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.