Standing waters (millpools and fishponds) including Moseley Bog

 

 

In 1876, according to Blood's Map, there were 144 pools in Yardley, most of them very small, being ancient moats or less ancient quarries and marl-holes. The pieces of water detailed below together total about 65 acres, but the acreage today is not more than 20. Only Swanshurst and Titterford Pools, and the odd little Round Pool, survive because they are amenities in parks: Cold Bath, a hazard in Moseley Golf Course, is more than half silted up, and 'Dell Pool' below is better known (incorrectly) as 'Moseley Bog'.
 

BACH MILLPOOL (BAMPTONS MILLPOOL, PRIORY MILLPOOL) was made by damming Yardley wood Brook a furlong west of its confluence with the Cole. Priory Road runs along its earthen dam. The Yardley (Birmingham)/Solihull boundary, following the brook, bisects the pool. There is no reference to the pool in the 1495 and 1609 Boundary Presentments, but it was in existence because the mill is named. ‘Bach' means 'small stream' and appears as a mill name elsewhere. Beighton does not show the pool on his Map of 1725, although he plots Priory Road: but he makes several mistakes and may be disregarded. The attractive two-acre pond was called Bamptons Pool last century after the family which owned it - not Brompton Pool, a map error which has been perpetuated in the name of a modern estate street. Like all other lakes, whether millponds or not, the pool was regularly net-harvested to supply fresh fish for local residents and the market in Birmingham. The head and tall races of Bach Mill and its river-fed pool have disappeared along with the mill itself.

TITTERFORD MILLPOOL was in use by 1783. The mill was recorded four years earlier, but like Sarehole certainly and Bach Mill probably it was powered by a tributary only until its rebuilding. At each site a long leat from the Cole was then led to a riverside pool, fed also by the side-stream. Titterford was thus powered both by the Cole and Chinn Brook. Today only the Cole leat fills the pool. Titterford's tailrace is carrying Chinn water only to the Cole. The making of the Titterford Pool was a major earthwork of the kind then being built for canals: it involved construction of an earthen dam more than 500 yards in length and up to 10 yards base width beside the river. Clay and gravel was dug out of the west side and piled up in a dyke on the east and at the north end. The north-west corner was excavated to the lowest level, and thence a leat ran beneath Priory Road to a small pond which was also supplied by a long leat from the Chinn. After turning the two wheels the water was below river level, and it returned to the Cole along a tailrace of slight gradient, into which the diverted Chinn debouched. The mill was destroyed by fire in the early 1920s. The pool and its environs were bought by the City from the Taylor Estate and opened as a public park. Banks were concreted and the outflow filled in: sluices were installed at the upper and lower ends of the pool. Skiffs and a motorboat, paths and flowerbeds, were added amenities. By 1975 two of the three islands were accessible from the banks, the whole upper end of the pool being silted up. It was then drained and dredged, huge amounts of material being removed. When the pool was refilled by the headrace, the islands were once again safe refuges for birds. Re-stocked with carp the pool is a favourite resort for fishermen as it has been for most of its two centuries of placid existence: there are waterfowl in abundance and a wide variety of trees and plants to interest the naturalist.
 

SWANSHURST POOL (GROVE, MOSELEY NEW, SWANSHURST SLADE POOL) was made in or before 1759 by one Henry Giles as a fishpond: he constructed an earth dam across the small but relatively deep valley of a tiny brook which used to rise near the top of Brook Lane. A hatchery pond was dug beside the dam. The name 'Moseley' is incorrect: it was applied to several sites on the west side of Swanshurst Quarter in Yardley, probably because they were the property of the Moseley family of Grevis. It was called 'New' Pool to distinguish it from three pools on the adjacent Coldbath Brook. The 'grove' is the clump of beech trees on the north bank. In the 1930s the dam collapsed and had to be rebuilt with a central outflow. Since 1922 the 4¼-acres pool and the fields beside it have been a public park, bought from the 'squires' of Yardley, the Taylors, of whose Ivyhouse Farm they were part.
 

COLDBATH is shown on an estate plan of 1750. The steep valley of Coldbath or Bulley Brook, which rises near the top of Cambridge Road, Kings Heath, has been dammed to make four main pools and some ponds. This, formerly the largest, was 6 acres water surface, but has been allowed to silt up until it is only half that. It was constructed as a fishpond, both for sport and for cash crops. The Grevises owned it until 1766 when John Taylor, wealthy manufacturer in Birmingham, bought their lordship and estates. Moseley Golf Club acquired part of the lakeside in 1892 and the rest between 1902 and 1919. There is no public access to the attractive but neglected lake.
 

LADY MILL POOL is shown on the 1750 estate plan referred to above. As the mill was so named because its income was in part devoted to the maintenance of St. Mary’s Church in Moseley - 'Our Lady' - it may well have been pre-Reformation. Certainly it was there in 1689, and so would be its pool, immediately below Cold Bath. Yardley Wood Road, formerly Stoney Lane, crossed the valley on its dam, a convenient causeway. The mill went out of use about 1830, and the 2½-acre pool shrank. A small pond survived until 1925 when the road was raised. Prefabs, since demolished, and more recent development have practically obliterated the poolbed. On the east side of the road were several ponds, whereby pollarded willows grew - the osier beds of 1750.
 

'DELL POOL' is recorded as 'Old Pool' in a Rental Roll of 1781 and appears on a Taylor Estate plan of 1807. It probably postdates the rebuilding of Sarehole Mill after 1768, being a reserve of water about four times greater than the one-acre pool at the mill. In the 1890s the earth dam was leaking and its collapse seemed imminent, so the central brick sluice was broken down and the pool allowed to drain away. Springs continued to flow into the valley and much of the poolbed has stayed boggy. Wetland trees and plants have grown unhindered for nearly a century in what has become known, for no good reason, as 'Moseley Bog'. Development proposals for land on its north side seemed likely to cause its drying out: a campaign to 'Save Our Bog' was extraordinarily successful, and an interesting area of natural and historical landscape survives. After heavy rain there is a large underground pool, beneath the playing field between the site of Lady Mill and Moseley Bog (known as Joy's Wood): this is formed in a great underground tank built to accommodate surface drainage from Kings Heath until the sewers are able to disperse it.

 

In Moseley Bog there are remains from the Bronze Age through rural industry and late Victorian gardens, and onwards to urban water management and the amenity provision of today, as well as an inspiration for some of the most popular books in the world, but there is in addition a volunteer-led conservation success story of national significance. Historical information can be found on Andy Slater's page, a guided walk in the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeology Society's See It For Free section, and an unusually wide-ranging set of pages on the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust's website. Moseley Bog represents a coming-together of a range of interests but also a competition among them: in this case the outcome is not a lowest common denominator, but more than the sum of the parts, and is a great credit to everyone involved.

 

SAREHOLE MILLPOOL is surprisingly small compared with Titterford Pool, but the main reserve for the mill was on the valley side, in 'Old Pool'. The millpool was embanked, not excavated, in the Coleside meadow: its dam was strengthened by the brick mill and workshop built against it in or after 1768. There must have been a pool thereabout, since the first mill was erected before the Dissolution of monasteries - it paid a fee to Maxstoke Priory - fed only by Coldbath Brook. After the cessation of milling in 1919 the pool became silted and overgrown. Fifty years later it was partly cleared and dredged: its water, still supplied by Coldbath Brook as the Cole leat is largely destroyed, again turns the wheels of the restored mill, and ducks float upon it once more.
 

GREET MILLPOOL was formed by the ponded river in the 13th century. At a nick-point, a natural break of slope, a stone weir was built across the river, to create a reserve of water and a good fall past a simple paddle-wheel. When the mill was rebuilt in 1776 it was built over a brick conduit between the weired river channel and an overflow leat. The pool then covered about three acres at greatest: its banks were still traceable until the river was re-coursed a decade or so ago. Greet Mill was always at the mercy of the mills upstream: when they diverted the river into their pools, its reserve dwindled rapidly and was in dry weather below the top of the weir. Probably because of this the mill was out of use by 1843 and demolished before 1868. The sluice of the overflow leat was permanently open and the river ran down it, the weired channel becoming silted. The boggy poolbed was properly drained in 1914 when the new stone-lined course was made beneath the new bridge, and the meadows were used as allotments during and between two wars. Now they are open to the public as part of the Riverside Walk.
 

DANFORD LAKE on Sparkbrook existed in Georgian times if not before. The lane now called Golden Hillock Road crossed the brook on its dam. It was a fishpond of perhaps 2-3 acres water surface. When the Warwick Canal was cut in 1792 a feeder was taken from the brook near Stratford Road, and this may have so reduced the flow as to cause the lake to dry up. It is not shown on the O.S. Field Sheet of c. 1817.
 

HAY MILL POOLS The 1495 Presentment refers to the 'Poole taile of Haye Mill' which had probably been in existence for 2-3 centuries by that date. The mill stood at the confluence of the Cole and Tyseley Brook alias River Lee, its small triangular pool fed by both. By 1835 a larger mill was built about 150 yards downstream with a bigger pool: this had been drained by 1887, waterpower having given way to steam two decades earlier. The upper and earlier pool survived as a pond until the Waste Disposal unit was built on a great concrete raft across its site: but the lower pool has been partly restored as an oblong pond beside the unit. There were two other narrow pools on the Cole in the mid-19th century, one between the embankments of the canal and railway, and the other south of the latter. They are long gone, reduced to a channel between spoil banks, but two other meres have been made recently: as part of the nature reserve in 'The Ackers' a pond for fish and waterfowl has been dug out near the Cole/Lee confluence, and below the W.D.U. a balancing lake regulates the flow of the river.
 

YARDLEY (WOOD MILL, WASH MILL) This was probably the mill which Roger Bradewell built in 1385, so called not because of its material but because it stood near the densest patch of forest in the manor. The next certain reference to it is that of 1797. Maps of last century show the pool to have been about three acres in extent, fed by a race more than half a mile long, which took in two rills descending from Red Hill. The mill went out of use early this century, and the pool was drained when a municipal estate was built alongside in the 1920s. Its still wet bed was used as a dump for bomb rubble and levelled in 1957. New development covers most of the site.
 

'OLD MILL POOL' is shown on Beighton's Map. Its position and size are confirmed by the Yardley and Solihull Tithe Maps of 1843: it was then 'Pool Meadow' on both sides of the boundary brook, and 'Mill Close' was the next croft downstream on the Solihull side. The pool was of about two acres: its banks can still be traced fairly accurately between Watwood and Dunard Roads, Shirley.
 

BROOMHALL MILL POOLS A quarter-mile north of the site of ancient Broom Hall the brook which rises near Stratford Road at Robin Hood splits into two channels, which by Georgian times had been dammed to make narrow pools. The northenmost was a fishpond: the latter, employing a short steep fall, powered a small corn mill. Though it was probably much older, there is no surviving record of it before 1778. A century later it was out of use. Both pools, much silted, were in-filled prior to the opening of Fox Hollies Park in 1936, and a concrete cascade was made down the stream bed.
 

ROUND POOL is an oddity, a pond which is embanked rather than excavated. It existed in 1783 as a fishpond, and is still the same today.
 

LYNE LAKE is named in the 1609 Presentment: it was presumably at the junction of Lyndon Green and Smarts Hill Brooks, partly in Yardley and Sheldon, near the junction of Barrows and Moat Lanes.