A portrait by Francis Cotes of Charles Colmore and his wife Mary with their four children. It was most likely to have been painted in the 1760s . From left to right we think the children are Mary Anne, Lionel, Charles and Caroline.
Some years ago, in the old Birmingham library, I was researching the history of St Paul’s Church when I was handed a list of documents that were thought to be helpful. I was taken by one in particular and so asked to see it. It was a folded document that was difficult to unfold. We had to move to a bigger table and could not get it to lie flat at all. I regarded it as 3 dimensional and it was rather black in places. It transpired that it was “ Estates in the Parishes of Birmingham and Aston in the County of Warwick belonging to Chas Colmore Esq Surveyed 176 “ It was a hand drawn map of part of Birmingham with streets named and the plots leased shown with the name of the leaseholder. All plots were 50 yards deep and the frontage yards shown. The yardage determined the amount the leaseholder would have to spend on a house.
It was in the early 1700s one Ann Colmore had taken over the Colmore Estate and in 1746, by a private Act, she had been given permission to grant 120 year leases for building purposes. As a result some 100 acres became available and by 1750 the area near Ann street and Colmore Row was being developed. Eventually Ann retired and her son Charles took over the Estate, most likely by 1760. By 1770 development had reached Lionel Street and Colmore had agreed to donate some three acres on Harper’s Hill, near Lionel Street, for the building of St Paul’s Church. St Paul’s was consecrated in 1779 and it was in that year that the first plot, with a new Charles lease, was taken up in St Paul’s Square.
Photo 1 shows a corner of the map with the title , as described, and some leaseholders. At the lower middle of the image is shown a red outline of a house. This is believed to be the house that Matthew Boulton moved James Watt to in his early years in Birmingham. Caroline was a daughter of Charles Colmore.
Photo 2 Not very sharp and little contrast this at least shows the folding.
Photo 3 To the right, part of Great Charles Street and to the left of the fold junction, what became known as Little Charles Street, Charles being the name of Colmore’s first son.
Photo 4 with Edmund and Coneygreve Streets, Paradise Row and to the far right, New Road
Photo 5 A much enlarged St Paul’s Square with the first leaseholder at the junction of Mary Ann street with the Square. He was Thos Robbins and with a 24yard frontage he had to spend £800 on housing. Next to him is Sam Malkin, a Bucklemaker, with two houses in his 16 yards. There are now blue badges on these Houses. Malkin was one of the earliest Churchwardens of St Paul’s One of the conditions in the Colmore Lease was that the cornice of the house to be built had to be the same as the cornice of St Paul’s Church. Another oddity is Mary Ann Street, but Colmore’s other daughter was named Mary Anne. Wherever her name is used in documents of the time that is how her name is spelt. Whoever produced the map got it wrong and it has remained Ann ever since.
So who did produce the map? It is highly likely to have been George Holloway, Colmore’s Estate Agent. Almost every leaseholder’s name on the map is in the same handwriting. So he could go back to around 1760. Certainly he played a major role, liaising with Colmore, and the trustees, in the building of St Paul’s Church. Many of the transactions for leases around the Square will have taken place in the 1780s. Holloway died in 1789.
As these photographs were taken some years ago and I tried to use them on my website, but I could not get permission. The rules then were that I could use them on a printed document but not on a website. About a year or so ago I decided to try to get some better photos, but the document could not be unfolded at all and was badly blackened and will need a lot of restoration work. But by now I could use photos on a website. So here they are.
My thanks to Birmingham Library for permission to use these photographs.
In my research into the history of St Paul’s Church in Birmingham, one of the most useful documents was Henry Kempson’s Notebook. Henry was a surveyor who often worked with George Holloway, Charles Colmore’s agent, on the leasing of Colmore land. Continue reading
The remaining sketches.
The first selection of Thomas Underwood sketches for the gallery consisted of scenes around New Street and the High Street. This second selection includes the ten remaining Inns in the collection and another Hotel, the first Hotel in Birmingham.
In addition to the shops in the New Street and High Street section the the Thomas Underwood collection also has the shops shown here. The range of goods goes from buttons and shirts to tripe, vinegar, coffee and peppers and to hats and coats with one unidentifiable product. Then there are some houses with adverts that make it look like one large billboard.
This group includes the well known print of “The North prospect of St Philips” and a rather unusual perspective of Pinfold Street. It was a narrow street, as some maps indicate, but appears here as a wide open space. The top half of prints No7 and No 8 represented the houses as they stood in 1865, and were threatened with demolition, and the bottom half the buildings in the street that were demolished for the railway developments. The particular attraction of print No 4 is the name of the carrier!
Two of the Sketches, the South West Prospect and the East Prospect of Birmingham, are too big for my scanner, so I have limited both of them to the middle part of the Sketch.
Tucked away in a box of old books, it looked just like a modern notebook, size 16cm x 10 cm, a black cover, thin, but then I realised it was a book. I was amazed to read the title page, Fig 1. A poem about Birmingham? Yes, in two parts, in rhyming couplets, a total of 100 pages, dated 1851, and written by Harry Howells Horton, dedicated to William Scholefield M.P., Fig2. There is a note in the preface which states “The Author had prepared a brief historical sketch of the town, which he intended to have introduced here, but he finds there will not be room-at least in this edition.” A search for this book reveals that there was a second edition, with an appendix, dated 1853. Copies of this edition appear to be readily available, but not the first, 1851, edition. It is beginning to look as though this is a first edition and that it might be relatively rare! Continue reading
There are fewer second-hand bookshops these days which means that scrounging around for good old second-hand books is much more difficult and searching the net is not really the equivalent. The thing to do is to have a good search wherever you find a pile of old books. Continue reading
By law, the parish churches of the Church of England could impose an annual levy on the inhabitants of the parish for the recovery of their annual repair costs. Those having to pay would be householders with the house over a certain rateable value. St Martin’s was, and still is, the Parish Church of Birmingham and the levy was determined at the St Martin’s Annual Vestry Meeting.
This meeting was usually held on Easter Tuesday and any inhabitant of the Town could attend. Continue reading
The World War 1 photographic slides in this group were found in the box containing the Marion Silverston slides. The handwriting on the labelling of these slides was not the same as on the Silverston slides, so I don’t know who the photographer is.
In the first Canon Hill Park slide there seems to be a second row of newly enlisted men. I have no idea what the group at Drew’s Lane is about. Can anyone help?
Dent’s “Birmingham Portrait Gallery” of 1880
My interest in the history of Birmingham began a few years ago when my wife and I visited an antique shop and found scattered around loads of plastic bags containing what appeared to be magazines. They were due to be sold next day at Birmingham Market for £10 each. It soon became apparent that they were all parts of “Old and New Birmingham”, which we had never heard of. In all there were 27issues. Then in examining them we found under the cover a sheet of tissue paper, and under that a portrait under the heading “Birmingham Portrait Gallery”. Each issue had one so there were 27portraits, all photographs. They were identified as what are called “Woodburytypes” by their chocolate brown colour and the fact that they were mounted on the page, and they were beautiful! Continue reading