Charles Pye.

A Description of Modern Birmingham Whereunto Are Annexed Observations Made during an Excursion Round the Town, in the Summer of 1818, Including Warwick and Leamington online

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Online LibraryCharles PyeA Description of Modern Birmingham Whereunto Are Annexed Observations Made during an Excursion Round the Town, in the Summer of 1818, Including Warwick and Leamington → online text (page 1 of 12)
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Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Bradley Norton and PG Distributed


_Made during an Excursion round the Town_,


Warwick and Leamington



* * * * *

[symbol] May be had of all Booksellers.
_Anti-Jacobin, May, 1804._


The author's avowed object, is to arrange the ancient and modern
names, in a clear and methodical manner, so as to give a ready
reference to each; and in addition to this arrangement of ancient
appellations both of people and places, with the modern names, he has
given a concise chronological history of the principal places; by
which the book also serves in many cases as a gazetteer. We find upon
the whole a clear and practical arrangement of articles which are
dispersed in more voluminous works. Mr. Pye has condensed within a
narrow space the substance of Cellarius, Lempriere, Macbean, &c. In
short the work will be found very useful and convenient to all persons
reading the classics or studying modern geography, and to all readers
of history, sacred or profane.

_British Critic, June, 1804._


This may be recommended as a very convenient, useful, and relatively
cheap publication of the kind, and may very properly be recommended
for schools. The author very modestly desires that such errors and
omissions as will unavoidably appear in an attempt of this nature may
be pointed out to him, for the benefit of a future edition.

_Monthly Review, October, 1805._

We prefer the old mode of having separate divisions; the one including
ancient and the other modern geography, to that of uniting both under
the same alphabetical arrangement. When the title of this work is
considered, it is somewhat incongruous that the account of places
should be inserted under the modern names, and a mere reference under
that of the ancient. These accounts appear to be in general correct,
but they are in our judgment too brief to be satisfactory. As the
above writer says he prefers two alphabets to one; the editor hereby
sets him at defiance to produce two books in any language (however
large they are,) from whence the student or traveller can collect such
information as is contained in this small volume, price 7s.

Mr. Pye also published a correct and complete representation of all
the provincial copper coins, tokens of trade, and cards of address, on
copper, that were circulated as such between the years 1787 and 1801;
when they were entirely superseded by a national copper coinage.
The whole on fifty-five quarto plates, price 20s. being a necessary
appendage to every library; there being a very copious index.

TO Wm. Damper, Esq.

_One of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace_




_As you occasionally amuse yourself with topographical pursuits, deign
to accept of the following pages, from

Your most obedient,

Humble Servant_,



Whoever may take the trouble of looking into the following pages, will
soon perceive that in some instances the editor has been very brief in
his description of the public institutions; to which he pleads guilty,
and accounts for it by observing, that the undermentioned card[1] was
written and delivered by him personally, to every public institution,
at the respective places where the business is transacted, and when
he called again, after a lapse of two months, there were several
instances where all information was withheld.[2] Having, as he
thought, proceeded in the most genteel way, by soliciting assistance
in a private manner, he feels doubly disappointed in not being able to
give the public such information as might reasonably be expected in a
publication of this kind. - Had his endeavors been seconded by those
who are to a certain degree interested in the event, there are several
points that would have been explained more at large; but being
deprived of such assistance, he ventures to appear before the tribunal
of the public, and to give them the best information that he has been
able to obtain. Any person who discovers errors or omissions, that
will take the trouble of rectifying them, and conveying the same
through the medium of the publisher, will confer an inestimable favour

Their obedient servant,


[Footnote 1: - are respectfully informed, that it is in contemplation
to publish a Description of Modern Birmingham, and the adjacent
country for some miles around it; therefore any information they may
think proper to communicate will be strictly attended to by Their
obedient servant, CHARLES PYE.]

[Footnote 2: The Birmingham Fire Office, the three Canals, &c.]


_Written by the late John Morfitt, Esq. Barrister._

Illustrious offspring of vulcanic toil!
Pride of the country! glory of the isle!
Europe's grand toy-shop! art's exhaustless mine!
These, and more titles, Birmingham, are thine.
From jealous fears, from charter'd fetters free,
Desponding genius finds a friend in thee:
Thy soul, as lib'ral as the breath of spring,
Cheers his faint heart, and plumes his flagging wing.

'Tis thine, with plastic hand, to mould the mass,
Of ductile silver, and resplendant brass;
'Tis thine, with sooty finger to produce
Unnumber'd forms, for ornament and use.

Hark! what a sound! - art's pond'rous fabric reels,
Beneath machinery's ten thousand wheels;
Loud falls the stamp, the whirling lathes resound,
And engines heave, while hammers clatter round:
What labour forges, patient art refines,
Till bright as dazz'ling day metallic beauty shines.

Thy swords, elastic, arm our hero's hands;
Thy musquets thunder in remotest lands;
Thy sparkling buttons distant courts emblaze;
Thy polish'd steel emits the diamond's rays;
Paper, beneath thy magic hand assumes
A mirror brightness, and with beauty blooms.
With each Etruscan grace thy vases shine,
And proud Japan's fam'd varnish yields to thine.

Thine, too, the trinkets, that the fair adorn,
But who can count the spangles of the morn?
What pencil can pourtray this splendid mart.
This vast, stupendous wilderness of art?
Where fancy sports, in all her rainbow hues,
And beauty's radiant forms perplex the muse.
The boundless theme transcends poetic lays, -
Let plain historic truth record thy praise.

_The Roads pointed out_


Miles Folio
Alcester .. 21 186
Atherstone .. 20 178
Banbury .. 42 134
Barr-beacon .. 7 188
Barr-park .. 5 122
Bath .. 87 176
Bilstone .. 11 101
Blenheim .. 52 133
Bristol .. 84 176
Bromsgrove .. 13 176
Buxton .. 61 163
Cheltenham .. 51 176
Chester .. 75 101
Coalbrook Dale .. 30 101
Coleshill .. 10 180
Coventry .. 18 161
Derby .. 40 163
Dublin .. 218 101
Dudley, thro' Oldbury .. 9 130
Dudley, thro' Tipton .. 10 125
Dunchurch .. 29 161
Edgbaston .. 1 190
Edinburgh .. 298 113&163
Evesham .. 31 186
Glocester .. 52 176
Hagley .. 12 169
Halesowen .. 7 169
Handsworth .. 2-1/2 106
Harborne .. 3 182
Henley-in-Arden .. 14 133
Hockley House .. 10 133
Holyhead .. 158 101
Kidderminster .. 18 169
King's Norton .. 6 186
Knowle .. 10 134
Leamington .. 22 133&134
Leeds .. 109 113&163
Leicester .. 43 180
Lichfield .. 16 163
Liverpool .. 104 113&163
London, thro' Coventry .. 109 161
- - , Henley-on-Thames .. 118 133
- - , Uxbridge .. 114 133
- - , Warwick & Banbury .. 119 134
Malvern .. 32 176
Manchester .. 82 113&163
Matlock .. 55 163
Meriden .. 12 161
Northampton .. 42 161
Northfield .. 6 176
Nottingham .. 50 163
Oxford .. 61 133
Rowley .. 7 193
Rugby .. 31 161
Sedgley .. 14 110
Sheffield .. 76 163
Shenstone .. 13 163
Shrewsbury .. 45 101
Smethwick .. 2 130
Solihull .. 7 135
Stafford, thro' Walsall .. 26 113
- - , Wolverhamp. .. 30 101
Stourbridge .. 12 130&169
Stratford-upon-Avon .. 22 133
Sutton Coldfield .. 8 163
Tamworth .. 16 163
Tipton .. 8 125
Walsall .. 9 113
Warwick, by Knowle .. 20 134
- - , by Hockley House .. 20 133
Wednesbury .. 8 110
West-Bromwich .. 6 108
Wolverhampton .. 14 101
Worcester .. 26 176
Yardley .. 3 192
York .. 132 113&163


Assay office,
Assembly rooms,
Asylum for children,
- - for deaf & dumb,
Ball rooms,
Baptist's meeting,
Beardsworth's repository
Birmingham canal,
- - fire office,
- - metal comp.,
Births and burials,
Blue coat school,
Bodily deformity,
- - works,
Brickwork, neat,
Burial ground,
Calvinist's meeting,
Canal, Birmingham,
- - , Warwick,
- - , Worcester,
Carriers by water,
Catholic chapel,
Chamber of commerce,
Chapel, St. Bartholomew,
- - St. James's,
- - St. John's,
- - St. Mary's,
- - St. Paul's,
Charities, private,
Church, Christ,
- - St. Martin's,
- - St. Philip's,
Coaches, stage,
Corn mill,
Court leet,
- - of requests,
Crown copper company,
Crowley's trust,
Deaf and dumb,
Deritend house,
Dissenter's school,
Factoring, origin of,
Fentham's trust,
Fire office,
Fish shops,
Free grammar school,
General hospital,
- - provident society,
Glass houses,
Gold and silver,
Gun trade, account of,
Hackney coach fares,
Hen and chicken's inn,
Hides, raw,
Hotel, hen and chicken's,
- - , Nelson's,
- - , royal,
- - , swan,
Humane society,
Huntingdon's meeting,
Jew's synagogue,
Ikenield street,
Improvements in the town,
Inland commercial society,
Innovation of the post office,
Interesting information
John-a-Dean's hole
Lady well
Lancasterian school
Lench's trust
Liberality of the town
Library, new
- - , public
- - , theological
Metal company
Methodist meeting
Mining and copper comp.
Miscellaneous information
Musical festival
National school
Neat brick work
Nelson's statue
- - tavern
New library
- - meeting
New union mill
Old meeting
Origin of factoring
Parsonage house
Philosophical society
Piddock's trust
Places of worship
Post office
- - innovation
Principal manufactories
Private charities
Proof house
Protection of trade
Provident society
Public breweries
- - library
- - office
- - scales
Quaker's meeting
Raw hides
Remarkable circumstance
Roman road
Rose copper company
Royal hotel
Scales, public
Stage coaches
Statue of Lord Nelson
Steam engines improved
Steel house
Sunday schools
Swan hotel
Theological library
Town improved
Trade protected
Trust, Crowley's
- - Fentham's
- - Jackson's
- - Lench's
- - Piddock's
Vase, a remarkable one
Union mill
Warwick canal
Worcester canal
Worship, places of





This extensive town, which, from its manufactures, is of so much
importance to the nation, is distinguished in the commercial annals
of Britain, for a spirit of enterprize and persevering industry. Its
inhabitants are ever on the alert, and continually inventing some new
articles for traffic, or making improvements in others, that have been
introduced in foreign countries; and by their superior skill, aided
by machinery, are enabled to bring into the foreign market an endless
variety of manufactured goods, both useful and ornamental, which they
sell at a more moderate price than any other manufacturers of similar
articles in the known world.

Comparisons are odious, and therefore to be avoided. That the
inhabitants are become wealthy, there is indisputable evidence, but to
whom they are indebted for their opulence, different opinions prevail.

The writer of these pages was born in the year 1749, and having been
an attentive observer more than fifty years, he is convinced that the
extensive trade now carried on in this town, is principally to be
attributed to the enterprising spirit of the late Matthew Boulton,
Esq. who, by his active and unremitting exertions, the indefatigable
perseverance of himself and his agents, together with the liberal
manner in which he patronized genius, laid the foundation.

This town is situated near the centre of the kingdom, in the north
west extremity of the county of Warwick, and so near the verge of it,
that within the distance of one mile and a half from the centre,
on the road to Wolverhampton, a person removes himself into
Staffordshire, and on the road to Alcester, about the same distance
from the centre, you are in the county of Worcester.

The superficial contents of the parish is two thousand, eight hundred,
and sixty-four acres.

The situation of the town is very uneven in its surface, but not in
any part flat; on which account the rains and superfluous water,
remove all obstructions, and contributes in a considerable degree to
the salubrity of the air.

From the remarkable dry foundation of the houses, and the moderate
elevation on which they are erected, the celebrated Dr. Priestley
pronounced the air of this town to be equally pure as any he had
analysed. The water is also allowed by medical practitioners, to be
of a superior quality, and very conducive to the health of the
inhabitants, who are scarcely ever afflicted with epidemic diseases.

The foundation of the houses is, with very few exceptions, a dry mass
of sandy rock, from whence there are not any noxious vapours arise,
and on that account, the cellars might be inhabited with safety, but
that is not customary here.

In approaching the town, you ascend in every direction, except from
Halesowen; on which account the air has free access to every part of
it, and the sun can exercise its full powers in exhaling superfluous

In this favoured spot, the inhabitants enjoy four of the greatest
benefits that can attend human existence; air more pure than in many
other places; water of an excellent quality; the genial influence of
the sun; and a situation not in the least subject to damps.

The adjacent lands are of an inferior quality, but by cultivation they
are rendered tolerably productive; those immediately surrounding the
town, are almost in every direction converted into gardens, which are
in general rented from one to two guineas per year, and without a
doubt are very conducive to the health of the inhabitants.

The waste lands about the town being inclosed in the year 1800 were
found to contain two hundred and eighty nine acres, which land now
lets from thirty to fifty shillings per acre.

The only stream of water that flows to this town is a small rivulet,
denominated the river Rea, which takes its rise upon Rubery Hill, near
one mile north of Bromsgrove Lickey, about eight miles distant, from
whence there being a considerable descent, numerous reservoirs have
been made, which enables the stream, within that short space, to
drive ten mills, exclusive of two within the town; and what is very
remarkable, some person has erected a windmill very near its banks,
where the ground is not in the least elevated. This curiosity of a
windmill being erected in a valley, is very visible soon after you
have passed the buildings on the road to Bromsgrove.

Notwithstanding there is only one stream of water, the streets are so
intersected by canals, that there is only one entrance into the town
without coming over a bridge, and that is from Worcester.

At the top of Digbeth, very near the church-yard of St. Martin's,
there is a never-failing spring of pure soft water, wherein is affixed
what is called the cock pump; which being free to all the inhabitants,
it is a very common thing to see from twelve to twenty people, each of
them with a pair of large tin buckets, waiting for their turn to fill
them, and this in succession through the whole day. From this very
powerful spring there is a continual stream that runs through the
cellars, on each side of the street, and several of the inhabitants
have therein affixed pumps, from which innumerable water carts are
filled every hour of the day; notwithstanding which, during the
greatest heats and droughts, there is always a super-abundance of that
necessary and valuable article.

Immediately above the same church-yard, and near to the principal
entrance, there is another pump, constructed in such a singular
manner, that I have no hesitation in saying, there never was one of
the same before, nor ever will be in future.


This inexhaustible spring of soft water has for a series of years been
encircled by a brick wall, which forms a very capacious reservoir;
from whence there are at least forty people obtain a livelihood, by
conveying the water in buckets to different parts of the town. An
attempt was made in July, 1818, to prevent the public from having
access to this invaluable water; but by the commissioners of the
street acts interfering, it remains open to the public.

No town in existence can be more plentifully supplied with water than
this is, nor in a more commodious manner, for every respectable house
either has a pump to itself, or one pump to serve two houses; and in
every court, where there are a number of small houses, that useful
appendage is not in any instance wanting, for the accommodation of the

In various parts of the town the water is soft, but it is not so
in general; and to supply that defect, numerous people find their
advantage in conveying that useful article in carts, and innumerable
others in carrying it with a yoke and two buckets, to those who are in
want of it, which they sell at the rate of from ten to twelve gallons
for one penny, according to the distance.

Near one mile and a half from the centre of the town, there is, on the
road towards Coleshill, a chalybeate spring, which some years back was
in general repute, but now little attention is paid to it.

The lands in the vicinity of this town are beyond all doubt higher
than any other in the kingdom; there being three instances of springs
issuing from them that take two different courses. One instance is
upon Bromsgrove Lickey, from whence two springs arise, one of which
flows into the Severn, and the other into the Trent. - Another instance
is at the Quinton, on the road to Halesowen, from whence there issues
two springs, each of them taking the same course as those from
Bromsgrove Lickey. The third is at Corley, in the vicinity of
Packington, where they pursue the same courses. These springs arise in
a triangular direction, Birmingham being in the centre.

To demonstrate what has been advanced respecting the salubrity of the
air and purity of the water, the hotel, in Temple-row, was erected in
the year 1772, upon the tontine principle. There being fifty shares,
of course the same number of lives must be nominated at that time,
of whom there were, in the middle of October, 1818, forty-five still

Another instance may be adduced, equally appropriate. There are at the
present time, 1818, still living, and in health, seventeen persons,
(and there may be several more), who all of them received their
education under one schoolmaster, the youngest of whom is sixty-nine
years of age.

And what is still more remarkable, although there were in the middle
of November more than three hundred and eighty children in the asylum,
there was not one sick person in that numerous family.


Is undoubtedly of great antiquity, and to trace its foundation is
at present impossible, tradition itself not giving any clue. It was
originally erected with stone, but the exterior being decayed by time,
in the year 1690 the body of the church, and also the tower, were
cased with bricks of an admirable quality, and mortar suitable to
them, for at this time there is scarcely any symptoms of decay. The
elegant spire has been several times injured by lightning, and during
its repairs the workmen have contracted the length of it considerably.
It was at one time (whatever it is now) the loftiest spire in the
kingdom, measuring from its base to the weathercock. The person who
repaired it in 1777 made the observation. - There are, no doubt,
several steeples more lofty, measuring from the ground, the towers
of which extend to a great height, whilst this at Birmingham is very
low. - There are within the church two marble monuments, with recumbent
figures upon them, but no inscription, and are, like the church, of
such ancient date, that no person has yet presumed to say when they
were executed nor for whom, (only by conjecture); but let the artists
be who they would, the effigies do them great credit, and were highly
deserving of better treatment than they have experienced. In the
church is a fine-toned organ. In the steeple are twelve musical bells,
and a set of chimes, that play with great accuracy a different tune
every day in the week, at the hour of three, six, nine and twelve; and
they are so contrived, that they shift from one tune to another, by
means of their own machinery. On the south side of the tower there is
a meridian line, which was affixed there by Ferguson, the astronomer,
so that when the sun shines, the hour of twelve may be ascertained to
a certainty. Birmingham is only one parish, except for church fees,
and in that respect, the rector of St. Philip's presides over a small
part within the town. The Rev. Charles Curtis is rector of Birmingham:
the Rev. Edmund Outram being rector of St. Philip's, in Birmingham.
The regimental colours, late belonging to the Loyal Birmingham
Association, are suspended in the east window, over the altar. This
church is computed to accommodate 2200 persons.


The scite of the church-yard, parsonage, and blue-coat school was the
gift of Mrs. Elizabeth Phillips, and her son and daughter in law, Mr.
and Mrs. William Inge, the ancestors of William Phillips Inge, Esq.

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Online LibraryCharles PyeA Description of Modern Birmingham Whereunto Are Annexed Observations Made during an Excursion Round the Town, in the Summer of 1818, Including Warwick and Leamington → online text (page 1 of 12)