The original settlement was situated a little way to the north of the present village of Acocks Green. Its name was Tenchlee, or Tenchley. The local historian, the late John Morris Jones, suggested that though the derivation of the name is unknown, it was probably named after the Tench fish. (1). The earliest known reference to the settlement of Tenchley appears in the Worcestershire Assize Rolls: 3 Edward I (24th May 1275):
"John son of Seec, digging in a certain marlpit & was crushed by the earth which fell upon him, whereof he died. The first finder died. No one is suspected thereof, judgment, misfortune. Value of the pickaxe with which he was digging 2d. And the township of Yardley, Sticheford, Tenelee & La Leye concealed the aforesaid deodand before the coroner, therefore in mercy."
"Sticheford" is of course the modern Stechford, while "La Leye" is now Lea Village. Interestingly though, Tenchley's original name is given as "Tenelee". The derivation of this name would thus appear to be tene, from the Old English, "tien", which means ten, and "leah", a field or clearing. So the name would appear to mean the "clearing of ten fields." This seems more probable than the "Tench field."
Two early 14th Century deeds refer to "one acre of land... in the Higher field of Tenchleye" and of "one piece of ground in Vyssysclowes medewe." (2). The 17th Century papers of the Greswold Family of Malvern Hall (3) mention two fields in the Acocks Green area, Nether and Over Hynefields. "Hyne" is an Old English word, and means high. The papers also refer to a common meadow called "Whisley Meadow." These fields would appear to be the fore-mentioned Tenchley fields. A deed of 1661 locates the position of these fields. It lists "...one other croft called Pinfold croft lying between land late of the said William Marston and near the King's Highway...a dole of meadow in a common field called Heynefeild in a meadow called Broad meadow...a meadow called Whystley Meadow, otherwise Whysley Meadow...divided from Heynefeild, land of Robert Flint and the King's Highway leading from Acocks Greene towards Yardley Church." (4).
Henry Blood's Map of Birmingham and Its Environs, published in 1857, clearly shows the pattern of Medieval strip farming situated each side of the Yardley Road, leading from Acocks Green Village, and extending northwards to its junction with Stockfield Road. This is evidently the site of Tenchley. The probable centre of the village was a green, which may have been the original stockfield, situated at the junction of the present-day Yardley, Stockfield and Mansfield Roads. There was a pinfold here too, where stray cattle were penned until redeemed by their owner. The fold was for a long time remembered in Pinfold Farm, which was situated near the junction of Yardley and Mansfield Roads. A timber-framed barn still survives, though of a much later date.
It would appear that Tenchley was a daughter settlement of Yardley, rather than a new site cleared by incomers. The evidence for this is to be found in deeds of the period, where common surnames are found amongst the villagers of both Yardley and Tenchley. That such a settlement should have been established suggests a growth in population at Yardley, and a lack of agricultural land there to support this growth. Like its parent settlement, Tenchley was situated on a stretch of light easily worked land, with water supplied from nearby Whisley, or Westley Brook. By the first quarter of the 14th Century Tenchley had overtaken Yardley in population. Victor Skipp in his exemplary book, 'Medieval Yardley,' lists ten of the villagers "of Tenchlee":
Nicholas de Aldecot
William, son of the Reeve
There may perhaps have been some rationalisation of the fields at Tenchley, with the assembling together of fields into farms. Perhaps the Black Death was the cause. M.W. Beresford put forward the theory:
"My own view of the role of the Black Death is this: we know that, in some villages, if only for a short time, there was a glut of land and a shortage of labour. We know that the lords had to take measures to tie the peasant to the soil. In such conditions as those of the 1350s, those who remained alive might have had an opportunity to farm the lands of the less fortunate...a man might begin his accumulation of holdings in such a modest way." (5)
This would have created a more diffused village, and perhaps explain why in the mid-14th Century, Tenchley disappeared so completely. It had become a village without a heart.
During the late Middle Ages new families began moving into Yardley. Amongst them were the Fox and Acock Families. The Fox Family, whose arrival dates from pre-1465, purchased the atte Holies Family farm. This old Yardley family had been here since 1275. By 1624 the district south of the present day Acocks Green vil1age had become known as Fox Holleys. (6) A little to the west of the Fox's land was Huyon Hall, a moated house, built in the 14th Century by another of Yardley's new families. The Acock Family are believed to have arrived from Bickenhill, or possibly Sheldon. (7) They settled on land a little to the east of that held by the long established Notynge Family, which butted onto the parish boundary with Olton. The Notynge Family are first recorded here in 1378.The family had close links with the neighbouring Smalbroke and Est Families. John Notynge and Robert Smalbroke acted as Trustees for land belonging to Agnes, widow of John Pedeman. (8) As a mark of his position in society, another member of the family, Robert Notynge, was appointed Bailiff of Yardley in 1440.
The Acock Family are first recorded here in 142O. One "John Akoc" is listed as a witness to a Yardley deed. They built themselves a moated house near the junction of the present-day Warwick Road and Woodcock Lane. The purchase of land throughout the 15th Century shows their rise to prosperity; and membership of the Guild of Knowle, their extension of influence. The Register of the Guild records that "Johnes Acokke and Agnes his wife", were members in 1496. Throughout the following years, several members of the Acock Family are listed in the ledger.
Both the Acock and the Fox Families became involved in local affairs. Of the 11 feoffees of Yardley Charity Trust in 1512, we find members from both families, John Acocke and John Foxe. By 1588 the two families had secured 4 of the 11 places, with William and his son, Richard Acocke, and Thomas and his son, Richard Foxe.
In a deed of 1603, William Acocke is described as a gentleman; a mark of respectability. In 1626 Richard Acocke, his son gave the family home, Acocks Green House, as a wedding present to his son, William, when he married Joyce, the daughter of the Rev. Richard Wright of Priors Cleeve. (9) This is the earliest reference we have to the name Acocks Green.
1. Jones, John Morris, Acocks Green and all around, 1973, p.3
2. Warwick Record Office CR 84/38,39. (1322 and 1323)
3. Warwick record Office Greswold of Malvern Hall deeds (uncatalogued), Box 24.
4. Birmingham Reference Library, Archives Dept. B.R.L. 279371.
5. Beresford, M.W., The Deserted Villages of Warwickshire. Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society, vol. LXVI 1950, p.53.
6. B.R.L. 277051
7. Skipp, Victor, Medieval Yardley, p.85
8. B.R.L, 584332
9. Bickley, W.B., Manuscript notes and material relating to the History of Yardley, vol.5, p.328