The urbanisation of Yardley (1968, with 1981 map), by John Morris Jones
This essay has been reproduced and updated with the permission and encouragement of John Morris Jones's widow. it has been updated only in part, by Michael Byrne. It is not possible to update this text in its entirety, as it covers such a large area. Some buildings mentioned in these pages have been knocked down since 1968: the 1981 map gives a more recent picture. Editing of the original has been done mainly to bring the last chapter up to date. The text as a whole stands for itself as the best available account of urbanization in Yardley. Any use of the material must acknowledge the original author. The editor would welcome any corrections or comments: please send them to the Society's email address.
Many people conscious of the history of their area like to look back further than the century that has passed since Yardley became part of Birmingham, and so will be interested in the development of Yardley from a manor to a civil parish, and to a Rural District Council in Worcestershire. John Morris Jones has written many booklets about the individual areas and districts in Yardley, but for the earliest times the best source is Victor Skipp's Medieval Yardley, based on work done between 1960 and 1962 under his leadership. John Morris Jones was a member of that group, and drew several excellent maps, some of which are included here. Jones's booklets are the main source for the post-medieval development of Yardley, but his Urbanisation of Yardley has been used here, rather than the more detailed booklets, to produce this introduction to the development of Yardley. Many of the more detailed works are online at the Birmingham Grid for Learning.
The natural landscape
(This map was drawn by John Morris Jones, and was later published in Medieval Yardley, by Victor Skipp)
The natural landscape of Yardley is covered by a layer of Mercian Mudstone, or Keuper Marl, up to 800 feet thick, with sand and gravel drift remaining on high ground above the stream valleys. this was eroded away lower down by the watercourses. The higher ground retains water above the clay, with springs emerging at the boundary between the two, and with lighter vegetation cover. The valley sides would have been covered by dense woodlands, and the valley floors would have been extensive and boggy.
The administrative Quarters of Yardley
(The map was drawn by John Morris Jones and later published in Medieval Yardley, by Victor Skipp)
Yardley is mentioned in a Charter of 972 as a possession of Pershore Abbey, in Worcestershire. In the Domesday Book it is an appurtenant manor of Beoley, also a possession of Pershore. Various families held the manor, including the Earls of Warwick: Anne Countess of Warwick gave it to Henry VII in 1487-8. It went to Katharine of Aragon in 1533 on her divorce from Henry VIII, and back to him on her death. In 1629 Sir Richard Grevis of Moseley Hall bought the lordship of Yardley from the Crown, although not all of the land was included, and in 1766 the lordship was bought by the manufacturer John Taylor of Bordesley Hall.
In Tudor times a Civil Parish was established, co-extensive with the manor and ecclesiastical parish, to replace the lapsed manorial system of local government. The administrative divisions were the Quarters. Yardley was conveniently cut into four parts by the highways to Coventry, Warwick, and Stratford: originally all of the manor south of Warwick Road was administered together as Broomhall Quarter, so sparse was its population, but later Swanshurst was separated from Broomhall. The other Quarters were Greet and Church End. By the 18th century each of the Quarters had been sub-divided into Near and Far parts. Yardley became a Rural District Council in 1895, and passed to Birmingham in 1911.
(This map was drawn by John Morris Jones and later published in Medieval Yardley, by Victor Skipp)
Yardley at the end of the eighteenth century
The natural landscape
Ownership and administration
Yardley in medieval times (map)
Yardley at the end of the eighteenth century (map)
The early 19th century
The mid-nineteenth century
The Victorian half-century 1850-1900
The last years of independence
Two decades 1919-39
Yardley since the war
Surviving antiquities of Yardley (map, 1981)