The Leys of Yardley
The Leys of Yardley, by John Morris Jones
A reading of Alfred Watkins’ fascinating book The Old Straight Track (1925) led me a few years ago into a study of alignments across country of such ancient features as tumps, tumuli, hillforts, church sites, moats and crossroads in this region. Watkins believed that many of these points were linked by tracks, and he found ample evidence of these in the Welsh border country. The word ‘ley’ (pronounced ‘lay’) which Watkins gave to his postulated lines across country should not be confused with the -ley ending of such names as Yardley, where it means ‘settlement in a wooded clearing’.
His followers and others believe that the tracks were incidental and not necessarily present - as for instance at Arbor Low in Derbyshire, a focus of some fifty ‘leys’. The modern theory is that leys are lines of electromagnetic force known to and utilised by the ancients: they lacked our technology but almost certainly had powers over natural forces that we have lost. They learnt how to ‘charge’ standing stones and circles set up along the leys by dancing about them, so that they could be used as ‘batteries’ of power for beneficent ends such as healing and moving large objects without physical force. Some sensitives are said still to receive shocks when touching stones which presumably retain residual charges.
When seeking site alignments across the Manor of Yardley and continuing them for many miles beyond, I found fifty of them! The concentration of leys at certain points, notably Hiron Hall and Old Tyseley Moat (exact points at the sites) was remarkable. Because of overbuilding in and about Birmingham in recent centuries, there must be many lost ancient sites, so I demanded not five alignments within a few miles, which Watkins considered to be the minimum for the establishment of a ley, but ten.
Sites found to be multiple-ley intersection points are Hiron Hall (ten leys); Hay Hall, Swanshurst Farm Sparkhill Farm (seven each); Tyseley Moat Corner (six); Greet Manor House, Springfield Farm (five each); Highfield Road Moat, Broomhall Moat (defined by four leys); Billesley Farm (four each) (sic). Those on three leys are Shaftmoor and Langley Hall, on two are Ivyhouse, Colebank, Hillclose, Haw Hall (Hall Green Hall), Cateswell, Highfield House, Titterford, Coldbath and Six Ways. On one ley are the Bull’s Head, Barton’s Folly, Sarehole Mill, Fox Hollies, Oldhouse, Pool Farm and Sandpits Farm. All these points in Yardley are on multi-site leys which extend far beyond its borders.
These alignments exist, as anyone can check by using straight-edges on the First Edition Six Inch O.S. Maps (1889). But what do they signify? Fifty known old dwelling sites in Yardley are on leys. But when the leys were being found and plotted, probably in the Sub-Boreal period about 3,500 years ago when the climate was too dry for forest cover, there were surely not so many small farms in what became the manor. When it was largely covered in thick oak forest in the tenth century A.D. there were only five households in Yardley, and though there may have been more than one dwelling for each, there were certainly nothing like fifty. In 1086 there were probably no more than sixty persons in the whole manor. If fifty ‘favourable’ sites – those gaining the benefits of being on one or more of the lines of power – were lost in the deciduous jungle, how were they later identified and re-settled?
By the fourteenth century there were perhaps a hundred dwelling sites in a partly-cleared manor, estimated from the population figures. Did they include the fifty Bronze Age sites? Either fifty ancient sites remained in use, which population figures deny, or they were still identifiable in some way more than three thousand years later despite being overgrown and lost, and were re-settled for what must have seemed good reasons. Those could have been no more than feelings of ‘rightness’, but no site would have been chosen unless it was satisfactory in other ways: dry, clear or readily clearable, with a good water supply. Medieval farms could not align their dwellings with many others across miles of level wooded country without high points for sighting, maps or instruments. So how did they contrive to do so, and why would they wish to?
Tracks along leys would remain visible for thirty centuries only if they were frequently trodden, and if they did survive until comparatively recent times - say five hundred years ago - why does the pre-suburban lane and path pattern not include them? There should be many tracks pointing to Hiron Hall, for example, but there are not.
The present verdict must be that there seem to be alignments, unless it is happenstance with so many sites of so many kinds available, but certainly no proof that there were ever tracks along them. Yardley’s lanes and paths go by ways influenced by geology, relief and water. Very few of them follow ley-lines. We must doubt whether there still are potent forces operating along straight lines joining focal points as they may have done long ago. But until it can be proved (by computer?) that the alignments are purely co-incidental, the theory cannot be rejected outright.
John Morris Jones, c. 1975
This material may be used for educational purposes only, and proper acknowledgement to the author and Acocks Green History Society must be made.