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A Brief History of Sheldon

There is no mention of Sheldon in the Domesday Book, although the Saxon settlement of Machitone, almost certainly modern day Mackadown, is mentioned. It is likely that Sheldon village dates back to the mid 13th century when there seems to have been a migration from Machitone, probably to open up more land for agriculture. Evidence for this can be gained from St Giles church, the earliest part of which is believed to date from circa 1250. The name Sheldon almost certainly derives from the de Scheldon family, Anselm de Scheldon being Lord of Machitone in 1220.

There appear to have been two halls of the manor: East Hall, which was later to become Sheldon Hall, and West Hall, which was situated at what was to become Kents Moat, and which according to archaeological evidence was probably the main hall.

The Manor of Sheldon was split into two during the 14th century. The Sheldon family continued to hold the East Hall with the Peyto family holding the West Hall. However by 1390 the manor had been reunified and it was about this period the West hall seems to have been abandoned. By 1420 there was no Lord of the Manor in residence in Sheldon, which may account for this abandonment.

In 1575 Queen Elizabeth I granted the manor to Henry Grey. By this time the building we now know as Sheldon Hall had been built on the site of East Hall. Sheldon Park was also in the grant. This may well have been the area around West Hall, of which there was no reference. By 1587 the manor had come into the possession of the Digby family and remained so until 1919, when it was sold off.

The ancient parish of Sheldon was certainly much bigger than the current ward. Its boundary was roughly where Coventry Road is in the South and Tile Cross in the north, the parish of Yardley ran along the western boundary and that of Bickenhill ran along the eastern boundary. Such have been the changes in the size of Sheldon that Sheldon Hall is now in Tile Cross. The Hall itself fell into disrepair in the 1970's and became derelict in the 1980's. At one stage it was feared the building would be demolished but it was converted into a restaurant in 1997.

Sheldon remained a small agricultural village up until the early 1930's In 1665 the population was 312, in 1801 it was 365, 487 in 1841 and in 1901 it was 419. In 1931 much of the parish was incorporated into Birmingham with smaller parts going to Solihull and Coleshill, The population then being 2426.

The continuing rural and agricultural nature of the village can be seen by these maps where little urban development is visible. It was not until after the incorporation of the village into Birmingham that the urban development that we know today began to evolve. To quote a resident of Sheldon from 1938; "It has become exactly like other places all round the outskirts of Birmingham. Street after street of new houses, one cinema in action, and others promised, fried fish shops, and the various accompaniments of modern civilization".

The rapid development of Sheldon as a suburb of Birmingham came to a sudden halt the following year with the outbreak of World War II. It was not until the immediate post war period that the last vestiges of the Sheldon farming tradition were to disappear.

However, Sheldon's agricultural tradition does live on in the shape of Sheldon Country Park. This is based on what used to be "Rectory Farm", which had its origins in the mid 19th century. The building was originally the rectory, but was deemed too small by the then incumbent and was turned into a farm.

As the rectory it was to be home to Sheldon's most famous resident Dr Thomas Bray, who was Rector of Sheldon from 1690 to 1730.

As Rector Bray spent little time in the parish. He is best remembered for being one of the founders of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G) both of which were founded during his time as Rector of Sheldon. Also during his time as Rector he set up the first school in Sheldon in 1704 which was originally held in the church itself and which continued until 1937 (although by then in its own buildings)

Sheldon Library holds a wide range of local studies material, including an extensive photographic collection and maps. The earliest map held in the library is a copy of the 1834 map of Sheldon. The 1841 Tithe map in particular gives an idea of the extent of the parish. When used in conjunction with the Tithe Schedule it gives a very clear picture of land use, occupation and ownership. The earliest image we have of Sheldon dates to 1865, which is a reproduction of a drawing of St Giles Church (1865).