruse an old author, who
asks, "What shall we think of the folly of that man, who throws away the
apple, because it contains a core? despises the nut, for the shell? or
casts the diamond into the sea, because it has a flaw?"

Decision is usually established upon oath, both in criminal courts, and
in those at Westminster, through which the oath is seen to pass with
free currency.

A judge is sometimes fond of sheltering himself behind an oath; it may
be had at an easy rate. Each of the contending parties wishes to win his
cause by an oath: but though oaths would be willingly taken, they ought
to be sparingly given.--They may be considered what they generally are
not, _of the last importance_.

We may observe, that two opponents are ready to swear directly contrary
to each other; that if a man asserts a thing, he can do no less than
swear it; and that, after all, an oath proves nothing.

The commissioners, therefore, wish rather to establish _fact_ upon
_proof_; but, if this is wanting, then upon circumstantial evidence; and
if this support fails, they chuse to finish a quarrel by a moderate,
though a random judgment.

Much honor is due to that judicial luminary, William Murray, Earl of
Mansfield, who presides over the King's-Bench, for introducing equity
into the courts of law, where she had long been a stranger.

The Court of Requests may justly be charged with weakness, and what
court may not? It is inseparable from man.

A person cannot chuse his capacity, but he may chuse to be a rogue; one
is an act of nature, the other of the will. The greater the temptation
to go astray, the greater must be the resolution to conquer it.

One of the suitors presented a commissioner with a couple of chickens,
as a powerful argument to strengthen a feeble case; but the commissioner
returned his present, and the plaintiff lost his cause; and no wonder,
he sent a chicken to plead it.

The defendant, by disobeying the orders of the court, falls under the
power of the plaintiff, who can cause execution to issue against his
goods, and reimburse himself; or, against his body, and confine him
forty days, unless paid his demand.

There is no cause that can be brought before the Court of Requests, but
may be brought before a higher court, and at a higher expence.

A cause passes through this court for seventeen-pence; and cannot well,
by chicanery or neglect, amount to more than two shillings and
nine-pence: So that ruin is not one of its imperfections.

Though law is said to produce quarrels among friends, yet the contending
parties often go out of that court better friends than when they
came in.

It has been objected, that the publicans give credit to the lower class,
in expectation of relief from the court. But the debtor is equally
apprized of the remedy, and often drinks deeper, in expectation of a
mild sentence from the commissioners; besides, is not all credit founded
on the laws of recovery?

It has also been urged, that while punishment pursues the debtor, for
neglect of orders, his family falls upon the community.

But the community would not wish to put a bar between a man and his
property--The precedent would be dangerous: Justice is no respector of
persons. A culprit will soon procure a family, if they are able to plead
his excuse: It would follow, that single men only would be obliged to be
honest. She does not save the criminal, because he is an handsome man.
If she did, beauty would increase in value; but honesty, seldom be its

But can accusation lie against a fair tribunal of rectitude? The man
does not exist that can quarrel with equity, and treat her as the
offspring of fraud---The most amiable character in the creation, and the
immediate representative of supreme excellence. She will be revered,
even by the sons of plunder!

Many of the causes that pass this court, are of a disputable nature, and
if not terminated there, would take a different turn.

From distant views of relief here, even sickness herself finds credit in
the day of distress.

The use of the court is also favourable to trade, for, to oblige a man
to pay his debts, is to oblige him to labour, which improves the

Birmingham, in no period of her existence, has increased with such
rapidity, in people, buildings and commerce, as since the erection of
that court; so that depopulation is not one of its inconveniencies.

From a consideration of the prodigious intercourse subsisting in so vast
a body of people, and the credit consequent thereon, it was wisely
judged necessary to establish an easy, and expeditious method of ending
dispute, and securing property.

The inhabitants of Birmingham, therefore, in 1752, procured an act for
the recovery of debts under Forty Shillings; constituting seventy-two
commissioners, three to be a quorum. They sit for the dispatch of
business in the chamber over the Old Cross every Friday morning, and
there usually appear before them between eighty and one hundred causes:
Their determinations are final. Two clerks also, constituted by the act,
attend the court to give judicial assistance; are always of the law,
chosen alternately by the lord of the manor, and the commissioners, and
to continue for life. Once in every two years, ten of the commissioners
are ballotted out, and ten others of the inhabitants chosen in
their stead.


Order, is preserved by industry. In 1769 an act was obtained, and in
1773 an amendment of the act, for lighting and cleaning the streets of
Birmingham, and for removing obstructions that were prejudicial to the
health or convenience of the inhabitants.

These acts were committed to the care of about seventy-six irresolute
commissioners, with farther powers of preventing encroachments upon
public ground; for it was justly observed, that robbery was a work of
darkness, therefore to introduce light would, in some measure, protect
property. That in a town like Birmingham, full of commerce and
inhabitants, where necessity leads to continual action, no part of the
twenty four hours ought to be dark. That, to avoid darkness, is
sometimes to avoid insult; and that by the light of 700 lamps, many
unfortunate accidents would be prevented.

It was also observed, that in a course of time, the buildings in some of
the ancient streets had encroached upon the path, four or five feet on
each side; which caused an irregular line, and made those streets eight
or ten feet narrower, that are now used by 50,000 people, than they
were, when used only by a tenth part of that number; and, that their
confined width rendered the passage dangerous to children, women, and
feeble age, particularly on the market day and Saturday evening.

That if former encroachments could not be recovered, future ought to be

And farther, that necessity pleads for a wider street now, than
heretofore, not only because the inhabitants, being more numerous,
require more room, but the buildings being more elevated, obstruct the
light, the sun, and the air, which obstructions tend to sickness and

Narrow streets with modern buildings are generally dirty, for want of
these natural helps; as Digbeth, St. Martin's-lane, Swan-alley,
Carr's-lane, &c. The narrower the street, the less it can be influenced
by the sun and the wind, consequently, the more the dirt will abound;
and by experimental observations upon stagnate water in the street, it
is found extremely prejudicial to health. And also, the larger the
number of people, the more necessity to watch over their interest with a
guardian eye.

It may farther be remarked, that an act of parliament ought to
distribute justice with an impartial hand, in which case, content and
obedience may reasonably be expected. But the acts before us carry a
manifest partiality, one man claims a right to an encroachment into the
street, of three or four feet, whilst another is restricted to
twelve inches.

This inactive body of seventy-six, who wisely argue against the
annihilation of one evil, because another will remain; had also powers
to borrow a thousand pounds, to purchase and remove some obstructive
buildings; and to defray the expence by a rate on the inhabitants,
which, after deducting about one hundred and twenty pounds per ann. for
deficiencies, amounted in

     1774, to   912_l_.
     1775, --   902_l_.
     1776, --   947_l_.
     1777, --   965_l_.
     1778, -- 1,012_l_.
     1779, -- 1,022_l_.
     1780, -- 1,021_l_.

Though the town was averse to the measure, as an innovation, they
quickly saw its utility, and seemed to wish a more vigorous exertion of
the commissioners; but numbers sometimes procrastinate design. If it is
difficult to find five men of one mind, it is more difficult to find a
superior number. That business which would run currently through the
hands of five, stagnates at fifteen, the number required.

It is curious to observe a body of commissioners, every one of whom
conducts his own private affairs with propriety and success, attack a
question by the hour, which is as plain as the simplest proposition in
the mathematicks, when not being able to reduce it, and their
ammunition spent, leave the matter undetermined, and retreat in silence.

In works of manual operation a large number may be necessary, but in
works of direction a small one facilitates dispatch.

Birmingham, a capacious field, by long neglect is over-grown with
encroaching weeds. The gentle commissioners, appointed to reduce them,
behold it an arduous work, are divided in opinion, and some withdraw the
hand from the plough; certainly, _the harvest is great, and the
labourers are few_. The manorial powers, which alone could preserve
order, have slept for ages. Regularity has been long extinct. The desire
of trespass is so prevalent, that I have been tempted to question; if it
were not for the powers of the lamp act, feeble as they are, whether the
many-headed-public, ever watchful of prey, would not in another century,
devour whole streets, and totally prevent the passenger. Thus a supine
jurisdiction abounds with _street-robbers_.

There are cases where the line of the street should inviolably be
preserved, as in a common range of houses; therefore all projections
above a given dimension infringe this rule.

There are other cases where taste would direct this line to be broken,
as in buildings of singular size and construction, which should be
viewed in recess. Those of a public nature generally come under this
description, as the free-school, and the hotel, which ought to have
fallen two or three yards back. What pity, that so noble an edifice as
the theatre in New-street, should lose any of its beauty, by the
prominence of its situation!

As Birmingham abounds with new streets, that were once private property,
it is a question often discussed, In what point of time the land
appropriated for such streets, ceases to be private? But as this
question was never determined, and as it naturally rises before me, and
is of importance, suffer me to examine it.

When building leases are granted, if the road be narrow, as was lately
the case at the West end of New-street, the proprietor engages to give a
certain portion of land to widen it. From that moment, therefore, it
falls to the lot of the public, and is under the controul of the
commissioners, as guardians of public property. I allow, if within
memory, the grantor and the lessees should agree to cancel the leases,
which is just as likely to happen as the powers of attraction to cease,
and the moon to descend from the heavens; in this case, the land reverts
again to its original proprietor.

Though the streets of Birmingham have for many ages been exposed to the
hand of the encroacher, yet, by a little care, and less expence, they
might in about one century be reduced to a considerable degree of use
and beauty. In what light then shall we be viewed by the future eye, if
we neglect the interest of posterity?


Although these two threads, like the warp and the woof, are very
distinct things; yet, like them, they are usually woven together. Each
possesses a strength of its own, but when united, have often become
extremely powerful, as in the case of Henry the Third and the clergy.
This union, at times, subsisted from a very early date.

Power is the idol of man; we not only wish to acquire it, but also to
increase and preserve it. If the magistrate has been too weak to execute
his designs, he has backed his schemes with the aid of the church; this
occurred with King Stephen and the Bishops.

Likewise, if a churchman finds his power ascendant in the human mind, he
still wishes an addition to that power, by uniting another. Thus the
Bishop of Rome, being master of the spiritual chair, stept also into
the temporal.

Sometimes the ecclesiastical and civil governors appear in malign
aspect, or in modern phrase, like a quarrel between the squire and the
rector, which is seldom detrimental to the people. This was the case
with Henry the Eighth and the church.

The curses of a priest hath sometimes brought a people into obedience to
the King, when he was not able to bring them himself. One could not
refrain from smiling, to hear a Bishop curse the people for obeying
their Sovereign, and in a few months after, curse them again if they did
not; which happened in the reign of King John. But, happy for the world,
that these retail dealers in the wrath of heaven are become extinct, and
the market is over.

Birmingham, in those remote periods of time, does not seem to have
attended so much to religious and political dispute, as to the course
music of her hammer. Peace seems to have been her characteristic--She
paid obedience to that Prince had the good fortune to possess the
throne, and regularly paid divine honours in St. Martin's, because
there was no other church. Thus, through the long ages of Saxon, Danish,
and Norman government, we hear of no noise but that of the anvil, till
the reign of Henry the Third, when her Lord joined the Barons against
the Crown, and drew after him some of his mechanics, to exercise the
very arms they had been taught to make; and where, at the battle of
Evesham, he staked his life and his fortune, and lost both.

Things quickly returning into their former channel, she stood a silent
spectator during that dreadful contest between the two roses, pursuing
the tenor of still life till the civil wars of Charles I. when she took
part with the Parliament, some of whose troops were stationed here,
particularly at the Garrison and Camp-hill; the names of both
originating in that circumstance.

Prince Rupert, as hinted before, approaching Birmingham in 1643 with a
superior power, forced the lines, and as a punishment set fire to the
town. His vengeance burned fiercely in Bull-street, and the affrighted
inhabitants quenched the flames with a heavy fine.

In 1660, she joined the wish of the kingdom, in the restoration of the
Stuart family. About this time, many of the curious manufactures began
to blossom in this prosperous garden of the arts.

In 1688, when the nation chose to expel a race of Kings, though replete
with good nature, because they had forgot the limits of justice; our
peaceable sons of art, wisely considering, that oppression and commerce,
like oil and water, could never unite, smiled with the rest of the
kingdom at the landing of the Prince of Orange, and exerted their little
assistance towards effecting the Revolution, notwithstanding the lessons
of _divine right_ had been taught near ninety years.

In the reign of Queen Anne, when that flaming luminary, Dr. Sacheverel,
set half the kingdom in blaze, the inhabitants of this region of
industry caught the spark of the day, and grew warm for the church--They
had always been inured to _fire_, but now we behold them between _two_.

As the doctor rode in triumph through the streets of Birmingham, this
flimsy idol of party snuffed up the incense of the populace, but the
more sensible with held their homage; and when he preached at Sutton
Coldfield, where he had family connections, the people of Birmingham
crowded in multitudes round his pulpit. But it does not appear that he
taught his hearers to _build up Zion_, but perhaps to pull her down;
for they immediately went and gutted a meeting-house.

It is easy to point out a time when it was dangerous to have been of the
established church, and I have here pointed out one, when it was
dangerous to profess any other.

We are apt to think the zeal of our fathers died with them, for I have
frequently beheld with pleasure, the churchman, the presbyterian, and
the quaker uniting their efforts, like brethren, to carry on a work of
utility. The bigot of the last age casts a malicious sneer upon the
religion of another, but the man of this passes a joke upon his own.

A sameness in religious sentiment is no more to be expected, than a
sameness of face. If the human judgment varies in almost every subject
of plain knowledge, how can it be fixed in this, composed of mystery?

As the true religion is ever that which a man professes himself, it is
necessary to enquire, What means, he that is right may use, to convert
him that is wrong?

As the whole generations of faggot and torture, are extinct in this age
of light, there seems only to remain fair arguments founded in reason,
and these can only be brought as evidences upon the trial: The culprit
himself, _by indefeasible right divine_, will preside as the judge. Upon
a close enquiry it will be found, that his sentiments are as much his
private property, as the coat that covers him, or the life which that
coat incloses.

Is there not as much reason to punish my neighbour for differing in
opinion from me, as to punish me, because I differ from him? Or, is
there any to punish either?

If a man's sentiments and practice in religious matters, appear even
absurd, provided society is not injured, what right hath the magistrate
to interfere?

The task is as easy to make the stream run upwards, as to form a nation
of one mind. We may pronounce with confidence, an age of bigotry is no
age of philosophy.

The gentle hand of Brunswick, had swayed the British sceptre near half a
century, ere all the sons of science in this meridian, were compleatly
reconciled to this favourite line.

But unanimity, with benign aspect, seems now the predominant star of the
zenith: A friendly intercourse succeeds suspicion. The difference of
sentiment, that once created jealousy, now excites a smile; and the
narrow views of our forefathers are prudently expanded.

[Illustration: _St. John's Chapel, Deritend_.]


In a town like Birmingham, unfettered with charteral laws; which gives
access to the stranger of every denomination, for he here finds a
freedom by birthright; and where the principles of toleration are well
understood, it is no wonder we find various modes of worship. The wonder
consists in finding such _agreement_, in such variety.

We have fourteen places for religious exercise, six of the established
church, three dissenting meeting houses, a quakers, baptist, methodist,
roman catholic, and jewish. Two of these only are churches, of which


This, tho' joining to the parish of Birmingham, is a chapel of ease
belonging to Aston, two miles distant. Founded in the fifth of Richard
the Second, 1382.

This chapel does not, like others in Birmingham, seem to have been
erected first, and the houses brought round it: It appears, by its
extreme circumscribed latitude, to have been founded upon the scite of
other buildings, which were purchased, or rather given, by Sir John de
Birmingham, Lord of Deritend, and situated upon the boundaries of the
manor, perhaps to accommodate in some measure the people of Digbeth;
because the church in Birmingham must, for many-ages, have been too
small for the inhabitants.

Time seems to have worn out that building of 1382; in the windows of
which were the arms of Lord Dudley, and Dudley empaling Barckley, both
knights of the garter, descended from the Somery's, Barons of
Dudley-castle: Also a whole figure of Walter Arden, Esq; of ancient
family, often mentioned, Lord of Bordesley.

The present building was erected in 1735, and the steeple in 1762. In
1777 eight of the most musical bells, together with a clock, entered the
steeple. The present chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Cox--Income 80_l_.

[Illustration: _St. Bartholomew's Chapel_.]


Built in 1749, on the east side of the town, will accommodate about 800
hearers; is neat and elegant. The land was the gift of John Jennens,
Esq; of Copsal, in the county of Leicester, possessor of a considerable
estate in and near Birmingham.

By the solicitation of Mrs. Weaman, Mrs. Jennens gave 1000_l_. and the
remainder was raised by contribution to accomplish the building.

Wherever a chapel is erected, the houses immediately, as if touched by
the wand of magic, spring into existence. Here is a spacious area for
interment, amply furnished by death. The infant steeple, if it will bear
the name, is very small but beautiful.

The chancel hath this singular difference from others--that it veres
towards the North. Whether the projector committed an error, I leave to
the critics.

It was the general practice of the Pagan church to fix their altar, upon
which they sacrificed, in the East, towards the rising sun, the object
of worship.

The Christian church, in the time of the Romans, immediately succeeded
the Pagan, and scrupulously adopted the same method; which has been
strictly adhered to.

By what obligation the Christian is bound to follow the Pagan, or
wherein a church would be injured by being directed to any of the
thirty-two points in the compass, is doubtful. Certain it is, if the
chancel of Bartholomew's had tended due East, the eye would have been
exceedingly hurt, and the builder would have raised an object of
ridicule for ages. The ground will admit of no situation but that in
which the church now stands. But the inconsiderate architect of Deritend
chapel, anxious to catch the Eastern point, lost the line of the street:
we may therefore justly pronounce, _be sacrificed to the East_. Other
enormities also, of little moment, have issued from the same fountain.

The altar piece was the gift of Basil Earl of Denbigh; and the communion
plate, consisting of 182 ounces, that of Mary Carless. Income
100_l_.--Rev. William Jabbitt, chaplain.

[Illustration: St. Mary's Chapel.]


Though the houses for divine worship were multiplied in Birmingham, yet
the inhabitants increased in a greater proportion; so that in 1772 an
act was obtained for two additional chapels.

St. Mary's, therefore, was erected in 1774, in the octagon form, not
overcharged with light nor strength; in an airy situation and taste, but
shews too little steeple, and too much roof. If a light balustrade was
raised over the parapet, with an urn in the centre of the roof, the eye
of the observer would be relieved.

The clock was seldom seen to go right, but the wonder ceases if there
are NO WORKS within.

The land was the gift of Mary Weaman, in whom is the presentation, who
inducted the Rev. John Riland. Annual income about 200_l_.


The act was procured for this chapel at the same time as for that of St.
Mary's; but it was not erected till 1779, upon a spot of ground given
by Charles Colmore, Esq; upon the declivity of a hill, not altogether
suitable for the elegant building it sustains, which is of stone--plain
beauty unites with strength.

This roof, like that of St. Mary's, appears also too full. The steeple
intended for this useful edifice, will do honour to the modern stile of
architecture, whenever money can be procured to erect it; which at
present is only delineated upon paper.

Chaplain, the Rev. William Toy Young.--Income nearly as St. Mary's.


After the extinction of the Stuart race, who bore an invincible hatred
to presbyterianism, the dissenters from the establishment procured a
licence for a meeting at the bottom of Digbeth, which yet bears the name
of Meeting-house-yard. Here the rigid sons of worship paid a weekly
attendance. The place is now a work-shop: The sound of the pulpit is
changed into that of the bellows: Instead of an impression upon the
heart, it is now stamped upon the button. The visitants used to
appear in a variety of colours, but now always in black.

[Illustration: _St. Paul's Chapel_.]

[Illustration: New Meeting.]

[Illustration: Old Meeting.]

Another was erected in the reign of King William, now denominated The
Old Meeting, and from whence the street in which it stands derives a
name. This is large, and much attended.

Pastor, the Rev. Radcliff Scoldfield.


Erected in the year 1730, at which time that in Digbeth went into
disuse. This is in a stile of elegance, and has few equals. The Rev.
Samuel Blyth, and the Rev. William Hawkes preside over it.

In December 1780, Mr. Hawkes declining the pastoral care, the
congregation judiciously turned their thoughts towards the celebrated
Doctor Priestley, F.R.S. one of the first philosophers of the age; whose
merit seems obvious to every eye but his own.


A scion of the Old Meeting, transplanted in 1748--The building cost
about 700_l_. This society hath been favoured with two donations; one
the interest of 800_l_. by the will of John England, in 1771: The other
Scott's Trust, mentioned in another part.

This residence of divine light is totally eclipsed, by being surrounded
with about forty families of paupers, crouded almost within the compass
of a giant's span, which amply furnish the congregation with noise,
smoak, dirt and dispute. If the place itself is the road to heaven, the
stranger would imagine, that the road to the place led to something
worse: The words, _Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way_, are here
literally verified.--Pastor, the Rev. John Punfield.


Founded in Cannon-street, 1738. This hill of Zion is also hid from the
public eye, but situated in a purer air.--The minister was the late
Rev. James Turner.

Some trifling differences arising in the congregation, to which the
human mind is everlastingly prone, caused discontent: Individuals began
to sting each other, which in 1745, produced a swarm.

The destitute wanderers therefore, erected for themselves a small cell
in Freeman-street, where they hived in expectation of harmony. Over this
little society of separatists presided a journeyman woolcomber: What
elevation he bore in the comb-shop, during six days of the week, history
is silent; but having the good fortune to procure a black coat and a
white wig, he figured on the seventh with parsonic elegance.

Whether _he_ fed his people best, or _they_ him, is uncertain; but
whether they starved one another, is not. Disgust, which ever waits upon
disappointment, appeared among them.

Though the preacher was certainly warmed in the shop, _with a live coal
from the altar_; yet unfortunately, Sunday was the only day in which his
_fire_ was extinguished; _then_ the priest and the people hit the taste
of the day, and slumbered together; a priviledge never granted by a
_reader_ to an _author_. Thus the boasted _liberty of the press_
submits to that of the pulpit.

This exalted shepherd dwelt upon the words of Paul, _He that preaches
the gospel, ought to subsist by the gospel;_ and _they_ did not forget a
portion in John, _Feed my sheep_. The word, he well knew, promised both
wine and _oil_, but he was obliged to be satisfied with the latter.

Although the teacher might possess some _shining qualities_ at the
combe-pot, he did not possess that of protecting his flock, who in 1752,
silently retreated to their original fold in Cannon-street; and the
place was soon after converted into a dwelling, No. 16, when for the
first time it produced _profit_.

The growing numbers of this prosperous society induced them, in 1780, to
enlarge the place of worship, at the expence of about 800_l_. in which
is observable some beauty, but more conveniency.


In Bull-street. A large convenient place, and notwithstanding the
plainness of the profession rather elegant. The congregation is very
flourishing, rich, and peaceable. Chandler tells us, to the everlasting
honour of the Quakers, that they are the only christian sect who have
never exercised the cruel weapon of persecution.


We learn from ecclesiastical history, that the people in high life are
always _followers_ in religion. Though they are the best leaders in
political and social concerns, yet all religions seem to originate from
the lowest class. Every religion is first obstructed by violence, passes
through the insults of an age, then rests in peace, and often takes up
the rod against another.

The first preachers of the christian faith, the short-sighted apostles,
were men of the meanest occupations, and their church, a wretched room
in a miserable tenement. The superb buildings of St. Peter's in Rome,
and St. Paul's in London, used by their followers, were not within the
reach of their penetration. They were also totally ignorant of tripple
crowns, red hats, mitres, crosiers, robes, and rochets, well known to
their successors.

The religion of a private room, soon became the religion of a country:
the church acquired affluence, for all churches hate poverty; and this
humble church, disturbed for ages, became the church of Rome, the
disturber of Europe.

John Wickliff, in 1377, began to renew her disturbance: this able
theologist planted our present national church, which underwent severe
persecutions, from its mother church at Rome; but, rising superior to
the rod, and advancing to maturity, she became the mother of a numerous
offspring, which she afterwards persecuted herself; and this offspring,
like _their_ mother, were much inclined to persecution.

Puritanism, her first born, groaned under the pressure of her hand. The
Baptists, founded by a taylor, followed, and were buffeted by
both.--Independency appeared, ponderous as an elephant, and trampled
upon all three.

John Fox, a composition of the oddest matter, and of the meanest
original, formed a numerous band of disciples, who suffered the insults
of an age, but have carried the arts of prudence to the highest pitch.

The Muglitonians, the Prophets, the Superlapsarians, &c. like untimely
births, just saw the light and disappeared.

The Moravians, under the influence of Zinzendorf, rose about 1740, but
are not in a flourishing state; their circumscribed rules, like those
of the cloister, being too much shackled to thrive in a land of freedom.

James Sandiman introduced a religion, about 1750, but, though eclipsed
himself by poverty, he taught his preachers to shine; for he allowed
them to grace the pulpit with ruffles, lace, and a cueque. Birmingham
cannot produce one professor of the two last churches.

The christian religion has branched into more sectaries in the last two
hundred years, than in the fifteen hundred before--the reason is
obvious. During the tedious reign of the Romish priest, before the
introduction of letters, knowledge was small, and he wished to confine
that knowledge to himself: he substituted mystery for science, and led
the people blindfold. But the printing-press, though dark in itself, and
surrounded with yet _darker_ materials, diffused a ray of light through
the world, which enabled every man to read, think, and judge for
himself; hence diversity of opinion, and the absurdity of reducing a
nation to one faith, vainly attempted by Henry VIII.

In those distant ages, the priest had great influence, with little
knowledge; but in these, great knowledge, with little influence. He was
then revered according to his authority; but now, according to his
merit: he shone in a borrowed, but now in a real lustre: then he was
less deserving; but now less esteemed. The humble christian, in the
strictest sense, worked out his salvation with fear and trembling, and
with tools furnished by the priest: he built upon his opinions, but now
he lays a foundation for his own.

Though we acknowledge the scriptures our guide, we take the liberty to
guide them; we torture them to our own sentiments. Though we allow their
_equal_ weight, we suffer one portion to weigh down another. If we
attend to twenty disputants, not one of them will quote a text which
militates against his sentiments.

The artillery of vengeance was pointed at Methodism for thirty years;
but, fixed as a rock, it could never be beaten down, and its professors
now enjoy their sentiments in quiet.

After the institution of this sect by George Whitfield, in 1738, they
were first covered by the heavens, equally exposed to the rain and the
rabble, and afterwards they occupied, for many years, a place in
Steelhouse-lane, where the wags of the age observed, "they were eat out
by the bugs."--They therefore procured a cast off theatre in
Moor-street, where they continued to exhibit till 1782; when, quitting
the stage, they erected a superb meeting-house, in Cherry-street, at the
expence of 1200_l_. This was opened, July 7, by John Wesley, the chief
priest, whose extensive knowledge, and unblemished manners, give us a
tolerable picture of apostolic purity; who _believes_, as if he were to
be saved by faith; and who _labours_, as if he were to be saved
by works.

Thus our composite order of religion, an assemblage of the Episcopalian,
the Presbyterian, the Independent, and the Baptist; fled from the
buffetings of the vulgar, and now take peaceable shelter from the dews
of heaven.


I have already remarked, there is nothing which continues in the same
state: the code of manners, habits of thinking, and of expression, modes
of living, articles of learning; the ways of acquiring wealth, or
knowledge; our dress, diet, recreations, &c. change in every age.

But why is there a change in religion? eternal truth, once fixed, is
everlastingly the same. Religion is purity, which, one would think,
admits of no change; if it changes, we should doubt whether it is
religion. But a little attention to facts will inform us, _there is
nothing more changable:_ nor need we wonder, because, man himself being
changable, every thing committed to his care will change with him. We
may plead his excuse, by observing, his sight is defective: he may be
deceived by viewing an object in one light, or attitude, to-day, and
another, to-morrow. This propensity to change might lead us to suspect
the authenticity of our own sentiments.

The apostles certainly formed the church of Rome; but she, having
undergone the variations of seventeen hundred years, St. Peter himself,
should he return to the earth, could not discover one linament in her
aspect; but would be apt to reject her as a changling.

The church of England has not only undergone a change since the
reformation, but wishes a greater.

We should suppose the puritan of 1583, and the dissenter of 1783, were
the same: but although substance and shadow exactly resemble each other,
no two things differ more.

When pride sends a man in quest of a religion, if he does not discover
something new, he might as well stay at home: nothing near the present
standard can take. Two requisites are necessary to found a religion,
capacity, and singularity: no fool ever succeeded. If his talents are
not above mediocrity, he will not be able to draw the crowd; and if his
doctrines are not singular, the crowd will not be drawn--novelty

Having collected, and brightened up a set of doctrines, wide of every
other church, he fixes at a distance from all. But time, and unavoidable
intercourse with the world, promote a nearer approximation; and, mixing
with men, we act like men. Thus the Quaker under George III. shews but
little of the Quaker under George Fox.

In two congregations of the same profession, as in two twins of the same
family, though there is a striking likeness, the curious observer will
trace a considerable difference.

In a religion, as well as a man, _there is a time to be born, and a time
to die_. They both vary in aspect, according to the length of their
existence, carry the marks of decline, and sink into obscurity.

We are well informed how much the Romish religion has declined in this
country: three hundred years ago Birmingham did not produce one person
of another persuasion; but now, out of 50,000 people, we have not 300
of this.

The Roman Catholics formerly enjoyed a place for religious worship near
St. Bartholomew's-chapel, still called Masshouse-lane; but the rude
hands of irreligion destroyed it. There is now none nearer than
Edgbaston, two miles distant; yet the congregation is chiefly supplied
from Birmingham.

If the Roman Catholics are not so powerful as in the sixteenth century,
they seem as quiet, and as little addicted to knowledge; perhaps they
have not yet learned to see through any eyes but those of the
priest.--There appears, however, as much devotion in their public
worship, as among any denomination of christians.


We have also among us a remnant of Israel. A people who, when masters of
their own country, were scarcely ever known to travel, and who are now
seldom employed in any thing else. But, though they are ever moving,
they are ever at home: who once lived the favourites of heaven, and fed
upon the cream of the earth; but now are little regarded by either:
whose society is entirely confined to themselves, except in the
commercial line.

[ILLUSTRATION: Birmingham Theatre, Hotel and Tavern.]

In the Synagogue, situated in the Froggery, they still preserve the
faint resemblence of the ancient worship. Their whole apparatus being no
more than the drooping ensigns of poverty. The place is rather small,
but tolerably filled; where there appears less decorum than in the
christian churches. The proverbial expression "as rich as a jew," is not
altogether verified in Birmingham, but perhaps, time is transfering it
to the Quakers.

It is rather singular, that the honesty of a jew, is seldom pleaded but
by the jew himself.


The practice of the Theatre is of great antiquity. We find it in great
repute among the Greeks; we also find, the more a nation is civilized,
the more they have supported the stage. It seems designed for two
purposes, improvement and entertainment.

There are certain exuberances that naturally grow in religion,
government, and private life which may with propriety be attacked by the
poet and the comedian, but which can scarcely be reduced by any other
power. While the stage therefore keeps this great end in view, it
answers a valuable purpose to the community. The poet should use his pen
to reform, not to indulge a corrupt age, as was the case in the days of
Charles the Second, when indecency was brought on to raise the laugh.

Perhaps there is no period of time in which the stage was less polluted,
owing to the inimitable Garrick, than the present: notwithstanding there
is yet room for improvement.

Tragedy is to melt the heart, by exhibiting the unfortunate; satiate
revenge, by punishing the unjust tyrant: To discard vice, and to keep
undue passions within bounds.

Comedy holds up folly in a ridiculous light: Whatever conduct or
character is found in the regions of absurdity, furnishes proper
materials for the stage; and out of these, the pen of a master will draw
many useful lessons.

The pulpit and the stage have nearly the same use, but not in the same
line--That of improving the man.

The English stage opened about the conquest, and was wholly confined to
religion; in whose service it continued, with very little intermission,
to the extinction of the Plantagenets. The play-houses were the
churches, the principal actors the priests, and the performances taken
from scripture; such as the Fall of Man, the Story of Joseph, Sampson,
Histories of the Saints, the Sufferings of Christ, Resurrection, Day of
Judgment, &c.

Theatrical exhibition in Birmingham, is rather of a modern date. As far
as memory can penetrate, the stroller occupied, occasionally, a shed of
boards in the fields, now Temple-street: Here he acted the part of
Distress, in a double capacity. The situation was afterwards changed,
but not the eminence, and the Hinkleys dignified the performers booth!

In about 1730, the amusements of the stage rose in a superior stile of
elegance, and entered something like a stable in Castle-street. Here the
comedian strutted in painted rags, ornamented with tinsel: The audience
raised a noisy laugh, half real and half forced, at three-pence a head.

In about 1740, a theatre was erected in Moor-street, which rather gave a
spring to the amusement; in the day time the comedian beat up for
volunteers for the night, delivered his bills of fare, and roared out an
encomium on the excellence of the entertainment, which had not always
the desired effect.

In 1751, a company arrived, which anounced themselves, "His Majesty's
servants, from the theatres-royal in London; and hoped the public would
excuse the ceremony of the drum, as beneath the dignity of a London
company." The novelty had a surprising effect; the performers had
merit; the house was continually crouded; the general conversation
turned upon theatrical exhibition, and the town was converted into one
vast theatre.

In 1752 it was found necessary to erect a larger theatre, that in King
Street, and we multiplied into two London companies.

The pulpits took the alarm, and in turn, roared after their customers:
But the pious teachers forgot it was only the fervour of a day, which
would cool of itself; that the fiercer the fire burns, the sooner it
will burn out.

This declaration of war, fortunately happening at the latter end of
summer, the campaign was over, and the company retreated into winter
quarters, without hostilities.

It was afterwards found, that two theatres were more than the town chose
to support; therefore that in Moor-street was set for a methodist
meeting, where, it was said, though it changed its audience, it kept its
primeval use, continuing the theatre of farce.

In 1774, the theatre in King-street was enlarged, beautified, and made
more convenient; so that it hath very few equals.

About the same time that in New-street was erected upon a suitable spot,
an extensive plan, and richly ornamented with paintings and
scenery.--Expence seems the least object in consideration.

An additional and superb portico, was erected in 1780, which perhaps may
cause it to be pronounced, "One of the first theatres in Europe."

Two busts, in relief, of excellent workmanship, are elevated over the
attic windows; one is the father, and the other the refiner of the
British, stage--Shakespear and Garrick.

Also two figures eight feet high, are said to be under the chissel, one
of Thalia, and the other of Melpomene, the comic and the tragic muses;
the value one hundred and sixty guineas. Places are reserved for their
reception, to augment the beauty of the front, and shew the taste of
the age.


Man seems formed for variety, whether we view him in a rational or an
animal light. A sameness of temper, habit, diet, pursuit, or pleasure,
is no part of his character. The different ages of his life, also
produce different sentiments; that which gives us the highest relish in
one period, is totally flat in another. The rattle that pleases at
three, would be cast into the fire at threescore: The same hand that
empties the purse at twenty, would fill it at fifty: In age, he bends
his knee to the same religion, which he laughed at in youth: The prayer
book, that holds the attention of seventy, holds the lottery pictures of
seven: And the amorous tale that awakes the ideas of twenty five, lulls
old age to sleep.

Not only life is productive of change, but also every day in it. If a
man would take a minute survey of his thoughts and employments, for only
twenty-four hours, he would be astonished at their infinite variety.

Though industry be the ruling passion of this ingenious race, yet
relaxation must follow, as one period to another. Society is therefore
justly esteemed an everlasting fund of amusement, which is found at the
tavern, in the winter evening: Intoxication is seldom met with, except
in the inferior ranks, where it is visible in both sexes.

A regular concert is established, where the music is allowed to excel.
This harmonious science, like other productions of taste, though it be
not the general study of the inhabitants, hath made an amazing progress
during the last thirty years.

In 1777, a coffee-house was opened at the East end of New-street, the
first in this department; which, drawing into its vortex the
transactions of Europe, finds employment for the politician.

Assemblies are held weekly, which give room for beauty to figure at
cards, in conversation, and in the dance.

The pleasures of the field claim their votaries, but, in a populous
country, like that of Birmingham, plenty of game is not to be expected;
for want of wild fowl, therefore, the shooter has been sometimes known
to attack the tame.

However, the farmer need not be under any great concern for his
property; the sportsman seldom does any thing with his arms--but--_carry
them_. We are more famous for _making_, than _using_ the gun.

A pack of hounds have sometimes been kept by subscription, termed, The
Birmingham Hunt; but, as the sound of the dogs and the anvil never
harmonised together, they have been long in disuse: the jocund tribe,
therefore, having no scent of their own, fall into that of the
neighbouring gentry, many of whom support a pack.

The man of reflection finds amusement in domestic resources; and, in his
own mind, if unoppressed. Here the treasures collected from men, books,
and observation, _are laid up for many years_, from which he draws
pleasure, without diminishing the flock. The universal riches of nature
and of art; the part, the present, and a glympse of the future, lie open
to his eye.

Two obstructions only bound his ideas, _time_ and _space_. He steps from
planet to planet, and if he cannot enter immensity, he can verge upon
its borders.

I pity the man, who through poverty, cannot find warmth by his own
fire-side; but I pity him more, who, through poverty of thought, cannot
find happiness.

For the entertainment of summer, exclusive of the two theatres, there
are five greens, where the gentlemen are amused with bowls, and the
ladies with tea.

There are also great variety of public gardens, suited to every class of
people, or which Duddeston, the ancient seat of the Holte family, claims
the pre-eminence.

The fishing-rod, that instrument which _destroys in peace_, must find a
place: other animals are followed with fire and tumult, but the fishes
are entrapped with deceit. Of all the sportsmen, we charge the angler
alone with _killing in cold blood_.

Just as a pursuit abounds with pleasure, so will it abound with
votaries. The pleasure of angling depends on the success of the line:
this art is but little practised here, and less known. Our rivers are
small, and thinly stored; our pools are guarded as private property: the
Birmingham spirit is rather too active for the sleepy amusement
of fishing.

Patience seems the highest accomplishment of an angler. We behold him,
fixed as a statue, on the bank; his head inclining towards the river,
his attention upon the water, his eye upon the float; he often draws,
and draws only his hook! But although he gets no bite, it may fairly be
said _he is bit:_ of the two, the fish display the most cunning.--He,
surprized that he has _caught nothing_, and I, that he has kept his rod
and his patience.

Party excursion is held in considerable esteem, in which are included
Enville, the seat of Lord Stamford; Hagley, that of the late Lord
Lyttelton; and the Leasowes, the property of the late Wm. Shenstone,
Esq. We will omit the journey to London, a tour which some of us have
made all our lives _without seeing it_.

Cards and the visit are linked together, nor is the billiard table
totally forsaken. One man amuses himself in amassing a fortune, and
another in dissolving one.

About thirty-six of the inhabitants keep carriages for their own private
use; and near fifty have country houses. The relaxations of the humbler
class, are fives, quoits, skittles, and ale.

Health and amusement are found in the prodigious number of private
gardens scattered round Birmingham, from which we often behold the
father returning with a cabbage, and the daughter with a nosegay.


The spot where our great-grandmothers smiled in the lively dance, when
they possessed the flower of beauty in the spring of life, is lost in
forgetfulness. The floor that trembled under that foot which was covered
with a leather shoe tied with a silken string, and which supported a
stocking of dark blue worsted, not of the finest texture, is now buried
in oblivion.

[Illustration: Hotel.]

In 1750 we had two assembly rooms; one at No. 11. in the Square, the
other No. 85. in Bull-street. This last was not much in use afterwards.
That in the Square continued in repute till in the course of that
evening which happened in October 1765, when Edward Duke of York had the
honour of leading up the dance, and the ladies of Birmingham enjoyed
that of the Duke's hand, He remarked, "That a town of such magnitude as
Birmingham, and adorned with so much beauty, deserved a superior
accomodation:--That the room itself was mean, but the entrance
still meaner."

Truth is ever the same, whether it comes from a prince or a peasant; but
its effects are not. Whether some secret charm attended the Duke's
expression, that blasted the room, is uncertain, but it never after held
its former eminence.

In 1772 a building was erected by subscription, upon the Tontine
principle, at the head of Temple row, and was dignified with the French
name of Hotel: From a handsome, entrance the ladies are now led through
a spacious saloon, at the extremity of which the eye is struck with a
grand flight of steps, opening into an assembly-room, which would not
disgrace even the royal presence of the Duke's brother.

The pile itself is large, plain, and elegant, but standing in the same
line with the other buildings, which before were really genteel,
eclipses them by its superiority: Whereas, if the Hotel had fallen a few
feet back, it would, by breaking the line, have preserved the beauty of
the row, without losing its own.


This ancient custom was left us by the Saxons. Time, that makes
alteration only in other customs, has totally inverted this.

When a church was erected, it was immediately called after a saint, put
under his protection, and the day belonging to that saint kept in the
church as an high festival. In the evening preceding the day, the
inhabitants, with lights, approached the church, and kept a continual
devotion during the whole night; hence the name _wake_: After which
they entered into festivity.

But now the devotional part is forgot, the church is deserted, and the
festivity turned into riot, drunkenness, and mischief.

Without searching into the mouldy records of time, for evidence to
support our assertion, we may safely pronounce the wake the lowest of
all low amusements, and compleatly suited to the lowest of tempers.

Wakes have been deemed a public concern, and legislature, more than
once, been obliged to interpose for the sake of that order which private
conduct could never boast.

In the reign of Henry the Sixth, every consideration, whether of a
public or a private nature, gave way to the wake: The harvest in
particular was neglected. An order therefore issued, confining the wakes
to the first Sunday in October, consequently the whole nation run mad
at once.

Wakes in Birmingham are not ancient: Why St. Martin's, then the only
church, was neglected, is uncertain.

Although we have no wakes for the town, there are three kept in its
borders, called Deritend, Chapel, and Bell wakes. The two first are in
the spring of existence, the last in the falling leaf of autumn.

Deritend wake probably took its rise at the erection of her chapel, in

Chapel wake, in 1750, from St. Bartholomew's chapel, is held in the
meridian of Coleshill-street; was hatched and fostered by the publicans,
for the benefit of the spiggot.

Amongst other important amusements, was that of bull-baiting, till the
year 1773, when the commissioners of lamps, in the amendment of their
act, wisely broke the chain, and procured a reprieve for the
unfortunate animal.

Another was the horse-race, 'till a few years ago a person being killed,
rather slackened the entertainment. What singular genius introduced the
horse-race into a crowded street, I am yet to learn.

In the evening the passenger cannot proceed without danger; in the
morning, he may discover which houses are public, without other
intelligence than the copious streams that have issued from the wall.
The blind may also distinguish the same thing, by the strong scent
of the tap.

Bell wake is the junior by one year, originating from the same cause, in
1751, in consequence of ten bells being hung up in St Philip's
steeple.--'Till within these few years, we were at this wake struck with
a singular exhibition, that of a number of boys running a race through
the streets naked. Some of the inhabitants, seeing so fair a mark for
chastisement, applied the rod with success, put a period to the sport,
and obliged the young runners to run under cover.


It may be expected, from the title of this chapter, that I shall
introduce a set of ruffians armed with missive weapons; or, having named
a trump, a set of gamblers shuffling and dealing out the cards: But
whatever veneration I may entertain for these two fag ends of our
species, I shall certainly introduce a class of people, which, though of
the lower orders, are preferable to both.

Social compact is a distinguishing mark of civilization: The whole
British empire may be justly considered as one grand alliance, united
for public and private interest, and this vast body of people are
subdivided into an infinity of smaller fraternities, for
individual benefit.

Perhaps there are hundreds of these societies in Birmingham under the
name of clubs; some of them boast the antiquity of a century, and by
prudent direction have acquired a capital, at accumulating interest.
Thousands of the inhabitants are thus connected, nay, to be otherwise is
rather unfashionable, and some are people of sentiment and property.

A variety of purposes are intended by these laudable institutions, but
the principal one is that of supporting the sick.

Each society is governed by a code of laws of its own making, which have
at least the honour of _resembling_ those of legislature, for words
without sense are found in both, and we sometimes stumble upon

The poor's-rates, enormous as they appear, are softened by these
brotherly aids. They tend also to keep the mind at rest, for a man will
enjoy the day of health, with double relish, when he considers he has a
treasure laid up for that of sickness.

If a _member_ only of a poor family be sick, the _head_ still remains to
procure necessaries; but if that head be disordered, the whole source of
supply is dried up, which evinces the utility of such institutions.

The general custom is to meet at the public every fortnight, spend a
trifle, and each contribute six-pence, or any stated sum, to the common
stock. The landlord is always treasurer, or father, and is assisted by
two stewards, annually or monthly chosen.

As honour and low life are not always found together, we sometimes see a
man who is rather _idle_, wish the society may suppose him _sick_, that
he may rob them with more security. Or, if a member hangs long upon the
box, his brethren seek a pretence to expel him. On the other hand, we
frequently observe a man silently retreat from the club, if another
falls upon the box, and fondly suppose himself no longer a member; or if
the box be loaded with sickness, the whole club has been known to
dissolve, that they may rid themselves of the burthen; but the Court of
Requests finds an easy remedy for these evils, and at a
trifling expence.

The charity of the club, is also extended beyond the grave, and
terminates with a present to the widow.

The philosophers tell us, "There is no good without its kindred evil."
This amiable body of men, therefore, marshalled to expel disease, hath
one small alloy, and perhaps but one. As liquor and labour are
inseparable, the imprudent member is apt to forget to quit the club
room when he has spent his necessary two-pence, but continues there to
the injury of his family.

Another of these institutions is the _rent club_, where, from the weekly
sums deposited by the members, a sop is regularly served up twice a
year, to prevent the growlings of a landlord.

In the _breeches club_ every member ballots for a pair, value a guinea,
_promised_ of more value by the maker. This club dissolves when all the
members are served.

The intentions of the _book club_ are well known, to catch the
productions of the press as they rise.

The _watch club_ has generally a watchmaker for its president, is
composed of young men, and is always temporary.

If a taylor be short of employment, he has only to consult a landlord
over a bottle, who, by their joint powers, can give birth to a _cloaths
club_; where every member is supplied with a suit to his taste, of a
stipulated price. These are chiefly composed of batchelors, who wish to
shine in the eye of the fair.

Thus a bricklayer stands at the head of the _building club_, where every
member perhaps subscribes two guineas per month, and each house, value
about one hundred pounds, is balloted for, as soon as erected. As a
house is a weighty concern, every member is obliged to produce two
bondsmen for the performance of covenants.

I will venture to pronounce another the _capital club_, for when the
contributions amount to 50_l_. the members ballot for this capital, to
bring into business: Here also securities are necessary. It is easy to
conceive the two last clubs are extremely beneficial to building and
to commerce.

The last I shall enumerate is the _clock club_: When the weekly deposits
of the members amount to about 4_l_. they call lots who shall be first
served with a clock of that value, and continue the same method till the
whole club is supplied; after which, the clockmaker and landlord cast
about for another set, who are chiefly composed of young house-keepers.
Hence the beginner ornaments his premises with furniture, the artist
finds employment and profit, and the publican empties his barrel.

Thus we have taken a transient survey of this rising colony of arts,
uniting observation with fact: We have seen her dark manufactures, in
darker times: We have attended her through her commercial, religious,
political, and pleasurable walks: Have viewed her in many points of
light, but never in decline; 'till we have now set her in the fair
sunshine of the present day.

Perhaps I shall not be charged with prolixity, that unpardonable sin
against the reader, when it is considered, that three thousand years are
deposited in the compass of one hundred and forty little pages.

Some other circumstances deserve attention, which could not be
introduced without breaking the thread of history: But as that thread is
now drawn to an end, I must, before I resume it, step back into the
recesses of time, and slumber through the long ages of seventeen hundred
years; if the active reader, therefore, has no inclination for a nod of
that length, or, in simple phrase, no relish for antiquity, I advise him
to pass over the five ensuing chapters.


About five furlongs North of the Navigation Bridge, in Great Charles
street, which is the boundary of the present buildings, runs the
Ikenield-street; one of those famous pretorian roads which mark the
Romans with conquest, and the Britons with slavery.

By that time a century had elapsed, from the first landing of Caesar in
Britain the victorious Romans had carried their arms through the
southern part of the isle. They therefore endeavoured to secure the
conquered provinces by opening four roads, which should each rise in the
shore, communicate with, and cross each other, form different angles,
extend over the island several ways, and terminate in the opposite sea.

These are the Watling-street, which rises near Dover, and running
North-west through London, Atherstone, and Shropshire, in the
neighbourhood of Chester, ends in the Irish sea.

The Foss begins in Devonshlre, extends South-east through
Leicestershire, continuing its course through Lincolnshire, to the verge
of the German ocean.

These two roads, crossing each other at right angles, form a figure
resembling the letter X, whose centre is the High Cross, which divides
the counties of Warwick and Leicester.

The Ermine-street extends along the southern part of the island; near
the British channel; and the Ikenield-street, which I cannot so soon
quit, rises near Southampton, extends nearly North, through Winchester,
Wallingford, and over the Isis, at New-bridge; thence to Burford,
crossing the Foss at Stow in the Woulds, over Bitford-bridge, in the
County of Warwick, to Alcester; by Studley, Ipsley, Beely,
Wetherick-hill, Stutley-street; crosses the road from Birmingham to
Bromsgrove, at Selley oak, leaving Harborne a mile to the left, also the
Hales Owen road a mile West of Birmingham: Thence by the Observatory in
Lady-wood-lane, where it enters the parish of Birmingham, crossing the
Dudley road at the Sand-pits; along Worstone-lane; through the little
pool, and Hockley-brook, where it quits the parish: Thence over
Handsworth-heath, entering a little lane on the right of
Bristle-lands-end, and over the river Tame, at Offord-mill,
(Oldford-mill) directly to Sutton Coldfield. It passes the Ridgeway a
few yards East of King's-standing, a little artificial mount, on which
Charles the First is said to have stood when he harangued the troops he
brought out of Shropshire, at the opening of the civil wars, in 1642.
From thence the road proceeds through Sutton park, and the remainder of
the Coldfield; over Radley-moor; from thence to Wall, a Roman station,
where it meets the Watling-street: Leaving Lichfield a mile to the left,
it leads through Street-hay; over Fradley-heath; thence through Alderwas
hays, crossing the river Trent, at Wichnor-bridge, to Branson-turnpike:
over Burton-moor, leaving the town half a mile to the right: thence to
Monk's-bridge, upon the river Dove; along Egington-heath, Little-over,
the Rue-dyches, Stepping-lane, Nun-green, and Darley-slade, to the river
Derwent, one mile above Derby; upon the eastern banks of which stands
Little Chester, built by the Romans.

If the traveller is tired with this tedious journey, and dull
description, which admits of no variety, we will stop for a moment, and
refresh in this Roman city.

In drawing the flewks of his oar along the bed of the river, as he boats
over it, he may feel the foundations of a Roman bridge, nearly level
with its bottom. Joining the water are the vestiges of a castle, now an
orchard. Roman coins are frequently discovered--In 1765, I was presented
with one of Vespasian's, found the year before in scowering a ditch; but
I am sorry to observe, it has suffered more during the fifteen years in
my possession, than during the fifteen hundred it lay in the earth.

The inhabitants being in want of materials to form a turnpike road,
attempted to pull up this renowned military way, for the sake of those
materials, but found them too strongly cemented to admit of an easy
separation, and therefore desisted when they had taken up a few loads.

I saw the section of this road cut up from the bottom: the Romans seem
to have formed it with infinite labour and expence. They took out the
soil for about twenty yards wide, and one deep, perhaps, till they came
to a firm bottom; and filled up the whole with stones of all sizes,
brought from Duffield, four miles up the river; cemented with
coarse mortar.

The road here is only discoverable by its barren track, along the
cultivated meadows. It then proceeds over Morley-moor, through
Scarsdale, by Chesterfield, Balsover, through Yorkshire, Northumberland,
and terminates upon the banks of the Tine, near Tinmouth.

There are many roads in England formed by the Romans: they were of two
kinds, the military, which crossed the island; and the smaller, which
extended from one town to another. The four I have mentioned come under
the first class: they rather avoided, than led through a town, that they
might not be injured by traffic.

Two of these four, the Watling-street, and the Ikenield-street, are
thought, by their names, to be British, and with some reason; neither of
the words are derived from the Latin: but whatever were their origin,
they are certainly of Roman construction.

These great roads were begun as soon as the island was subdued, to
employ the military, and awe the natives, and were divided into stages,
at the end of each was a fort, or station, to accommodate the guard, for
the reception of stores, the conveniency of marching parties, and to
prevent the soldiers from mixing with the Britons.

The stations upon the Ikenield-street, in our neighbourhood, are Little
Chester (Derventione) a square fort, nearly half an acre; joining the
road to the south, and the Derwent to the west.

The next is Burton upon Trent (Ad Trivonam) thirteen miles south. Here I
find no remains of a station.

Then Wall (Etocetum) near Lichfield, which I have examined with great
labour, or rather with great pleasure: Here the two famous consular
roads cross each other. We should expect a fort in the angle, commanding
both, which is not the case. The Watling-street is lost for about half a
mile, leading over a morass, only the line is faintly preserved, by a
blind path over the inclosures: the Ikenield-street crosses it in this
morass, not the least traces of which remain. But, by a strict
attention, I could point out their junction to a few yards.

Six furlongs west of this junction, and one hundred yards north of the
Watling-street, in a close, now about three acres, are the remains of
the Roman fortress. This building, of strength and terror, is reduced to
one piece of thick wall, visibly of Roman workmanship, from whence the
place derives its modern name.

Can you, says I to a senior peasant, for I love to appeal to old age,
tell the origin of that building?

"No; but we suppose it has been a church. The ruins were much larger in
my memory; but they were lately destroyed, to bring the land into that
improved state of cultivation in which you see it."--And so you reduced
a fortress in four years, which the Britons never could in four hundred.
For a trifling profit, you eraze the work of the ancients, and prevent
the wonder of the moderns.--Are you apprised of any old walls under
the surface?

"Yes; the close is full of them: I have broke three ploughs in one day;
no tool will stand against them. It has been more expensive to bring the
land into its present condition, than the freehold is worth." Why, you
seem more willing to destroy than your tools; and more able than time.
The works which were the admiration of ages, you bury under ground. What
the traveller comes many miles to see, you assiduously hide.

What could be the meaning that the Romans erected their station on the
declivity of this hill, when the summit, two hundred yards distant, is
much more eligible; are there no foundations upon it? "None."

The commandry is preferable: the Watling-street runs by it, and it is
nearer the Ikenield-street. Pray, are you acquainted with another Roman
road which crosses it? "No."

Do you know any close about the village, where a narrow bed of gravel,
which runs a considerable length, has impeded the plough?

"Yes; there is a place, half a mile distant, where, when a child, I
drove the plough; we penetrated a land of gravel, and my companion's
grandfather told us, it had been an old road."--That is the place I
want, lead me to it. Being already master of both ends of the road, like
a broken line, with the center worn out, the gravel bed enabled me to
recover it.

The next station upon the Ikenield-street is Birmingham (Bremenium) I
have examined this country with care; but find no vestiges of a station:
nor shall we wonder; dissolation is the preserver of antiquity, nothing
of which reigns here; the most likely place is Wor-ston (Wall-stone)
which a younger brother of Birmingham might afterwards convert into the
fashionable moat of the times, and erect a castle. The next station is
Alcester (Alauna) all which are nearly at equal distances.

In forming these grand roads, a strait direction seems to have been
their leading maxim. Though curiosity has lead me to travel many hundred
miles upon their roads, with the eye of an enquirer, I cannot recollect
one instance, where they ever broke the line to avoid a hill, a swamp, a
rock, or a river.

They were well acquainted with the propriety of an old English adage,
_Once well done is twice done_; an idea new cloathed by Lord
Chesterfield, _If a a thing be worth doing at all, it is worth
doing well_.

For their roads were so durably constructed, that, had they been
appropriated only to the use intended, they might have withstood the
efforts of time, and bid fair for eternity.--Why is this useful art so
lost among the moderns?

When time and intercourse had so far united the Romans and the Britons,
that they approached nearly to one people, the Romans formed, or rather
_improved_, many of the smaller roads; placed stones of intelligence
upon them; hence, London Stone, Stony Stratford (the stone at the
Street-ford) Atherstone, stone (hither, near, or first stone from
Witherly-bridge, a Roman camp) and fixed their stations in the places to
which these roads tended.

The great roads, as observed before, were chiefly appropriated for
military purposes, and instituted in the beginning of their government;
but the smaller were of later date, and designed for common use. As
these came more in practice, there was less occasion for the military;
which, not leading to their towns, were, in process of time, nearly
laid aside.

Antonine, and his numerous train of commentators, have not bestowed that
attention on the roads they deserve: a curious acquaintance with the
roads of a country, brings us acquainted with the manners of the people:
in one, like a mirror, is exactly represented the other. Their state,
like a master key, unlocks many apartments.

The authors I have seen are _all in the wrong_; and as my researches are
confined, it is a mortification, I am not able to set them right. They
have confounded the two classes together, which were very distinct in
chronology, the manner of making, and their use. If an author treats of
one old road, he supposes himself bound to treat of all in the kingdom,
a task no man can execute: by undertaking much, we do nothing well; the
journey of an antiquarian mould never be rapid. If fortune offers a
small discovery, let him think, and compare. Neither will they ever be
set right, but continue to build a mouldering fabric, with untempered
mortar, till a number of intelligent residents, by local enquiries can
produce solid materials for a lasting monument.

The Romans properly termed their ways streets, a name retained by many
of them to this day; one of the smaller roads, issuing from London,
penetrates through Stratford upon Avon (Street-ford) Monks-path-street,
and Shirley-street, to Birmingham, which proves it of great antiquity,
and the Ikenield-street running by it, proves it of greater. We may from
hence safely conclude, Birmingham was a place of note in the time of
Caesar, because she merited legislative regard in forming their roads;
which will send us far back among the Britons, to find her first

Though we are certain the Ikenield-street passes about a mile in length
through this parish, as described above; yet, as there are no Roman
traces to be seen, I must take the curious traveller to that vast waste,
called Sutton-Coldfield, about four miles distant, where he will, in the
same road, find the footsteps of those great mailers of the world,
marked in lasting characters.

He will plainly see its straight line pass over the Ridgeway, through
Sutton Park, leaving the West hedge about 200 yards to the left; through
the remainder of the Coldfield, till lost in cultivation.

This track is more than three miles in length, and is no where else
visible in these parts. I must apprize him that its highest beauty is
only discovered by an horizontal sun in the winter months.

I first saw it in 1762, relieved by the transverse rays, in a clear
evening in November; I had a perfect view upon the Ridgeway, near
King's-standing of this delightful scene: Had I been attacked by the
chill blasts of winter, upon this bleak mountain, the sensation would
have been lost in the transport. The eye, at one view, takes in more
than two miles. Struck with astonishment, I thought it the grandest
sight I had ever beheld; and was amazed, so noble a monument of
antiquity should be so little regarded.

The poets have long contended for the line of beauty--they may find it
here. I was fixed as by enchantment till the sun dropt, my prospect with
it, and I left the place with regret.

If the industrious traveller chooses to wade up to the middle in gorse,
as I did, he may find a roughish journey along this famous
military way.

Perhaps this is the only road in which money is of no use to the
traveller; for upon this barren wild he can neither spend it, nor
give it away.

He will perceive the Coldfield to be one vast bed of gravel, covered
with a moderate depth of soil of eight or ten inches: During this
journey of three miles, he will observe all the way, on each side, a
number of pits, perhaps more than a thousand, out of which the Romans
procured the gravel to form the road; none of them many yards from it.
This great number of pits, tends to prove two points--That the country
was full of timber, which they not choosing to fall, procured the gravel
in the interstices; for the road is composed of nothing else--And, that
a great number of people were employed in its formation: They would
also, with the trees properly disposed, which the Romans must inevitably
cut to procure a passage, form a barrier to the road.

This noble production was designed by a master, is every where straight,
and executed with labour and judgement.

Here he perceives the date of his own conquest, and of his civilization.
Thus the Romans humbled a ferocious people.

If he chooses to measure it he will find it exactly sixty feet wide,
divided into three lands, resembling those in a ploughed field. The
centre land thirty-six feet, and raised from one to three, according to
the nature of the ground. The side lands, twelve each, and rising seldom
more than one foot.

This centre land no doubt was appropriated for the march of the troops,
and the small one, on each side, for the out-guards, who preserved their
ranks, for fear of a surprize from the vigilant and angry Britons.

The Romans held these roads in great esteem, and were severe in their
laws for their preservation.

This famous road is visible all the way, but in some parts greatly hurt,
and in others, compleat as in the first day the Romans made it. Perhaps
the inquisitive traveller may find here, the only monument in the whole
island left us by the Romans, that _time_ hath not injured.

The philosophical traveller may make some curious observations in the
line of agriculture, yet in its infancy.

The only growth upon this wild, is gorse and ling: The vegetation upon
the road and the adjacent lands, seem equal: The pits are all covered
with a tolerable turf.

As this road has been made about 1720 years, and, as at the time of
making, both that and the pits must have been surfaces of neat gravel;
he will be led to examine, what degree of soil they have acquired in
that long course of years, and by what means?

He well knows, that the surface of the earth is very far from being a
fixed body: That there is a continual motion in every part, stone
excepted: That the operations of the sun, the air, the frost, the dews,
the winds, and the rain, produce a constant agitation, which changes the
particles and the pores, tends to promote vegetation, and to increase
the soil to a certain depth.

This progress is too minute for the human eye, but the effects are
visible. The powers above mentioned operate nearly as yeast in a lump of
dough, that enlivens the whole. Nature seems to wish that the foot would
leave the path, that she may cover it with grass. He will find this
vegetative power so strong, that it even attends the small detached
parts of the soil where-ever they go, provided they are within reach of
air and moisture: He will not only observe it in the small pots,
appropriated for garden use, but on the tops of houses, remote from any
road, where the wind has carried any small dust. He will also observe it
in cracks of the rocks; but in an amazing degree in the thick walls of
ruined castles, where, by a long course of time, the decayed materials
are converted into a kind of soil, and so well covered with grass, that
if one of our old castle builders could return to his possessions, he
might mow his house as well as his field, and procure a tolerable crop
from both.

In those pits, upon an eminence, the soil will be found deep enough for
any mode of husbandry. In those of the vallies, which take in the small
drain of the adjacent parts, it is much deeper. That upon the road,
which rather gives than receives any addition from drain, the average
depth is about four inches.

The soil is not only increased by the causes above, but also by the
constant decays of the growth upon it. The present vegetable generation
falling to decay, adds to the soil, and also, assists the next
generation, which in a short time follows the same course.

The author of the History of Sutton says, "The poor inhabitants are
supplied with fuel from a magazine of peat, near the Roman road,
composed of thousands of fir trees cut down by the Romans, to enable
them to pass over a morass. The bodies of the trees are sometimes dug up
found, with the marks of the axe upon them."

Are we then to suppose, by this curious historical anecdote, that the
inhabitants of Sutton have run away with this celebrated piece of
antiquity? That the cart, instead of rolling _over_ the military way,
has rolled _under_ it, and that they have boiled the pot with the
Roman road?

Upon inquiry, they seemed more inclined to credit the fact, than able to
prove it; but I can find no such morass, neither is the road any where
broken up. Perhaps it would be as difficult to find the trees, as the
axe that cut them: Besides, the fir is not a native of Britain, but of
Russia; and I believe our forefathers, the Britons, were not complete
masters of the art of transplanting. The park of Sutton was probably a
bed of oaks, the natural weed of the country, long before Moses figured
in history.

Whilst the political traveller is contemplating this extraordinary
production of antiquity, of art, and of labour, his thoughts will
naturally recur to the authors of it.

He will find them proficients in science, in ambition, in taste: They
added dominion to conquest, 'till their original territory became too
narrow a basis to support the vast fabric acquired by the success of
their arms: The monstrous bulk fell to destruction by its own
weight.--Man was not made for universality; if he grasps at little, he
may retain it; if at much, he may lose all.

The confusion, natural on such occasions, produced anarchy: At that
moment, the military stept into the government, and the people
became slaves.

Upon the ruins of this brave race, the Bishop of Rome founded an
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. His power increasing with his votaries, he
found means to link all christendom to the triple crown, and acquired an
unaccountable ascendency over the human mind: The princes of Europe were
harnessed, like so many coach horses. The pontiff directed the bridle.
He sometimes used the whip, and sometimes the curse. The thunder of his
throne rattled through the world with astonishing effect, 'till that
most useful discovery, the art of printing, in the fifteenth century,
dissolved the charm, and set the oppressed cattle at liberty; who began
to kick their driver. Henry the Eighth of England, was the first unruly
animal in the papal team, and the sagacious Cranmer assisted in breaking
the shackles.

We have, in our day, seen an order of priesthood in the church of Rome,
annihilated by the consent of the European princes, which the Pope
beheld in silence.

"There is an ultimate point of exaltation, and reduction, beyond which
human affairs cannot proceed." Rome, seems to have experienced both, for
she is at this day one of the most contemptible states in the scale
of empire.

This will of course lead the traveller's thoughts towards Britain, where
he will find her sons by nature inclined to a love of arms, of liberty,
and of commerce. These are the strong outlines of national character,
the interior parts of which are finished with the softer touches of
humanity, of science, and of luxury. He will also find, that there is a
natural boundary to every country, beyond which it is dangerous to add
dominion. That the boundary of Britain is the sea: That her external
strength is her navy, which protects her frontiers, and her commerce:
That her internal is unanimity: That when her strength is united within
herself, she is invincible, and the balance of Europe will be fixed in
her hand, which she ought never to let go.

But if she accumulates territory, though she may profit at first, she
weakens her power by dividing it; for the more she fends abroad, the
less will remain at home; and, instead of giving law to the tyrant, she
may be obliged to receive law from him.

That, by a multiplicity of additions, her little isles will be lost in
the great map of dominion.

That, if she attempts to draw that vast and growing empire, America, she
may herself be drawn to destruction; for, by every law of attraction,
the greater draws the less--The mouse was never meant to direct the ox.
That the military and the ecclesiastical powers are necessary in their
places, that is, subordinate to the civil.

But my companion will remember that Birmingham is our historical mark,
therefore we must retreat to that happy abode of the smiling arts. If he
has no taste for antiquity, I have detained him too long upon this
hungry, though delightful spot. If he has, he will leave the enchanted
ground with reluctance; will often turn his head to repeat the view,
'till the prospect is totally lost.


By the united voice of our historians, it appears, that as the Saxons
conquered province after province, which was effected in about one
hundred and thirty years, the unfortunate Britons retreated into Wales:
But we are not to suppose that all the inhabitants ran away, and left a
desolate region to the victor; this would have been of little more value
to the conqueror, than the possession of Sutton Coldfield or Bromsgrove
Lickey. The mechanic and the peasant were left, which are by far the
greatest number; they are also the riches of a country; stamp a value
upon property, and it becomes current. As they have nothing to lose, so
they have nothing to fear; for let who will be master, they must be
drudges: Their safety consists in their servitude; the victor is ever
conscious of their utility, therefore their protection is certain.

But the danger lies with the man of substance, and the greater that
substance, the greater his anxiety to preserve it, and the more danger
to himself if conquered: These were the people who retreated into Wales.
Neither must we consider the wealth of that day to consist of bags of
cash, bills of exchange, India bonds, bank stock, etc. no such thing
existed. Property lay in the land, and the herds that fed upon it. And
here I must congratulate our Welch neighbours, who are most certainly
descended from gentlemen; and I make no doubt but the Cambrian reader
will readily unite in the same sentiment.

The Saxons, as conquerors, were too proud to follow the modes of the
conquered, therefore they introduced government, laws, language,
customs and habits of their own. Hence we date the division of the
kingdom into manors.

Human nature is nearly the same in all ages. Where value is marked upon
property or power, it will find its votaries: Whoever was the most
deserving, or rather could make the most interest, procured land
sufficient for an Elderman, now Earl; the next class, a Manor; and the
inferior, who had borne the heat and burthen of the day--nothing.

I must now introduce an expression which I promised not to forget.--In
the course of a trial between William de Birmingham, and the inhabitants
of Bromsgrove and King's-norton, in 1309, concerning the right of
tollage; it appeared, That the ANCESTORS of the said William had a
market here before the Norman conquest. This proves, that the family of
Birmingham were of Saxon race, and Lords of the Manor prior to
that period.

Mercia was not only the largest, but also the last of the seven
conquered kingdoms--It was bounded on the North by the Humber, on the
West by the Severn, on the South by the Thames, and on the East by the
German ocean. Birmingham lies nearly in the centre. Cridda, a Saxon,
came over with a body of troops, and reduced it in 582; therefore, as
no after revolution happened that could cause Birmingham to change its
owner, and as land was not in a very saleable state at that time, there
is the greatest reason to suppose the founder of the house of Birmingham
Came over with Cridda, as an officer in his army, and procured this
little flourishing dominion as a reward for his service.

The succeeding generations of this illustrious family are too remote for
historical penetration, 'till the reign of Edward the Confessor, the
last of the Saxon Kings, when we find, in 1050,


master of this improving spot.



seems to have succeeded him, and to have lived in that unfortunate
period for property, the conquest.

The time was now arrived when this ancient family, with the rest of the
English gentry, who had lived under the benign climate of Saxon
government, and in the affluence of fortune, must quit the happy
regions of hospitality, and enter the gloomy precincts of penury--From
givers, they were to become beggars.

The whole conduct of William seems to have carried the strongest marks
of conquest. Many of the English lost their lives, some their liberty,
and nearly all their estates. The whole land in the kingdom was
insufficient to satisfy the hungry Normans.

Perhaps William took the wisest method to secure the conquered country
that could be devised by human wisdom; he parcelled out the kingdom
among his greater Barons; the whole county of Chester is said to have
fallen to the share of Hugh Lupus: and these were subdivided into 62,000
Knight's-sees, which were held under the great Barons by military
service. Thus the Sovereign by only signifying his pleasure to the
Barons, could instantly raise an army for any purpose. We cannot produce
a stronger indication of arbitrary government: But, it is happy for the
world, that perfection is not found even in human wisdom; for this well
laid scheme destroyed itself. Instead of making the crown absolute, as
was intended, it threw the balance into the hands of the Barons, who
became so many petty Sovereigns, and a scourge to the King in after
ages, 'till Henry the Seventh sapped their power, and raised the third
estate, the Commons, which quickly eclipsed the other two.

The English gentry suffered great distress: Their complaints rung loud
in the royal ear, some of them therefore, who had been peaceable and
never opposed the Normans, were suffered to enjoy their estates in
dependance upon the great Barons.

This was the case with Richard, Lord of Birmingham, who held this manor
by knight's-service of William Fitz-Ausculf, Lord of Dudley castle, and
perhaps all the land between the two places.

Thus Birmingham, now rising towards the meridian of opulence, was a
dependant upon Dudley castle, now in ruins; and thus an honourable
family, who had enjoyed a valuable freehold, perhaps near 500 years,
were obliged to pay rent, homage, suit and service, attend the Lord's
court at Dudley every three weeks, be called into the field at pleasure,
and after all, possess a precarious tenure in villainage.

The blood of the ancient English was not only tainted with the breath of
that destructive age, but their lands also. The powerful blast destroyed
their ancient freehold tenures, reducing them into wretched copyholds:
and to the disgrace of succeeding ages, many of them retain this mark of
Norman slavery to the present day. How defective are those laws, which
give one man power over another in neutral cases? That tend to promote
quarrels, prevent cultivation, and which cannot draw the line between
property and property?

Though a spirit of bravery is certainly a part of the British character,
yet there are two or three periods in English history, when this noble
flame was totally extinguished. Every degree of resolution seems to have
been cut off at the battle of Hastings. The English acted contrary to
their usual manner:--Danger had often made them desperate, but now it
made them humble. This conquest is one of the most extraordinary held
forth in history; the flower of nobility was wholly nipped off; the
spirit of the English depressed, and having no head to direct, or hand
to cultivate the courage of the people and lead it into action, it
dwindled at the root, was trampled under the foot of tyranny, and,
according to _Smollet_, several generations elapsed before any one of
the old English stock blossomed into peerage.

It is curious to contemplate the revolution of things--Though the
conquering Romans flood first in the annals of same at the beginning of
the Christian era, yet they were a whole century in carrying their
illustrious arms over the island, occupied only by a despicable race of
Britons. Though the Saxons were invited, by one false step in politics,
to assist the Britons in expelling an enemy, which gave them an
opportunity of becoming enemies themselves; yet it was 130 years before
they could complete their conquest. And though the industrious Dane
poured incessant numbers of people into Britain, yet it cost them 200
years, and 150,000 men before they reduced it. But William, at one blow,
finished the dreadful work, shackled her sons to his throne, and
governed them with a sceptre of iron. Normandy, a petty dukedom, very
little larger than Yorkshire, conquered a mighty nation in one day.
England seems to have been taken by storm, and her liberties put to the
sword: Nor did the miseries of this ill-fated kingdom end here, for the
continental dominions, which William annexed to the crown, proved a
whirlpool for 400 years, which drew the blood and treasure of the nation
into its vortex, 'till those dominions were fortunately lost in the
reign of Mary the First.

Thus the Romans spent one century in acquiring a kingdom, which they
governed for four. The Saxons spent 130 years, and ruled for 459. The
Danes spent 200 and reigned for 25--But the Norman spent one day only,
for a reign of 700 years: They continue to reign still.

It is easy to point out some families of Norman race, who yet enjoy the
estates won by their ancestors at the battle of Hastings.



Like his unfortunate father, was in a state of vassalage. The male line
of the Fitz-Ausculfs soon became extinct, and Gervase Paganell marrying
the heiress, became Baron of Dudley-castle.



It is common in every class of life, for the inferior to imitate the
superior: If the real lady claims a head-dress sixteen inches high, that
of the imaginary lady will immediately begin to thrive. The family, or
surname, entered with William the First, and was soon the reigning taste
of the day: A person was thought of no consequence without a surname,
and even the depressed English, crept into the fashion, in imitation of
their masters. I have already mentioned the Earl of Warwick, father of a
numerous race now in Birmingham; whose name before the conquest was
simply Turchill, but after, Turchill de Arden, (Matter of the Woods)
from his own estate.

Thus the family of whom I speak, chose to dignify themselves with the
name of _de Birmingham_.

Peter wisely consulted his own interest, kept fair with Paganall his
Lord, and obtained from him, in 1166, nine Knight's-fees, which he held
by military service.

A Knight's-fee, though uncommon now, was a word well understood 600
years ago. It did not mean, as some have imagined, fifteen pounds per
annum, nor any determinate sum; but as much land as would support a
gentleman. This Peter was fewer to Paganall, (waited at his table)
though a man of great property.

The splendor in which the great Barons of that age lived, was little
inferior to royalty.

The party distinctions also of Saxon and Norman, in the twelfth century,
began to die away, as the people became united by interest or marriage,
like that of Whig and Tory, in the eighteenth. And perhaps there is not
at present a native that does not carry in his veins the blood of the
four nations that were grafted upon the Britons.

Peter himself lived in affluence at his castle, then near Birmingham,
now the Moat, of which in the next section. He also obtained from Henry
the Second, as well as from Paganall the Lord paramount, several
valuable privileges for his favourite inheritance of Birmingham. He bore
for his arms, _azure, a bend lozenge_, of five points, _or_; the coat of
his ancestors.



At the reduction of Ireland, in the reign of Henry the Second, a branch
of this family, and perhaps uncle to William, was very instrumental
under Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in accomplishing that great
end; for which he was rewarded with a large estate, and the title of
Earl of Lowth, both which continue in his family. Perhaps they are the
only remains of this honorable house.



By this time, the male line of the Paganalls was worn out, and Roger de
Someri marrying the heiress, became Baron of Dudley, with all its
dependencies; but Someri and Birmingham did not keep peace, as their
fathers had done. William, being very rich, forgot to ride to Dudley
every three weeks, to perform suit and service at Someri's court.

Whereupon a contest commenced to enforce the performance. But, in 1262,
it was agreed between the contending parties--That William should attend
the Lord's court only twice a year, Easter and Michaelmas, and at such
other times, as the Lord chose to command by special summons. This
William, having married the daughter of Thomas de Astley, a man of great
eminence, and both joining with the Barons under Simon Mountfort, Earl
of Leicester, against Henry the Third, William fell, in 1265, at the
battle of Evesham; and as the loser is ever the rebel, the Barons were
prescribed, and their estates confiscated.

The manor of Birmingham, therefore, valued at forty pounds per annum,
was seized by the King, and given to his favorite, Roger de Clifford.



By a law called the statute of Kenilworth, every man who had forfeited
his estate to the crown, by having taken up arms, had liberty to redeem
his lands, by a certain fine: William therefore paid that fine, and
recovered the inheritance of his family. He also, in 1283 strengthened
his title by a charter from Edward the First, and likewise to the other
manors he possessed, such as Stockton, in the County of Worcester;
Shetford, in Oxfordshire; Maidencoat, in Berkshire; Hoggeston, in the
county of Bucks; and Christleton, in Cheshire.

In 1285, Edward brought his writ of quo warranto, whereby every holder
of land was obliged to show by what title he held it. The consequence
would have been dreadful to a Prince of less prudence than Edward. Some
showed great unwillingness; for a dormant title will not always bear
examination--But William producing divers charters, clearly proved his
right to every manorial privilege, such as market, toll, tem, sack, sok,
insangenthief, weyfs, gallows, court-leet, and pillory, with a right to
fix the standard for bread and beer; all which were allowed.

William, Lord of Birmingham, being a military tenant, was obliged to
attend the King into Gascoigne, 1297, where he lost his liberty at the
siege of Bellgard, and was carried prisoner in triumph to Paris.



This is the man who tried the right of tollage with the people of
Bromsgrove and King's norton.




Was knighted in 1325; well affected to Edward the Second, for whose
service he raised four hundred foot. Time seems to have put a period to
the family of Someri, Lords of Dudley, as well as to those of their
predecessors, the Paganalls, and the Fitz-Ausculfs.

In 1327, the first of Edward the Third, Sir William was summoned to
Parliament, by the title of William Lord Birmingham, but not after.

It was not the fashion of that day to fill the House of Peers by patent.
The greater Barons held a local title from their Baronies; the possessor
of one of these, claimed a seat among the Lords.

I think, they are now all extinct, except Arundel, the property of the
Norfolk family, and whoever is proprietor of Arundel castle, is Earl
thereof by ancient prescription.

The lesser Barons were called up to the House by writ, which did not
confer an hereditary title. Of this class was the Lord of Birmingham.

Hugh Spencer, the favourite of the weak Edward the Second, had procured
the custody of Dudley-castle, with all its appendages, for his friend
William, Lord Birmingham.

Thus the family who had travelled from Birmingham to Dudley every three
weeks, to perform humble suit at the Lord's court, held that very court
by royal appointment, to receive the fealty of others.

By the patent which constituted William keeper of Dudley-castle, he was
obliged to account for the annual profits arising from that vast estate
into the King's exchequer. When, therefore, in 1334, he delivered in his
accounts, the Barons refused to admit them, because the money was
defective. But he had interest enough with the crown to cause a mandamus
to be issued, commanding the Barons to admit them.



This man advanced to Sir Baldwin Freville, Lord of Tamworth, forty eight
marks, upon mortgage of five mills. The ancient coat of the _bend
lozenge_, was now changed for the _partie per pale, indented, or,
and gules_.

In 1352, and 1362 he was returned a member for the county of Warwick;
also, in three or four succeeding Parliaments.



Served the office of Sheriff for the county of Warwick, in 1379, and was
successively returned to serve in Parliament for the counties of
Warwick, Bedford, and Buckingham. He married the daughter of William de
la Planch, by whom he had no issue. She afterwards married the Lord
Clinton, retained the manor of Birmingham as her dower, and lived to the
year 1424.

It does not appear in this illustrious family, that the regular line of
descent, from father to son, was ever broken, from the time of the
Saxons, 'till 1390. This Sir John left a brother, Sir Thomas de
Birmingham, heir at law, who enjoyed the bulk of his brother's fortune;
but was not to possess the manor of Birmingham 'till the widow's death,
which not happening 'till after his own, he never enjoyed it.

The Lord Clinton and his Lady seem to have occupied the Manor-house; and
Sir Thomas, unwilling to quit the place of his affections and of his
nativity, erected a castle for himself at Worstone, near the Sand-pits,
joining the Ikenield-street; street; where, though the building is
totally gone, the vestiges of its liquid security are yet complete. This
Sir Thomas enjoyed several public offices, and figured in the style of
his ancestors. He left a daughter, who married Thomas de la Roche, and
from this marriage sprang two daughters; the eldest of which married
Edmund, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, who, at the decease of Sir John's
widow, inherited the manor, and occupied the Manor house. There yet
stands a building on the North-east side of the Moat, erected by this
Lord Ferrers, with his arms in the timbers of the ceiling, and the
crest, a horse-shoe.

I take this house to be the oldest in Birmingham, though it hath not
that appearance; having stood about 350 years.

By an entail of the manor upon the male line, the Lady Ferrers seems to
have quitted her title in favor of a second cousin, a descendant of
William de Birmingham, brother to Sir Fouk.



In the 19th of Henry the Sixth, 1441, is said to have held his manor of
Birmingham, of Sir John Sutton, Lord of Dudley, by military service;
but instead of paying homage, fealty, escuage, &c. as his ancestors had
done, which was very troublesome to the tenant, and brought only empty
honour to the Lord: and, as sometimes the Lord's necessities taught him
to think that money was more _Solid_ than suit and service; an agreement
was entered into, for money instead of homage, between the Lord and the
tenant--Such agreements now became common. Thus land became a kind of
bastard freehold:--The tenant held a certainty, while he conformed to
the agreement; or, in other words, the custom of the manor--And the Lord
still possessed a material control. He died in 1479, leaving a son,



Aged thirty at the decease of his father. He married Isabella, heiress
of William Hilton, by whom he had a son, William, who died before his
father, June 7, 1500, leaving a son,



Born in 1497, and succeeded his grandfather at the age of three. During
his minority, Henry the Seventh, 1502, granted the wardship to Edward,
Lord Dudley.

The family estate then consisted of the manors of Birmingham, Over
Warton, Nether Warton, Mock Tew, Little Tew, and Shutford in the county
of Oxford, Hoggeston in Bucks, and Billesley in the county of Worcester.
Edward afterwards married Elizabeth, widow of William Ludford, of
Annesley, by whom he had one daughter, who married a person of the name
of Atkinson.

But after the peaceable possession of a valuable estate, for thirty
seven years; the time was now arrived, when the mounds of justice must
be broken down by the weight of power, a whole deluge of destruction
enter, and overwhelm an ancient and illustrious family, in the person of
an innocent man. The world would view the diabolical transaction with
amazement, none daring to lend assistance to the unfortunate; not
considering, that property should ever be under the protection of law;
and, what was Edward's case to-day, might be that of any other man
to-morrow. But the oppressor kept fair with the crown, and the crown
held a rod of iron over the people.--Suffer me to tell the mournful tale
from Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire.


John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, a man of great wealth, unbounded
ambition, and one of the basest characters of the age, was possessor of
Dudley-castle, and the fine estate belonging to it:--He wished to add
Birmingham to his vast domain. Edward Birmingham therefore was privately
founded, respecting the disposal of his manor; but as money was not
wanted, and as the place had been the honor and the residence of his
family for many centuries, it was out of the reach of purchase.

Northumberland was so charmed with its beauty, he was determined to
possess it; and perhaps the manner in which he accomplished his design,
cannot be paralleled in the annals of infamy.

He procured two or three rascals of his own temper, and rather of mean
appearance, to avoid suspicion, to take up their quarters for a night or
two in Birmingham, and gain secret intelligence when Edward Birmingham
should ride out, and what road: This done, one of the rascals was to
keep before the others, but all took care that Edward should easily
overtake them. Upon his arrival at the first class, the villains joined
him, entered into chat, and all moved soberly together 'till they
reached the first man; when, on a sudden, the strangers with Edward drew
their pistols and robbed their brother villain, who no doubt lost a
considerable sum after a decent resistance. Edward was easily known,
apprehended, and committed as one of the robbers; the others were not
to be found.

Edward immediately saw himself on the verge of destruction. He could
only _alledge_, but not _prove_ his innocence: All the proof the case
could admit of, was against him.

Northumberland (then only Lord L'Isle) hitherto had succeeded to his
wish; nor was Edward long in suspence--Private hints were given him,
that the only way to save his life, was to make Northumberland his
friend; and this probably might be done, by resigning to him his manor
of Birmingham; with which the unfortunate Edward reluctantly complied.

Northumberland thinking a common conveyance insufficient, caused Edward
to yield his estate into the hands of the King, and had interest enough
in that age of injustice to procure a ratification from a weak
Parliament, by which means he endeavoured to throw the odium off his own
character, and fix it upon theirs, and also, procure to himself a
safer title.

An extract from that base act is as follows:--

"Whereas Edward Byrmingham, late of Byrmingham in the countie of
Warwick, Esquire, otherwise callid Edward Byrmingham, Esquire, ys and
standyth lawfully indettid to our soverene Lord the Kinge, in diverse
grete summes of money; and also standyth at the mercy of his Highness,
for that the same Edward ys at this present convected of felony: Our
seide soverene Lord the Kinge ys contentid and pleasid, that for and in
recompence and satisfaction to his Grace of the seyde summes of money,
to accept and take of the seyde Edward the mannour and lordship of
Byrmingham, otherwise callid Byrmincham, with the appurtinances, lying
and being in the countie of Warwick, and all and singuler other lands
and tenements, reversions, rents, services, and hereditaments of the
same Edward Byrmingham, set, lying and beying in the countie of Warwick
aforesaid. Be yt therefore ordeyned and enacted, by the authoritie of
this present Parliament, that our seyde soverene Lord the Kinge shall
have, hold, and enjoy, to him and his heires and assignes for ever, the
seyde mannour and lordship of Byrmingham, &c."

In the act there is a reservation of 40_l_. per annum, during the lives
only of the said Edward and his wife.

It appears also, by an expression in the act, that Edward was brought to
trial, and found guilty. Thus innocence is depressed for want of
support; property is wrested for want of the protection of the law; and
a vile minister, in a corrupt age, can carry an infamous point through a
court of justice, the two Houses of Parliament, and complete his horrid
design by the sanction of a tyrant.

The place where tradition tells us this diabolical transaction happened,
is the middle of Sandy-lane, in the Sutton road; the upper part of which
begins at the North east corner of Aston park wall; at the bottom, you
bear to the left, for Sawford-bridge, or to the right, for
Nachell's-green; about two miles from the Moat, the place of
Edward's abode.

Except that branch which proceeded from this original stem, about 600
years ago, of which the Earl of Lowth is head, I know of no male
descendant from this honourable stock; who, if we allow the founder to
have come over with Cridda, the Saxon, in 582, must have commanded this
little Sovereignty 955 years.

I met with a person sometime ago of the name of Birmingham, and was
pleased with the hope of finding a member of that ancient and honorable
house; but he proved so amasingly ignorant, he could not tell whether he
was from the clouds, the sea, or the dunghill: instead of traceing the
existence of his ancestors, even so high as his father, he was scarcely
conscious of his own.

As this house did not much abound with daughters, I cannot at present
recollect any families among us, except that of Bracebridge, who are
descended from this illustrious origin, by a female line; and Sir John
Talbot Dillon, who is descended from the ancient Earls of Lowth, as he
is from the De Veres, the more ancient Earls of Oxford.

Here, then, I unwillingly extinguish that long range of lights, which
for many ages illuminated the house of Birmingham.

But I cannot extinguish the rascallity of the line of Northumberland.
This unworthy race, proved a scourge to the world, at least during three
generations. Each, in his turn, presided in the British cabinet; and
each seems to have possessed the villainy of his predecessor, united
with his own. The first, only _served_ a throne; but the second and the
third intended to _fill_ one. A small degree of ambition warms the mind
in pursuit of fame, through the paths of honor; while too large a
portion tends to unfavorable directions, kindles to a flame, consumes
the finer sensations of rectitude, and leaves a stench behind.

Edmund, the father of this John, was the voracious leech, with Empson,
who sucked the vitals of the people, to feed the avarice of Henry
the Seventh.

It is singular that Henry, the most sagacious prince since the conquest,
loaded him with honours for filling the royal coffers with wealth, which
the penurious monarch durst never enjoy: but his successor, Henry the
Eighth, enjoyed the pleasure of consuming that wealth, and _executed_
the father for collecting it! How much are our best laid schemes
defective? How little does expectation and event coincide? It is no
disgrace to a man that he died on the scaffold; the question is--What
brought him there? Some of the most inoffensive, and others the most
exalted characters of the age in which they lived, have been cut off by
the axe, as Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, for being the last male
heir of the Anjouvin Kings; John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Sir Thomas
Moore, Sir Walter Raleigh, Algernon Sidney, William Lord Russell, &c.
whose blood ornamented the scaffold on which they fell.

The son of this man, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favorite of Queen
Elizabeth, is held up by our historians as a master-piece of
dissimulation, pride, and cruelty. He married three wives, all which he
is charged with sending to the grave by untimely deaths; one of them, to
open a passage to the Queen's bed, to which he aspired. It is
surprising, that he should deceive the penetrating eye of Elizabeth: but
I am much inclined to think she _knew him_ better than the world; and
they knew him rather to well. He ruined many of the English gentry,
particularly the ancient family of Arden, of Park-hall, in this
neighbourhood: he afterwards ruined his own family by disinheriting a
son, more worthy than himself.--If he did not fall by the executioner,
it is no proof that he did not deserve it.--We now behold


Lord of the manor of Birmingham; a man, who of all others the least
deserved that honor; or rather, deserved the axe for being so.

Some have asserted, "That property acquired by dishonesty cannot
prosper." But I shall leave the philosopher and the enthusiast to settle
that important point, while I go on to observe, That that the lordship
of Birmingham did not prosper with the Duke. Though he had, in some
degree, the powers of government in his hands, he had also the clamours
of the people in his ears. What were his inward feelings, is uncertain
at this distance--Fear seems to have prevented him from acknowledging
Birmingham for his property. Though he exercised every act of ownership,
yet he suffered the fee-simple to rest in the crown, 'till nine years
had elapsed, and those clamours subsided, before he ventured to accept
the grant, in 1546.

As the execution of this grant was one of the last acts of Henry's life,
we should be apt to suspect the Duke carried it in his pocket ready for
signing, but deferred the matter as long as he could with safety, that
distance of time might annihilate reflection; and that the King's death,
which happened a few weeks after, might draw the attention of the world
too much, by the importance of the event, to regard the Duke's conduct.

The next six years, which carries us through the reign of Edward the
Sixth, is replete with the intrigues of this illustrious knave. He
sought connections with the principal families: He sought honours for
his own: He procured a match between his son, the Lord Guildford Dudley,
and the Lady Jane Gray, daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, and a
descendant from Henry the Seventh, with intent of fixing the crown in
his family, but failing in the attempt, he brought ruin upon the Suffolk
family, and himself to the block, in the first of Queen Mary, 1553.

Though a man be guilty of many atrocious acts that deserve death, yet in
the hour of distress humanity demands the tear of compassion; but the
case was otherwise at the execution of John, Duke of Northumberland, for
a woman near the scaffold held forth a bloody handkerchief and
exclaimed, "Behold the blood of the Duke of Somerset, shed by your
means, and which cries for vengeance against you."

Thus Northumberland kept a short and rough possession of glory; thus he
fell unlamented; and thus the manor of Birmingham reverted to the crown
a second time, the Duke himself having first taught it the way.

Birmingham continued two years in the crown, 'till the third of Queen
Mary, when she granted it to



Whose family, for many descents, resided at Berkeswell, in this county.

In the possession of the High Bailiff is a bushel measure, cast in
brass, of some value; round which in relief is, SAMUEL MARROW, LORD OF

The Lordship continued in this family about 191 years, 'till the male
line failing, it became the joint property of four coheirs--Ann, married
to Sir Arthur Kaye; Mary, the wife of John Knightley, Esq; Ursulla, the
wife of Sir Robert Wilmot; and Arabella, unmarried; who, in about 1730,
disposed of the private estate in the manor, amounting to about 400_l_.
per annum, to Thomas Sherlock, Bishop of London, as before observed, and
the manor itself to


for 1,700_l_. in 1746,

Of an ancient family, who have resided at Umberslade in this county more
than 600 years--from him it descended to


And is now enjoyed by his relict,



Possessing no more in the parish than the royalty; as it does not appear
that the subsequent Lords, after the extinction of the house of
Birmingham, were resident upon the manor, I omit particulars.

Let me remark, this place yet gives title to the present Lord Viscount
Dudley and Ward, as descended, by the female line, from the great
Norman Barons, the Fitz-Ausculfs, the Paganalls, the Somerys, the
Suttons, and the Dudleys, successively Lords paramount, whose original
power is reduced to a name.


(The Moat.)

The natural temper of the human mind, like that of the brute, is given
to plunder: This temper is very apt to break forth into action. In all
societies of men, therefore, restraints have been discovered, under the
name of laws, attended with punishment, to deter people from infringing
each others property. Every thing that a man can possess, falls under
the denomination of property; whether it be life, liberty, wealth or

The less perfect these laws are, the less a people are removed from the
rude state of nature, and the more necessity there is for a man to be
constantly in a state of defence, that he may be able to repel any force
that shall rise up against him.

It is easy to discover, by the laws of a country, how far the people are
advanced in civilization. If the laws are defective, or the magistrate
too weak to execute them, it is dangerous for a man to possess property.

But when a nation is pretty far advanced in social existence; when the
laws agree with reason, and are executed with firmness, a man need not
trouble himself concerning the protection of his property--his country
will protect it for him.

The laws of England have, for many ages, been gradually refining; and
are capable of that protection which violence never was.

But if we penetrate back into the recesses of time, we shall find the
laws inadequate, the manners savage, force occupy the place of justice,
and property unprotected. In those barbarous ages, therefore, men sought
security by intrenching themselves from a world they could not trust.
This was done by opening a large ditch round their habitation, which
they filled with water, and which was only approachable by a
draw-bridge. This, in some degree, supplied the defect of the law, and
the want of power in the magistrate. It also, during the iron reign of
priesthood, furnished that table in lent, which it guarded all the year.

The Britons had a very slender knowledge of fortification. The camps
they left us, are chiefly upon eminences, girt by a shallow ditch,
bordered with stone, earth, or timber, but never with water. The moat,
therefore, was introduced by the Romans; their camps are often in
marshes; some wholly, and some in part surrounded by water.

These liquid barriers were begun in England early in the christian æra,
they were in the zenith of their glory at the barons wars, in the reign
of king John, and continued to be the mode of fortification till the
introduction of guns, in the reign of Edward the fourth, which shook
their foundation; and the civil wars of Charles the first totally
annihilated their use, after an existence of twelve hundred years.

Perhaps few parishes, that have been the ancient habitation of a
gentleman, are void of some traces of these fluid bulwarks. That of
Birmingham has three; one of these, of a square form, at Warstone,
erected by a younger brother of the house of Birmingham, hath already
been mentioned; it is fed by a small rivulet from Rotton Park, which
crosses the Dudley Road, near the Sand pits.

Another is the Parsonage house, belonging to St. Martin's, formerly
situated in the road to Bromsgrove, now Smallbrook street, of a circular
figure, and supplied by a neighbouring spring. If we allow this watery
circle to be a proof of the great antiquity of the house, it is a much
greater with regard to the antiquity of the church.

The third is what we simply denominate the Moat, and was the residence
of the ancient lords of Birmingham, situated about sixty yards south of
the church, and twenty west of Digbeth; this is also circular, and
supplied by a small stream that crosses the road to Bromsgrove, near the
first mile stone; it originally ran into the river Rea, near Vaughton's
hole, dividing the parishes of Birmingham and Edgbaston all the way, but
at the formation of the Moat, was diverted from its course, into which
it never returned.

No certain evidence remains to inform us when this liquid work was
accomplished: perhaps in the Saxon heptarchy, when there were few or no
buildings south of the church. Digbeth seems to have been one of the
first streets added to this important school of arts; the upper part of
that street must of course have been formed first: but, that the Moat
was completed prior to the erection of any buildings between that and
Digbeth, is evident, because those buildings stand upon the very soil
thrown out in forming the Moat.

The first certain account that we meet with of this guardian circle, is
in the reign of Henry the Second, 1154, when Peter de Birmingham, then
lord of the see, had a cattle here, and lived in splendor. All the
succeeding Lords resided upon the same island, till their cruel
expulsion by John Duke of Northumberland in 1537.

The old castle followed its lords, and is buried in the ruins of time.
Upon the spot, about forty years ago, rose a house in the modern style,
occupied by a manufacturer (John Francis;) in one of the out-buildings
is shewn, the apartment where the ancient lords kept their court leet;
another out-building which stands to the east, I have already observed,
was the work of Edmund Lord Ferrers.

The ditch being filled with water, has nearly the same appearance now as
perhaps a thousand years ago, but not altogether the same use. It then
served to protect its master, but now, to turn a thread-mill.


Near the place where the small rivulet discharges itself into the Moat,
another of the same size is carried over it, called Pudding Brook, and
proceeds from the town as this advances towards it, producing a
curiosity seldom met with; one river running South, and the other North,
for half a mile, yet only a path-road of three feet asunder; which
surprised Brindley the famous engineer.


The site of this ancient edifice is now the Square; some small remains
of the old foundations are yet visible in the cellars, chiefly on the
South-east. The out-buildings and pleasure-grounds perhaps occupied the
whole North east side of Bull-street, then uninhabited, and only the
highway to Wolverhampton; bounded on the North-west by Steelhouse-lane;
on the North-east by Newton and John's-street; and on the South-east by
Dale-end, which also was no other than the highway to Lichfield--The
whole, about fourteen acres.

The building upon this delightful eminence, which at that time commanded
the small but beautiful prospect of Bristland-fields, Rowley-hills,
Oldbury, Smethewick, Handsworth, Sutton-Coldfield, Erdington, Saltley,
the Garrison, and Camp-hill, and which then stood at a distance from the
town, though now near its centre; was founded by the house of
Birmingham, in the early reigns of the Norman Kings, and called the
Hospital of Saint Thomas,--The priest being bound to pray for the souls
of the founders every day, to the end of the world.

In 1285, Thomas de Madenhache, Lord of the manor of Aston, gave ten
acres of land in his manor. William de Birmingham ten, which I take to
be the land where the Priory stood; and Ranulph de Rakeby three acres,
in Saltley: About the same time, sundry others gave houses and land in
smaller quantities: William de Birmingham gave afterwards twenty-two
acres more. The same active spirit seems to have operated in our
ancestors, 500 years ago, that does in their descendants at this day: If
a new scheme strikes the fancy, it is pursued with vigor.

The religious fervor of that day ran high: It was unfashionable to leave
the world, and not remember the Priory. Donations crowded in so fast,
that the prohibiting act was forgot; so that in 1311, the brotherhood
were prosecuted by the crown, for appropriating lands contrary to the
act of mortmain; But these interested priests, like their sagacious
brethren, knew as well how to preserve as to gain property; for upon
their humble petition to the throne, Edward the Second put a stop to the
judicial proceedings, and granted a special pardon.

In 1351, Fouk de Birmingham, and Richard Spencer, jointly gave to the
priory one hundred acres of land, part lying in Aston, and part in
Birmingham, to maintain another priest, who should celebrate divine
service daily at the altar of the Virgin Mary, in the church of the
hospital, for the souls of William la Mercer, and his wife. The church
is supposed to have stood upon the spot now No. 27, in Bull-street.

In the premises belonging to the Red Bull, No. 83, nearly opposite, have
been discovered human bones, which has caused some to suppose it the
place of interment for the religious, belonging to the priory, which I
rather doubt.

At the dissolution of the abbies, in 1536, the King's visitors valued
the annual income at the trifling sum of 8_l_. 8s. 9d.

The patronage continued chiefly in the head of the Birmingham family.
Dugdale gives us a list of some of the Priors, who held dominion in this
little common wealth, from 1326, 'till the total annihilation, being
210 years.

     Robert Marmion,
     Robert Cappe,
     Thomas Edmunds,
     John Frothward,
     Robert Browne,
     John Port,
     William Priestwood,
     Henry Drayton,
     John Cheyne,
     Henry Bradley,
     Thomas Salpin,
     Sir Edward Toste,
     Henry Hody.

Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, a man of much honour, more capacity, and
yet more spirit, was the instrument with which Henry the Eighth
destroyed the abbies; but Henry, like a true politician of the house of
Tudor, wisely threw the blame upon the instrument, held it forth to the
public in an odious light, and then sacrificed it to appease an
angry people.

This destructive measure against the religious houses, originated from
royal letchery, and was replete with consequence.

It opened the fountains of learning, at that day confined to the
monastry, and the streams diffused themselves through various ranks of
men. The revival of letters and of science made a rapid progress: It
soon appeared, that the stagnate knowledge of the priest, was abundantly
mixed with error; but now, running through the laity, who had no private
interest to serve, it became more pure.

It removed great numbers of men, who lay as a dead weight upon the
community, and they became useful members of society: When younger sons
could no longer find an asylum within the gloomy walls of a convent,
they sought a livelihood in trade. Commerce, therefore, was taught to
crowd her sails, cross the western ocean, fill the country with riches,
and change an idle spirit into that of industry.

By the destruction of religious houses, architecture sustained a
temporary wound: They were by far the most magnificent and expensive
buildings in the kingdoms, far surpassing those of the nobility; some of
these structures are yet habitable, though the major part are gone to
decay. But modern architecture hath since out-done the former splendor
of the abbey, in use and elegance and sometimes with the profits arising
from the abbey lands.

It also shut the door of charity against the impostor, the helpless, and
the idle, who had found here their chief supply; and gave rise to one of
the best laws ever invented by human wisdom that of each parish
supporting its own poor.

By the annihilation of abbots, the church lost its weight in Parliament,
and the vote was thrown into the hands of the temporal Lords.

It prevented, in some degree, the extinction of families; for, instead
of younger branches becoming the votaries of a monastic life, they
became the votaries of hymen: Hence the kingdom was enriched by
population. It eased the people of a set of masters, who had for ages
ruled them with a rod of iron.

The hands of superstition were also weakened, for the important sciences
of astrology, miracle, and divination, supported by the cell, have been
losing ground ever since.

It likewise recovered vast tracts of land out of dead hands, and gave an
additional vigor to agriculture, unknown to former ages. The monk, who
had only a temporary tenancy, could not give a permanant one; therefore,
the lands were neglected, and the produce was small: But these lands
falling into the hands of the gentry, acquired an hereditary title. It
was their interest; to grant leases, for a superior rent; and it was the
tenant's interest to give that rent, for the sake of security: Hence the
produce of land is become one of the most advantageous branches of
British commerce.

Henry, by this seisure, had more property to give away, than any King of
England since William the Conqueror, and he generously gave away that
which was never his own. It is curious to survey the foundation of some
of the principal religions that have taken the lead among men.

Moses founded a religion upon morals and ceremonies, one half of which
continues with his people to this day.

Christ founded one upon _love_ and _purity_; words of the simplest
import, yet we sometimes mistake their meaning.

The Bishop of Rome erected his, upon deceit and oppression; hence the
treasures of knowledge were locked up, an inundation of riches and power
flowed into the church, with destructive tendency.

And Henry the Eighth, built his reformation upon revenge and plunder: He
deprived the _head_ of the Romish see, of an unjust power, for
pronouncing a just decision; and robbed the _members_, for being annexed
to that head. Henry wished the world to believe, what he believed
himself, that he acted from a religious principle; but his motive seems
to have been _savage love_.

Had equity directed when Henry divided this vast property, he would have
restored it to the descendants of those persons, whose mistaken zeal had
injured their families; but his disposal of it was ludicrous--sometimes
he made a free gift, at others he exchanged a better estate for a a
worse, and then gave that worse to another.

I have met with a little anecdote which says, "That Henry being upon a
tour in Devonshire, two men waited on him to beg certain lands in that
county; while they attended in the anti-room for the royal presence, a
stranger approached, and asked them a trifling question; they answered,
they wished to be alone--at that moment the King entered: They fell at
his feet: The stranger seeing them kneel, kneelt with them. They asked
the favor intended; the King readily granted it: They bowed: The
stranger bowed also. By this time, the stranger perceiving there was a
valuable prize in the question, claimed his thirds; they denied his
having anything to do with the matter: He answered, he had done as much
as they, for they only asked and bowed, and he did the same. The dispute
grew warm, and both parties agreed to appeal to the King, who answered,
He took them for joint beggars, therefore had made them a joint present.
They were then obliged to divide the land with the stranger, whose share
amounted to 240_l_. per annum."

The land formerly used for the priory of Birmingham, is now the property
of many persons. Upon that spot, whereon stood one solitary house, now
stand about four hundred. Upon that ground, where about thirty persons
lived upon the industry of others, about three thousand live upon their
own: The place, which lay as a heavy burden upon the community, now
tends to enrich it, by adding its mite to the national commerce, and the
national treasury.

In 1775, I took down an old house of wood and plaister, which had stood
208 years, having been erected in 1567, thirty-one years after the
dissolution of abbies. The foundation of this old house seemed to have
been built chiefly with stones from the priory; perhaps more than twenty
wagon loads: These appeared in a variety of forms and sizes, highly
finished in the gothic taste, parts of porticos, arches, windows,
ceilings, etc. some fluted, some cyphered, and otherwise ornamented, yet
complete as in the first day they were left by the chizel. The greatest,
part of them were destroyed by the workmen: Some others I used again in
the fireplace of an under kitchen. Perhaps they are the only perfect
fragments that remain of that venerable edifice, which once stood the
monument of ancient piety, the ornament of the town, and the envy of the
priest out of place.


At the bottom of Digbeth, about thirty yards North of the bridge, on the
left, is a water-course that takes in a small drain from Digbeth, but
more from the adjacent meadows, and which divides the parishes of Aston
and Birmingham, called John a Dean's Hole; from a person of that name
who is said to have lost his life there, and which, I think, is the only
name of antiquity among us.

The particle _de_, between the christian and surname, is of French
extraction, and came over with William the First: It continued tolerably
pure for about three centuries, when it in some degree assumed an
English garb, in the particle _of_: The _a_, therefore is only a
corruption of the latter. Hence the time of this unhappy man's
misfortune may be fixed about the reign of Edward the Third.


In the reign of Henry the Eighth, William Lench, a native of this place,
bequeathed his estate for the purpose of erecting alms houses, which are
those at the bottom of Steelhouse-lane, for the benefit of poor widows,
but chiefly for repairing the streets of Birmingham. Afterwards others
granted smaller donations for the same use, but all were included under
the name of Lench; and I believe did not unitedly amount, at that time,
to fifteen pounds per annum.

Over this scattered inheritance was erected a trust, consisting of
gentlemen in the neighborhood of Birmingham.

All human affairs tend to confusion: The hand of care is ever necessary
to keep order. The gentlemen, therefore at the head of this charity,
having too many modes of pleasure of their own, to pay attention to this
little jurisdiction, disorder crept in apace; some of the lands were
lost for want of inspection; the rents ran in arrear, and were never
recovered; the streets were neglected, and the people complained.

Misconduct, particularly of a public nature, silently grows for years,
and sometimes for ages, 'till it becomes too bulky for support, falls in
pieces by its own weight, and out of its very destruction rises a
remedy. An order, therefore, from the Court of Chancery was obtained,
for vesting the property in other hands, consisting of twenty persons,
all of Birmingham, who have directed this valuable estate, now 227_l_.
5s. per annum, to useful purposes. The man who can guide his own private
concerns with success, stands the fairest chance of guiding those of
the public.

If the former trust went widely astray, perhaps their successors have
not exactly kept the line, by advancing the leases to a rack rent: It is
worth considering, whether the tenant of an expiring lease, hath not in
equity, a kind of reversionary right, which ought to favour him with the
refusal of another term, at one third under the value, in houses, and
one fourth in land; this would give stability to the title, secure the
rents, and cause the lessee more chearfully to improve the premises,
which in time would enhance their value, both with regard to property
and esteem.

But where business is well conducted, complaint should cease; for
perfection is not to be expected on this side the grave.

Exclusive of a pittance to the poor widows above, the trust have a power
of distributing money to the necessitous at Christmas and Easter, which
is punctually performed.

I think there is an excellent clause in the devisor's will, ordering his
bailiff to pay half a crown to any two persons, who, having quarreled
and entered into law, shall stop judicial proceedings, and make peace by
agreement--He might have added, "And half a crown to the lawyer that
will suffer them." I know the sum has been demanded, but am sorry I do
_not_ know that it was ever paid.

If money be reduced to one fourth its value, since the days of Lench, it
follows, that four times the sum ought to be paid in ours; and perhaps
ten shillings cannot be better laid out, than in the purchase of that
peace, which tends to harmonise the community, and weed a brotherhood
not the most amicable among us.

The members choose annually, out of their own body a steward, by the
name of bailiff Lench: The present fraternity, who direct this useful
charity, are

     Thomas Colmore, _bailiff_.
     George Davis,
     Win. Walsingham, _dead_,
     Michael Lakin,
     Benjamin May,
     Michael Lakin, _jun_.
     James Bedford,
     Samuel Ray,
     John Ryland,
     James Jackson,
     Stephen Bedford, _dead_,
     Joseph Tyndall,
     Joseph Smith,
     Robert Mason,
     Joseph Webster, _dead_,
     Abel Humphreys,
     Thomas Lawrence,
     Samuel Pemberton,
     Joseph Webster, _jun_.
     John Richards.


In 1712, George Fentham, of Birmingham, devised his estate by will,
consisting of about one hundred acres, in Erdington and Handsworth, of
the value then, of 20_l_. per annum, vesting the same in a trust, of
which no person could be chosen who resided more than one hundred yards
from the Old Cross. We should be inclined to think the devisor
entertained a singular predilection for the Old Cross, then in the pride
of youth. But if we unfold this whimsical clause, we shall find it
contains a shrewd intention. The choice was limited within one hundred
yards, because the town itself, in his day, did not in some directions
extend farther. Fentham had spent a life in Birmingham, knew well her
inhabitants, and like some others, had found honour as well as riches
among them: He knew also, he could with safety deposit his property in
their hands, and was determined it should never go out,--The scheme will
answer his purpose.

The uses of this estate, now about 100_l_. per annum, are for teaching
children to read, and for clothing ten poor widows of Birmingham: Those
children belonging to the charity school, in green, are upon this

     The present trust are
     Francis Coales, and Edmund Wace Pattison.


Ann Crowley bequeathed, by her last will, in 1733, six houses in
Steelhouse-lane, amounting to eighteen pounds per annum, for the purpose
of supporting a school, consisting of ten children. From an attachment
to her own sex, she constituted over this infant colony of letters a
female teacher: Perhaps we should have seen a female trust, had they
been equally capable of defending the property. The income of the estate
increasing, the children are now augmented to twelve.

By a subsequent clause in the devisor's will, twenty shillings a year,
forever, issues out of two houses in the Lower Priory, to be disposed of
at discretion of the trust.

The governors of this female charity are

     Thomas Colmore, _bailiff_,
     Joseph Cartwright,
     Thomas Lee,
     John Francis,
     Samuel Colmore,
     William Russell, _esq_.
     Josiah Rogers,
     Joseph Hornblower,
     John Rogers.


Joseph Scott, Esq; yet living, assigned, July 7, 1779, certain messuages
and lands in and near Walmer-lane, in Birmingham, of the present rent of
40_l_. 18s. part of the said premises to be appropriated for the
interment of protestant dissenters; part of the profits to be applied to
the use of a religious society in Carr's lane, at the discretion of the
trust; and the remainder, for the institution of a school to teach the
mother tongue.

[Illustration: _Free School_.]

That part of the demise, designed for the reception of the dead, is
about three acres, upon, which stands one messuage, now the Golden
Fleece, joining Summer-lane on the west, and Walmer-lane on the east;
the other, which hath Aston-street on the south, and Walmer-lane on the
west, contains about four acres, upon which now stand ninety-one houses.
A building lease, in 1778, was granted of these last premises, for 120
years, at 30_l_. per annum; at the expiration of which, the rents
will probably amount to twenty times the present income. The trust, to
whose direction this charity is committed, are

     Abel Humphrys, _bailiff_,
     John Allen,
     John Parteridge,
     William Aitkins,
     Joseph Rogers,
     Thomas Cock,
     John Berry,
     William Hutton,
     Thomas Cheek Lea,
     Durant Hidson,
     Samuel Tutin.


It is entertaining to contemplate the generations of fashion, which not
only influences our dress and manner of living, but most of the common
actions of life, and even the modes of thinking. Some of these fashions,
not meeting with the taste of the day, are of short duration, and
retreat out of life as soon as they are well brought in; others take a
longer space; but whatever fashions predominate, though ever so absurd,
they carry an imaginary beauty, which pleases the fancy, 'till they
become ridiculous with age, are succeeded by others, when their very
memory becomes disgusting.

Custom gives a sanction to fashion, and reconciles us even to its
inconveniency. The fashion of this year is laughed at the next.

There are fashions of every date, from five hundred years, even to one
day; of the first, was that of erecting religious houses; of the last,
was that of destroying them.

Our ancestors, the Saxons, after their conversion to christianity,
displayed their zeal in building churches: though the kingdom in a few
centuries was amply supplied, yet that zeal was no way abated; it
therefore exerted itself in the abbey.--When a man of fortune had nearly
done with time, he began to peep into eternity through the windows of an
abbey; or, if a villian had committed a piece of butchery, or had
cheated the world for sixty years, there was no doubt but he could
burrow his way to glory through the foundations of an abbey.

In 1383, the sixth of Richard the Second, before the religious fervor
subsided that had erected Deritend-chapel, Thomas de Sheldon, John
Coleshill, John Goldsmith, and William att Slowe, all of Birmingham,
obtained a patent from the crown to erect a building upon the spot where
the Free School now stands in New-street, to be called _The Gild of the
Holy Cross_; to endow it with lands in Birmingham and Edgbaston, of the
annual value of twenty marks, for the maintenance of two priests, who
were to perform divine service to the honor of God, our blessed Lady his
Mother, the Holy Cross, St. Thomas, and St. Catharine.

The fashion seemed to take with the inhabitants, many of whom wished to
join the four happy men, who had obtained the patent for so pious a
work; so that, in 1393, a second patent was procured by the bailiff and
inhabitants of Birmingham, for confirming the gild, and making the
addition of a brotherhood in honor of the Holy Cross, consisting of both
sexes, with power to constitute a master and wardens, and also to erect
a chantry of priests to celebrate divine service in the chapel of the
gild, for the souls of the founders, and all the fraternity; for whose
support there were given, by divers persons, eighteen messuages, three
tofts, (pieces of ground) six acres of land, and forty shillings rent,
lying in Birmingham and Edgbaston aforesaid.

But, in the 27th of Henry the Eighth, 1536, when it was the fashion of
that day, to multiply destruction against the religious, and their
habitations, the annual income of the gild was valued, by the King's
random visitors, at the sum of 31_l_. 2s. 10d. out of which, three
priests who sung mass, had 5_l_. 6s. 8d. each; an organist, 3_l_. 13s.
4d. the common midwife, 4s. the bell-man, 6s. 8d. with other salaries of
inferior note.

These lands continued in the crown 'till 1552, the fifth of Edward the
Sixth, when, at the humble suit of the inhabitants, they were
assigned to

     William Symmons, _gent_.
     Richard Smallbrook, _bailiff of the town_,
     John Shilton,
     William Colmore,
     Henry Foxall,
     William Bogee,
     Thomas Cooper,
     Richard Swifte,
     Thomas Marshall,
     John Veysy,
     John King,
     John Wylles,
     William Paynton,
     William Aschrig,
     Robert Rastall,
     Thomas Snowden,
     John Eyliat,
     William Colmore, _jun_.
     William Mychell,

all inhabitants of Birmingham, and their successors, to be chosen upon
death or removal, by the appellation of the Bailiff and Governors of the
Free Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth, for the instruction of
children in grammar; to be held of the crown in common soccage, paying
for ever twenty shillings per annum. Over this seminary of learning were
to preside a master and usher, whose united income seems to have been
only twenty pounds per annum. Both are of the clergy. The hall of the
gild was used for a school-room. In the glass of the windows was
painted the figure of Edmund Lord Ferrers; who, marrying, about 350
years ago, the heiress of the house of Birmingham, resided upon the
manor, and seems to have been a benefactor to the gild, with his arms,
empaling Belknap; and also, those of Stafford, of Grafton, of
Birmingham, and Bryon.

The gild stood at that time at a distance from the town, surrounded with
inclosures; the highway to Hales Owen, now New-street, running by the
north. No house could be nearer than those in the High-street.

The first erection, wood and plaister, which had stood about 320 years,
was taken down in 1707, to make way for the present flat building. In
1756, a set of urns were placed upon the parapet, which give relief to
that stiff air, so hurtful to the view: at the same time, the front was
_intended_ to have been decorated, by erecting half a dozen dreadful
pillars, like so many over-grown giants marshalled in battalia, to guard
the entrance, which the boys wish to shun; and, being sufficiently
tarnished with Birmingham smoak, may become dangerous to pregnancy. Had
the wings of this building fallen two or three yards back, and the line
of the street been preserved by a light palisade, it would have risen in
the scale of beauty, and removed the gloomy aspect of the area.

The tower is in a good taste, except being rather too narrow in the
base, and is ornamented with a sleepy figure of the donor, Edward the
Sixth, dressed in a royal mantle, with the ensigns of the Garter;
holding a bible and sceptre.

The lands that support this foundation, and were in the reign of Henry
the Eighth, valued at thirty-one pounds per annum, are now, by the
advance of landed property, the reduction of money, and the increase of
commerce, about 600_l_.

The present governors of this royal donation are

     John Whateley, _bailiff_,
     _Rev_. Charles Newling,
     Abraham Spooner, _esq_;
     Thomas Russell,
     John Ash, _M.D._
     Richard Rabone,
     Francis Goodall,
     Francis Parrott, _esq_;
     William Russell, _esq_;
     John Cope, _dead_,
     Thomas Hurd,
     Thomas Westley,
     Wm. John Banner,
     Thomas Salt,
     William Holden,
     Thomas Carless,
     John Ward,
     Edward Palmer, _esq_;
     Francis Coales,
     Robert Coales.

[Illustration: _Charity School_.]

Over this nursery of science presides a chief master, with an annual
salary of one hundred and twenty pounds; a second master sixty; two
ushers; a master in the art of writing, and another in that of drawing,
at forty pounds each: a librarian, ten: seven exhibitioners at the
University of Oxford, twenty-five pounds each. Also, eight inferior
schools in various parts of the town, are constituted and fed by this
grand reservoir, at fifteen pounds each, which begin the first rudiments
of learning.


     John Brooksby,            1685.
     ---- Tonkinson.
     John Husted.
     Edward Mainwaring,        1730.
     John Wilkinson,           1746
     Thomas Green,             1759.
     William Brailsford,       1766.
     Rev. Thomas Price,        1776.




There seems to be three clases of people, who demand the care of
society; infancy, old age, and casual infirmity. When a man cannot
assist himself, it is necessary he should be assisted. The first of
these only is before us. The direction of youth seems one of the
greatest concerns in moral life, and one that is the least understood:
to form the generation to come, is of the last importance. If an
ingenious master hath flogged the a b c into an innocent child, he
thinks himself worthy of praise. A lad is too much terrified to march
that path, which is marked out by the rod. If the way to learning
abounds with punishment, he will quickly detest it; if we make his duty
a task, we lay a stumbling-block before him that he cannot surmount.

We rarely know a tutor succeed in training up youth, who is a friend to
harsh treatment.

Whence is it, that we so seldom find affection subsisting between master
and scholar? From the moment they unite, to the end of their lives,
disgust, like a cloud, rises in the mind, which reason herself can
never dispel.

The boy may pass the precincts of childhood, and tread the stage of life
upon an equality with every man in it, except his old school-master; the
dread of him seldom wears off; the name of Busby founded with horror for
half a century after he had laid down the rod. I have often been
delighted when I have seen a school of boys break up; the joy that
diffuses itself over every face and action, shews infant nature in her
gayest form--the only care remaining is, to forget on one side of the
walls what was taught on the other.

One would think, if _coming out_ gives so much satisfaction, there must
be something very detestable _within_.

If the master thinks he has performed his task when he has taught the
boy a few words, he as much mistakes his duty, as he does the road to
learning: this is only the first stage of his journey. He has the man to
form for society with ten thousand sentiments.

It is curious to enter one of these prisons of science, and observe the
children not under the least government: the master without authority,
the children without order; the master scolding, the children riotous.
We never _harden_ the wax to receive the impression. They act in a
natural sphere, but he in opposition: he seems the only person in the
school who merits correction; he, unfit to teach, is making them unfit
to be taught.

A man does not consider whether his talents are adapted for teaching, so
much, as whether he can _profit_ by teaching: thus, when a man hath
taught for twenty years, he may be only fit to go to school.

To that vast group of instructors, therefore, whether in, or out of
petticoats, who teach, without having been taught; who mistake the tail
for the feat of learning, instead of the head; who can neither direct
the passions of others nor their own; it may be said, "Quit the trade,
if bread can be procured out of it. It is useless to pursue a work of
error: the ingenious architect must take up your rotten foundation,
before he can lay one that is solid."

But, to the discerning few, who can penetrate the secret windings of the
heart; who know that nature may be directed, but can never be inverted;
that instruction should ever coincide with the temper of the instructed,
or we sail against the wind; that it is necessary the pupil should
relish both the teacher and the lesson; which, if accepted like a bitter
draught, may easily be sweetened to his taste: to these valuable few,
who, like the prudent florist, possessed of a choice root, which he
cultivates with care, adding improvement to every generation; it may be
said, "Banish tyranny out of the little dominions over which you are
absolute sovereigns; introduce in its stead two of the highest ornaments
of humanity, love and reason." Through the medium of the first, the
master and the lesson may be viewed without horror; when the teacher and
the learner are upon friendly terms, the scholar will rather invite than
repel the assistance of the master. By the second, reason, the teacher
will support his full authority. Every period of life in which a man is
capable of attending to instruction, he is capable of attending to
reason: this will answer every end of punishment, and something more.

Thus, an irksome task will be changed into a friendly intercourse.

This School, by a date in the front, was erected in 1724, in St.
Philip's church-yard; is a plain, airy, and useful building, ornamented
over the door with the figures of a boy and a girl in the uniform of the
school, and executed with a degree of elegance, that a Roman statuary
would not have blushed to own.

This artificial family consists of about ninety scholars, of both sexes;
over which preside a governor and governess, both single. Behind the
apartments, is a large area appropriated for the amusement of the infant
race, necessary as their food. Great decorum is preserved in this little
society; who are supported by annual contribution, and by a collection
made after sermon twice a year.

At twelve, or fourteen, the children are removed into the commercial
world, and often acquire an affluence that enables them to support that
foundation, which formerly supported them.

It is worthy of remark, that those institutions which are immediately
upheld by the temporary hand of the giver, flourish in continual spring,
and become real benefits to society; while those which enjoy a perpetual
income, are often tinctured with supineness, and dwindle into
obscurity.--The first, usually answer the purpose of the living; the
last, seldom that of the dead.


About twenty years ago, the Dissenters established a school, upon nearly
the same plan as the former, consisting of about eighteen boys and eight
girls; with this improvement, that the boys are innured to moderate
labour, and the girls to house-work.

The annual subscriptions seem to be willingly paid, thankfully received,
and judiciously expended.

[Illustration: _Work House_.]


During the long reign of the Plantagenets in England, there do not seem
many laws in the code then existing for the regulation of the poor:
distress was obliged to wander for a temporary and uncertain
relief:--idleness usually mixed with it.

The nobility then kept plain and hospitable houses, where want
frequently procured a supply; but, as these were thinly scattered, they
were inadequate to the purpose.

As the abbey was much more frequent, and as a great part of the riches
of the kingdom passed through the hands of the monk, and charity being
consonant to the profession of that order, the weight of the poor
chiefly lay upon the religious houses; this was the general mark for the
indigent, the idle, and the impostor, who carried meanness in their
aspect, and the words _Christ Jesus_ in their mouth. Hence arise the
epithets of stroller, vagrant, and sturdy beggar, with which modern law
is intimately acquainted.

It was too frequently observed, that there was but a slender barrier
between begging and stealing, that necessity seldom marks the limits of
honesty, and that a country abounding with beggars, abounds also with
plunderers. A remnant of this urgent race, so justly complained of,
which disgrace society, and lay the country under contribution, are
still suffered, by the supineness of the magistrate.

When the religious houses, and all their property, in 1536, fell a
sacrifice to the vindictive wrath of Henry the Eighth, the poor lost
their dependence, and as want knows no law, robbery became frequent;
justice called loudly for punishment, and the hungry for bread; which
gave rise, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, to that most excellent
institution, of erecting every parish into a distinct fraternity, and
obliging them to support their own members; therefore, it is difficult
to assign a reason, why the blind should go abroad to _see_ fresh
countries, or the man _without feet to travel_.

Though the poor were nursed by parochial law, yet workhouses did not
become general 'till 1730: that of Birmingham was erected in 1733, at
the expence of 1173_l_. 3s. 5d. and which, the stranger would rather
suppose, was the residence of a gentleman, than that of four hundred
paupers. The left wing, called the infirmary, was added in 1766, at the
charge of 400_l_. and the right, a place for labour, in 1779, at the
expence of 700_l_. more.

Let us a second time, consider the 50,000 people who occupy this _grand
toy shop of Europe_[6] as one great family, where, though the property
of individuals is ascertained and secured, yet a close and beneficial
compact subsists. We behold the members of this vast family marked with
every style of character. Forlorn infancy, accidental calamity, casual
sickness, old age, and even inadvertent distress, all find support from
that charitable fund erected by industry. No part of the family is
neglected: he that cannot find bread for himself, finds a ready supply;
he that can, ought to do so. By cultivating the young suckers of
infancy, we prudently establish the ensuing generation, which will, in
the commercial walk, abundantly repay the expence: temporary affliction
of every kind also merits pity; even those distresses which arise from
folly ought not to be neglected: the parish hath done well to many a
man, who would not do well to himself; if imprudence cannot be banished
out of the world, companion ought not: he that cannot direct himself,
must be under the direction of another.--If the parish supported none
but the prudent, she would have but few to support. The last stage of
human life demands, as well as the first, the help of the family. The
care of infancy arises from an expectation of a return; that of old age
from benefits already received. Though a man may have passed through
life without growing rich, he may, by his labour, have contributed to
make others so; though he could not pursue the road to affluence
himself, he may have been the means of directing others to find it.

[Footnote 6: Burke.]

The number of persons depending upon this weekly charity in Birmingham
were, April 14, 1781, about 5240.

Whether the mode of distributing the bounty of the community, is
agreeable to the intentions of legislature, or the ideas of humanity, is
a doubt. For in some parishes the unfortunate paupers have the
additional misery of being sold to a mercenary wretch to starve upon
twelve pence a head. It is matter of surprise that the magistrate should
wink at this cruelty; but it is matter of pleasure, that no accusation
comes within the verge of my historical remarks, for the wretched of
Birmingham are not made more so by ill treatment, but meet with a
kindness acceptable to distress. One would think _that_ situation could
not be despicable, which is often _wished for_, and often _sought_, that
of becoming one of the poor of Birmingham.

We cannot be conversant in parochial business, without observing a
littleness predominant in most parishes, by using every finesse to
relieve themselves of paupers, and throwing them upon others. Thus the
oppressed, like the child between two fathers, is supported by neither.

There is also an enormity, which, though agreeable to law, can never be
justified by the rules of equity--That a man should spend the principal
part of his life in a parish, add wealth to it by his labour, form
connexions in it, bring up a family which shall all belong to it, but
having never gained a settlement himself, shall, in old age be removed
by an order, to perish among strangers. In 1768, a small property fell
into my hands, situated in a neighbouring village; I found the tenant
had entered upon the premises at the age of twenty-two; that he had
resided upon them, with poverty and a fair character, during the long
space of forty six years--I told him he was welcome to spend the residue
of his life upon the spot gratis. He continued there ten years after,
when finding an inability to procure support from labour, and meeting
with no assistance from the parish in which he had been resident for an
age, he resigned the place with tears, in 1778, after an occupation of
fifty six years, and was obliged to recoil upon his own parish, about
twelve miles distant; to be farmed with the rest of the poor; and
where, he afterwards assured me, "They were murdering him by inches." --
But no complaint of this ungrateful kind lies against that people whose
character I draw.

Perhaps it may be a wise measure, in a place like Birmingham, where the
manufactures flourish in continual sunshine, not to be over strict with
regard to removals. Though it may be burdensome to support the poor of
another parish, yet perhaps it is the least of two evils: to remove old
age which hath spent a life among us, is ungenerous; to remove temporary
sickness, is injurious to trade; and to remove infancy is impolitic,
being upon the verge of accommodating the town with a life of labour. It
may be more prudent to remove a rascal than a pauper. Forty pounds hath
been spent in removing a family, which would not otherwise have cost
forty shillings, and whose future industry might have added many times
that sum to the common capital. The highest pitch of charity, is that of
directing inability to support itself. Idleness suits no part of a
people, neither does it find a place here; every individual ought to
contribute to the general benefit, by his head or his hands: if he is
arrived at the western verge of life, when the powers of usefulness
decline, let him repose upon his fortune; if no such thing exists, let
him rest upon his friends, and if this prop fail, let the public nurse
him, with a tenderness becoming humanity.

We may observe, that the manufactures, the laborious part of mankind,
the poor's rates, and the number of paupers, will everlastingly go hand
in hand; they will increase and decrease together; we cannot annihilate
one, but the others will follow, and odd as the expression may sound, we
become rich by payment and poverty. If we discharge the poor, who shall
act the laborious part? Stop the going out of one shilling, and it will
prevent the coming in of two.

At the introduction of the poor's laws, under Elizabeth, two pence
halfpenny in the pound rent was collected every fortnight, for future
support: time has made an alteration in the system, which is now
six-pence in the pound, and collected as often as found necessary. The
present levy amounts to above 10,000_l_. per ann. but is not wholly

As the overseers are generally people of property, payment in advance is
not scrupulously observed.

It was customary, at the beginning of this admirable system of
jurisprudence, to constitute two overseers in each parish; but the
magnitude of Birmingham pleaded for four, which continued 'till the year
1720, when a fifth was established: in 1729 they were augmented to half
a dozen; the wishes of some, who are frighted at office, rise to the
word _dozen_, a number very familiar in the Birmingham art of reckoning:
but let it be remembered, that a vestry filled with overseers is not
calculated for the meridian of business; that the larger the body, the
slower the motion; and that the time and the necessities of the poor
demand dispatch.

From the annual disbursements in assisting the poor, which I shall here
exhibit from undoubted evidence, the curious will draw some useful
lessons respecting the increase of manufactures, of population, and
of property.

No memoirs are found prior to 1676.

     Year.        Disbursed.             Year.       Disbursed.

                l.     s.    d.                    l.     s.    d.

     1676       328    17    7           1684     451     0     5-1/2
     1677       347     9   10-1/2       1685     324     2     8
     1678       398     8    0-1/2       1686     338    12    11
     1679            omitted             1687     343    15     6
     1680       342    11    2-1/2       1688     308    17     9-1/2
     1681       363    15    7           1689     395    14    11
     1682       337     2    8-1/2       1690     396    15     2-1/2
     1683       410    12    1           1691     354     1     5-1/2
     1691       360     0    4-1/2       1720     950    14     0
     1693       376    12    3-1/2       1721    1024     6     6-1/2
     1694       423    12    1-1/2       1722     939    18     0-1/2
     1695       454     2    1-1/2       1739     678     8     5
     1696       385     8   11-1/2       1740     938     0     6
     1697       446    11    5           1742     888     1     1-1/2
     1698       505     0    2-1/2       1743     799     6     1
     1699       592    11    2           1744     851    12     5-1/2
     1700       661     7    4-1/2       1745     746     2     7
     1701       487    13    0           1746    1003    14     9-1/2
     1702       413    14    0-1/2       1747    1071     7     3
     1703       476    13   10           1748    1175     8     7-1/2
     1704       555    11   11-1/2       1749    1132    11     7-1/2
     1705       510     0   10           1750    1167    16     6
     1706       519     3    6           1751    1352     0     8-1/2
     1707       609     0    4-1/2       1752    1355     6     4
     1708       649    15    9           1756    3255    18     3-1/4
     1709       744    17    0-1/2       1757    3402     7     2-1/2
     1710       960     8    8-1/2       1758    3306    12     5
     1711      1055     2   10           1759    2708     9     5-3/4
     1712       734     0   11           1760    3221    18     7
     1713       674     7    6           1761    2935     4     1-1/2
     1714       722    15    6-1/2       1762    3078    18     2-1/2
     1715       718     2    1           1763    3330    13    11-1/2
     1716       788     3    2-1/2       1764    3963    11     0-1/2
     1717       764     0    6-1/2       1765    3884    18     9
     1718       751     2    4           1766    4716     2    10-1/2
     1719      1094    10    7           1767    4940     2     2
     1768      4798     2    5           1775    6509    10    10
     1769      5082     0    9           1776    5203     4     9-1/2
     1770      5125    13    2-1/4       1777    6012     5     5
     1771      6132     5   10           1778    6866    10     8-1/2
     1772      6139     6    5-1/2       1779    8081    19     7-1/2
     1773      5584    18    8-1/2       1780    9910     4    11-3/4
     1774      6115    17   11

We cannot pass through this spacious edifice without being pleased with
its internal oeconomy; order influences the whole, nor can the
cleanliness be exceeded: but I am extremely concerned, that I cannot
pass through without complaint.

There are evils in common life which admit of no remedy; but there are
very few which may not be lessened by prudence.

The modes of nursing infancy in this little dominion of poverty, are
truly defective. It is to be feared the method intended to train up
inhabitants for the earth, annually furnishes the regions of the grave.

Why is so little attention paid to the generation who are to tread the
stage after us? as if we suffered them to be cut off that we might keep
possession for ever. The unfortunate orphan that none will own, none
will regard: distress, in whatever form it appears, excites compassion,
but particularly in the helpless. Whoever puts an infant into the arms
of decrepit old age, passes upon it a sentence of death, and happy is
that infant who finds a reprieve. The tender sprig is not likely to
prosper under the influence of the tree which attracts its nurture;
applies that nurture to itself, where the calls occasioned by decay are
the most powerful--An old woman and a sprightly nurse, are characters as
opposite as the antipodes.

If we could but exercise a proper care during the first two years, the
child would afterwards nurse itself; there is not a more active animal
in the creation, no part of its time, while awake, is unemployed: why
then do we invert nature, and confine an animal to still life, in what
is called a school, who is designed for action?

We cannot with indifference behold infants crouded into a room by the
hundred, commanded perhaps by some disbanded soldier, termed a
school-master, who having changed the sword for the rod, continues much
inclined to draw blood with his arms; where every individual not only re
breathes his own air, but that of another: the whole assembly is
composed of the feeble, the afflicted, the maimed, and the orphan; the
result of whose confinement, is a fallow aspect, and a sickly frame: but
the paltry grains of knowledge gleaned up by the child in this barren
field of learning, will never profit him two-pence in future; whereas,
if we could introduce a robust habit, he would one day be a treasure to
the community, and a greater to himself. Till he is initiated into
labour, a good foundation for health may be laid in air and exercise.

Whenever I see half a dozen of these forlorn innocents quartered upon a
farm house, a group of them taking the air under the conduct of a
senior, or marshalled in rank and file to attend public worship, I
consider the overseer who directed it, as possessed of tender feelings:
their orderly attire, and simplicity of manners, convey a degree of
pleasure to the mind; and I behold in them, the future support of that
commercial interest; upon which they now lie as a burden.

If I have dwelt long upon the little part of our species, let it plead
my excuse to say, I cannot view a human being, however diminutive in
stature, or depressed in fortune, without considering, _I view
an equal_.


So called, because prior to the Welch Cross; before the erection of this
last, it was simply called, The Cross.

The use of the market cross is very ancient, though not equal to the
market, for this began with civilization.

Christianity first appeared in Britain under the Romans; but in the
sixth century, under the Saxon government, it had made such an amazing
progress, that every man seemed to be not only _almost a Christian_, but
it was unfashionable not to have been a zealous one. The cross of Christ
was frequently mentioned in conversation, and afterwards became an oath.
It was hacknied about the streets, sometimes in the pocket, or about the
neck; sometimes it was fixed upon the church, which we see at this day,
and always hoisted to the top of the steeple. The rudiments of learning
began with the cross; hence it stands to this moment as a frontispiece
to the battledore, which likewise bears its name.

This important article of religion was thought to answer two valuable
purposes, that of collecting the people; and containing a charm against
ghosts, evil spirits, etc. with the idea of which, that age was
much infested.

To accomplish these singular ends, it was blended into the common
actions of life, and at that period it entered the market-place. A few
circular steps from the centre of which issued an elevated pillar,
terminating in a cross, was the general fashion throughout the kingdom;
and perhaps our Vulcanian ancestors knew no other for twelve hundred
years, this being renewed about once every century, 'till the year 1702,
when the present cross was erected, at the expence of 80_l_. 9s. 1d.
This was the first upon that spot, ever honoured with a roof: the under
part was found a useful shelter for the market-people. The room over it
was designed for the court leet, and other public business, which during
the residence of the lords upon the manor, had been transacted in one of
their detached apartments, yet in being: but after the removal of the
lords, in 1537, the business was done in the Leather-hall, which
occupied the whole east end of New-street, a covered gateway of twelve
feet excepted, and afterwards in the Old Cross.

[Illustration: _Welch Cross_.]

[Illustration: _Old Cross_.]


If a reader, fond of antiquity, should object, that I have comprized the
_Ancient state of Birmingham_ in too small a compass, and that I ought
to have extended it beyond the 39th page; I answer, when a man has not
much to say, he ought to be hissed out of authorship, if he picks the
pocket of his friend, by saying much; neither does antiquity end with
that page, for in some of the chapters, I have led him through the mazes
of time, to present him with a modern prospect.

In erecting a new building, we generally use the few materials of the
old, as far as they will extend. Birmingham may be considered as one
vast and modern edifice, of which the ancient materials make but a very
small part: the extensive _new_, seems to surround the minute _old_, as
if to protect it.

Upon the spot where the Welch Cross now stands, probably stood a
finger-post, to direct the stranger that could read, for there were not
many, the roads to Wolverhampton and Lichfield.

Though the ancient post, and the modern cross, might succeed each other,
yet this difference was between them, one stood at a distance from the
town, the other stands near its centre.

By some antique writings it appears, that 200 years ago this spot bore
the name of the Welch End, perhaps from the number of Welch in its
neighbourhood; or rather, from its being the great road to that
principality, and was at that time the extremity of the town, odd houses
excepted. This is corroborated by a circumstance I have twice mentioned
already, that when Birmingham unfortunately fell under the frowns of
Prince Rupert, 137 years ago, and he determined to reduce it to ashes
for succouring an enemy, it is reasonable to suppose he began at the
exterior, which was then in Bull-street, about twelve houses above
the cross.

If we were ignorant of the date of this cross, the style of the building
itself would inform us, that it rose in the beginning of the present
century, and was designed, as population encreased, for a Saturday
market; yet, although it is used in some degree for that purpose, the
people never heartily adopted the measure.

In a town like Birmingham, a commodious market-place, for we have
nothing that bears the name, would be extremely useful. Efforts have
been used to make one, of a large area, now a bowling-green, in
Corbet's-alley; but I am persuaded the market-people would suffer the
grass to grow in it, as peaceably as in their own fields. We are not
easily drawn from ancient custom, except by interest.

For want of a convenient place where the sellers may be collected into
one point, they are scattered into various parts of the town. Corn is
sold by sample, in the Bull-ring; the eatable productions of the garden,
in the same place: butchers stalls occupy Spiceal-street; one would
think a narrow street was preferred, that no customer should be suffered
to pass by. Flowers, shrubs, etc. at the ends of Philip-street and
Moor-street: beds of earthen-ware lie in the middle of the foot ways;
and a double range of insignificant stalls, in the front of the
shambles, choak up the passage: the beast market is kept in Dale-end:
that for pigs, sheep and horses in New-street: cheese issues from one of
our principal inns: fruit, fowls and butter are sold at the Old Cross:
nay, it is difficult to mention a place where they are not. We may
observe, if a man hath an article to sell which another wants to buy,
they will quickly find each other out.

Though the market-inconveniencies are great, a man seldom brings a
commodity for the support of life, or of luxury, and returns without a
customer. Yet even this crowded state of the market, dangerous to the
feeble, hath its advantages: much business is transacted in a little
time; the first customer is obliged to use dispatch, before he is
justled out by a second: to _stand all the day idle in the market
place_, is not known among us.

The upper room of this cross is appropriated for a military guard-house.
We find, December 16, 1723, an order made at a public meeting, that "A
guard house should be erected in a convenient part of the town, because
neither of the crosses were eligible." But this old order, like some of
the new, was never carried into execution. As no complaint lies against
the cross, in our time, we may suppose it suitable for the purpose; and
I know none but its prisoners that pronounce against it.


It has been remarked, that the antiquity of this church is too remote
for historical light.

The curious records of those dark ages, not being multiplied, and
preserved by the art of printing, have fallen a prey to time, and the
revolution of things.


There is reason for fixing the foundation in the eighth century, perhaps
rather sooner, and it then was at a small distance from the buildings.
The town stood upon the hill, whose centre was the Old Cross;
consequently, the ring of houses that now surrounds the church, from the
bottom of Edgbaston-street, part of Spiceal-street, the Bull-ring,
Corn-cheaping, and St. Martin's-lane, could not exist.

I am inclined to think that the precincts of St. Martin's have undergone
a mutilation, and that the place which has obtained the modern name of
Bull-ring, and which is used as a market for corn and herbs, was once an
appropriation of the church, though not used for internment; because the
church is evidently calculated for a town of some size, to which the
present church-yard no way agrees, being so extremely small that the
ancient dead must have been continually disturbed, to make way for the
modern, that little spot being their only receptacle for 900 years.

A son not only succeeds his father in the possession of his property and
habitation, but also in the grave, where he can scarcely enter without
expelling half a dozen of his ancestors.

The antiquity of St. Martin's will appear by surveying the adjacent
ground. From the eminence upon which the High-street stands, proceeds a
steep, and regular descent into Moor-street, Digbeth, down
Spiceal-street, Lee's-lane, and Worcester-street. This descent is broken
only by the church-yard; which, through a long course of internment, for
ages, is augmented into a considerable hill, chiefly composed of the
refuse of life. We may, therefore, safely remark, in this place, _the
dead are raised up_. Nor shall we be surprised at the rapid growth of
the hill, when we consider this little point of land was alone that
hungry grave which devoured the whole inhabitants, during the long ages
of existence, till the year 1715, when St. Philip's was opened. The
curious observer will easily discover, the fabric has lost that symmetry
which should ever attend architecture, by the growth of the soil about
it, causing a low appearance in the building, so that instead of the
church burying the dead, the dead would, in time, have buried
the church.

It is reasonable to allow, the original approach into this place was by
a flight of steps, not by descent, as is the present case; and that the
church-yard was surrounded by a low wall. As the ground swelled by the
accumulation of the dead, wall after wall was added to support the
growing soil; thus the fence and the hill sprang up together; but this
was demonstrated, August 27, 1781, when, in removing two or three old
houses, to widen St. Martin's Lane, they took down the church-yard wall,
which was fifteen feet high without, and three within. This proved to be
only an outward case, that covered another wall twelve feet high; in the
front of which was a stone, elevated eight feet, and inscribed, "Robert
Dallaway, Francis Burton." Church-wardens, anno dom. (supposed) "1310."
As there is certain evidence, that the church is, much older then the
above date, we should suspect there had been another fence many ages
prior to this. But it was put beyond a doubt, when the workmen came to a
third wall, four feet high, covered with antique coping, probably
erected with the fabric itself, which would lead us far back into the
Saxon times.

The removal of the buildings to accommodate the street, the construction
of the wall, beautified with pallisades, is _half_ an elegant plan, well
executed. If we can persuade ourselves to perform the other half, by
removing the remainder of the buildings, and continuing the line to the
steps, at the bottom of Spiceal-street, the work will stand in the front
of modern improvement.

In the south-east part of the wall, covered by the engine-house, upon
another stone, nearly obliterated, is, John Enser, Richard Higginson,
Church-wardens, 1709.

Other church-yards are ornamented with the front of the buildings, but
that of St. Martin submits to the rear.

The present church is of stone; the first upon the premises; and perhaps
the oldest building in these parts.

As the country does not produce stone of a lasting texture, and as the
rough blasts of 900 years, had made inroads upon the fabric, it was
thought necessary, in 1690, to case both church and steeple with brick,
except the spire, which is an elegant one. The bricks and the
workmanship are excellent.

Though the fabric is not void of beauty, yet being closely surrounded
with houses, which destroy the medium of view, that beauty is
totally hid.

The steeple has, within memory, been three times injured by lightning.
Forty feet of the spire, in a decayed state, was taken down and rebuilt
in 1781, with stone from Attleborough, near Nuneaton; and strengthened
by a spindle of iron, running up its centre 105 feet long, secured to
the side walls every ten feet, by braces--the expence, 165_l_. 16s.

Inclosed is a ring of twelve musical bells, and though I am not master
of the bob major and tripple-grandfire, yet am well informed, the
ringers are masters of the bell-rope: but to excel in Birmingham is
not new.

The seats in the church would disgrace a meaner parish than that of
Birmingham; one should be tempted to think, they are the first ever
erected upon the spot, without taste or order: the timber is become hard
with age, and to the honour of the inhabitants, bright with use. Each
sitting is a private freehold, and is farther disgraced, like the coffin
of a pauper, with the paltry initials of the owner's name. These divine
abodes are secured with the coarse padlocks of a field gate.

By an attentive survey of the seats, we plainly discover the increasing
population of Birmingham. When the church was erected, there was
doubtless sufficient room for the inhabitants, and it was probably the
only place for public worship during 800 years: as the town increased,
gallery after gallery was erected, 'till no conveniency was found for
more. Invention was afterwards exerted to augment the number of
sittings; every recess capable only of admitting the body of an infant,
was converted into a seat, which indicates, the continual increase of
people, and, that a spirit of devotion was prevalent among them.

The floor of the church is greatly injured by internment, as is also the
light, by the near approach of the buildings, notwithstanding, in 1733,
the middle roof of the chancel was taken off, and the side walls raised
about nine feet, to admit a double range of windows.

Dugdale, who wrote in 1640, gives us twenty-two drawings of the arms, in
the windows, of those gentry who had connection with Birmingham.

     1.  Astley.                     10.  Freville.
     2.  Sumeri.                     11.  Ancient Birmingham.
     3.  Ancient Birmingham.         12.  Knell.
     4.  Ancient Birmingham,         13.  Fitz-Warrer.
        the 2nd house.               14.  Montalt.
     5.  Seagreve.                   15.  Modern Birmingham.
     6.  Modern Birmingham.          16.  Hampden.
     7.  Ancient and modern          17.  Burdet.
        Birmingham,                  18.  Montalt.
        quartered.                   19.  Modern Birmingham.
     8.  Peshale quartering          20.  Beauchamp.
        Bottetort.                   21.  Ferrers.
     9.  Birmingham quartering       22.  Latimere.

These twenty-two coats are now reduced to three, which are,

Number two, in the east window of the chancel, which is _or, two lions
passant azure_, the arms of the family of Someri, Lords of
Dudley-castle, and superior Lords of Birmingham; which having been
extinct about 450 years, the coat of arms must have been there at least
during that period.

Number three, in the south window of the chancel, _azure, a bend lozenge
of five points, or_, the ancient arms of the family of Birmingham, which
perhaps is upwards of 400 years old, as that coat was not used after the
days of Edward the First, except in quarterings.

And number ten, in the north window, _or, a cross, indented gules_;
also, _five fleurs de lis_, the ancient arms of Freville, Lords of
Tamworth, whose ancestor, Marmion, received a grant of that castle from
William the Conqueror, and whose descendant, Lord Viscount Townshend, is
the present proprietor. Perhaps this coat hath been there 400 years, for
the male line of the Freville family, was extinct in the reign of Henry
the Fourth.

Under the south window of the chancel, by the door, are two monuments
a-breast, of white marble, much injured by the hand of rude time, and
more by that of the ruder boys. The left figure, which is very ancient,
I take to be William de Birmingham, who was made prisoner by the French,
at the siege of Bellegard, in the 25th of Edward the First, 1297. He
wears a short mantle, which was the dress of that time, a sword,
expressive of the military order, and he also bears a shield with the
bend lozenge, which seems never to have been borne after the above date.

The right hand figure, next the wall, is visibly marked with a much
older date, perhaps about the conquest. The effigy does not appear in a
military character, neither did the Lords of that period. The value of
these ancient relicts have long claimed the care of the wardens, to
preserve them from the injurious hand of the boys, and the foot of the
window cleaner, by securing them with a pallisade. Even Westminster
abbey, famous for departed glory, cannot produce a monument of equal

At the foot of these, is another of the same materials, belonging to one
of the Marrows, Lords of Birmingham.

Under the north east window, is a monument of white marble, belonging to
one of the Lords of the house of Birmingham: but this is of modern date
compared with the others, perhaps not more than 300 years; he bearing
the _parte per pale, indented or, and gules_.

In the church is an excellent organ, and in the steeple a set of chimes,
where the ingenious artist treats us with a fresh tune every day of
the week.

Upon one of the CENTRE PILLARS.

Here lieth the bodies of William Colmore, Gent. who died in 1607, and
Ann his wife, in 1591: also the body of Henry Willoughby, Esq; father to
Frances, wife of William Colmore, now living; he died 1609.


John Crowley, in 1709, gave twenty shillings per annum, payable out of
the lowermost house in the Priory, to be distributed in bread, in the
church on St. John's day, to house-keepers in Birmingham, who receive
no pay.

Joseph Hopkins died in 1683, who gave 200_l_. with which an estate was
purchased in Sutton Coldfield; the rents to be laid out in coats, gowns,
and other relief for the poor of Birmingham: he also gave 200_l_. for
the poor of Wednesbury: 200_l_. to distresed quakers: 5_l_. 10s. to the
poor of Birmingham, and the same sum to those of Wednesbury, at
his death.


Whereas the church of St. Martin's, in Birmingham, had only 52 ounces of
plate, in 1708, for the use of the communion table; it was, by a
voluntary subscription of the inhabitants, increased to 275--Two
flaggons, two cups, two covers and pattens, with cases: the whole,
80_l_. 16s. 6d.

Richard Banner ordered one hundred pounds to be laid out in lands within
ten miles of Birmingham; which sum, lying at interest, and other small
donations being added, amounted to 170_l_. with which an estate at
Erdington, value 81. 10s. per annum, was purchased for the poor of

Richard Kilcup gave a house and garden at Spark-brook, for the church
and poor.

John Cooper gave a croft for making of love-days (merriments) among
Birmingham men.

William Rixam gave a house in Spiceal-street, No. 26, for the use of the
poor, in 1568.

John Ward, in 1591, gave a house and lands in Marston Culey.

William Colmore gave ten shillings per ann. payable out of the house,
No. 1, High-street.

John Shelton gave ten shillings per annum, issuing out of a house
occupied by Martin Day.

Several of the above donations are included in Lench's trust.

John Peak gave a chest bound with iron for the use of the church;
seemingly about 200 years old, and of 200 lb. weight.

Edward Smith gave 20_l_. per ann. to the poor, in 1612, and also erected
the pulpit.

John Billingsley, in 1629, gave 26 shillings yearly, chargeable upon a
house in Dale-end, to be given in bread, by six-pence every Sunday.

One croft to find bell-ropes.

Richard Dukesayle, in 1630, gave the utensils belonging to the communion

Barnaby Smith, 1633, gave 20_l_. to be lent to ten poor tradesmen, at
the discretion of the church-wardens for two or three years.

Catharine Roberts, wife of Barnaby Smith, in 1642, gave 20_l_. the
interest of which was to be given to the poor, the first Friday in Lent.

John Jennens, 1651, gave 2_l_. 10s. for the use of the poor, born and
living in Birmingham; and also 20s. on St. Thomas's day.

John Milward gave 26_l_ per annum, lying in Bordesley: one third to the
school-master of Birmingham, (Free-school); one third to the Principal
of Brazen nose College, Oxford, for the maintenance of one scholar from
Birmingham or Haverfordwest, and the remainder to the poor.

Joseph Pemberton gave 40s. per annum, payable out of an estate at
Tamworth, and 20s. out of an estate in Harbourne.

Richard Smallbrook gave to the poor of Birmingham 10s. per annum,
arising out of a salt vat in Droitwich.

Robert Whittall gave the pall, or beere cloth.

Widow Cooper, of the Talbot, No. 20, in High-street, gave one towel and
one sheet, to wrap the poor in the grave.

Mrs. Jennens gave 10_l_. per annum to support a lecture, the second and
third Thursday in every month.

The following offspring of charity seems to have expired at its birth,
but rose from the dead a few months ago, after an internment of
fifty-four years.

The numerous family of Piddock flourished in great opulence for many
ages, and though they were not lords of a manor, they were as rich as
those who were: they yet boast, that their ancestors could walk seven
miles upon their own land. It sometimes may be prudent, however, to
believe only _half_ what a man says; besides, a person with tolerable
vigour of limb, might contrive to walk seven miles upon his own land, if
he has but one acre--a lawyer is not the only man who can double.

Perhaps they were possessed of the northern part of this parish, from
Birmingham-heath to Shirland-brook, exclusive of many estates in the
manors of Smethwick and Oldbury.

Their decline continued many years, till one of them, in 1771,
extinguished their greatness by a single dash of his pen, in selling the
last foot of land.--I know some of them now in distress.

William Piddock, in 1728, devised his farm at Winson-green, about nine
acres, to his wife Sarah, during life, and at her death, to his nephews
and executors William and John Riddall, their heirs and assigns for
ever, in trust, for educating and putting out poor boys of Birmingham;
or other discretional charities in the same parish.

But William and John wisely considered, that they could not put the
money into any pocket sooner than their own; that as the estate was in
the family it was needless to disturb it; that as the will was not known
to the world, there was no necessity to publish it; and, as it gave them
a discretional power of disposal, they might as well consider themselves
_the poor_, for they were both in the parish.

There is nothing easier than to coin excuses for a fault;--there is
nothing harder than to make them pass.

What must be his state of mind, who is in continual apprehensions of a
disgraceful discovery? No profits can compensate his feelings.

Had the deviser been less charitable, William and John had been less
guilty: the gift of one man becomes a temptation to another. These nine
acres, from which the donor was to spring upwards, lay like a mountain
on the breasts of William and John, tending to press them downwards.
Although poverty makes many a rogue, yet had William and John been more
poor, they would have been more innocent. The children themselves would
have been the least gainers by the bequest, for, without this legacy,
they could just as well have procured trades; the profit would have
centered in the inhabitants, by softening their levies.--Thus a donation
runs through many a private channel, unseen by the giver.

Matters continued in this torpid state till 1782, when a quarrel between
the brothers and a tenant, broke the enchantment, and shewed the actors
in real view.

The officers, in behalf of the town, filed a bill in Chancery, and
recovered the dormant property, which was committed in trust to

     John Dymock Griffith,
     John Harwood,
     Thomas Archer,         > Overseers, 1781.
     William Hunt,
     Joseph Robinson,
     James Rollason,

     John Holmes,           > Constables, 1782.
     Thomas Barrs,
     Joseph Sheldon,
     Charles Primer,        > Church-wardens,
     William Dickenson,
     Edmund Tompkins,

     Claud Johnson,
     Nathaniel Lawrence,
     Edward Homer,          > Overseers, 1782.
     Thomas Cock,
     Samuel Stretch,
     Joseph Townsend,
     John Startin.

The presentation of St. Martin's was vested in the family of Birmingham,
until the year 1537, since which it has passed through the Dudleys, the
Crown, the Marrows, the Smiths, and now rests in the family of Tennant.


     1300   Thomas de Hinckleigh.
     1304   Stephen de Segrave.
     1304   John de Ayleston.
     1336   Robert de Shuteford.
     1349   William de Seggeley.
     1354   Thomas de Dumbleton.
     1369   Hugh de Wolvesey.
     1396   Thomas Darnall.
     1412   William Thomas.
     1414   Richard Slowther.
     1428   John Waryn.
     1432   William Hyde.
     1433   John Armstrong.
     1433   John Wardale.
     1436   Henry Symon.
     1444   Humphrey Jurdan.
     1504   Richard Button.
     1536   Richard Myddlemore.
     1544   William Wrixam.
     1578   Lucus Smith.

     _Thus far Dugdale_.

     ----   ------ Smith
     1641   Samuel Wills.
     1654   ------ Slater.
     1660   John Riland.
     1672   Henry Grove.
     ----   William Daggett.
     ----   Thomas Tyrer.
     1732   Richard Dovey.
     1771   ------ Chase.
     1772   John Parsons.
     1779   William Hinton, D.D.
     1781   Charles Curtis.

During Cromwell's government, ---- Slater, a broken apothecary of this
place, having been unsuccessful in curing the body, resolved to attempt
curing the soul. He therefore, to repair his misfortunes, assumed the
clerical character, and cast an eye on the rectory of St. Martin's; but
he had many powerful opponents: among others were Jennens, an
iron-master, possessor of Aston-furnace; Smallbroke, another wealthy
inhabitant, and Sir Thomas Holt.

However, he with difficulty, triumphed over his enemies, stept into the
pulpit, and held the rectory till the restoration.

Being determined, in his first sermon, to lash his enemies with the whip
of those times, he told his people, "The Lord had carried him through
many troubles; for he had passed, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
through the _fiery furnace_. And as the Lord had enabled the children of
Israel to pass over the Red Sea, so he had assisted him in passing over
the _Small-brooks_, and to overcome the strong _Holts_ of sin
and satan."

At the restoration, suspecting the approach of the proper officers to
expel him from the Parsonage-house, he crept into a hiding-place under
the stairs; but, being discovered, was drawn out by force, and the
place ever after, bore the name of _Slater's Hole_.

John Riland succeeded him, who is celebrated for piety, learning, and a
steady adherence to the interest of Charles the First; in whose cause he
seems to have lost every thing he possessed, but his life. He was
remarkable for compromising quarrels among his neighbours, often at an
expence to himself; also for constantly carrying a charity box, to
relieve the distress of others; and, though robbed of all himself, never
thought he was poor, except when his box was empty.--He died in
1672, aged 53.

A succeeding rector, William Daggett, is said to have understood the art
of boxing, better than that of preaching: his clerk often felt the
weightier argument of his hand. Meeting a quaker, whose profession, then
in infancy, did not stand high in esteem, he offered some insults, which
the other resenting, told him, "If he was not protected by his cloth, he
would make him repent the indignity." Dagget immediately stripped,
"There, now I have thrown off my protection."

They fought--but the spiritual bruiser proved too hard for the injured

Among the rectors we sometimes behold a magistrate; at others, those who
for misconduct ought to have been taken before one.

The rectory, in the King's books, was valued, in 1291, at 5_l_. per
annum; and, in 1536, at 19_l_. 3s. 6d.

_A terrier of the rectory, written by the rector, about 1680_.

A house wherein the present rector, Mr. Dagget, resides.

Two other houses in Birmingham, [now three, at No. 15, Spiceal-street.]

Three pieces of glebe land, nineteen acres, between the school land and

Three pieces, called the Five-way-closes twenty-one acres, bounded by
the lands of Samuel Smallbroke, Esq; and Josiah Porter.

One close, two acres, bounded by Lady-wood-lane.

Parsons-meadow, two acres, bounded by the lands of Thomas Smith, Sir
Richard Gough, and Sir Arthur Kaye.

Horse pool-croft, half an acre, bounded by Bell's-barn-lane,
[Brickiln-lane] the lands of Robert Phillips and Samuel
Smallbrook, Esqrs.

Tythe of all kinds of grain: but instead of hay, wool and lamb, a due of
12d. in the pound rent, called herbage, in all the parish, except
foreign, wherein the custom is 4d. per acre for meadow land; 3d. per
acre for leas; 3d. for each lamb; 1d. 1/2 for a cow and calf: and except
part of the estate of William Colmore, Esq; with the Hall-ring,
Tanter-butts, Bell's-barns, [No. 1, Exeter-row] and Rings; for the
herbage of which is paid annually 13s. 4d. and also, except part of the
estate of Samuel Smallbrook, Esq; for which he pays 8s. per annum; and,
except the estate of Thomas Weaman, called Whittall's-farm,
[Catharine-street] for which he pays 2s. 8d.

All the above estates pay the customary modus, whether in or out of


                                          Rector. Clerk,
                                          s. d.     s. d.
     For burying in the church,           1  0      1  0
     Ditto church-yard,                   0  6      0  6
     Churching a woman,                   0  4      0  4
     Marrying by licence,                 5  0      2  6
     Ditto without,                       2  6      1  0
     Tythe pig, if seven or upwards,      0  4      0  0
     Easter dues, man and wife,           0  4      0  0
     ---- each person above sixteen,      0  4      0  0
     Clerk's salary 20s. paid by the wardens; also 2d.
       from each house keeper at Easter.

From the above terrier, I am inclined to value the income at about
90_l_. per annum.

The benefice, in 1771, was about 350_l_. per annum: the late Rector,
John Parsons, procured an act, in 1773, to enable the incumbent to grant
building leases; the grant of a single lease, in 1777, brought the
annual addition of about 170_l_. The income is now about 700_l_. and is
expected, at the expiration of the leases, to exceed 2000_l_.

The repairs of the chancel belong to the rector, and the remainder of
the building to the parish.


We have touched upon various objects in our peregrinations through
Birmingham, which meet with approbation, though viewed through the
medium of smoke; some of these, being covered with the rust of time,
command our veneration; but the prospect before us is wholly modern.

We have mounted, by imperceptable gradations, from beauty to beauty,
'till we are now arrived at the summit.

If an historian had written in the last century, he would have recorded
but two places of worship; I am now recording the fourteenth: but my
successor, if not prevented by our own imprudence, in driving away the
spirit of commerce, may record the four-and-twentieth. The artist, who
carries the manufactures among foreigners, or the overseer, who wantonly
loads the people with burdens, draws the wrath of the place upon his
own head.

This curious piece of architecture, the steeple of which is erected
after the model of St. Paul's, in London, but without its weight, does
honour to the age that raised it, and to the place that contains it.
Perhaps the eye of the critic cannot point out a fault, which the hand
of the artist can mend: perhaps too, the attentive eye cannot survey
this pile of building, without communicating to the mind a small degree
of pleasure. If the materials are not proof against time, it is rather
a misfortune to be lamented, than an error to be complained of, the
country producing no better.

Yet, amidst all the excellencies we boast, I am sorry to charge this
chief ornament with an evil which admits no cure, that of not ranging
with its own coemetery, or the adjacent buildings: out of seven streets,
with which it is connected, it lines with none.--Like Deritend chapel,
of which I have already complained, from a strong attachment to a point
of religion, or of the compass, it appears twisted out of its place. We
may be delighted with a human figure, complete in stature, exactly
moulded with symmetry, and set off with the graces of dress; but we
should be disgusted, if his right side seemed to attempt to out-walk
his left.

This defect, in religious architecture, arises from a strict adherence
to the custom of the ancients, who fixed their altars towards the east.
It is amasing, that even weakness itself, by long practice, becomes
canonical; it gains credit by its age and its company. Hence, Sternhold
and Hopkins, by being long bound up with scripture, acquired a kind of
scripture authority.

The ground, originally, was part of a farm, and bore the name of the
Horse-close; afterwards _Barley-close_.--Thus a benign spot of earth,
gave additional spirits to a man when living, and kindly covered him in
its bosom when dead.

This well chosen spot, is the summit of the highest eminence in
Birmingham, with a descent every way; and, when the church was erected,
there were not any buildings nearer than those in Bull-street.

The land was the gift of Robert Phillips, Esq; whence the name, ancestor
to William Theodore Inge, Esquire.

In all degrees of people, from the bishop to the beadle, there seems a
propensity in the mind to arrive at the honours of Sainthood: by joining
our names in partnership with a faint, we share with him a red letter in
the almanack.

Out of six churches in Birmingham, three bear the names of the donors.
St. Bartholomew's would, probably, have taken that of its founder, John
Jennens, Esq; but that name happened to be anticipated by Sir John de
Birmingham, who conferred it upon Deritend chapel. St. Mary's could
readily perpetuate the name of its benefactress, because we had no place
of worship that bore it. But as neither the popish, nor the protestant
kalendar produced a St. Charles, the founder of St. Paul's was
unfortunately excluded.

The gifts, which the benefactor himself believes are charitable, and
expects the world to believe the same, if scrutinized, will be found to
originate from various causes--counterfeits are apt to be offered in
currency for sterling.

Perhaps _ostentation_ has brought forth more acts of beneficence than
charity herself; but, like an unkind parent, she disowns her offspring,
and charges them upon charity.

Ostentation is the root of charity; why else are we told, in capitals,
by a large stone in the front of a building--"This hospital was erected
by William Bilby, in the sixty-third year of his age, 1709." Or, "That
John Moore, yeoman, of Worley Wigorn, built this school, in 1730."--Nay,
pride even tempts us to strut in a second-hand robe of charity, left by
another; or why do we read--"These alms-houses were erected by Lench's
trust, in 1764. W. WALSINGHAM, BAILIFF."

Another utters the word _charity_, and we rejoice in the echo. If we
miss the substance, we grasp at the shadow.

Sometimes we assign our property for religious uses, late in the evening
of life, when _enjoyment_ is over, and almost _possession_. Thus we
bequeath to piety, what we can keep no longer. We convey our name to
posterity at the expence of our successor, and scaffold our way towards
heaven up the walls of a steeple.

Will charity chalk up one additional score in our favour, because we
grant a small portion of our land to found a church, which enables us to
augment the remainder treble its value, by granting building leases? a
man seldom makes a bargain for heaven, and forgets himself. Charity and
self-interest, like the apple and the rind, are closely connected, and,
like them, we cannot separate one without trespassing on the other.

In contributions of the lesser kind, the giver examines the quantum
given by those of his own station; _pride_ will not suffer him to appear
less than his neighbour.

Sometimes he surrenders merely through importunity, which indicates as
much _charity_, as the garrison does _merit_, which surrenders when
closely besieged. Neither do we fear _our left hand knowing what our
right hand doth_, our only fear is, left the world should _not_
know it.

This superb edifice was begun by act of Parliament, in 1711, under a
commission consisting of twenty of the neighbouring gentry, appointed by
the bishop of the diocese, under his episcopal seal. Their commission
was to end twelve months after the erection of the church.

Though Birmingham ever was, and perhaps ever will be considered as one
parish, yet a portion of land, about one hundred acres, nearly
triangular, and about three fourths built up, was taken out of the
centre of St. Martin's, like a shred of cloth out of a great coat, to
make a less, and constituted a separate parish, by the appellation of
St Philip's.

We shall describe this new boundary by an imaginary journey, for a real
one perhaps was never taken since the land was first laid out, nor ever
will to the end of time.

We include the warehouse, then of John Jenens, Esq; now No. 26, in
High-street, penetrate through the buildings, till we come within twenty
yards, of Moor-street, turn sharp to the left, cross the lower part of
Castle-street, Carr's-lane, and New Meeting-street; pass close by the
front of the Meeting-house, through Bank-alley, into Hen's-walk, having
kept Moor-street about twenty yards to the right, all the way; we now
enter that street, at the bottom of Hen's-walk, pass through the east
part of Dale-end, through Stafford-street, Steelhouse-lane (then called
Whittal-lane) Bull-lane (then New-hall-lane) and Mount-pleasant.

Our journey now leads us on the west of Pinfold-street, keeping it about
twenty yards on our left; up Peck-lane, till we come near the top, when
we turn to the right, keeping the buildings, with the Free-school in New
street, on our left, into Swan-alley. We now turn up the Alley into
New-street, then to the right, which leads us to the Party-wall, between
No. 25 and 26, in High-street, late Jennens's, where we began.

In the new parish I have described, and during the journey, kept on the
left, there seems to have been, at passing the act, twelve closes, all
which are filled with buildings, except the land between New-street and
Mount-pleasant, which only waits a word from the owner, to speak the
houses into being.

The church was consecrated in 1715, and finished in 1719, the work of
eight years; at which time the commissioners resigned their powers into
the hands of the diocesan, in whom is the presentation, after having
paid, it is said, the trifling sum of 5012_l_.--but perhaps such a work
could not be completed for 20,000_l_.

Three reasons may be assigned, why so small a sum was expended; many of
the materials were given; more of the carriage, and some heavy debts
were contracted.

The urns upon the parapet of the church, which are highly ornamental,
were fixed at the same time with those of the school, in about 1756.

When I first saw St. Philip's, in the year 1741, at a proper distance,
uncrowded with houses, for there were none to the north, New-hall
excepted, untarnished with smoke, and illuminated by a western sun, I
was delighted with its appearance, and thought it then, what I do now,
and what others will in future, _the pride of the place_.

If we assemble the beauties of the edifice, which cover a rood of
ground; the spacious area of the church-yard, occupying four acres;
ornamented with walks in great perfection; shaded with trees in double
and treble ranks; and surrounded with buildings in elegant taste:
perhaps its equal cannot be found in the British dominions.

The steeple, 'till the year 1751, contained a peal of six bells, which
were then augmented to ten; at which time St. Martin's, the mother
church, having only eight, could not bear to be out-numbered by a
junior, though of superior elegance, therefore ordered twelve into her
own steeple: but as room was insufficient for the admission of bells by
the dozen, means were found to hoist them tier over tier. Though the
round dozen is a complete number in the counting-house, it is not
altogether so in the belfry: the octave is the most perfect concord in
music, but diminishes by rising to an octave and a half; neither can
that dozen well be crowded into the peal.

But perhaps the artist had another grand scheme in view, that of
accommodating the town with the additional harmony of the chimes; for
only a few tunes can be played on the octave, whilst the dozen will
compass nearly all.

Whether we are entertained even by this _exalted_ style of music, admits
a doubt; for instead of the curious ear being charmed with distinct
notes, we only hear a bustle of confused sounds, which baffle the
attention too much to keep pace with the tune.

These two steeples, are our _public_ band of music: they are the only
_standing_ Waits of the place. Two thousand people may be accommodated
in the church, but, at times, it has contained near three thousand.

In the vestry is a theological library, bequeathed by the first rector,
William Higgs, for the use of the clergy in Birmingham and its
neighbourhood; who left 200_l_. for future purchase.

Under the centre isle runs a vault, the whole length of the church, for
the reception of those who chuse to pay an additional guinea.

The organ excels; the paintings, mouldings and gildings are superb:
whether the stranger takes an external or an internal survey, the eye is
struck with delight, and he pronounces the whole the work of a matter.
Its conveniency also, can only be equalled by its elegance.


Upon application of Sir Richard Gough, to Sir Robert Walpole, then in
power, George the First gave 600_l_. in 1725, towards finishing
this church.

Three remarks naturally arise from this declaration; That the prodigious
sums expended upon this pious undertaking, were beyond the ability of
the inhabitants; that the debts contracted, were many years in
discharging; and that one of the best of Kings, the head of the
Brunswick line, bestowed a liberal benefaction upon a people not
compleatly reconciled to his house.

Whether monumental decoration adds beauty to a place already beautiful,
is a question. There are three very small and very elegant monuments in
this church. Upon one of the south pillars, is that of the above William
Higgs, who died in 1733. Upon another is that of William Vyse, the
second rector, who died in 1770, at the age of 61. And, upon a north
pillar, that of Girton Peak, Esq; an humane magistrate, who died in
1770, aged 48.

Internment in the church is wisely prohibited; an indecency incompatible
with a civilized people. The foreigner will be apt to hold forth the
barbarity of the English nation, by observing, "They introduce
corruption in their very churches, and pay divine adoration upon the
graves of their ancestors."

Places of worship were designed for the living, the dead give up their
title with their life: besides, even small degrees of putrefaction,
confined in a room where the air cannot circulate, may become
prejudicial to health: it also ruins the pavement, as is done at St.
Martin's. Our first inhabitants, therefore, lie contented in the church
yard, by their unfortunate equals; having private sepulchres
appropriated for family use--Perhaps at the last day, no inquiry will be
made whether they lay on the in, or the outside of the walls.

It is difficult to traverse the elegant walks that surround this gulf of
death, without contemplating, that time is drawing us towards the same
focus, and that we shall shortly fall into the centre: that this
irregular circle contains what was once generous and beautiful, opulent
and humane. The arts took their rise in this fruitful soil: this is the
grave of invention and of industry; here those who figured upon the
stage are fallen, to make way for others, who must follow: though
multitudes unite with the dead, the numbers of the living increase; the
inhabitants change, while the genius improves. We cannot pass on without
reading upon the stones, the short existence of our departed friends,
perusing the end of a life with which we were well acquainted. The
active motion that veered with the rude blasts of seventy years, slops
in this point for ever.

The present rector, who is the third, is the Rev. Charles Newling, and
the benefice something like the following:

     A prebendal stall in the cathedral      l.  s.  d.
      church of Lichfield,                    6   0   0
     Eight acres and a half of glebe land,
      at Long bridge, near Birmingham,       32   0   0
     Emoluments arising from the seats of
      the church,                           140   0   0
     Surplice fees,                          50   0   0
     Easter offerings,                       10   0   0
     An estate at Sawley, in the county of
      Derby, under lease for three lives,
      renewable by fine, at the annual
      rent of                                66  13   4
                                            304  13   4
     Out of which is paid to the rector
      of St. Martin's, in consideration
      fees and offerings once appropriated
      to that church,                        15   0   0
                                            289  13   4


There are many inducements for an author to take up the pen, but the
leading motives, however disguised, seem to be pride and poverty;
hence, two of the most despicable things among men, furnish the world
with knowledge.

One would think, however, there can be no great inducement for a man to
write what he is conscious will never be read. Under this class may be
comprehended alphabetical collections, chronological tables, books of
figures, occasional devotions, etc. here also I range the lists of
officers in Birmingham, the annual sums expended upon the poor, and the
present chapter of numbers. These are intended for occasional
inspection, rather than for regular perusal: we may consider them as
deserts served up for a taste only, not a dinner; yet even this rule may
be broken by a resolute reader, for the late Joseph Scott, Esq; founder
of the trust before-mentioned, assured me, in 1751, that he had perused
Bailey's Dictionary as methodically as he had done Tom Jones; and,
though a dissenter, he continued to read the Common Prayer Book from end
to end, about twice a year; which is more than, perhaps, the greatest
lover of that excellent composition can boast.

I shall, to avoid prolixity in a barren chapter of the two extremes of
life, select about every tenth year from the register. Those years at
the time of the plague, make no addition to the burials, because the
unhappy victims were conveyed to Lady-wood for internment.

These lists inform us, that the number of streets, houses, inhabitants,
births, burials, poor's rates, and commercial productions, increase with
equal rapidity. It appears also from the register, that there were more
christenings lately at St. Martin's, in one day, than the whole town
produced in a year, in the 16th century--The same may be found in that
of St. Phillip's.

The deaths in Deritend are omitted, being involved with those of Aston.

      Year.   Births.   Burials.     Year.    Births.    Burials.

     1555         37         27      1667         146         140
     1560         --         37      1668         113         102
     1571         48         26      1681         251         139
     1580         37         25      1690         127         150
     1590         52         47      1700         172         171
     1600         62         32      1719         334         270
     1610         70         45      1720         423         355
     1623         81         66      1730         449         415
     1628        100         96      1740         520         573
     1653         --         47      1750         860        1020
     1660         --         75      1760         984        1143
     1665         --        109      1770        1329         899
     1666        144        121      1780        1636        1340


Though charity is one of the most amiable qualities of humanity, yet,
like Cupid, she ought to be represented blind; or, like Justice,
hood-winked. None of the virtues have been so much misapplied; giving to
the _hungry_, is sometimes only another word for giving to the _idle_.
We know of but two ways in which this excellence can exert itself;
improving the _mind_, and nourishing the _body_. To help him who _will
not _help himself; or, indiscriminately to relieve those that want, is
totally to mistake the end; for want is often met with: but to supply
those who _cannot_ supply themselves, becomes real charity. Some worthy
Christians have taken it into their heads to relieve _all_, for fear of
omitting the right. What should we think of the constable who seizes
every person he meets with, for fear of missing the thief? Between the
simple words, therefore, of WILL NOT and CANNOT, runs the fine barrier
between real and mistaken charity.

This virtue, so strongly inculcated by the christian system, hath,
during the last seventeen centuries, appeared in a variety of forms, and
some of them have been detrimental to the interest they were meant to
serve: _Such was the cloister_. Man is not born altogether to serve
himself, but the community; if he cannot exist without the assistance of
others, it follows, that others ought to be assisted by him: but if
condemned to obscurity in the cell, he is then fed by the aid of the
public, while that public derives none from him.

[Illustration: _General Hospital_.]

Estates have sometimes been devised in trust for particular uses, meant
as charities by the giver, but have, in a few years, been diverted out
of their original channel to other purposes.

The trust themselves, like so many contending princes, ardently druggie
for sovereignty; hence, _legacy_ and _discord_ are intimate companions.

The plantation of many of our English schools sprang up from the will of
the dead; but it is observable, that sterility quickly takes place; the
establishment of the master being properly secured, supineness enters,
and the young scions of learning are retarded in their growth.

It therefore admits a doubt, whether charitable donation is beneficial
to the world; nay, the estate itself becomes blasted when bequeathed to
public use, for, being the freehold of none, none will improve it:
besides, the more dead land, the less scope for industry.

At the reformation, under Queen Elizabeth, charity seemed to take a
different appearance: employment was found for the idle; he that was
able, was obliged to labour, and the parish was obliged to assist him
who could not. Hence the kingdom became replete with workhouses: these
are the laudable repositories of distress.

It has already been observed, that three classes of people merit the
care of society: forlorn infancy, which is too weak for its own support;
old age, which has served the community, without serving itself; and
accidental calamity: the two first, fall under the eye of the parish,
the last, under the modern institution of the General Hospital.

The shell of this plain, but noble edifice, was erected in 1766, upon a
situation very unsuitable for its elegant front, in a narrow dirty lane,
with an aspect directing up the hill, which should ever be avoided.

The amiable desire of doing good in the inhabitants, seemed to have
exceeded their ability; and, to the grief of many, it lay dormant for
twelve years. In 1778, the matter was revived with vigor; subscriptions
filled apace, and by the next year the hospital was finished, at the
expence of 7137_l_. 10s. Though the benefactions might not amount to
this enormous sum, yet they were noble, and truly characteristic of a
generous people. The annual subscriptions, as they stood at Michaelmas,
1779, were 901_l_. 19s. and, at Midsummer, 1780, 932_l_. 8s. During
these nine months, 529 patients were admitted, of which, 303 were cured,
93 relieved, 112 remained on the books, only 5 died, and but _one_ was
discharged as incurable; an incontestible proof of the _skill_ of the
faculty, which is at least equalled by their _humanity_, in giving their
attendance gratis.

The rules by which this excellent charity is conducted, are worthy of
its authors: success hath fully answered expectation, and the building
will probably stand for ages, to tell posterity a favourable tale of the
present generation.


Man is evidently formed for society; the intercourse of one with
another, like two blocks of marble in friction, reduces the rough
prominences of behaviour, and gives a polish to the manners.

Whatever tends to promote social connection, improve commerce, or stamp
an additional value upon property, is worthy of attention.

Perhaps, there is not a circumstance that points more favourably towards
these great designs, than commodious roads.

According as a country is improved in her roads, so will she stand in
the scale of civilization. It is a characteristic by which we may
pronounce with safety. The manners and the roads of the English, have
been refining together for about 1700 years. If any period of time is
distinguished with a more rapid improvement in one, it is also in
the other.

Our Saxons ancestors, of dusky memory, seldom stepped from under the
smoke of Birmingham. We have a common observation among us, that even so
late as William the Third, the roads were in so dangerous a state, that
a man usually made his will, and took a formal fare-well of his friends,
before he durst venture upon a journey to London; which, perhaps, was
thought then, of as much consequence as a voyage to America now.

A dangerous road is unfavourable both to commerce and to friendship; a
man is unwilling to venture his neck to sell his productions, or even
visit his friend: if a dreadful road lies between them, it will be apt
to annihilate friendship.

Landed property in particular, improves with the road. If a farmer
cannot bring his produce to market, he cannot give much for his land,
neither can that land well be improved, or the market properly supplied.
Upon a well formed road, therefore, might, with propriety, be placed the
figures of commerce, of friendship, and of agriculture, as
presiding over it.

There are but very few observations necessary in forming a road, and
those few are very simple; to expel whatever is hurtful, and invite
whatever is beneficial.

The breaking up of a long frost, by loosening the foundations, is
injurious, and very heavy carriages ought to be prevented, 'till the
weather unites the disjointed particles, which will soon happen.

But the grand enemy is water; and as this will inevitably fall, every
means should be used to discharge it: drains ought to be frequent, that
the water may not lie upon the road.

The great benefits are _the sun_ and the _wind:_ the surveyor should use
every method for the admission of these friendly aids, that they may
dispel the moisture which cannot run off.

For this purpose, all public roads ought to be sixty feet wide; all
trees and hedges within thirty feet of the centre, be under the
controul of the commissioners, with full liberty of drawing off the
water in what manner they judge necessary.

The Romans were the most accomplished masters we know of in this useful
art; yet even they seem to have forgot the under drain, for it is
evident at this day, where their road runs along the declivity of a
hill, the water dams up, flows over, and injures the road.

Care should be taken, in properly forming a road at first, otherwise you
may botch it for a whole century, and at the end of that long period, it
will be only a botch itself.

A wide road will put the innocent traveller out of fear of the
waggoners; not the most civilized of the human race.

From Birmingham, as from a grand centre, issues twelve roads, that point
to as many towns; some of these, within memory, have scarcely been
passable; all are mended, but though much is done, more is wanted. In an
upland country, like that about Birmingham, where there is no river of
size, and where the heads only of the streams show themselves: the
stranger would be surprised to hear, that through most of these twelve
roads he cannot travel in a flood with safety. For want of causeways
and bridges, the water is suffered to flow over the road, higher than
the stirrup: every stream, though only the size of a tobacco-pipe, ought
to be carried through an under drain, never to run over the road.

At Saltley, in the way to Coleshill, which is ten miles, for want of a
causeway, with an arch or two, every flood annoys the passenger and the
road: at Coleshill-hall, 'till the year 1779, he had to pass a
dangerous river.

One mile from Birmingham, upon the Lichfield road, sixteen miles, to the
disgrace of the community, is yet a river without a bridge. In 1777, the
country was inclined to solicit Parliament for a turnpike-act, but the
matter fell to the ground through private views: one would think, that
the penny can never be ill laid out, which carries a man ten miles with
pleasure and safety. The hand of nature hath been more beneficent, both
to this, and to the Stafford road, which is twenty-eight miles, than
that of art.

The road to Walfall, ten miles, is rather _below indifferent_.

That to Wolverhampton, thirteen miles, is much improved since the
coal-teams left it.

The road to Dudley, ten miles, is despicable beyond description. The
unwilling traveller is obliged to go two miles about, through a bad
road, to avoid a worse.

That to Hales-Owen, eight miles, like the life of man, is checkered with
good and evil; chiefly the latter.

To Bromsgrove, thirteen miles, made extremely commodious for the first
four, under the patronage of John Kettle, Esq; in 1772, at the expence
of near 5000_l_. but afterwards is so confined, that two horses cannot
pass without danger; the sun and the winds are excluded, the rivers lie
open to the stranger, and he travels through dirt 'till Midsummer.

To Alcester, about twenty, formed in 1767, upon a tolerable plan, but is
rather too narrow, through a desolate country, which at present scarcely
defrays the expence; but that country seems to improve with the road.

Those to Stratford and Warwick, about twenty miles each, are much used
and much neglected.

That to Coventry, about the same distance, can only be equalled by the
Dudley road. The genius of the age has forgot, in some of these roads to
accommodate the foot passenger with a causeway.

The surveyor will be inclined to ask, How can a capital be raised to
defray this enormous expence? Suffer me to reply with an expression in
the life of Oliver Cromwell, "He that lays out money when necessary, and
only then, will accomplish matters beyond the reach of imagination."

Government long practised the impolitic mode of transporting vast
numbers of her people to America, under the character of felons; these,
who are generally in the prime of life, might be made extremely useful
to that country which they formerly robbed, and against which, they are
at this moment carrying arms. It would be easy to reduce this ferocious
race under a kind of martial discipline; to badge them with a mark only
removeable by the governors, for hope should ever be left for
repentance, and to employ them in the rougher arts of life, according to
the nature of the crime, and the ability of body; such as working the
coal mines in Northumberland, the lead mines in Derbyshire, the tin
mines in Cornwall, cultivating waste lands, banking after inundations,
forming canals, cleansing the beds of rivers, assisting in harvest, and
in FORMING and MENDING the ROADS: _these hewers of wood and drawers of
water_ would be a corps of reserve against any emergency. From this
magazine of villiany, the British navy might be equipped with,
considerable advantage.


An act was obtained, in 1767, to open a cut between Birmingham and the
coal delphs about Wednesbury.

The necessary article of coal, before this act, was brought by land, at
about thirteen shillings per ton, but now at seven.

It was common to see a train of carriages for miles, to the great
destruction of the road, and the annoyance of travellers.

This dust is extended in the whole to about twenty-two miles in length,
'till it unites with what we may justly term the grand artery, or
Staffordshire Canal; which, eroding the island, communicates with Hull,
Bristol and Liverpool. The expence was about 70,000_l_. divided into
shares 140_l_. each, of which no man can purchase more than ten, and
which now sell for about 370_l_.

The proprietors took a perpetual lease of six acres of land, of Sir
Thomas Gooch, at 47_l_. per annum, which is converted into a wharf, upon
the front of which is erected an handsome office for the dispatch
of business.

[ILLUSTRATION: A Plan of the Navigable Canal from Birmingham to

[ILLUSTRATION: Navigation Office]

This watery passage, exclusive of loading the proprietors with wealth,
tends greatly to the improvement of some branches of trade, by
introducing heavy materials at a small expence, such as pig iron for the
founderies, lime-stone, articles for the manufacture of brass and steel,
also stone, brick, slate, timber, &c.

It is happy for the world, that public interest is grafted upon private,
and that both flourish together.

This grand work, like other productions of Birmingham birth, was rather
hasty; the managers, not being able to find patience to worm round the
hill at Smethwick, or cut through, have wisely travelled over it by the
help of twelve locks, with six they mount the summit, and with six more
descend to the former level; forgetting the great waste of water, and
the small supply from the rivulets, and also, the amazing loss of of
time in climbing this curious ladder, consisting of twelve liquid steps.
It is worthy of remark, that the level of the earth, is nearly the same
at Birmingham as at the pits: what benefit then would accrue to
commerce, could the boats travel a dead flat of fourteen miles without
interruption? The use of the canal would increase, great variety of
goods be brought which are now excluded, and these delivered with more
expedition, with less expence, and the waste of water never felt; but,
by the introduction of twelve unnecessary locks, the company may
experience five plagues more than fell on Egypt.

The boats are nearly alike, constructed to fit the locks, carry about
twenty-five tons, and are each drawn by something like the skeleton of a
horse, covered with skin: whether he subsists upon the scent of the
water, is a doubt; but whether his life is a scene of affliction, is
not; for the unfeeling driver has no employment but to whip him from one
end of the canal to the other. While the teams practised the turnpike
road, the lash was divided among five unfortunate animals, but now the
whole wrath of the driver falls upon one.

We can scarcely view a boat travelling this liquid road, without raising
opposite sensations--pleased to think of its great benefit to the
community, and grieved to behold wanton punishment.

I see a large field of cruelty expanding before me, which I could easily
prevail with myself to enter; in which we behold the child plucking a
wing and a leg off a fly, to try how the poor insect can perform with
half his limbs; or running a pin through the posteriors of a locust, to
observe it spinning through the air, like a comet, drawing a tail of
thread. If we allow, man has a right to destroy noxious animals, we
cannot allow he has a right to protract their pain by a lingering death.
By fine gradations the modes of cruelty improve with years, in pinching
the tail of a cat for the music of her voice, kicking a dog because we
have trod upon his foot, or hanging him for _fun_, 'till we arrive at
the priests in the church of Rome, who burnt people for opinion; or to
the painter, who begged the life of a criminal, that he might torture
him to death with the severest pangs, to catch the agonizing feature,
and transfer it into his favourite piece, of a dying Saviour. But did
that Saviour teach such doctrine? Humanity would wish rather to have
lost the piece, than have heard of the cruelty. What, if the injured
ghost of the criminal is at this moment torturing that of the painter?--

But as this capacious field is beyond the line I profess, and, as I have
no direct accusation against the people of my regard, I shall not enter.


Cooper's-mill, situated upon the verge of the parishes of Afton and
Birmingham, 400 yards below this bridge, was probably first erected in
the the peaceable ages of Saxon influence, and continued a part of the
manorial estate 'till the disposal of it in 1730.

Before the water was pounded up to supply the mill, it must have been so
shallow, as to admit a passage between Digbeth and Deritend, over a few
stepping stones; and a gate seems to have been placed upon the verge of
the river, to prevent encroachments of the cattle.

This accounts for the original name, which Dugdale tells us was
_Derry-yate-end:_ derry, low; yate, gate; end, extremity of the parish;
with which it perfectly agrees.

The mill afterwards causing the water to be dammed up, gave rise to a
succession of paltry bridges, chiefly of timber, to preserve a
communication between the two streets.

But in later ages, the passage was dignified with those of stone. In
1750, a wretched one was taken down, and the present bridge erected by
Henry Bradford and John Collins, overseers of the highway, consisting of
five arches; but the homely style, the deep ascent, and the
circumscribed width prevents encomium.



If we travel two miles from the centre of Birmingham, upon the
Wolverhampton road, which may be called, the road to taste, and is daily
travelled by the nobility and gentry, we shall arrive at the epitome
of the arts.

Though this little spot lies in the county of Stafford, we must accept
it as part of Birmingham; neither is it many yards distant from
the parish.

The proprietor, invited by a genius, a fortune of 30,000_l_. and a
little stream, which promised to facilitate business, has erected the
most elegant works in these parts, said to accommodate seven hundred
persons. Upon that hungry ground, where, in 1758 stood one paltry
cottage, we now behold, a city in miniature.

From this nursery of ingenuity, originated the Soho button, the single
wheel clock, the improvement of the steam engine, the platina button,
the method of taking exact copies of painting, writing, &c. also, the
productions of fancy, in great variety; with which some of the European
princes are well acquainted.

To the genius of the place is owing the assay-office, for marking
standard wrought plate, which, prior to the year 1773, was conveyed to
London to receive the sanction of that office; but by an act then
obtained, the business is done here by an assay master, superintended by
four wardens: these are annually chosen out of thirty-six guardians,
whose chief duty consists in dining together, at least once a year; for
it appears from the chapter upon government, that feasting makes a
principal part of a Birmingham office; and, however unwilling a man may
seem to _enter in_ we generally find him pleased when he _is in_.



About five miles south of Birmingham, and five furlongs off Solihull
Lodge, is a place called _The Danes Camp_. But although neither history
nor tradition speak of this particular event, it probably was raised in
the ninth century.

The situation is well chosen, upon an eminence, about nine acres, nearly
triangular, is yet in tolerable perfection; the ditch is about twenty
feet wide; the base of the bank about the same; admits but of one
entrance, and is capable of being secured by water. From the bottom of
the ditch, to the top of the mound, was, when made, about twenty feet;
and is a production of great labour.


This neighbourhood may justly be deemed the seat of the arts, but not
the seat of the gentry.

None of the nobility are near us, except William Legge, Earl of
Dartmouth, at Sandwell, four miles from Birmingham. The principal houses
in our environs, are those of Sir Charles Holte, late member for the
county, at Aston; Sir Henry Gough, member for Bamber, at Edgbaston;
George Birch, Esq; at Handsworth; John Gough, Esq; at Perry; and John
Taylor, Esq; at Bordesley and at Moseley; all joining to the manor of
Birmingham. Exclusive of these, are many elegant retreats of our first
inhabitants, acquired by commercial success.

Full fed with vanity is an author, when two readers strive to catch up
his work, for the pleasure of perusing it:--but, perchance, if two
readers dip into this chapter, they may strive to lay it down.

I have hitherto written to the _world_, but now to a small part, _the
antiquarians_; nay, a small part of the sensible part; for a fool and an
antiquary is a contradiction: they are, to a man, people of letters and
penetration. If their judgment is sometimes erroneous, we may consider,
man was never designed for perfection; there is also less light to guide
them in this, than in other researches. If the traveller slips upon
common ground, how will he fare if he treads upon ice?--Besides, in dark
questions, as in intricate journies, there are many erroneous ways for
one right.

If, like the mathematician, he can establish one point, it ascertains
another. We may deem his pursuit one of the most arduous, and attended
with the least profit: his emoluments consist in the returns of pleasure
to his own mind.

The historian only collects the matter of the day, and hands it to
posterity; but the antiquarian brings his treasures from remote ages,
and presents them to this: he examines forgotten repositories, calls
things back into existence, which are past; counter-acts the efforts of
time, and of death; possesses something like a re-creative power;
collects the dust of departed matter, moulds it into its prestine state,
exhibits the figure to view, and stamps it with a kind of immortality.

Every thing has its day, whether it be a nation, a city, a castle, a
man, or an insect; the difference is, one is a winter's day, the other
may be extended to the length of a summer's--an _end_ waits upon all.
But we cannot contemplate the end of grandeur, without gloomy ideas.

Birmingham is surrounded with the melancholy remains of extinguished
greatness; the decayed habitations of decayed gentry, fill the mind with
sorrowful reflections. Here the feet of those marked the ground, whose
actions marked the page of history. Their arms glistened in the field;
their eloquence moved the senate. Born to command, their influence was
extensive; but who now rest in peace among the paupers, fed with the
crumbs of their table. The very land which, for ages, was witness to the
hospitality of its master, is itself doomed to stirility. The spot
which drew the adjacent country, is neglected by all; is often in a
wretched state of cultivation, sets for a trifle; the glory is departed;
it demands a tear from the traveller, and the winds teem, to sigh
over it.


In the parish of King's-norton, four miles south west of Birmingham, is
_The Moats_, upon which long resided the ancient family of Field. The
numerous buildings, which almost formed a village, are totally erased,
and barley grows where the beer was drank.


Eight miles south west of Birmingham, in the same parish, near Withod
Chapel, is _Black Greves_ (Black Groves) another seat of the Fields;
which, though a family of opulence, were so far from being lords of the
manor, that they were in vassalage to them.

The whole of that extensive parish is in the crown, which holds the
detestable badge of ancient slavery over every tenant, of demanding
under the name of harriot, the best moveable he dies possessed of--Thus
death and the bailiff make their inroads together; they rob the family
in a double capacity, each taking the best moveable.

As the human body descends into the regions of sickness, much sooner
than it can return into health; so a family can decline into poverty by
hastier steps, than rise into affluence. One generation of extravagance
puts a period to many of greatness.

A branch of the Fields, in 1777, finished their ancient grandeur, by
signing away the last estate of his family.--Thus he blotted out the
name of his ancestors by writing his own.


Four miles from Birmingham, upon the Warwick road, entering the parish
of Solihull, in Castle-lane, is Ulverle, in doom's-day Ulverlei.
Trifling as this place now seems, it must have been the manor-house of
Solihull, under the Saxon heptarchy; but went to decay so long ago as
the conquest.

The manor was the property of the Earls of Mercia, but whether their
residence is uncertain.--The traces of a moat yet remain, which are
triangular, and encircle a wretched farm-house of no note: one of the
angles of this moat is filled up, and become part of Castle-lane; which
proves that Ulverley went into disuse when Hogg's-moat was erected: it
also proves that the lane terminated here, which is about two hundred
yards from the turnpike road. The great width of the lane, from the road
to Ulverley, and the singular narrowness from thence to Hogg's-moat, is
another proof of its prior antiquity.

If we pursue our journey half a mile Farther along this lane, which by
the way is scarcely passable, it will bring us to


At Oltenend (Old Town) originally Odingsell's-moat, now Hobb's-moat, the
ancient manor-house of Solihull, after it had changed its lords at the
conquest. The property, as before observed, of Edwin Earl of Mercia, in
the reign of Edward the the Confessor.

William the First granted the manor to a favourite lady, named Cristina,
probably a handsome lass, of the same complexion as his mother; thus we
err when we say William gave all the land in the kingdom to his
followers--some little was given to those _he_ followed.

This lady, like many of her successors, having tired the arms of
royalty, was conveyed into those of an humble favourite; Ralph de
Limesie married her, who became lord of the place, but despising
Ulverley, erected this castle.

The line of Limesie continued proprietors four descents; when, in the
reign of King John, it became the property of Hugh de Odingsells, by
marrying a co-heiress.

The last of the Odingsells, in 1294, left four daughters, one of whom,
with the lordship, fell into the hands of John de Clinton; but it is
probable the castle was not inhabited after the above date, therefore
would quickly fall to decay.

The moat is upon a much larger plan than Ulverley, takes in a compass of
five acres, had two trenches; the outer is nearly obliterated, but the
inner is marked with the strongest lines we meet with. This trench is
about twenty feet deep, and about thirty yards from the crown of one
bank to the other.

When Dugdale saw it, about a hundred and fifty years ago, the center,
which is about two acres, where the castle stood, was covered with old
oaks; round this center are now some thousands, the oldest of which is
not more than a century; so that the timber is changed since the days of
Dugdale, but not the appearance of the land.

The center is bare of timber, and exhibits the marks of the plough. The
late Benjamin Palmer, Esq; a few years ago, planted it with trees, which
are in that dwindling state, that they are not likely to grow so tall as
their master[7].

[Footnote 7: He measured about six feet five inches, but was singularly
short in the lower parts: his step was not larger than a child's of ten
years old. His carriage, by its extraordinary height, looked at a
distance like a moving steeple; he sat as high in a common chair, as a
man of the middle-size stands: he was as immoderately heavy as he was
tall, and as remarkable for good-nature as either. As a man, he shone by
his bulk; as a magistrate, in a dull but honest light--his decisions
were _intended_ to be just. He seemingly dozed as he walked; but if his
own eyes were half shut, those of every other person were open to
see him.]

It lies in a pleasant situation, upon a descent, so that the trench in
one part is dry, and in another three or four yards deep in water.

A place of such desolation, one would think, was a place of
silence--just the reverse. When I saw it, Feb. 23, 1783, the trees were
tall, the winds high, and the roar tremendous.

Exclusive of Ulverley and Hogg's-moat, there are many old foundations in
Solihull, once the residence of gentry now extinct; as Solihull-hall,
the Moat-house, and Kynton, the property of the Botolers; Bury-hall,
that of the Warings; who both came over with William: Henwood, belonging
to the Hugfords; Hillfield-hall, the ancient seat of the Greswolds, as
Malvern was their modern.


At Yardley church, four miles east of Birmingham, is _The Moat_, now a
pasture; the trench still retains its water, as a remembrance of its
former use.

This was anciently the property of the Allestrees, lords of Witton; but
about thirty years ago, the building and the family expired together.


One mile farther east is Kent's-moat, in which no noise is heard but the
singing of birds, as if for joy that their enemy is fled, and they have
regained their former habitation.

This is situate on an eminence, like that of Park-hall, is capacious,
has but one trench, supplied by its own springs; and, like that, as
complete as earth and water can make it.

This was part of Coleshill, and vested in the crown before the conquest,
but soon after granted with that to Clinton, who gave it with a daughter
to Verdon; and he, with another, to Anselm de Scheldon, who kept it till
the reign of Edward the Third: it afterwards passed through several
families, till the reign of Henry the Seventh, when it came into that of
De Gray, Earl of Kent, whence the name; though, perhaps, the works were
erected by Scheldon.

It is now, with Coleshill, the property of Lord Digby; but the building
has been so long gone, that tradition herself has lost it.


One mile east is Sheldon-hall, which anciently bore the name of
East-hall, in contradistinction from Kent's-moat, which was West-hall.
This, in 1379, was the property of Sir Hugh le Despenser, afterwards of
the family of Devereux, ancestor of the present Viscount Hereford, who
resided here till about 1710. In 1751, it was purchased by John Taylor,
Esq; and is now possessed by his tenant.

The moat, like others on an eminence, has but one trench, fed by the
land springs; is filled up in the front of the hall, as there is not
much need of water protection. The house, which gives an idea of former
gentility, seems the first erected on the spot; is irregular, agreeable
to the taste of the times, and must have been built many centuries. All
the ancient furniture fled with its owners, except an hatchment in the
hall, with sixteen coats of arms, specifying the families into which
they married.


Two furlongs east of Sheldon-hall, and one mile south of Castle
Bromwich, is _Kings-hurst_; which, though now a dwelling in tenancy,
was once the capital of a large track of land, consisting of its own
manor, Coleshill, and Sheldon; the demesne of the crown, under the Saxon
kings, from whom we trace the name.

The Conqueror, or his son William, granted it; but whether for money,
service, caprice, or favour, is uncertain; for he who wears a crown acts
as whimsically as he who does not.

Mountfort came over with William, as a knight, and an officer of rank;
but, perhaps, did not immediately receive the grant, for the king would
act again much like other people, _give away their property, before he
would give away his own_.

If this unfortunate family were not the first grantees, they were lords,
and probably residents of King's-hurst, long before their possession of
Coleshill, in 1332, and by a younger branch, long after the unhappy
attainder of Sir Simon, in 1497.

Sir William Mountfort, in 1390, augmented the buildings, erected a
chapel, and inclosed the manor. His grandson, Sir Edmund, in 1447, paled
in some of the land, and dignified it with the fashionable name
of _park_.

This prevailing humour of imparking was unknown to the Saxons, it crept
in with the Norman: some of the first we meet with are those of
Nottingham, Wedgnock, and Woodstock--Nottingham, by William Peveral,
illegitimate son of the Conqueror; Wedgnock, by Newburg, the first
Norman Earl of Warwick; and Woodstock, by Henry the First. So that the
Duke of Marlborough perhaps may congratulate himself with possessing the
oldest park in use.

The modern park is worth attention; some are delightful in the extreme:
they are the beauties of creation, terrestrial paradises; they are just
what they ought to be, nature cautiously assisted by invisible art. We
envy the little being who presides over one--but why mould we envy him?
the pleasure consists in _seeing_, and one man may _see_ as well as
another: nay, the stranger holds a privilege beyond him; for the
proprietor, by often seeing, sees away the beauties, while he who looks
but seldom, sees with full effect. Besides, one is liable to be fretted
by the mischievous hand of injury, which the stranger seldom sees; he
looks for excellence, the owner for defect, and they both find.

These proud inclosures, guarded by the growth within, first appeared
under the dimension of one or two hundred acres; but fashion, emulation,
and the park, grew up together, till the last swelled into one or
two thousand.

If religions rise from the lowest ranks, the fashions generally descend
from the higher, who are at once blamed, and imitated by their

The highest orders of men lead up a fashion, the next class tread upon
their heels, the third quickly follow, then the fourth, fifth, &c.
immediately figure after them. But as a man who had an inclination for a
park, could not always spare a thousand acres, he must submit to less,
for a park must be had: thus Bond, of Ward-end, set up with thirty; some
with one half, till the very word became a burlesque upon the idea. The
design was a display of lawns, hills, water, clumps, &c. as if ordered
by the voice of nature; and furnished with herds of deer. But some of
our modern parks contain none of these beauties, nor scarcely land
enough to support a rabbit.

I am possessed of one of these jokes of a park, something less than an
acre:--he that has none, might think it a _good_ joke, and wish it his
own; he that has more would despise it: that it never was larger,
appears from its being surrounded by Sutton Coldfield; and that it has
retained the name for ages, appears from the old timber upon it.

The manor of King's-hurst was disposed of by the Mountforts, about two
hundred years ago, to the Digbys, where it remains.


One mile farther east is _Coleshill-hall_, vested in the crown before,
and after the conquest; purchased, perhaps, of William Rufus, by
Geoffrey de Clinton, ancestor to the present Duke of Newcastle. In 1352,
an heiress of the house of Clinton, gave it, with herself, to Sir John
de Mountfort, of the same family with Simon, the great Earl of
Leicester, who fell, in 1265, at Evesham, in that remarkable contest
with Henry the Third.

With them it continued till 1497, when Sir Simon Mountfort, charged, but
perhaps unjustly, with assisting Perkin Warbeck with 30_l_. was brought
to trial at Guildhall, condemned as a traitor, executed at Tyburn, his
large fortune confiscated, and his family ruined. Some of his
descendants I well know in Birmingham; and _they_ are well known to
poverty, and the vice.

In the reign of Henry the Seventh, it was almost dangerous, particularly
for a rich man, even to _think_ against a crafty and avaricious
monarch.--What is singular, the man who accused Sir Simon at the bar,
succeeded him in his estate.

Simon Digby procured a grant of the place, in whose line it still
continues. The hall is inhabited, but has been left about thirty years
by the family; was probably erected by the Mountforts, is extensive, and
its antique aspect without, gives a venerable pleasure to the beholder,
like the half admitted light diffused within. Every spot of the park is
delightful, except that in which the hall stands: our ancestors built in
the vallies, for the sake of water; their successors on the hills, for
the sake of air.

From this uncouth swamp sprung the philosopher, the statesman, and
tradition says, the gunpowder-plot.


Four furlongs north-east of Birmingham, is _Duddeston_ (Dud's-town) from
Dud, the Saxon proprietor, Lord of Dudley, who probably had a seat here;
once a considerable village, but long reduced to the manor-house, till
Birmingham, swelling beyond its bounds, in 1764, verged upon this
lordship; and we now, in 1783, behold about eighty houses, under the
names of Duke-street, Prospect-row, and Woodcock-lane.

It afterwards descended to the Paganalls, the Sumeris, then to the
Bottetourts, and was, in 1323, enjoyed by Joan Bottetourt, lady of
Weoley castle, a daughter of the house of Sumeri.

Sir Thomas de Erdington held it of this lady, by a chief-rent, which was
a pair of gilt spurs, or six-pence, at the option of the tenant.

Erdington sold it, in 1327, to Thomas de Maidenhache, by whose daughter,
Sibell, it came in marriage to Adam de Grymforwe; whose posterity, in
1363, conveyed it for 26_l_. 13s. 4d. now worth 20,000_l_. to John atte
Holt; and his successors made it their residence, till the erection of
Aston-hall, in the reign of James I.

It is now converted into beautiful gardens, as a public resort of
pleasure, and dignified with the London name of Vauxhall. The demolished
fish-ponds, and the old foundations, which repel the spade, declare its
former grandeur.

In 1782 it quitted, by one of the most unaccountable alignments that
ever resulted from human weakness, the ancient name of Holte, familiar
during four hundred and nineteen years, for that of Legge.

Could the ghost of Sir Lister re-visit his departed property, one might
ask, What reception might you meet with, Sir Lister, in 1770, among your
venerable ancestors in the shades, for barring, unprovoked, an infant
heiress of 7000_l_. a year, and giving it, unsolicited, to a stranger?
Perhaps you experience repeated buffetings; a sturdy figure, with iron
aspect, would be apt to accost you--"I with nervous arm, and many a
bended back, drew 40_l_. from the Birmingham forge, with which, in 1330,
I purchased the park and manor of Nechels, now worth four hundred times
that sum. I planted that family which you have plucked up by the roots:
in the sweat of my brow, I laid a foundation for greatness; many of my
successors built on that foundation--but you, by starving your brother,
Sir Charles, into compliance, wantonly cut off the entail, and gave away
the estate, after passing through seventeen descents, merely to shew you
had a power to give it. We concluded here, that a son of his daughter,
the last hope of the family, would change his own name to preserve ours,
and not the estate change its possessor."--"I," another would be apt to
say, "with frugal hand, and lucrative employments under the crown,
added, in 1363, the manor of Duddeston; and, in 1367, that of Alton. But
for what purpose did I add them? To display the folly of a
successor."--A dejected spectre would seem to step forward, whose face
carried the wrinkles of eighty-four, and the shadow of tear; "I, in
1611, brought the title of baronet among us, first tarnished by you;
which, if your own imbecility could not procure issue to support, you
ought to have supported it by purchase. I also, in 1620, erected the
mansion at Afton, then, and even now, the most superb in that
neighbourhood, fit to grace the leading title of nobility; but you
forbad my successors to enter. I joined, in 1647, to our vast fortune,
the manor of Erdington.--Thus the fabric we have been rearing for ages,
you overthrew in one fatal moment."--The last angry spectre would appear
in the bloom of life. "I left you an estate which you did not deserve:
you had no more right to leave it from your successor, than I to leave
it from you: one man may ruin the family of another, but he seldom ruins
his own. We blame him who wrongs his neighbour, but what does he deserve
who wrongs himself?--You have done both, for by cutting off the
succession, your name will be lost. The ungenerous attorney, instead of
making your absurd will, ought to have apprized you of our sentiments,
which exactly coincide with those of the world, or how could the tale
affect a stranger? Why did not some generous friend guide your crazy
vessel, and save a sinking family? Degenerate son, he who destroys the
peace of another, should forfeit his own--we leave you to remorse, may
she quickly _find, and weep over you_."


A mile east of Duddeston is _Saltley-hall_, which, with an extensive
track of ground, was, in the Saxon times, the freehold of a person whom
we should now call Allen; the same who was Lord of Birmingham. But at
the conquest, when justice was laid asleep, and property possessed by
him who could seize it, this manor, with many others, fell into the
hands of William Fitz-Ausculf, Baron of Dudley-castle, who granted it in
knight's-service to Henry de Rokeby.

A daughter of Rokeby carried it by marriage to Sir John Goband, whose
descendants, in 1332, sold it to Walter de Clodshale; an heiress of
Clodshale, in 1426, brought it into the ancient family of Arden, and a
daughter of this house, to that of Adderley, where it now rests.

The castle, I have reason to think, was erected by Rokeby, in which all
the lords resided till the extinction of the Clodshales.--It has been
gone to ruin about three hundred years, and the solitary platform seems
to mourn its loss.


Three miles from Birmingham, in the same direction, is _Wart-end_,
anciently _Little Bromwich_; a name derived from the plenty of broom,
and is retained to this day by part of the precincts, _Broomford_

This manor was claimed by that favourite of the conqueror, Fitz-Ausculf,
and granted by him to a second-hand favourite, who took its name.

The old castle has been gone about a century; the works are nearly
complete, cover about nine acres, the most capacious in this
neighbourhood, those of Weoley-castle excepted. The central area is now
an orchard, and the water, which guarded the castle, guards the fruit.
This is surrounded with three mounds, and three trenches, one of them
fifty yards over, which, having lost its master, guards the fish.

The place afterwards passed through several families, till the reign of
Henry the Seventh. One of them bearing the name of _Ward_, changed the
name to _Ward-end_.

In 1512, it was the property of John Bond, who, fond of his little
hamlet, inclosed a park of thirty acres, stocked it with deer; and, in
1517, erected a chapel for the conveniency of his tenants, being two
miles from the parish church of Afton. The skeleton of this chapel, in
the form of a cross, the fashion of the times, is yet standing on the
outward mound: its floor is the only religious one I have seen laid with
horse-dung; the pulpit is converted into a manger--it formerly furnished
husks for the man, but now corn for the horse. Like the first christian
church, it has experienced a double use, a church and a stable; but with
this difference, _that_ in Bethlehem, was a stable advanced into a
church; this, on the contrary, is reduced into a stable.

The manor, by a female, passed through the Kinardsleys, and is now
possessed by the Brand-woods; but the hall, erected in 1710, and its
environs, are the property of Abraham Spooner, Esq.


Simply _Bromwich_, because the soil is productive of broom.

My subject often leads me back to the conquest, an enterprize, wild
without parallel: we are astonished at the undertaking, because William
was certainly a man of sense, and a politician. Harold, his competitor,
was a prince much superior in power, a consummate general, and beloved
by his people. The odds were so much against the invader, that out of
one hundred such imprudent attempts, ninety-nine would miscarry: all the
excuse in his favour is, _it succeeded_. Many causes concurred in this
success, such as his own ambition, aided by his valour; the desperate
fortune of his followers, very few of whom were men of property, for to
the appearance of gentlemen, they added the realities of want; a
situation to which any change is thought preferable; but, above all,
_chance_. A man may dispute for religion, he may contend for liberty, he
may run for his life, but he will _fight_ for property.

By the contest between William and Harold, the unhappy English lost all
they had to lose; and though this all centered in the Normans, they did
not acquire sufficient to content them.

History does not inform us who was then the proprietor of Castle
Bromwich, but that it belonged to the Mercian Earls scarcely admits a
doubt; as Edwin owned some adjoining manors, he probably owned this.
Fitz-Ausculf was his fortunate successor, who procured many lordships in
the neighhood of Birmingham; Castle Bromwich was one. He granted it to
an inferior Norman, in military tenure; who, agreeable to the fashion of
those times, took the surname of Bromwich.

Henry de Castel was a subsequent proprietor. Dugdale supposes the
village took its name from a castle, once on the premises; and that the
castle-hill yet remains: but this hill is too small, even to admit a
shelter for a Lilliputian, and is evidently an artificial trifle,
designed for a monument. It might hold, for its ancient furniture, a
turret, termed a castle--perhaps it held nothing in Dugdale's time: the
modern is a gladiator, in the attitude of fighting, supported by a
pedestal, containing the Bridgeman arms.

_Castle_, probably, was added by the family of that name, lords of the
place, to distinguish it from _woody_ and _little_ Bromwich. They bore
for their arms, three castles and a chevron.

Lord Ferrers of Chartley, who was proprietor of Birmingham in the reign
of Henry the Sixth, enjoyed it by marriage; and his grand daughter
brought it, by the same channel, into the family of Devereux, Lords of
Sheldon. Edward, about the latter end of Queen Elizabeth's reign,
erected the present building, which is capacious, is in a stile between
ancient and modern, and has a pleasing appearance.

The Bridgeman family acceded to possession about eighty years ago, by
purchase, and made it their residence till about 1768. We should
naturally enquire, Why Sir Harry quitted a place so delightfully
situated? Perhaps it is not excelled in this country, in the junction of
three great roads, a a desirable neighbourhood, the river Tame at its
back, and within five miles of the plentiful market of Bimingham--but,
alas, _it has no park_.

The gentry seem to have resided in our vicinity, when there was the
greatest inducement to leave it, _impassable roads_: they seem also to
have quitted the country, now there is the greatest inducement to reside
there; roads, which improve their estates, and may be travelled with
pleasure. It may be objected, that "the buildings become ancient." But
there is no more disgrace in an old house, than in an old man; they may
both be dressed in character, and look well. A gentleman, by residing in
the family seat, pays a compliment to his ancestors.


Six miles north-east of Birmingham, and one from Castle Bromwich chapel,
is a spacious moat, with one trench, which, for many centuries guarded
_Park-hall_. This is another of those desolate islands, from which every
creature is fled, and every sound, except that of the winds; nay, even
the very clouds seem to lament the desolation with tears.

This was possessed by none but the Ardens, being part of their vast
estate long before the conquest, and five hundred years after. A
delightful situation on the banks of the Tame; to which we are led
through a dirty road.

We may consider this island, the treasury into which forty-six lordships
paid their tribute. The riches of the country were drawn to this center,
and commands were issued from it. The growth of these manors supplied
that spot, which now grows for another. The lordships are in forty-six
hands; the country is in silence; the island ploughed up, and the family
distressed--At the remembrance of their name, the smile quits the face
of history; she records their sad tale with a sigh; while their arms
are yet displayed in some of the old halls in the neighbourhood.


Crossing the river, one mile farther east, is _Berwood-hall_, where the
forsaken moat, at this day, guards--nothing. This, with the manor to
which it belongs, was also the property of the Ardens; one of which in
the reign of Henry the Second, granted it to the canons of Leicester;
who added a chapel, which went to decay four hundred years ago. After
the grant, the Ardens seem to have become tenants to the canons for the
land, once their own: we frequently observe a man pay rent for what he
_sells_, but seldom for what he _gives_.

At the dissolution of abbies, in 1537, Thomas Arden, the head of the
family, purchased it of Henry the Eighth, for 272_l_. 10s. uniting it
again to his estate, after a separation of three hundred and fifty
years, in whose posterity it continued till their fall.

Thus, the father first purchased what the son gave away, and his
offspring re-purchased again. The father lays a tax on his successor;
or, climbs to heaven at the expence of the son. In one age it is
meritorious to _give_ to the church, in another, to _take_ from her.


Three miles north-east of Birmingham, is _Erdington-hall_, which boasts
a long antiquity. The manor was the property of the old Earls of Mercia:
Edwin possessed it at the conquest, but lost it in favour of William
Fitz-Ausculf, who no doubt granted it in knight's service to his friend
and relation, of Norman race, who erected the hall; the moat, took his
residence in, and his name Erdington, from the place. His descendants
seem to have resided here with great opulence near 400 years.

Dugdale mentions a circumstance of Sir Thomas de Erdington, little
noticed by our historians. He was a faithful adherent to King John, who
conferred on him many valuable favours: harrassed by the Pope on one
side, and his angry Barons on the other, he privately sent Sir Thomas to
Murmeli, the powerful King of Africa, Morocco, and Spain; with offers
to forsake the christian faith, turn mahometan, deliver up his kingdom,
and hold it of him in tribute, for his assistance against his enemies.
But it does not appear the ambassador succeeded: the Moorish Monarch did
not chuse to unite his prosperous fortune with that of a random prince;
he might also consider, the man who could destroy his nephew and his
sovereign, could not be an honour to any profession.

The manor left the Erdington family in 1472, and, during a course of 175
years, acknowledged for its owners, George Plantagenet, Duke of
Clarence, Sir William Harcourt, Robert Wright, Sir Reginald Bray,
Francis Englefield, Humphry Dimock, Walter Earl, Sir Walter Devereux,
and was, in 1647, purchased by Sir Thomas Holte, in whose family it
continued till 1782, when Henage Legge, Esq; became seised of the manor.

As none of the Lords seem to have resided upon the premises since the
departure of the Erdingtons, it must be expected they have gradually
tended to decay.

We may with some reason conclude, that as Erdington was the freehold of
the Earls of Mercia, it was not the residence of its owners, therefore
could not derive its name from them. That as the word _Arden_ signifies
a wood, the etymology of that populous village is, _a town in the wood_.
That one of the first proprietors, after the conquest, struck with the
security offered by the river, erected the present fortifications, which
cover three parts of the hall, and the river itself the fourth. Hence it
follows, that the neighbouring work, which we now call Bromford-forge,
was a mill prior to the conquest; because the stream is evidently turned
out of its bed to feed it. That the present hall is the second on the
premises, and was erected by the Erdingtons, with some later additions.


One mile north-east of Erdington, is _Pipe-hall_; which, with its manor,
like the neighbouring land, became at the conquest the property of
Fitz-Ausculf; and afterwards of his defendants, Paganall, Sumeri,
Bottetort, and St. Leger.

It was common at that fatal period, for one of these great barons, or
rather great robbers, to procure a large quantity of land for himself;
some of them two or three hundred thousand acres--too much for one man
to grasp. He therefore kept what he pleased for his private use, and
granted the other in knight's-service, reserving annually a rent. These
rents were generally small, so as never to hurt the tenant: however, the
lord could order him to arms whenever he pleased.

A few of the grants were procured by the disinherited English, but
chiefly by the officers of William's army, being more respected, and
more proper to be trusted: they were often relations, or favourites of
the great barons. The lord could not conveniently sell, without the
consent of the crown, but he could set at what price he pleased. Time
made this chief-rent permanent, and gave the tenant stability of title.

The manor of Pipe, with some others, was granted to William Mansell, who
resided in the hall, and executed some of the chief offices of
the county.

The last of the name, in the reign of Henry the Third, left a daughter,
who married Henry de Harcourt; and his daughter married John de Pipe,
who seems to have taken its name.

Henry, his descendant, had many children, all of whom, with his lady,
died of the plague, except a daughter, Margery. He afterwards married,
in 1363, Matilda, the daughter of George de Castell, of Castle Bromwich;
but soon after the happy wedding, he perceived his bride was pregnant,
which proved, on enquiry, the effect of an intrigue with her father's
menial servant; a striking instance of female treachery, which can only
be equalled by--male.

The shock proving too great for his constitution, brought on a decline,
and himself to the grave, before the birth of the child.

John was the fruit of this unlawful amour, whose guardian, to prevent
his inheriting the estate, made him a canon of Ouston, in
Leicestershire; and afterwards persuaded the unhappy Margery to grant
the manor to the abbot of Stonely.

Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, afterwards purchased it for
133_l_. 6s. 8d. It came to the crown by attainder, in the reign of Henry
the Seventh; then to Sir William Staunford, one of his judges, John
Buttler; Edward Holte, in 1568; Francis Dimock, whose daughter married
Walter Earl; then to Walter Devereux, by marrying Earl's daughter;
afterwards to Sir Thomas Holte, by purchase; and is now in the family
of Bagot.

Though the hall is antique, its front is covered in the modern barbarous
stile, by a clump of venerable trees; which would become any situation
but that in which they stand. It is now inhabited by a gentleman of
Birmingham, who has experienced the smiles of commerce.


Two miles north of Birmingham, is Aston (East-town) being east of
Westbury (Wednesbury) it lies on a steep descent towards the river Tame.

This place, like that of Erdington, belonged to the Earls of Mercia in
the Saxon times; and, at the conquest, was the property of the
unfortunate Edwin. Fitz-Ausculf became his successor in this, and in
other lands: the survey calls it eight hides, valued at 5_l_. per annum;
a mill, 3s. and a wood, three miles long, and half a mile broad. The
mill, I make no doubt, stood where a mill now stands, near
Sawford-bridge; but neither the hides, nor the wood, could be confined
within the boundary of Afton; the manor is too little for either. The
lordship extends about a square mile, and that part which is now the
park, I have reason to think, was then a common, and for ages after.

A Saxon, of the name of Godmund, held it under the Mercian Earls, and
found means, at the conquest, to hold it under the Norman.

One hundred yards north of the church, in a perfect swamp, stood the
hall; probably erected by Godmund, or his family: the situation shews
the extreme of bad taste--one would think, he endeavoured to lay his
house under the water. The trenches are obliterated by the floods, so as
to render the place unobserved by the stranger: it is difficult to chuse
a worse, except he had put his house under the earth. I believe there
never was more than one house erected on the spot, and that was one
too much.

Whether this Saxon family of Godmund became extinct, or had lost their
right, is uncertain; but Sumeri, Fitz-Ausculf's successor, about 1203,
granted the manor to Sir Thomas de Erdington, Ambassador to King John,
mentioned before, who had married his sister; paying annually a pair of
spurs, or six-pence, as a nominal rent, but meant, in reality, as a
portion for the lady.

The family of Erdington, about 1275, sold it to Thomas de Maidenhache,
who did not seem to live upon friendly terms with his neighbour, William
de Birmingham; for, in 1290, he brought an action against him for
fishing in his water, called Moysich (Dead-branch) leading into Tame,
towards Scarford-bridge (Shareford, dividing the shares, or parts of the
parish, Aston manor from Erdington, now Sawford-bridge) which implies a
degree of unkindness; because William could not amuse himself in his own
manor of Birmingham, for he might as well have angled in one of his
streets, as in the river Rea. The two lords had, probably, four years
before been on friendly terms, when they jointly lent their assistance
to the hospital of St. Thomas, in Birmingham.

Maidenhache left four daughters; Sibel, married Adam de Grymsorwe, who
took with her the manor of Aston; a daughter of this house, in 1367,
sold it to John atte Holte, of Birmingham, in whose family it continued
415 years, till 1782, when Henage Legge, Esq; acceded to possession.

This wretched bog was the habitation of all the lords, from Godmund to
the Holtes, the Erdington's excepted; for Maud Grymsorwe executing the
conveyance at Aston, indicates that she resided there; and Thomas Holte,
being possessed of Duddeston, proves that he did not: therefore I
conclude, that the building, as it ought, went to decay soon after; so
that desolation has claimed the place for her own near four hundred
years. This is corroberated by some old timber trees, long since upon
the spot where the building stood.

The extensive parish of Aston takes in the two extremes of Birmingham,
which supplies her with more christenings, weddings, and burials, than
were, a few years ago, supplied by the whole parish of Birmingham.


Three miles north of Birmingham, and one from Aston, is _Witton_,
(Wicton) from the bend of the river, according to Dugdale: the property
of a person at the conquest whose name was Staunchel. Fitz-Ausculf
seized it, and Staunchel, more fortunate than the chief of his country
men, became his tenant; valued in the conqueror's survey at 20s.
per ann.

It was afterwards vested in the crown: in 1240, Henry the third granted
it to Andrew de Wicton, who took his name from the place, for in
Dooms-day it is Witone; therefore the name being prior, proves
the remark.

Andrew, anxious after the boundary of his new purchase, brought an
action against his neighbour, William de Pyrie (Perry) for infringing
his property. Great disputes arise from small beginnings; perhaps a
lawyer blew the flame.

The king issued his precept to the Sheriff of Staffordshire, in which
Perry lies, to bring with him twelve lawful and discreet knights; and
the same to the Sheriff of Warwickshire, of which Witton is part, to
ascertain the bounds between them.

Which was the aggressor, is hard to determine, but I should rather
suppose Squire Perry, because _man_ is ever apt to trespass; he resided
on the premises, and the crown is but a sleepy landlord; not so likely
to rob, as be robbed.

There is a road, where foot seldom treads, mounded on each side, leading
over the Coldfield, from Perry-bridge towards the Newlands, undoubtedly
the work of this venerable band of discreet knights.

The stranger, of course, would deem the property between the contending
parties, of great value, which, twenty-four of the principal characters
of the age, the flower of two counties, marshalled by two chief
officers, were to determine. But what will he think of the quarrelsome
spirit of the times, when, I tell him, it was only a few acres, which
is, even at this day, waste land, and scarcely worth owning by either.

In 1290, Witton was the property of William Dixley; in 1340, that of
Richard de Pyrie, descendant of him, who, a hundred years before, held
the contest. In 1426, Thomas East, of Hay-hall, in Yardley, was owner;
who sold it to John Bond, of Ward-end, of whose descendants William
Booth purchased it, in 1620: an heiress of Booth brought it by marriage
to Allestree, of Yardley, who enjoyed it in our days; it was sold to
John Wyrley, and is now possessed by George Birch, Esq; of Handsworth.

The house, left by its owners, is in that low, or rather boggy
situation, suitable to the fashion of those times. I can discover no
traces of a moat, though there is every conveniency for one: We are
doubly hurt by seeing a house in a miserable hole, when joining an
elegible spot.


Five miles north-west of Birmingham, is _Blakely-hall_, the manor house
of Oldbury. If we see a venerable edifice without a moat, we cannot from
thence conclude, it was never the residence of a gentleman, but wherever
we find one, we may conclude it was.

Anciently, this manor, with those of Smethwick and Harborn, belonged to
the family of Cornwallis, whose habitation was Blakeley-hall: the
present building seems about 300 years old.

The extinction of the male line, threw the property into the hands of
two coheirs; one of whom married into the family of Grimshaw, the other
into that of Wright, who jointly held it. The family of Grimshaw
failing, Wright became then, and is now, possessed of the whole.

I am unacquainted with the principal characters who acted the farce of
life on this island, but it has long been in the tenancy of a poor
farmer, who, the proprietor allured me, was _best_ able to stock the
place with children. In 1769, the Birmingham canal passing over the
premises, robbed the trench of its water. Whether it endangers the
safety is a doubt, for _poverty_ is the best security against violence.


Four miles west of Birmingham, in the parish of Northfield, are the
small, but extensive ruins of _Weoley-castle_, whose appendages command
a track of seventeen acres, situate in a park of eighteen hundred.

These moats usually extend from half an acre to two acres, are generally
square, and the trenches from eight yards over to twenty.

This is large, the walls massy; they form the allies of a garden, and
the rooms, the beds; the whole display the remains of excellent
workmanship. One may nearly guess at a man's consequence, even after a
lapse of 500 years, by the ruins of his house.

The steward told me, "they pulled down the walls as they wanted the
stone." Unfeeling projectors: there is not so much to pull down. Does
not time bring destruction fast enough without assistance? The head
which cannot contemplate, offers its hand to destroy. The insensible
taste, unable itself to relish the dry fruits of antiquity, throws them
away to prevent another. May the fingers _smart_ which injure the
venerable walls of Dudley, or of Kenilworth. Noble remains of ancient
grandeur! copious indexes, that point to former usage! We survey them
with awful pleasure. The mouldering walls, as if ashamed of their humble
state, hide themselves under the ivies; the generous ivies, as if
conscious of the precious relics, cover them from the injuries of time.

When land frequently undergoes a conveyance, necessity, we suppose, is
the lot of the owner, but the lawyer fattens: _To have and to hold_ are
words of singular import; they charm beyond music; are the quintessence
of language; the leading figure in rhetoric. But how would he fare if
land was never conveyed? He must starve upon quarrels.

Instances may be given of land which knows no title, except those of
conquest and descent: Weoley Castle comes nearly under this
description. _To sign, seal, and deliver_, were wholly unknown to our
ancestors. Could a Saxon freeholder rise from the dead, and visit the
land, once his own, now held by as many writings as would half spread
over it, he might exclaim, "Evil increases with time, and parchment with
both. You deprive the poor of their breeches; I covered the ground with
sheep, you with their skins; I thought, as you were at variance with
France, Spain, Holland, and America, those numerous deeds were a heap of
drum heads, and the internal writing, the _articles of war_. In one
instance, however, there is a similarity between us; we unjustly took
this land from the Britons, you as unjustly took it from us; and a time
may come, when another will take it from you. Thus, the Spaniards
founded the Peruvian empire in butchery, now tottering towards a fall;
you, following their example, seized the northern coast of America; you
neither bought it nor begged it, you took it from the natives; and thus
your children, the Americans, with equal violence, have taken it from
you: No law binds like that of arms. The question has been, whether they
shall pay taxes? which, after a dispute of eight years, was lost in
another, _to whom_ they shall pay taxes? The result, in a future day
will be, domestic struggles for sovereignty will stain the ground
with blood."

When the proud Norman cut his way to the throne, his imperious followers
seized the lands, kicked out the rightful possessors, and treated them
with a dignity rather beneath that practiced to a dog.--This is the most
summary title yet discovered.

Northfield was the fee-simple of Alwold (Allwood) but, at the conquest,
Fitz-Ausculf seized it, with a multitude of other manors: it does not
appear that he granted it in knight's-service to the injured Allwood,
but kept it for his private use, Paganall married his heiress, and
Sumeri married Paganall's, who, in the beginning of the 13th century,
erected the castle. In 1322, the line of Sumeri expired.

Bottetourt, one of the needy squires, who, like Sancho Panza, attended
William his master, in his mad, but _fortunate_ enterprize, procured
lands which enabled him to _live_ in England, which was preferable to
starving in Normandy. His descendant became, in right of his wife,
coheir of the house of Sumeri, vested in Weoley-castle. He had, in
1307, sprung into peerage, and was one of our powerful barons, till
1385, when the male line dropt. The vast estate of Bottetourt, was then
divided among females; Thomas Barkley, married the eldest, and this
ancient barony was, in 1761, revived in his descendant, Norborne
Barkley, the present Lord Bottetourt; Sir Hugh Burnel married another,
and Sir John St. Leger a third.

Weoley-castle was, for many years, the undivided estate of the three
families; but Edward Sutton, Lord Dudley, having married a daughter of
Barkley, became possessed of that castle, which was erected by Sumeri,
their common ancestor, about nine generations before.

In 1551, he sold it to William Jervoise, of London, mercer, whose
descendant, Jervoise Clark Jervoise, Esq; now enjoys it.

Fond of ranging, I have travelled a circuit round Birmingham, without
being many miles from it. I wish to penetrate farther from the center,
but my subject forbids. _Having therefore finished my discourse, I
shall_, like my friends, the pulpitarians, many of whom, and of several
denominations, are characters I revere, _apply what has been said_.

We learn, that the land I have gone over, with the land I have not,
changed its owners at the conquest: this shuts the door of inquiry into
pedigree, the old families chiefly became extinct, and few of the
present can be traced higher.--Destruction then overspread the kingdom.

The seniors of every age exclaim against the growing corruption of the
times: my father, and perhaps every father, dwelt on the propriety of
his conduct in younger life, and placed it in counter-view with that of
the following generation. However, while I knew him, it was much like
other people's--But I could tell him, that he gave us the bright side of
his character; that he was, probably, a piece of human nature, as well
as his son; that nature varies but little, and that the age of William
the Conqueror was the most rascally in the British annals. One age may
be marked for the golden, another for the iron, but this for plunder.

We farther learn, there is not one instance in this neighbourhood, where
an estate has continued till now in the male line, very few in the
female. I am acquainted with only one family near Birmingham, whose
ancestor entered with William, and who yet enjoy the land granted at
that period: the male line has been once broken--perhaps this land was
never conveyed. They shone with splendour near six hundred years. In the
sixteenth century, their estate was about 1400_l_. a year; great for
that time, but is now, exclusive of a few _pepper-corns_ and _red
roses_, long since withered, reduced to one little farm, tilled for
bread by the owner. This setting glympse of a shining family, is as
indifferent about the matter, and almost as ignorant, as the team
he drives.

Lastly, we learn that none of the lords, as formerly, reside on the
above premises: that in four instances out of twenty-one, the buildings
are now as left by the lords, Sheldon, Coleshill, Pipe, and Blakeley:
two have undergone some alteration, as Duddeston and Erdington: five
others are re-erected, as Black Greves, Ulverley, King's-hurst, Castle
Bromwich, and Witton; which, with all the above, are held in tenancy: in
eight others all the buildings are swept away, and their moats left
naked, as Hogg's-moat, Yardley, Kent's-moat, Saltley, Ward-end,
Park-hall, Berwood, and Weoley; and in two instances the moats
themselves are vanished, that of King's-norton is filled up to make way
for the plough, and that of Aston demolished by the floods. Thus the
scenes of hospitality and grandeur, become the scenes of antiquity, and
then disappear.


Though the topographical historian, who resides upon the premises, is
most likely to be correct; yet if _he_, with all his care, is apt to be
mistaken, what can be expected from him who trots his horse over the
scenes of antiquity?

I have visited, for twenty years, some singular places in this
neighbourhood, yet, without being master of their history; thus a man
may spend an age in conning his lesson, and never learn it.

When the farmer observes me on his territories, he eyes me _ascance_;
suspecting a design to purchase his farm, or take it out of his
hands.--I endeavour to remove his apprehensions, by approaching him; and
introduce a conversation tending to my pursuit, which he understands as
well as if, like the sons of Jacob, I addressed him in Hebrew; yet,
notwithstanding his total ignorance of the matter, he has sometimes
dropt an accidental word, which has thrown more light on the subject,
than all my researches for a twelvemonth. If an honest farmer, in
future, should see upon his premises a plumpish figure, five feet six,
with one third of his hair on, a cane in his left hand, a glove upon
each, and a Pomeranian dog at his heels, let him fear no evil; his farm
will not be additionally tythed, his sheep worried, nor his hedges
broken--it is only a solitary animal, in quest of a Roman phantom.

Upon the north west extremity of Sutton Coldfield, joining the Chester
road, is _The Bowen Pool_; at the tail of which, one hundred yards west
of the road, on a small eminence, or swell of the earth, are the remains
of a fortification, called _Loaches Banks_; but of what use or original
is uncertain, no author having mentioned it.

Four hundred yards farther west, in the same flat, is a hill of some
magnitude, deemed, by the curious, a tumolus--it is a common thing for
an historian to be lost, but not quite so common to acknowledge it. In
attempting to visit this tumolus, I soon found myself in the center of a
morass; and here, my dear reader might have seen the historian set fast
in a double sense. I was obliged, for that evening, February 16, 1783,
to retreat, as the sun had just done before me. I made my approaches
from another quarter, April 13, when the hill appeared the work of
nature, upon too broad a base for a tumolus; covering about three acres,
perfectly round, rising gradually to the center, which is about sixteen
feet above the level, surrounded by a ditch, perhaps made for some
private purpose by the owner.

The Roman tumoli were of two sorts, the small for the reception of a
general, or great man, as that at Cloudsley-bush, near the High Cross,
the tomb of Claudius; and the large, as at Seckington, near Tamworth,
for the reception of the dead, after a battle: they are both of the same
shape, rather high than broad. That before us comes under the
description of neither; nor could the dead well be conveyed over
the morass.

The ground-plot, in the center of the fort, at Loaches Banks, is about
two acres, surrounded by three mounds, which are large, and three
trenches, which are small; the whole forming a square of four acres.
Each corner directs to a cardinal point, but perhaps not with design;
for the situation of the ground would invite the operator to chuse the
present form. The north-west joins to, and is secured by the pool.

As the works are much in the Roman taste, I might, at first view, deem
it the residence of an opulent lord of the manor; but, the adjacent
lands carrying no marks of cultivation, destroys the argument; it is
also too large for the fashion; besides, all these manorial foundations
have been in use since the conquest, therefore tradition assists the
historian; but here, tradition being lost, proves the place of greater

One might judge it of Danish extraction, but here again, tradition will
generally lend her assistance; neither are the trenches large enough for
that people: of themselves they are no security, whether full or empty;
for an active young fellow might easily skip from one bank to another.
Nor can we view it as the work of some whimsical lord, to excite the
wonder of the moderns; it could never pay for the trouble. We must,
therefore, travel back among the ancient Britons, for a solution, and
here we shall travel over solid ground.

It is, probably, the remains of a British camp, for near these premises
are Drude-heath (Druid's-heath) and Drude-fields, which we may
reasonably suppose was the residence of a British priest: the military
would naturally shelter themselves under the wing of the church, and the
priest with the protection of the military. The narrowness of the
trenches is another proof of its being British; they exactly correspond
with the stile of that people. The name of the pool, _Bowen_, is of
British derivation, which is a farther proof that the work originated
from the Britons. They did not place their security so much in the
trenches, as in the mounds, which they barracaded with timber. This camp
is secured on three sides by a morass, and is only approachable on the
fourth, that from the Coldfield. The first mound on this weak side, is
twenty-four yards over, twice the size of any other; which, allowing an
ample security, is a farther evidence of its being British, and
tradition being silent is another.


Every man upon earth seems fond of two things, riches and power: this
fondness necessarily springs from the heart, otherwise order would
cease. Without the desire of riches, a man would not preserve what he
has, nor provide for the future. "My thoughts," says a worthy christian,
"are not of this world; I desire but one guinea to carry me through it."
Supply him with that guinea, and he wishes another, lest the first
should be defective.

If it is necessary a man mould possess property, it is just as necessary
he should possess a power to protect it, or the world would quickly
bully him out of it: this power is founded on the laws of his country,
to which he adds, by way of supplement, bye-laws, founded upon his own
prudence. Those who possess riches, well know they are furnished with
wings, and can scarcely be kept from flying.

The man who has power to secure his wealth, seldom stops there; he, in
turn, is apt to triumph over him who has less. Riches and power are
often seen to go hand in hand.

Industry produces property; which, when a little matured, looks out for
command; thus the inhabitants of Birmingham, who have generally
something upon the anvil besides iron, near seventy years ago having
derived wealth from diligence, wished to derive power from charter;
therefore, petitioned the crown that Birmingham might be erected into a
corporation. Tickled with the title of alderman, dazzled with the
splendour of a silver mace, a furred gown, and a magisterial chair, they
could not see the interest of the place: had they succeeded, that
amazing growth would have been crippled, which has since astonished the
world, and those trades have been fettered which have proved the
greatest benefit.

When a man loudly pleads for public good, we shrewdly suspect a private
emolument lurking beneath. There is nothing more detrimental to good
neighbourhood, than men in power, where power is unnecessary: free as
the air we breathe, we subsist by our freedom; no command is exercised
among us, but that of the laws, to which every discreet citizen pays
attention--the magistrate who distributes justice, tinctured with mercy,
merits the thanks of society. A train of attendants, a white wand, and a
few fiddles, are only the fringe, lace, and trappings of
charteral office.

Birmingham, exclusive of her market, ranks among the very lowest order
of townships; every petty village claims the honour of being a
constable-wick--we are no more. Our immunities are only the trifling
privileges anciently granted to the lords; and two thirds of these are
lost. But, notwithstanding this seemingly forlorn state, perhaps there
is not a place in the British dominions, where so many people are
governed by so few officers; nor a place better governed: pride,
therefore, must have dictated the humble petition before us.

I have seen a copy of this petition, signed by eighty-four of the
inhabitants; and though without a date, seems to have been addressed to
King George the First, about 1716: it alledges, "That Birmingham is, of
late years, become very populous, from its great increase of trade; is
much superior to any town in the county, and but little inferior to any
inland town in the kingdom: that it is governed only by a constable, and
enjoys no more privileges than a village: that there is no justice of
peace in the town; nor any in the neighbourhood, who dares act with
vigour: that the country abounds with rioters, who, knowing the place to
be void of magistrates, assemble in it, pull down the meeting-houses,
defy the king, openly avow the pretender, threaten the inhabitants, and
oblige them to keep watch in their own houses: that the trade decays,
and will stagnate, if not relieved. To remedy these evils, they beseech
his majesty to incorporate the town, and grant such privileges as will
enable them to support their trade, the king's interest, and destroy the
villainous attempts of the jacobites. In consideration of the requested
charter, they make the usual offering of _lives_ and _fortunes_".

A petition and the petitioner, like Janus with his two faces, looks
different ways; it is often treated as if it said one thing, and meant
another; or as if it said any thing but truth. Its use, in some places,
is to _lie on the table_. Our humble petition, by some means, met with
the fate it deserved.

We may remark, a town without a charter, is a town without a shackle. If
there was then a necessity to erect a corporation, because the town was
large, there is none now, though larger: the place was not better
governed a thousand years ago, when only a tenth of its present
magnitude; it may also be governed as well a thousand years hence, if it
should swell to ten times its size.

The _pride_ of our ancestors was hurt by a petty constable; the
_interest_ of us, their successors, would be hurt by a mayor: a more
simple government cannot be instituted, or one more efficacious: that of
some places is designed for parade, ours for use; and both answers their
end. A town governed by a multitude of governors, is the most likely to
be ill-governed.

[Illustration: The New Brass Works]


The manufacture of brass was introduced by the family of Turner, about
1740, who erected those works at the south end of Coleshill-street;
then, near two hundred yards beyond the buildings, but now the buildings
extend about five hundred beyond them.

Under the black clouds which arose from this corpulent tunnel, some of
the trades collected their daily supply of brass; but the major part was
drawn from the Macclesfield, Cheadle, and Bristol companies.

'Causes are known by their effects;' the fine feelings of the heart are
easily read in the features of the face: the still operations of the
mind, are discovered by the rougher operations of the hand.

Every creature is fond of power, from that noble head of the creation,
man, who devours man, down to that insignificant mite, who devours his
cheese: every man strives to be free himself, and to shackle another.

Where there is power of any kind, whether in the hands of a prince, a
people, a body of men, or a private person, there is a propensity to
abuse it: abuse of power will everlastingly seek itself a remedy, and
frequently find it; nay, even this remedy may in time degenerate to
abuse, and call loudly for another.

Brass is an object of some magnitude, in the trades of Birmingham; the
consumption is said to be a thousand tons per annum. The manufacture of
this useful article had long been in few, and opulent hands; who,
instead of making the humble bow, for favours received, acted with
despotic sovereignty, established their own laws, chose their customers,
directed the price, and governed the market.

In 1780, the article rose, either through caprice, or necessity, perhaps
the _former_, from 72_l_. a ton to 84_l_. the result was, an advance
upon the goods manufactured, followed by a number of counter-orders,
and a stagnation of business.

In 1781, a person, from affection to the user, or resentment to the
maker, perhaps, the _latter_, harangued the public in the weekly papers;
censured the arbitrary measures of the brazen sovereigns, shewed their
dangerous influence over the trades of the town, and the easy manner in
which works of our own might be constructed--good often arises out of
evil; this fiery match, dipt in brimstone, quickly kindled another
furnace in Birmingham. Public meetings were advertised, a committee
appointed, and subscriptions opened to fill two hundred shares, of
100_l_. each, deemed a sufficient capital: each proprietor of a share,
to purchase one ton of brass, annually. Works were immediately erected
upon the banks of the canal, for the advantage of water carriage, and
the whole was conducted with the true spirit of Birmingham freedom.

If a man can worm himself _into_ a lucrative branch, he will use every
method to keep another _out_. All his powers may prove ineffectual; for
if that other smells the sweet profits of the first, _he_ will endeavour
to worm himself _in_: both may suffer by the contest, and the public
be gainers.

The old companies, which we may justly consider the directors of a south
sea bubble in miniature, sunk the price from 84_l_. to 56_l_. Two
inferences arise from this measure; that their profits were once very
high, or are now very low; and, like some former monarchs, in the abuse
of power, they repented one day too late.

Schemes are generally proclaimed, _for public good!_ but as often meant,
_for private interest_.--This, however, varied from that rule, and
seemed less calculated to benefit those immediately, than those remotely
concerned: they chose to sustain a smaller injury from making brass,
than a greater from the makers.


If the subject is little, but little can be said upon it; I shall shine
as dimly in this chapter on confinement, as in that on government. The
traveller who sets out lame, will probably limp through the journey.

Many of my friends have assured me, "That I must have experienced much
trouble in writing the history of Birmingham." But I assure them in
return, that I range those hours among the happiest of my life; and part
of that happiness may consist in delineating the bright side of human
nature. Pictures of deformity, whether of body or of mind, disgust--the
more they approach towards beauty, the more they charm.

All the chapters which compose this work, were formed with pleasure,
except the latter part of that upon _births and burials_; there, being
forced to apply to the parish books, I _figured_ with some obstruction.
Poor _Allsop_, full of good-nature and affliction, fearful lest I should
sap the church, could not receive me with kindness. When a man's
resources lie within himself, he draws at pleasure; but when necessity
throws him upon the parish, he draws in small sums, and with difficulty.

I either _have_, or _shall_ remark, for I know not in what nich I shall
exhibit this posthumous chapter, drawn like one of our sluggish bills,
_three months after date_, "That Birmingham does not abound in villainy,
equal to some other places: that the hand employed in business, has less
time, and less temptation, to be employed in mischief; and that one
magistrate alone, corrected the enormities of this numerous people,
many years before I knew them, and twenty-five after." I add, that the
ancient lords of Birmingham, among their manorial privileges, had the
grant of a gallows, for capital punishment; but as there are no traces
even of the name, in the whole manor, I am persuaded no such thing was
ever erected, and perhaps the _anvil_ prevented it.

Many of the rogues among us are not of our own growth, but are drawn
hither, as in London, to shelter in a crowd, and the easier in that
crowd to pursue their game. Some of them fortunately catch, from
example, the arts of industry, and become useful: others continue to
cheat for one or two years, till frightened by the grim aspect of
justice, they decamp.

Our vile and obscure prison, termed _The Dungeon_, is a farther proof
how little that prison has been an object of notice, consequently
of use.

Anciently the lord of a manor exercised a sovereign power in his little
dominion; held a tribunal on his premises, to which was annexed a
prison, furnished with implements for punishment; these were claimed by
the lords of Birmingham. This crippled species of jurisprudence, which
sometimes made a man judge in his own cause, from which there was no
appeal, prevailed in the highlands of Scotland, so late as the rebellion
in 1745, when the peasantry, by act of parliament, were restored
to freedom.

Early perhaps in the sixteenth century, when the house of Birmingham,
who had been chief gaolers, were fallen, a building was erected, which
covered the east end of New-street, called the Leather-hall: the upper
part consisted of a room about fifty feet long, where the public
business of the manor was transacted. The under part was divided into
several: one of these small rooms was used for a prison: but about the
year 1728, _while men slept an enemy came_, a private agent to the lord
of the manor, and erazed the Leather-hall and the Dungeon, erected three
houses on the spot, and received their rents till 1776, when the town
purchased them for 500_l_. to open the way. A narrow passage on the
south will be remembered for half a century to come, by the name of the

A dry cellar, opposite the demolished hall, was then appropriated for a
prison, till the town of all bad places chose the worst, the bottom of
Peck-lane; dark, narrow, and unwholesome within; crowded with dwellings,
filth and distress without, the circulation of air is prevented.

As a growing taste for public buildings has for some time appeared among
us, we might, in the construction of a prison, unite elegance and use;
and the west angle of that land between New-street and Mount-pleasant,
might be suitable for the purpose; an airy spot in the junction of six
streets. The proprietor of the land, from his known attachment to
Birmingham, would, I doubt not, be much inclined to grant a
favour.--Thus, I have expended ten _score_ words, to tell the world what
another would have told them in _ten_--"That our prison is wretched, and
we want a better."


It is an ancient remark, "The world is a farce." Every generation, and
perhaps every individual, acts a part in disguise; but when the curtain
falls, the hand of the historian pulls off the mask, and displays the
character in its native light. Every generation differs from the other,
_yet all are right_. Time, fashion, and sentiment change together. We
laugh at the oddity of our fore-fathers--our successors will laugh
at us.

The prosperous anvil of Walter de Clodshale, a native of this place, had
enabled him to acquire several estates in Birmingham, to purchase the
lordship of Saltley, commence gentleman, and reside in the manor-house,
now gone to decay, though its traces remain, and are termed by common
people, _the Giant's Castle_. This man, having well provided for the
_present_, thought it prudent, at the close of life, to provide for the
_future_: he therefore procured a licence, in 1331, from William de
Birmingham, lord of the see, and another from the crown, to found a
chantry at the altar in St. Martin's church, for one priest, to pray for
his soul, and that of his wife.

He gave, that he might be safely wafted into the arms of felicity, by
the breath of a priest, four houses, twenty acres of land, and
eighteen-pence rent, issuing out of his estates in Birmingham.

The same righteous motive induced his son Richard, in 1348, to grant
five houses, ten acres of land, and ten shillings rent, from the
Birmingham estates, to maintain a second priest, who was to secure the
souls of himself and his wife. The declaration of Christ, in that pious
age, seems to have been inverted; for instead of its being difficult for
a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, it was difficult for him to
miss it. We are not told what became of him who had nothing to give! If
the profits of the estate tended the right way, perhaps there was no
great concern which way either _Walter_ or _Richard_ tended.

The chantorial music continued two hundred and four years, till 1535,
when Henry the Eighth closed the book, turned out the priests, who were
Sir Thomas Allen and Sir John Green, and seized the property, valued at
5_l_. 1s. per annum. Permit me again to moralize upon this fashionable
practice of ruining the family, for the health of the soul: except some
lawful creditor puts in a claim, which justice ought to allow, a son has
the same right to an estate, after the death of his father, as that
father had before him.

Had Walter and Richard taken _equal_ care of their souls, and their
estate, the first might have been as safe as in the hands of a priest,
and the last, at this day, have been the property of that ancient, and
once noble race of Arden, long since in distress; who, in 1426, married
the heiress of their house.--Thus, a family, benefited by the hammer,
was injured by the church.

Had the hands of these two priests ministered to their wants, in the
construction of tents and fishing-nets, like those of their
predecessors, St. Paul and St. Peter, though their pride would have been
eclipsed, their usefulness would have shone, and the world have been
gainers by their labour. Two other lessons may be learnt from this
little ecclesiastical history--

The astonishing advance of landed property in Birmingham: nine houses,
and thirty acres of land, two hundred and fifty years ago, were valued
at the trifling rent of 4_l_. 9s. 6d. per annum; one of the acres, or
one of the houses, would at this day bring more. We may reasonably
suppose they were under-rated; yet, even then, the difference is
amasing. An acre, within a mile of Birmingham, now sells for about one
hundred pounds, and lets from three pounds to five, some as high
as seven.

And, the nation so overswarmed with ecclesiastics, that the spiritual
honours were quickly devoured, and the race left hungry; they therefore
fastened upon the temporal--hence we boast of two knighted priests.



It is a doctrine singular and barbarous, but it is nevertheless true,
that _destruction is necessary_. Every species of animals would multiply
beyond their bounds in the creation, were not means devised to thin
their race.

I perused an author in 1738, who asserts, "The world might maintain
sixty times the number of its present inhabitants." Two able disputants,
like those in religion, might maintain sixty arguments on the subject,
and like them, leave the matter where they found it. But if restraint
was removed, the present number would be multiplied into sixty, in much
less than one century.

Those animals appropriated for use, are suffered, or rather invited, to
multiply without limitation. But _luxury_ cuts off the beast, the pig,
the sheep, and the fowl, and ill treatment the horse: vermin of every
kind, from the lion to the louse, are hunted to death; a perpetual
contest seems to exist between them and us; they for their preservation,
and we for their extinction. The kitten and the puppy are cast _into_
the water, to end their lives; _out_ of which the fishes are drawn to
end theirs--animals are every were devoured by animals.

Their grand governor, man himself, is under controul; some by religious,
others by interested motives. Even the fond parent, seldom wishes to
increase the number of those objects, which of all others he
values most!

In civilized nations the superior class are restrained by the laws of
honour, the inferior by those of bastardy; but, notwithstanding these
restraints, the human race would increase beyond measure, were they not
taken off by casualties. It is in our species alone, that we often
behold the infant flame extinguished by the wretched nurse.

Three dreadful calamities attending existence, are inundations, fires,
and earthquakes; devestation follows their footsteps, But _one_
calamity, more destructive than them all, rises from man
himself, _war_.

Birmingham, from its elevation, is nearly exempt from the flood; our
inundations, instead of sweeping away life and fortune, sweep away the
filth from the kennel.

It is amasing, in a place crowded with people, that so _much_ business,
and so _little_ mischief is done by fire: we abound more with party
walls, than with timber buildings. Utensils are ever ready to extinguish
the flames, and a generous spirit to use them. I am not certain that a
conflagration of 50_l_. damage, has happened within memory.

I have only one earthquake to record, felt Nov. 15, 1772, at four in the
morning; it extended about eight miles in length, from Hall-green to
Erdington, and four in breadth, of which Birmingham was part. The
shaking of the earth continued about five seconds, with unequal
vibration, sufficient to awake a gentle sleeper, throw down a knife
carelessly reared up, or rattle the brass drops of a chest of drawers. A
flock of sheep, in a field near Yardley, frightened at the trembling,
ran away.--No damage was sustained.


Thomas Pitmore, a native of Cheshire, after consuming a fortune of
700_l_. was corporal in the second regiment of foot; and John Hammond,
an American by birth, was drummer in the thirty-sixth; both of
recruiting parties in Birmingham.

Having procured a brace of pistols, they committed several robberies in
the dark, on the highways.

At eight in the evening of November 22, 1780, about five hundred yards
short of the four mile-stone, in the Coleshill road, they met three
butchers of Birmingham, who closely followed each other in their return
from Rugby fair. One of the robbers attempted the bridle of the first
man, but his horse, being young, started out of the road, and ran away.
The drummer then attacked the second, Wilfred Barwick, with "Stop your
horse," and that moment, through the agitation of a timorous mind,
discharged a pistol, and lodged a brace of slugs in the bowels of the
unfortunate Barwick, who exclaimed, "I am a dead man!" and fell.

The corporal instantly disappeared, and was afterwards, by the light of
the show upon the ground, seen retreating to Birmingham. The drummer ran
forwards about forty yards, and over a stile into Ward-end field. A
fourth butcher of their company, and a lad, by this time came up, who,
having heard the report of a pistol, seen the flash, and the drummer
enter the field, leaped over the hedge in pursuit of the murderer. A
frey ensued, in which the drummer was seized, who desired them not to
take his life, but leave him to the laws of his country.

Within half an hour, the deceased and the captive appeared together in
the same room, at the Horse-shoe. What must then be the feelings of a
mind, susceptible of impression by nature, but weakly calloused over by
art? This is one instance, among many, which shews us, a life of
innocence, is alone a life of happiness.

The drummer impeached his companion, who was perhaps the most guilty of
the two, and they were both that night lodged in the dungeon.

Upon the trial, March 31, 1781, the matter was too plain to be
controverted. The criminals were executed, and hung in chains at
Washwood-heath, April 2; the corporal at the age of 25, and the
drummer 22.


Three principal causes of riot are, the low state of wages, the
difference in political sentiment, and the rise of provisions: these
causes, like inundations, produce dreadful effects, and like them,
return at uncertain periods.

The journeyman in Birmingham is under no temptation to demand an
additional price for his labour, which is already higher than the
usual mark.

There is no nation fonder of their king than the English; which is a
proof that monarchy suits the genius of the people: there is no nation
more jealous of his power, which proves that liberty is a favourite
maxim. Though the laws have complimented him with _much_, yet he well
knows, a prerogative upon the stretch, is a prerogative in a
dangerous state.

The more a people value their prince, the more willing are they to
contend in his favour.

The people of England revered the memory of their beloved Saxon kings,
and doubly lamented their fall, with that of their liberties.

They taxed themselves into beggary, to raise the amasing sum of
100,000_l_. to release Richard the First, unjustly taken captive
by Leopold.

They protected Henry the Fifth from death, at Agincourt, and received
that death themselves.

They covered the extreme weakness of Henry the Sixth, who _never said a
good thing, or did a bad one_, with the mantle of royalty; when a
character like his, without a crown, would have been hunted through
life: they gave him the title of _good king Henry_, which would well
have suited, had the word _king_ been omitted; they sought him a place
in the kalendar of saints, and made _him_ perform the miracles of an
angel when dead, who could never perform the works of a man,
when living.

The people shewed their attachment to Henry the Eighth, by submitting to
the faggot and the block, at his command; and with their last breath,
praying for their butcher.

Affection for Charles the First, induced four of his friends to offer
their own heads, to save his.--The wrath, and the tears of the people,
succeeded his melancholy exit.

When James the Second eloped from the throne, and was casually picked up
at Feversham, by his injured subjects, _they remembered he was
their king_.

The church and Queen Anne, like a joyous co-partnership, were toasted
together. The barrel was willingly emptied to honour the queen, and the
toaster lamented he could honour her no more.

The nation displayed their love to Charles the Second, by latticing the
forests. His climbing the oak at Boscobel, has been the destruction of
more timber than would have filled the harbour of Portsmouth; the tree
which flourished in the field, was brought to die in the street.
Birmingham, for ninety years, honoured him with her vengeance against
the woods; and she is, at this day, surrounded with mutilated oaks,
which stand as martyrs to royalty.

It is singular, that the oak, which assisted the devotion of the
Britons, composed habitations for the people, and furniture for those
habitations; that, while standing, was an ornament to the country that
bore it; and afterwards guarded the land which nursed it, should be the
cause of continual riots, in the reign of George the First. We could not
readily accede to a line of strangers, in preference to our ancient race
of kings, though loudly charged with oppression.

Clubs and tumults supported the spirit of contention till 1745, when, as
our last act of animosity, we crowned an ass with turnips, in derision
of one of the worthiest families that ever eat them.

Power, in the hand of ignorance, is an edge-tool of the most dangerous
kind. The scarcity of provisions, in 1766, excited the murmurs of the
poor. They began to breathe vengeance against the farmer, miller, and
baker, for doing what they do themselves, procure the greatest price for
their property.

On the market day, a common labourer, like Massenello of Naples, formed
the resolution to lead a mob.

He therefore erected his standard, which was a mop inverted, assembled
the crowd, and roared out the old note, "Redress of Grievances." The
colliers, with all their dark retinue, were to bring destruction from
Wednesbury. Amazement seised the town! the people of fortune trembled:
John Wyrley, an able magistrate, for the first time frightened in
office, with quivering lips, and a pale aspect, swore in about eighty
constables, to oppose the rising storm, armed each of them with a staff
of authority, warm from the turning-lathe, and applied to the War-office
for a military force.

The lime-powdered monarch began to fabricate his own laws, direct the
price of every article, which was punctually obeyed.

Port, or power, soon overcome a weak head; the more copious the draught,
the more quick intoxication: he entered many of the shops, and was every
where treated with the utmost reverence; took whatever goods he pleased,
and distributed them among his followers; till one of the inhabitants,
provoked beyond measure at his insolence, gave him a hearty kick on the
posteriors, when the hero and his consequence, like that of Wat Tyler,
fell together.--Thus ended a reign of seven hours; the sovereign was
committed to prison, as sovereigns ought, in the abuse of power, and
harmony was restored without blood.


No _head_ is a vacuum. Some, like a paltry cottage, are ill
accommodated, dark, and circumscribed; others are capacious as
Westminster-Hall. Though none are immense, yet they are capable of
immense furniture. The more room is taken up by knowledge, the less
remains for credulity. The more a man is acquainted with things, the
more willing to _give up the ghost_. Every town and village, within my
knowledge, has been pestered with spirits; which appear in horrid forms
to the imagination in the winter night--but the spirits which haunt
Birmingham, are those of industry and luxury.

If we examine the whole parish, we cannot produce one _old_ witch; but
we have plenty of young, who exercise a powerful influence over us.
Should the ladies accuse the harsh epithet, they will please to
consider, I allow them, what of all things they most wish for, _power_,
therefore the balance is in my favor.

If we pass through the planitary worlds, we shall be able to muster up
two conjurers, who endeavoured to _shine with the stars_. The first,
John Walton, who was so busy in calling the nativity of others, he
forgot his own.

Conscious of an application to himself, for the discovery of stolen
goods, he employed his people to steal them. And though, for many years
confined to his bed by infirmity, he could conjure away the property of
others, and, for a reward, reconjure it again.

The prevalence of this evil, induced the legislature, in 1725, to make
the _reception_ of stolen goods capital. The first sacrifice to this law
was the noted Jonathan Wild.

The officers of justice, in 1732, pulled Walton out of his bed, in an
obscure cottage, one furlong from the town, now Brickhill-Lane, carried
him to prison, and from thence to the gallows--they had better have
carried him to the workhouse, and his followers to the anvil.

To him succeeded Francis Kimberley, the only reasoning animal, who
resided at No. 60, in Dale-End, from his early youth to extreme
age.--An hermit in a crowd! The windows of his house were strangers to
light! The shutters forgot to open; the chimney to smoak. His cellar,
though amply furnished, never knew moisture.

He spent threescore years in filling six rooms with such trumpery as is
just too good to be thrown away, and too bad to be kept. His life was as
inoffensive as long. Instead of _stealing_ the goods which other people
use, he _purchased_ what he could not use himself. He was not anxious
what kind of property entered his house; if there was _bulk_ he was

His dark house, and his dark figure corresponded with each other. The
apartments, choaked up with lumber, scarcely admitted his body, though
of the skeleton order. Perhaps leanness is an appendage to the science,
for I never knew a corpulent conjurer.

His diet, regular, plain, and slender, shewed at how little expence life
may be sustained.

His library consisted of several thousand volumes, not one of which, I
believe, he ever read: having written, in characters unknown to all but
himself, his name, price, and date, in the title-page, he laid them by
for ever. The highest pitch of his erudition was the annual almanack.

He never wished to approach a woman, or be approached by one. Should the
rest of men, for half a century, pay no more attention to the fair, some
angelic hand might stick up a note, like the artic circle over one of
our continents, _this world to be let_.

If he did not cultivate the human species, the spiders, more numerous
than his books, enjoyed an uninterrupted reign of quiet. The silence of
the place was not broken: the broom, the book, the dust, or the web, was
not disturbed. Mercury and his shirt, changed their revolutions
together; and Saturn changed _his_, with his coat.

He died, in 1756, as conjurers usually die, unlamented.


The use of arms is necessary to every man who has something to lose, or
something to gain. No property will protect itself. The English have
liberty and property to lose, but nothing to win. As every man is born
free, the West-Indian slaves have liberty to gain, but nothing to lose.
If a rascally African prince attempts to sell his people, he ought to be
first sold himself; and the buyer, who acts so daringly opposite to the
Christian precept, is yet more blameable. He ought to have the first
whip, often mended, worn out upon his own back.

It may seem unnecessary to tell the world, what they already know;
recent transactions come under this description; but they are not known
to the stranger, nor to posterity.

Upon a change of the Northean ministry, in 1782, the new premier, in a
circular letter, advised the nation to arm, as the dangers of invasion
threatened us with dreadful aspect. Intelligence from a quarter so
authentic, locked up the door of private judgment, or we might have
considered, that even without alliance, and with four principal powers
upon our hands, we were rather gaining ground; that the Americans were
so far from attacking us, that they wished us to run ourselves out of
breath to attack them; that Spain had slumbered over a seven years war;
that the Dutch, provoked at their governors, for the loss of their
commerce, were more inclinable to invade themselves than us; and that as
France bore the weight of the contest, we found employment for her arms,
without invasion; but, perhaps, the letter was only an artifice of the
new state doctor, to represent his patient in a most deplorable state,
as a complement to his own merit in recovering her.

Whatever was the cause, nothing could be more agreeable than this letter
to the active spirit of Birmingham. Public meetings were held. The
rockets of war were squibbed off in the news-papers. The plodding
tradesman and the lively hero assembled together in arms, and many a
trophy was won in thought.

Each man purchased a genteel blue uniform, decorated with epaulets of
gold, which, together with his accoutrements, cost about 17_l_. The
gentleman, the apprentice, &c. to the number of seventy, united in a
body, termed by themselves, _The Birmingham Association_; by the wag,
_the brazen walls of the town_. Each was to be officer and private by
ballet, which gives an idea of equality, and was called to exercise
once a week.

The high price of provisions, and the 17th of October, brought a
dangerous mob into Birmingham. They wanted bread: so did we. But little
conference passed between them and the inhabitants. They were quiet; we
were pleased; and, after an hour or two's stay, they retreated in peace.

In the evening, after the enemy were fled, our champions beat to arms,
breathing vengeance against the hungry crew; and, had they returned,
some people verily thought our valiant heroes would have _discharged_
at them.

However laudable a system, if built upon a false basis, it will not
stand. Equality and command, in the same person, are incompatiable;
therefore, cannot exist together. Subordination is necessary in every
class of life, but particularly in the military. Nothing but severe
discipline can regulate the boisterous spirit of an army.

A man may be bound to another, but if he commands the bandage, he will
quickly set himself free. This was the case with the military
association. As their uniform resembled that of a commander, so did
their temper. There were none to submit. The result was, the farce
ended, and the curtain dropt in December, by a quarrel with each other;
and, like _John_ and _Lilborn_, almost with themselves.


Envy, like a dark shadow, follows closely the footsteps of prosperity;
success in any undertaking, out of the circle of genius, produces a
rival.--This I have instanced in our hackney coaches.

Profits, like a round-bellied bottle, may seem bulky, which, like that,
will not bear dividing: Thus Orator Jones, in 1774, opened a debating
society at the Red Lion; he quickly filled a large room with customers,
and his pockets with money, but he had not prudence to keep either. His
success opened a rival society at the King's-head, which, in a few
weeks, annihilated both.

The growing profits of our canal company, already mentioned, had
increased the shares from 140_l_. in 1768, to 400 guineas, in 1782.
These emoluments being thought enormous, a rival company sprung up,
which, in 1783, petitioned Parliament to partake of those emoluments, by
opening a parallel cut from some of the neighbouring coal-pits; to
proceed along the lower level, and terminate in Digbeth.

A stranger might ask, "How the water in our upland country, which had
never supplied one canal, could supply two? Whether the second canal was
not likely to rob the first? Whether one able canal is not preferable to
two lame ones? If a man sells me an article cheaper than I can purchase
it elsewhere, whether it is of consequence to me what are his profits?
And whether two companies in rivalship would destroy that harmony which
has long subsisted in Birmingham."

The new company urged, "The necessity of another canal, lest the old
should not perform the business of the town; that twenty per cent. are
unreasonable returns; that they could afford coals under the present
price; that the south country teams would procure a readier supply from
Digbeth, than from the present wharf, and not passing through the
streets, would be prevented from injuring the pavement; and that the
goods from the Trent would come to their wharf by a run of eighteen
miles nearer than to the other."

The old company alledged, "That they ventured their property in an
uncertain pursuit, which, had it not succeeded, would have ruined many
individuals; therefore the present gains were only a recompense for
former hazard: that this property was expended upon the faith of
Parliament, who were obliged in honour to protect it, otherwise no man
would risk his fortune upon a public undertaking; for should they allow
a second canal, why not a third; which would become a wanton destruction
of right, without benefit; that although the profit of the original
subscribers might seem large, those subscribers are but few; many have
bought at a subsequent price, which barely pays common interest, and
this is all their support; therefore a reduction would be barbarous on
one side, and sensibly felt on the other: and, as the present canal
amply supplies the town and country, it would be ridiculous to cut away
good land to make another, which would ruin both."

I shall not examine the reasons of either, but leave the disinterested
reader to weigh both in his own balance.

When two opponents have said all that is true, they generally say
something more; rancour holds the place of argument.

Both parties beat up for volunteers in the town, to strengthen their
forces; from words of acrimony, they came to those of virulence; then
the powerful batteries of hand-bills, and news-papers were opened: every
town within fifty miles, interested, on either side, was moved to
petition, and both prepared for a grand attack, confident of victory.

Perhaps a contest among friends, in matters of property, will remove
that peace of mind, which twenty per cent. will not replace.

Each party possessed that activity of spirit, for which Birmingham is
famous, and seemed to divide between them the legislative strength of
the nation: every corner of the two houses was ransacked for a vote; the
throne was the only power unsolicited. Perhaps at the reading, when both
parties had marshalled their forces, there was the fullest House of
Commons ever remembered on a private bill.

The new company promised much, for besides the cut from Wednesbury to
Digbeth, they would open another to join the two canals of Stafford and
Coventry, in which a large track of country was interested.

As the old company were the first adventurers, the house gave them the
option to perform this Herculean labour, which they accepted.

As parliament have not yet given their determination, and as the printer
this moment raps at my door, "Sir, the press waits, more copy if you
please," I cannot stay to tell the world the result of the bill; but
perhaps, the new proprietors, by losing, will save 50,000_l_. and the
old, by winning, become sufferers.


I have often mentioned an active spirit, as the characteristic of the
inhabitants of Birmingham. This spirit never forsakes them. It displays
itself in industry, commerce, invention, humanity, and internal
government. A singular vivacity attends every pursuit till compleated,
or discarded for a second.

The bubble of the day, like that at the end of a tobacco-pipe, dances in
air, exhibits divers beauties, pleases the eye, bursts in a moment, and
is followed up by another.

There is no place in the British dominions easier to be governed than
Birmingham; and yet we are fond of forging acts of parliament to
govern her.

There is seldom a point of time in which an act is not in agitation; we
fabricate them with such expedition, that we could employ a parliament
of our own to pass them. But, to the honor of our ladies, not one of
these acts is directed against them. Neither is there an instance upon
record, that the torch of Hymen was ever extinguished by the breath of
Marriot in Doctors-Commons.

In the present spring of 1783, we have four acts upon the anvil: every
man, of the least consequence, becomes a legislator, and wishes to lend
his assistance in framing an act; so that instead of one lord, as
formerly, we now, like the Philistines, have three thousand.

An act of parliament, abstractedly considered, is a dead matter: it
cannot operate of itself: like a plaister, it must be applied to the
evil, or that evil will remain. We vainly expect a law to perform the
intended work; if it does not, we procure another to make it. Thus the
canal, by one act in 1767, hobbled on, like a man with one leg; but a
second, in 1770, furnished a pair. The lamp act, procured in 1769, was
worn to rags, and mended with another in 1773; and this second has been
long out of repair, and waits for a third.

We carry the same spirit into our bye-laws, and with the same success.
Schemes have been devised, to oblige every man to pay levies; but it was
found difficult to extract money from him who had none.

In 1754, we brought the manufacture of pack-thread into the workhouse,
to reduce the levies; the levies increased. A spirited overseer
afterwards, for the same reason, as if poverty was not a sufficient
stigma, badged the poor; the levies still increased.

The advance of bread in 1756, induced the officers to step out of the
common track, perhaps, out of their knowledge; and, at the expence of
half a levy, fit up an apparatus for grinding corn in the house: thus,
by sacrificing half _one levy, many would be saved_. However, in the
pursuit, many happened to be lost. In 1761, the apparatus was sold at a
farther loss; and the overseers sheltered themselves under the charge of
idleness against the paupers.

In 1766, the spinning of mop-yarn was introduced, which might, with
attention, have turned to account; but unfortunately, the yarn proved of
less value than the wool.

Others, with equal wisdom, were to ease the levies, by feeding a drove
of pigs, which, agreeable to their own nature--ran backwards.--Renting a
piece of ground, by way of garden, which supplied the house with a
pennyworth of vegetables, for two-pence, adding a few cows, and a
pasture; but as the end of all was _loss_, the levies increased.

In 1780, two collectors were appointed, at fifty guineas each, which
would save the town _many a hundred_; still the levies increased.

A petition is this sessions presented, for an Act to overturn the whole
pauper system (for our heads are as fond of new fashions, in parochial
government, as in the hats which cover them) to erect a superb
workhouse, at the expence of 10,000_l_. with powers to borrow 15,000_l_.
which grand design is to reduce the levies _one third_.--The levies will

The reasons _openly_ alledged are, "The Out-pensioners, which cost
7000_l_. a year, are the chief foundation of our public grievances: that
the poor ought to be employed _in_ the house, lest their morals become
injured by the shops; which prevents them from being taken into family
service; and, the crowded state of the workhouse."--But whether the
pride of an overseer, in perpetuating his name, is not the pendulum
which set the machine in motion? Or, whether a man, as well as a spider,
may not create a _place_, and, like that--_fill it with himself_?

The bill directs, That the inhabitants mall chuse a number of guardians
by ballot, who shall erect a workhouse, on Birmingham-heath--a spot as
airy as the scheme; conduct a manufacture, and the poor; dispose of the
present workhouse; seize and confine idle or disorderly persons, and
keep them to labour, till they have reimbursed the parish all expences.

But it may be asked, Whether spending 15,000_l_. is likely to reduce the

Whether we shall be laughed at, for throwing by a building, the last
wing of which cost a thousand pounds, after using it only three years?

Our commerce is carried on by reciprocal obligation. Every overseer has
his friends, whom he cannot refuse to serve; nay, whom he may even wish
to serve, if that service costs him nothing: hence, that over-grown
monster so justly complains of, _The Weekly Tickets_; it follows,
whether _sixty_ guardians are not likely to have more friends to serve,
than six overseers?

Whether the trades of the town, by a considerable manufacture
established at the workhouse, will not be deprived of their most
useful hands?

Whether it is not a maxim of the wisest men who have filled the office,
"to endeavour to keep the poor _out_ of the house, for if they are
admitted, they become more chargeable; nor will they leave it without

A workhouse is a kind of prison, and a dreadful one to those of tender
feelings--Whether the health of an individual, the ideas of rectitude,
or the natural right of our species, would not be infringed by a cruel

If a man has followed an occupation forty years, and necessity sends him
to the parish, whether is it preferable to teach him a new trade, or
suffer him to earn what he can at his old? If we decide for the latter,
whether he had better walk four hundred yards to business, or four
miles? His own infirmity will determine this question.

If a young widow be left with two children, shall she pay a girl
six-pence a week to tend them, while she earns five shillings at the
mops, and is allowed two by the parish, or shall all three reside in the
house, at the weekly expence of six, and she be employed in nursing
them? If we again declare for the latter, it follows, that the parish
will not only have four shillings a week, but the community may gain
half a crown by her labour.

Whether the morals of the children are more likely to be injured by the
shops, than the morals of half the children in town; many of whom labour
to procure levies for the workhouse?

Whether the morals of a child will be more corrupted in a small shop,
consisting of a few persons, or in a large one at the workhouse,
consisting of hundreds?

Whether the grand shop at Birmingham-heath, or at any heath, will train
girls for service, preferable to others?

Shall we, because the house has been crowded a few weeks, throw away
15000_l_. followed by a train of evils? A few months ago, I saw in it a
large number of vacant beds. Besides, at a small expence, and without
impeding the circulation of air, conveniency may be made for one
hundred more.

Did a manufacture ever prosper under a multitude of inspectors, not one
of which is to taste the least benefit?

As public business, which admits no profit, such as vestry assemblies,
commissions of lamps, turnpike meetings, &c. are thinly attended, even
in town; what reason is there to expect a board two miles in
the country?

The workhouse may be deemed _The Nursery of Birmingham_, in which she
deposits her infants, for future service: the unfortunate and the idle,
till they can be set upon their own basis; and the decrepid, during the
few remaining sands in their glass. If we therefore carry the workhouse
to a distance, whether we shall not interrupt that necessary intercourse
which ought to subsist between a mother and her offspring? As sudden
sickness, indications of child-birth, &c. require immediate assistance,
a life in extreme danger may chance to be lost by the length of
the road.

If we keep the disorderly till they have reimbursed the parish, whether
we do not acquire an inheritance for life?

We censure the officer who pursues a phantom at the expence of others;
we praise him who _teaches the poor to live_.

All the evils complained of, may be removed by _attention in the man_;
the remedy is not in an act. He therefore accuses his own want of
application, in soliciting government to _do_ what he might do
himself--Expences are saved by private acts of oeconomy, not by public
Acts of Parliament.

It has long been said, _think_ and _act_; but as our internal
legislators chuse to reverse the maxim by fitting up an expensive shop;
then seeking a trade to bring in, perhaps they may place over the grand
entrance, _act_ and _think_.

One remark should never be lost sight of, _The more we tax the
inhabitants, the sooner they leave us, and carry off the trades_.


I have already remarked, _a spirit of bravery is part of the British
character_. The perpetual contests for power, among the Britons, the
many roads formed by the Romans, to convey their military force, the
prodigious number of camps, moats, and broken castles, left us by the
Saxons, Danes, and Normans, our common ancestors, indicate _a martial
temper_. The names of those heroic sovereigns, Edward the Third, and
Henry the Fifth, who brought their people to the fields of conquest,
descend to posterity with the highest applause, though they brought
their kingdom to the brink of ruin; while those quiet princes, Henry the
Seventh, and James the First, who cultivated the arts of peace, are but
little esteemed, though under their sceptre, England experienced the
greatest improvement.--The man who dare face an enemy, is the most
likely to gain a friend. A nation versed in arms, stands the fairest
chance to protect its property, and secure its peace: war itself may be
hurtful, the knowledge of it useful.

In Mitchly-park, three miles west of Birmingham, in the parish of
Edgbaston, is _The Camp_; which might be ascribed to the Romans, lying
within two or three stones cast of their Ikenield-street, where it
divides the counties of Warwick and Worcester, but is too extensive for
that people, being about thirty acres: I know none of their camps more
than four, some much less; it must, therefore, have been the work of
those pilfering vermin the Danes, better acquainted with other peoples
property than their own; who first swarmed on the shores, then over-ran
the interior parts of the kingdom, and, in two hundred years, devoured
the whole.

No part of this fortification is wholly obliterated, though, in many
places, it is nearly levelled by modern cultivation, that dreadful enemy
to the antiquary. Pieces of armour are frequently ploughed up,
particularly parts of the sword and the battle-axe, instruments much
used by those destructive sons of the raven.

The platform is quadrangular, every side nearly four hundred yards; the
center is about six acres, surrounded by three ditches, each about eight
yards over, at unequal distances; though upon a descent, it is amply
furnished with water. An undertaking of such immense labour, could not
have been designed for temporary use.

The propriety of the spot, and the rage of the day for fortification,
seem to have induced the Middlemores, lords of the place for many
centuries, and celebrated for riches, but in the beginning of this work,
for poverty, to erect a park, and a lodge; nothing of either exist, but
the names.


The traveller who undertakes an extensive journey, cannot chuse his
road, or his weather: sometimes the prospect brightens, with a serene
sky, a smooth path, and a smiling sun; all within and without him
is chearful.

Anon he is assailed by the tempests, stumbles over the ridges, is
bemired in the hollows, the sun hides his face, and his own is
sorrowful--this is the lot of the historian; he has no choice of
subject, merry or mournful, he must submit to the changes which offer;
delighted with the prosperous tale, depressed with the gloomy.

I am told, this work has often drawn a smile from the reader; it has
often drawn a sigh from me. A celebrated painter fell in love with the
picture he drew; I have wept at mine--Such is the chapter of the Lords,
and the Workhouse. We are not always proof against a melancholy or a
tender sentiment.

Having pursued our several stages, with various fortune, through fifty
chapters, at the close of this last tragic scene, emotion and the
journey cease together.

Upon King's-wood, five miles from Birmingham, and two hundred yards east
of the Alcester-road, runs a bank for near a mile in length, unless
obliterated by the new inclosure; for I saw it complete in 1775. This
was raised by the famous Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, about 1324, to
inclose a wood, from whence the place derives its name.

Then that feeble monarch, Edward the Second, governed the kingdom; the
amorous Isabella, his wife, governed the king, and the gallant Mortimer
governed the queen.

The parishes of King's-norton, Solihull, Yardley, uniting in this wood,
and enjoying a right of commons, the inhabitants conceived themselves
injured by the inclosure, assembled in a body, threw down the fence, and
murdered the Earl's bailiff.

Mortimer, in revenge, procured a special writ from the Court of Common
Pleas, and caused the matter to be tried at Bromsgrove, where the
affrighted inhabitants, over-awed with power, durst not appear in their
own vindication. The Earl, therefore, recovered a verdict, and the
enormous sum of 300_l_. damage. A sum nearly equal, at that time, to the
fee-simple of the three parishes.

The confusion of the times, and the poverty of the people, protracted
payment, till the unhappy Mortimer, overpowered by his enemies, was
seized as a criminal in Nottingham-castle; and, without being heard,
executed at Tyburn, in 1328.

The distressed inhabitants of our three parishes humbly petitioned the
crown, for a reduction of the fine; when Edward the Third was pleased to
remit about 260_l_.

We can assign no reason for this imprudent step of inclosing the wood,
unless the Earl intended to procure a grant of the manor, then in the
crown, for his family. But what he could not accomplish by family, was
accomplished by fortune; for George the Third, King of Great Britain, is
lord of the manor of King's-norton, and a descendant from the house
of Mortimer.

F I N I S.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An History of Birmingham (1783)" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files. We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's search system for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.