The boundaries of the Manor of Yardley

by John Morris Jones, reproduced with permission and with some amendments by Michael Byrne. Copyright remains with the estate of the original author.

This essay was written in 1962, and compared boundaries between 972 and 1962. A copy of a Presentment from 1495, found in 1964,  was added as a supplement, but not integrated into the comparison. Notes on boundary changes in 1966 and 1974 have been added. The 1495 document is presented in its entirety: others are present in extracts in the comparison section. 

Reasons for the Study

1. Unusually early and relatively good sources of information.

2. Comparison of records thought likely to throw light on the historical

geography of the Manor, in particular:-

a. Constancy or change of boundaries over a thousand years.

b. Reasons for the position of boundaries, geological and topographical

factors affecting them.

c. Topographical information about Yardley at different periods.


The Origins of Yardley

The name of the Manor, and its foundation, are Anglo-Saxon. Of earlier settlement there is no record and very little trace. This was not an attractive region, the valley floors being marshy and the plateau above a dense deciduous jungle, except where glacial drift provided both firmer going and more open country.


Anglo-Saxon penetration into our area was from two directions. Mercian (Anglian) immigrants entered by way of Trent and Tame, following their terraces, spreading along their tributaries, and establishing small tribal or family units overlooking them. At about the same time, the end of the 6th century, Saxons were moving north and east from Severn and Avon. Beside Cole and Rea the two peoples met.

The small communities which settled in forest clearings were probably colonies of older ones. It is possible that Yardley was founded by Saxon herdsmen from Beoley, who moved down the low ridge between the Cole and its northeast-flowing tributaries and settled on the open sandy knoll overlooking Stechford. When in 680 A.D. the Hwiccan Diocese of Worcester was founded, Yardley was included, unlike its neighbours to north and east: in Domesday Book Yardley is recorded as a member of Beoley, both being the property of Pershore Abbey.


The Charter of 972 A.D.

This, the first evidence of Yardley's existence, confirms the possession by the Abbey of St. Mary at Pershore (founded 681) of 5 hides in Gyrdleahe. The presumed 5 households, though not an unusual number for a small community, seem very few for a manor of 11½ square miles. That Yardley was then the same size as later is one of the conclusions to be drawn from this study. Since it has been necessary to work backwards from the final boundaries of Yardley, those of 1911, in order to identify the earlier ones, the former are given first in the summaries that follow.


The mapping of Yardley's boundaries

The first printed maps showing Yardley were those of Worcestershire and Warwickshire by Christopher Saxton, published about 1576 on a scale of ¼ inch to 1 mile. These, the Anonymous Map of Warwickshire of 1603, and the John Speed maps of both counties published in 1610, may be considered together as they are all based on Saxton's survey. In each, Yardley is shown as a wooded thumb-shaped peninsula thrusting into Warwickshire, roughly bisected by the River Cole: it appears to include part of Bordesley and most of Little Bromwich. That this is inaccurate the 1609 Presentment shows. Besides failing to observe that Yardley and its County did not possess the left bank of the Cole north of Spark Brook (not mapped), Saxton placed Yardley church near the river at Glebe Farm, and overlooked the Solihull lodgement west of the Cole. These errors, permissible in a pioneer survey, were repeated on many later maps: the Anonymous and Speed are scarcely more correct, and in the latter's Worcestershire Yardley is twisted northwards so that a street-plan of Worcester may be accommodated in the map corner. Tree-symbols are placed on all these maps in seemingly arbitrary fashion, and cannot be used to draw any conclusions about the woodland in the manor, except that in the south it appears to be largely continuous with Norton Wood, which is named, so that the Elizabethan description of Yardley as ‘secluded in a great wood’ seems accurate enough for an approach from the south. The 1603 map is interesting in its showing Coventry, Warwick, and Stratford Roads quite accurately.


One of John Ogilby's strip-maps in 'Britannia' 1675, Plate 50, shows Coventry Road and the boundaries of Yardley at Gilbertstone and Hemill (Hay Mill) Bridge. Sir William Dugdale's 'Antiquities of Warwickshire' contains a map on a scale of 3 inches to the mile, but despite his claim to have rectified and added to 'the ordinarie maps', giving special attention to rivers, his Yardley is even more incorrect than Saxton's, the Cole being very much distorted and displaced: the later editions after the first in 1656 are not corrected.


It is noteworthy that reference is being made largely to maps of Warwickshire, of which Yardley was always geographically a part: its own county seems to have lacked cartographers interested in this remote corner. Thus it is from Henry Beighton's Mapp of Warwickshire, first published in 1725 on a scale of 1 inch to a mile, a comparatively accurate and finely detailed map, that we obtain the first useful evidence about Yardley's boundaries on the east side of the Cole. (See the accompanying enlargement of Beighton's map). Though Beighton's survey was not quite so accurate as he claimed - his Yardley cannot be made to coincide with the O.S. 1 inch 2nd Series, some features being ¼ mile out of position - yet there is sufficient detail and accuracy in adjacent features to confirm that Yardley in 1725 was the same as in 1911: and it is reasonable to suggest that Beighton may be cited as evidence for the identification of the 1609 boundaries as made in this study. The various watercourses and the relation of the boundaries to them are confirmed, thus lending support to some of the conjectures made about the 972 boundaries. As stated elsewhere, there had been a boundary revision with Sheldon in 1717, which seems to have been alongside Sheldon Park, and Beighton shows the new line beside a fence: his survey was made in the early 1720s.


Later map-makers copied Beighton, including his errors, but the standard of cartography rose during the l8th century: there were new county surveys, and also estate plans on a large scale, which showed every selion and ditch. In Yardley the Taylor estates were surveyed in 1807. The Ordnance Survey was established in 1791, and its survey of our area took place between 1812 and 1817. Field mapping was on a 2 inches to a mile scale, and the original sheets showed field divisions: neither these nor the printed maps, the First Edition of the One-Inch Series, published in 1833, show parish or other boundaries. The Second Edition did show them (c.1880), but before then the production of large-scale Tithe Maps had made boundary definition easy.


Reasons for the study, the origins of Yardley and the Charter of 972
The mapping of Yardley boundaries

Boundaries 2
The boundaries of Yardley in 972
The boundaries of Yardley in 1609
The boundaries of Yardley 1843/7
The boundaries of Yardley in 1911

Boundaries 3
A comparison of the boundaries between 972 and 1962

Boundaries 4
Supplement: the boundaries in 1495
Map: boundaries in 972
Map: boundaries in 1609
Map: part of Beighton's Mapp 1725
Map: boundaries in 1847
Map: boundaries 1911 to 1966


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