There are many variants of the name. Other than those above are Tritterford, Tritteford, Tittiford, Tettiford, Tetteford, Tetterford, Tretterford, and Tatterford. If the ford, probably a very ancient one on the low ridgeway route to Stichford across the manor of Yardley, was at the present bridge site, it was formerly just above the confluence with the Chinn Brook, before that stream was diverted northward to serve as the mill's tail-race. If in fact Titterford Mill was not in existence either on the Chinn or the Cole before 1778 (there is no evidence either way), then this is not an instance of a crossing coming into use because of shallows created by a millweir, because the ford is very much older than that. The earliest reference so far found is for 1778. In 1783 it was vacant for letting in these terms (Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, 1783): ‘A new complete water corn mill, 2 water wheels, 4 pairs of stones, dressing mill, and a new wire mach (mesh ?) with garners that will contain upwards of 2000 bags of wheat. Also a dwelling house, with bakehouse and implements, and about 3 acres of meadow, near Tittiford Brook’. With waterwheels costing about £200 and French burr stones £50 each, and the very elaborate waterworks involved, this was a considerable capital outlay for someone. I do not yet know who this was, but it is possible that the Lord of Yardley, John Taylor II, who had inherited £200,000 from his father, made what must then have seemed a very good investment. So large and costly a mill would not have been built unless it were expected to have enough grain coming in to keep it going. Not only were increased yields to be expected from the Taylor lands, whose tenants were paid for enriching the soil, but the accelerating growth of Birmingham's population and its demands for flour were contemporary with many conversions of corn mills in the area to industrial purposes: it can hardly be a coincidence that when Rea and Tame are being used to capacity, so many of the Cole and Blythe mills were being rebuilt, larger and with improved equipment and water supplies, and the grain to supply them must have been coming from increasing distances.
A two-wheel mill with so large a storage would need a sure and abundant flow of water. The site of the mill should be noted for it can hardly have been a casual one - even if it replaced an earlier mill, the same site need not have been used unless there were good reasons for so doing. It is an advantageous position, at the confluence of the Cole and its largest tributary the Chinn Brook (other than the Easthall Brook system far downstream), so that dual sources of water are to hand. The alluvial plain about the confluence permits the erection of substantial buildings, a pond, and a large reservoir. The head-race begins just inside the manor boundary, only a few yards below the end of Colebrook Priory Mill's tail-race, at a place where there is a gravely shallows, just above the Slade Lane ford. This would form a natural weir for the diversion of water into the race - there is now a removable plank weir at the start of the race which serves the same purpose. It seems then that the shallows may have influenced the engineers to begin the leat there, although this involved building and maintaining a bridge by which Slade Lane could cross it, or was it either the desire or the need to begin the leat as high as possible upriver, to add a few more precious inches to the ‘head’ at the wheels?
After half a mile, the leat is several feet above river level, having practically followed a contour in the water-meadow: it flows beneath Scribers Lane, overflow returns to the Cole by a broad spillway, and the channel becomes the millpool, shallow at this upper end and on the west side, but up to (?) ten feet deep at the lower end six hundred yards downstream. The seven and a half acres of the pool were not uniformly dug out: the west side was excavated, gravel and clay being piled up in a dyke alongside the river more than five hundred yards long and up to ten yards base width, and in a wide dam at the northern end. The north-western corner was taken out to the lowest level, so that there would be a downward flow to there. The head-race led therefrom, beneath Priory Road, to a small pond which was also fed by a leat descending from a weir four hundred yards up on the Chinn Brook. If there were an earlier mill on or about this site, it may like Sarehole on the Coldbath Brook not have been powered by the Cole at all until this eighteenth century rebuilding period: in that case the Chinn may have been diverted already. But if not it would now be necessary to make a new channel for the brook, which would take it away from the millsite to avoid flooding it after storms, and which would act as a tail-race. Having worked the wheels, water from the pond flowed in a culvert beneath the farmhouse and emerged to join the diverted Chinn. To avoid the wheels being ‘tailed’ - stopped by the backing up of water due to the flooding of the brook - a ‘floating course’ was led off from the Chinn’s left bank higher up: normally closed by a floodgate, this could be opened to release flood-water into Great Meadow below the mill. The tail-race was a quarter of a mile long, and if it be assumed that like the head-race it had a lesser gradient than the river, it seemed likely to me that at its start (at the bottom of the wheel-chamber) it might be below the level of the river alongside. The tail-race was in fact established to be below river level: the Cole later broke into it some three hundred yards from the millsite, and the river water falls several inches to reach the race. The average fall of the Cole hereabouts is about ten feet to the mile, and though it may be a little more in this area, some very careful work must have been done to achieve a fall of ten to eleven feet at the wheels, which I assume to have been twelve feet in diameter and Breast wheels like at Sarehole. Undershot wheels would have been too wasteful of water, and overshot wheels (unless very small in diameter) would have required too great a fall and hence impossibly long races.
At some date unknown, Titterford Mill became the property of the ground landlords, the Taylor family of Strensham Court - at the expiry of a 99-years lease? - and was for sale by them with the rest of the Yardley Estates in 1913. The catalogue lists it as follows: ‘The important holding known as Titterford Mill (Steel-Rolling), extending to 26 acres 1 rod 1 perch. The House, which is substantially built of brick and tiled, contains; Dining Room, Drawing Room, Breakfast Room, Seven Bedrooms, Parlour, Kitchen, Scullery, and Dairy. The Mill Premises, which are built of brick and tiled, and include; Annealing Shop, Engine Room fitted with 20 h.p. Vertical Steam Engine, Rolling Room, 6 h.p. Water Wheel, Gig House, Three-Stall Cow House, Coach House, Loose-Box, Three-Stall Stable, Harness Room with Loft over, Three Piggeries...Mill Pool, of 7½ acres, and 7 enclosures of Capital Pasture Land. The whole is let to Mr. A. R. Hill on a yearly tenancy, terminating on March 25th 1914, and the rent is £100 per annum...Note. The purchaser of this lot will have to enter into a covenant to maintain and keep in repair the two bridges to the south of this lot, which span the feeder supplying the Mill Pool, and also the bridge under the road near the mill.’
It will be noted that the bridges on Scribers and Slade Lanes are not mentioned. These are possibly identifiable as bridges listed by Wilson as being maintained by the Yardley Trustees.
Of the history of Titterford Mill I have little information. In 1798 one Harris kept it, and in 1805 the miller was a Tabberner. In 1846 there were repairs to the mill, and the slade round the pool was drained. It was perhaps at this time that the 20 h.p. steam engine was installed, and the change of function made: Mr. A. E. Mortiboys says that corn-grinding machinery was transferred from Titterford to Sarehole, but gives no date for this. In 1854 Joseph Hill was the miller, and his family retained the tenancy until the end. As a steel-rolling Mill, it was still turning out pen-nibs until the First World War. Its last years of idleness, when the mill was a general stores, and the three storey millhouse was the home of the widowed Mrs. Hill, the Spurr family, and Dr. Newton among others, were enlivened by a fire in 1926, after which the mill building was demolished. The house did not long survive it: the pond was filled with rubble from the buildings, and at the end of the 1930s Trittiford Road was made across the site. The race from the pool has been infilled and the Priory Road bridge removed in widening. The leat from the Chinn Brook cannot now be traced. The brook is still diverted far down into the ‘Dingles, and is culverted beneath the new road, so that when the new river bridge was made, no further waterworks were needed. The head-race from the Cole to the Pool, and the Pool itself, are much as they were. The banks of the latter are now concreted and landscaped, while the upper end was a silted and overgrown bird sanctuary until the pool was drained and dredged in the 1970s, making the islands safe refuges for birds once more. Huge amounts of silt were piled in two banks beside the head-race. At the lower end of the millpool a sluice returns the overflow to the Cole about ten feet below. The pool is now an amenity, used formerly for boating as well as for fishing, as it has been ever since it was made. The Cole made inroads into the dyke at one point in the 1960s, despite walling, and caused the walk on top to sink.
Provisional list of Cole valley watermills
Peterbrook, Dobbs, Crab, Kilcop and Forshaw Mills
Colebrook Priory and Old Mills
Broomhall and Lady Mills
Possible mills in Greet and Tyseley, Medley's Mill