A Short History of Hopwood
For those who do not know the area, Hopwood is a Hamlet, situated in Worcestershire, to the south west of Birmingham and adjacent to junction 2 of the M42 motorway. (Post Code B48 7TT will find us on Google Earth).
Derived from the Saxon name Hopwuda, Hop-Saxon for hill- Wuda-Saxon for Wood; thus Hillwood or Wooded Hill.
It has had several variations of this name; Hopwoods, Hipwood, Hapwood, and Hobwoods.
The hill is still obvious the trees, however, are somewhat scarcer, the only remains of the old forest are Hopwood Dingle, off Lea End Lane and now a National Trust site. Although recent plantings in the area of Arrowtop, shown on an 1831 Ordnance Survey Map as, Harrowfield Top, has gone a little way to redressing that.
Hopwood first appears on records in the 9th century when it was granted by Aelhun Bishop of Worcester in 849, in exchange for a promise of protection, to King Ethelwulf (c800-858).
The land was restored to the church of Worcester in 930 by King Athelstan (c895-939). It remained the possession of the church of Worcester till one of the Bishops gave it, together with his niece to William de Salesweres (not a 12th century salesman), sometime in the 12th century. The land was once more returned to the church at Worcester following an action by Bishop Blois against one Thomas de Hopwood in the 13th century. Hopwood was eventually merged into the manor of Alvechurch sometime in the 14th century.
Pestilence Lane, part of which has now been obliterated by the M42, is reputed to be so named because victims of the Black Death were buried in the area, although records of this are difficult to find, it is suggested that half the population died in the Black Death outbreak of the 14th century. This was possibly the origin of the once named Black Pits Farm, later re named Jingle Joys Farm, a peculiar choice of name, particularly given its alleged history.
In 1879 Birmingham Children’s Hospital, under the auspices of the ‘Samaritan Fund’. Rented two cottages at Arrowfield Top, to provide after care and convalescence for the child patients. The children could enjoy a month or more enjoying the fresh clean air of Hopwood. Transport from the nearest railway stations, Alvechurch and Barnt Green, was by a donkey carriage provided by the Tangy family, who were connected with the Cadbury family. This proved a great success and was very popular with the children patients. However, in 1890 when Richard Cadbury gave Moseley Hall for use as a children’s convalescent home, it lead to the home at Arrow Top being closed, in 1891. Records show that whilst in use 1,383 children benefited from the amenities provided, ‘with very few mishaps’.
The Birmingham Worcester canal passes under the main road through the hamlet in the late 19th early 20th century the village, at that time it had a church, therefore qualified as a village, had an Inn on the canal side to the left of the road as it passed through from Birmingham. This was for the benefit of the leggers, those responsible for walking the narrow boats through the one and a half mile long Wasthill Tunnel, so that they could rest take a drink and recuperate while their clothes dried out. On the opposite side of the road was a Blacksmiths for shoeing the barge horses.
Later the Inn was turned into a General Stores and Post Office. This was eventually closed down and the General Stores and Post Office were moved into Ash Lane, this in turn was finally closed down in the late 1990’s
A public house was opened on the opposite side of the road, now known as the Hopwood House.
Further back up the hill, where the ‘Westmead Hotel’ now stands was the Southam’s Hopwood Brewery, which made use of the pure spring water, which was available nearby. Sadly this to fell victim to ‘progress’.
The Church which stood on the other side of the road was also closed, due to lack of use and was subsequently demolished.
Within the confines of the Hamlet are three well-used sports fields, which includes the King Norton Rugby Club and the King Edwards Rugby and Cricket Club, all of whom provide very good facilities for sport to be enjoyed by all, and are part of our small but thriving community.
In more recent times, we have had the arrival of the M42, quickly followed by the Service area to serve its needs. Interestingly although doubt has been caste on the origins of Pestilence Lane, the story was taken very seriously when the M42 motorway was being planned. Test pits were dug in Pestilence Lane and the samples were checked for traces of contagious diseases. Nothing was found and the 'Hopwood Services' were built on the site in 1998. Both of these have hugely affected the peace, tranquillity and overall environment of the Hamlet, with more apparently waiting in the wings.
The people who live in, visit or resort to the area for their enjoyment must unite to prevent further encroachment upon and destruction of this small but beautiful piece of rural England.
Peter Higgins, Ash Lane, Hopwood.