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Harborne: Early History

Map of Harborne, 1769

The origins of Harborne are buried deep in history.

An entry in the Domesday Book of 1086 provides the earliest mention of a settlement:

Horeborne. There is land for one plough. Robert holds it.
Smethwick. There is land for two ploughs and Tipton five ploughs.
William holds it.
In these lands or hamlets, there are in the demesne seven ploughs and sixty villeins,
and twenty-two borderers with twenty-five ploughs.
Amongst them all there are fifty-two acres of meadow and a mill.
The spelling of Harborne has appeared with several variations through the centuries, and the derivation of the place name has often been disputed. One of the more probable suggestions is 'boundary brook', although 'high brow' and 'dirty brook' are also possibilities

St Peters Church


It is believed that St Peter's Church was founded during the 13th century, and the land close to it would have been an early area of settlement. Later some of the larger houses in Harborne were built close by.

Around 1780 Thomas Green, then Lord of the Manor, built Harborne House. Since Harborne had ceased to be church property in the 16th century it had passed through the ownership of the Dudley, Cornwallis, Foley and Birch families. Thomas Green's house still stands, and known as Bishops Croft. It is now the residence of the Bishop of Birmingham. The Grove, on neighbouring land, was the home of Birmingham M.P. Thomas Attwood from 1823. Although the house has been demolished much of the land is incorporated in Grove Park.

Harts Green

Over the centuries the area at the western end of the present High Street became the centre of the village, and was known as Harborne Town. Here the roads from Smethwick, Northfield and outlying districts converged. This was probably the site of a village green, and certainly the location of old inns, the smithy, and for a short time the village lock-up where local miscreants were swiftly dealt with.

The road leaving this area eastwards towards the city followed the high ground to the top of Harborne Hill, where the cottages and tenements of Harborne Heath were found. The transformation of this road into the busy High Street did not begin until the middle of the 19th century.

To the west of Harborne Town, downhill, along the present day War Lane, and at the junction of several lanes, a cluster of cottages grew up amongst the fields and farm buildings at Harts Green.

Tennal Hall



A little further on, having climbed the hill up today's Tennal Road to where it met Turks Lane, (Queen's Park Road) was the picturesquely named hamlet of Camomile Green, one of the centres of nailmaking.

A little further still would have brought you to the imposing Tennal Hall, a half-timbered residence of considerable size and the location of a legendary visit from Queen Elizabeth I.


Harborne History
Harborne: 19th Century History
The Don Wright Local History Collection
Harborne in World War Two
Harborne Schooldays
Harborne High Street Landmarks
Harborne Railway History
Harborne Library: A Brief History
Harborne Local History Group