Sutton Coldfield

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Sutton Coldfield
Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield.jpg
Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield
Grid reference: SP1395
Location: 52°33’47"N, 1°49’19"W
Population: 105,452  (2001)
Post town: Sutton Coldfield
Postcode: B72 - B76
Dialling code: 0121
Local Government
Council: Birmingham
Sutton Coldfield

Sutton Coldfield is a sizeable town in north-western Warwickshire, adjacent to the border with Staffordshire. Sutton is about eight miles from central Birmingham and close by are Birmingham, Lichfield, Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

The Manor of Sutton Coldfield was held by the Crown for some time and it was granted the style of "Royal Town" by Henry VIII in 1528.

Name of the town

"Sutton" is a common place-name and means "south town" or "south estate"

The name "Sutton Coldfield" appears to come from this time, being the "south town" (i.e. south of Tamworth and/or Lichfield) on the edge of the "col field". "Col" is usually derived from "charcoal", charcoal burners presumably being active in the area.[1]


There is some rich archaeology of early ages in and around Sutton Coldfield; evidence of Bronze Age burnt mounds near Langley Mill Farm, at Langley Brook and of a Bronze Age burial mound. An Iron Age settlement too, dating to around 400 and 100 BC has been found.[2][3] In his History of Birmingham, published in 1782, William Hutton describes three mounds adjacent to Chester Road on the extremities of Sutton Coldfield, now believed to be an Iron Age hill-slope enclosure, which has vanished.


In Sutton Park a preserved section of Roman Icknield Street a mile and a half long passes through, showing clearly the methods of construction. Next to the Iron Age site at Langley Brook have been found the remains of a timber building and field system of the 2nd and 3rd century.

Foundation of the town

It is believed Sutton Coldfield may have originated in the period of Mercian dominance as a hamlet, as a hunting lodge was built at Maney Hill for the purpose of the Mercian leaders.[4] The outline of the deer park that it served is still visible within Sutton Park, and it may have been named Suþtun ("south town") as lying to the south of Tamworth, the capital of Mercia. Middleton stands between the two. The additional word "Coldfield" denotes either a cold field, exposed to the winds, or a place where charcoal burning took place.

Sutton was held by Edwin, Earl of Mercia during the reign of Edward the Confessor. On the death of Edwin in 1071, the manor and the rest of Mercia passed into the possession of the King, then William the Conqueror, and Sutton Chase becoming a Royal Forest.[5]

The manor of Sutone was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was rated at eight hides, making it larger than all surrounding villages in terms of cultivated land.[6]

The manor remained in the possession of the Crown until 1135,[6] when King Henry I exchanged it for the manors of Hockham and Langham in Rutland, with Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick.[5] The manor remained with the earls of Warwick for around 300 years. In 1242, when the manor was passed to Ela Longespee, the widow of Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick, it was named Sutton-in-Coldfield.

The troubles of the Wars of the Roses passed lands and estates back and forth, until Anne Neville, 16th Countess of Warwick died in 1492 and all the land returning to the Crown.[5]

Vesey and the Tudor revival of Sutton Coldfield

By the beginning of the 16th century, the town of Sutton Coldfield had started to decay as a result of the War of the Roses; the markets abandoned and the manor house itself was becoming dilapidated.

A revival of the town was begun by John Vesey, Bishop of Exeter, who was determined to do something for his home town, seeing it so decayed. In 1527 he obtained two enclosures of land and 40 acres to build Moor Hall and established a grammar school in the parish churchyard, which is still extant and known as of Bishop Vesey's Grammar School. He obtained from King Henry VIII a Royal Charter incorporating the Warden and Society of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield.[7] and Vesey's brother-in-law, William Gibbons, became the first Warden.[5] It was a remarkable corporation in that all the town's inhabitants over the age of 22 were permitted to elect members to the Society.[8]

The King also granted his hunting land to the residents of the town, which became Sutton Park. Vesey cleared land for grazing and laid the park. He paid for the whole town to be paved, which in turn helped revive the markets. In 1527, he began improvements to Holy Trinity Church, donating an organ in 1530 and then paying for the construction of two new aisles in 1533. Vesey also built 51 cottages for the poor and built bridges at Water Orton and Curdworth.

17th and 18th centuries

Sutton Coldfield escaped the ravages of the Civil War, which Birmingham did not, though it is known that it was visited by both Parliamentary and Royalist soldiers.[9] It is claimed that during his escape from Britain in 1646, King Charles II stayed for a night at New Hall Manor.[10]

In 1660 King Charles II was restored to his lost throne and on 26 July 1664 he renewed the town's royal charter, and added provision for the appointment of two members of the Society as capital burgesses and justices of the peace alongside the Warden.[5][11]

Civil unrest in Birmingham led to Sutton being used as a place of refuge for some, escaping the troubles. Of the most high profile cases, this first occurred in 1715 when the "Sacheverell riots" broke out in Birmingham forcing Dr Sacheverell to come to New Hall Manor to stay George Sacheverell, his cousin.[12] Again in 1791 the "Priestley Riots" in Birmingham caused William Hutton to remove to Sutton for the summer when his house was attacked by rioters; residents though forced him to move on to Tamworth to avoid bringing the unrest to Sutton Coldfield.[13] Joseph Priestley himself is believed to have stayed at the 'Three Tuns' following the destruction of his home in the riots.[6]

The coming of industry

The Industrial Revolution was in full flow in nearby Birmingham, and it was represented in Sutton Coldfield by the manufacture of blades, gun barrels, spades and spade handles and the grinding of knives, bayonets and axes, mainly at mills constructed at pools in Sutton Park and on the banks of Ebrook, which became an important contributor to the town's economy in the 17th century. The Longmoor Pool was created by the damming of Longmoor Brook in Longmoor Valley by John Riland in 1754, for powering his button mill.[14] Blackroot Pool was also constructed in around 1757 by Edward Homer and Joseph Duncomb. In 1772, the Warden and Society of the town gave a lease of 30 years to Thomas Ingram at the pool.[5] The mill at Blackroot Pool was originally used for leather dressing, although later became a sawmill.[14]

Powells Pool was created in 1730 as a millpond for Powells Pool Mill, a steel-rolling mill.[15] In 1733, a cotton spinning machine was tested at the mill by John Wyatt with the help of Lewis Paul, helping to kickstart the creation of the United Kingdom's cotton industry in the 18th century.[16] In total, Sutton Coldfield has had 15 watermills, 13 of which were powered by Plants Brook, and the remaining two using an independent water supply. There were also two windmills in the town, at Maney Hill and at Langley.[16]

A heavy storm caused the collapse of the dam holding back the waters of Wyndley Pool,[17] which subsequently swept downstream and broke the banks of Mill Pool at Mill Street in July 1668, subsequently flooding and destroying many homes within Sutton Coldfield.[12] Bracebridge Pool also broke its banks as a result of the storm on the 24 July, causing lesser damage. Wyndley Pool was subsequently drained, although there is another pool within Sutton Park with the same name.[6]

Much of the damming in Sutton Coldfield was carried out using stone and gravel quarried from within the town. These quarries also supplied stone for construction elsewhere in the town, proving to be particularly profitable. The quarry that supplied material for the construction of Blackroot Pool in 1759 was in use until 1914.

Some of Sutton Coldfield's most prominent buildings were built or remodelled in the industrial centuries.

The next boost to Sutton Coldfield was brought by the coming of the railways; the first line opened to Sutton Coldfield on 2 June 1862, and the town's railway station was the terminus until 1888 when it was extended to Lichfield.[18]

The railways quickly led to Sutton Coldfield becoming a popular location for day excursions and picnic parties for the residents of Birmingham, escaping the pollution of the city for the landscapes of Sutton Park.[19] In the Whit week of 1882, 19,549 people visited Sutton Park, with numbers dropping to 11,378 in the same week the following year. In 1884, there were 17,486 visitors, of whom 14,000 went on the Monday. In 1865, on a small eminence adjacent to Sutton Coldfield station, the Royal Hotel was constructed, hoping to capitalise on the new tourist industry the town was witnessing. The hotel was beset with financial difficulties and closed down in 1895, becoming Sutton Coldfield Sanatorium for a short period of time.

Ashford v Thornton

In 1817 a young woman named Mary Ashford was found murdered in the town, her body recovered from a water-filled pit by Penns Lane the day after she had attended a party in Erdington on the evening of 26 May 1817.[20] Abraham Thornton had accompanied her from the party and was quickly arrested for her rape and murder.[21] Thornton was acquitted by the jury but public outrage encouraged a private prosecution brought by Mary's brother, William Ashford.[22]

Thornton was tried at the King's Bench in London and when Thornton was called upon for his plea, he responded, "Not guilty; and I am ready to defend the same with my body."[23] He then put on one of a pair of leather gauntlets that had been handed to him and threw the other down for William Ashford to pick up to accept his challenge: thus Thornton invoked the Mediæval remedy of Trial by Combat and it was realised by the court that this ancient procedure long in disuse had never actually been abolished in law. Ashford failed to take up the gauntlet and so Thornton was freed, although by this time he gained a notorious reputation.[24] In 1819, an Act of Parliament was passed to abolish private appeals after acquittals and also to abolish trial by combat.

20th century

In the 20th century, Sutton Coldfield continued to grow in each direction and gradually coalesced with Birmingham. During Second World War, Sutton Park and areas of Walmley were used as prisoner-of-war camps, housing German and Italian prisoners. After the war, Sutton witnessed a major redevelopment.

After the War the Borough Council did what the Luftwaffe had failed to do and in the 1960s they demolished the centre of town, the Parade, for a large new shopping centre named Gracechurch. In addition, shopping centres in New Oscott, Wylde Green and Mere Green were constructed causing considerable objection as many local landmarks were lost to the developers.


Holy Trinity Church
St Chad's Church, Walmley
  • Church of England:
    • Holy Trinity: one of the oldest churches in the town, established around 1300. John Vesey, Bishop of Exeter, built two aisles and added an organ. His tomb is within the church.
    • All Saints in Four Oaks, built in 1908 and designed by Charles Bateman after the Arts and Crafts style.[25]
    • St Peter (also by Bateman, 1906 to 1908). Grade II listed.[26]
    • St Chad near Walmley (Bateman, 1925 to 1927. Grade II listed.[27]
    • St John's Church (1845) in Walmley is the parish church for Walmley. Norman style, Grade C locally listed.[28]
  • Methodist: Four Oaks Methodist Church, built between 1907 and 1908 (Grade II listed), of a mixed Arts and Crafts-Gothic style.[29] The Methodist Hall attached to it is also Grade II listed.[30]


  • Football:
    • Sutton Coldfield Town FC
    • Romulus FC
  • Golf:
    • Walmley Golf Club
    • Pype Hayes Golf Course
    • Aston Wood Golf Club
    • Moor Hall Golf Club
    • Sutton Coldfield Golf Club
    • Little Aston and Boldmere Golf Club

Sights about the town

Listed houses on Coleshill Street


The area is home to Sutton Park, the largest urban park outside Middlesex. It has an area of 2,400 acres and is used as part of the course for the Great Midlands Fun Run, sponsored by the Sutton Coldfield Observer. The park is a national nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The western boundary of the park forms the county border with Staffordshire.

New Hall Valley Country Park is in New Hall Valley, which separates Walmley and Maney. The Park is of 160 acres and within it is New Hall Mill. The mill is privately owned but is open to the public several times a year.

There are also several nature reserves including Plants Brook Nature Reserve, in Walmley, and Hill Hook Nature Reserve. On the border between Sutton Coldfield and Erdington is the extensive Pype Hayes Park and adjacent golf course.

Historic houses

Sutton Coldfield has been an affluent area in the past leading to the construction of Manor house|manors and other large houses. Several have been renovated into hotels such as the New Hall Manor|New Hall Hotel, Moor Hall Hotel, Moxhull Hall Hotel, and Ramada Hotel and Resort Penns Hall. Peddimore Hall, a Scheduled Ancient Monument near Walmley, is a double moated hall used as a private residence.

Demolished manor houses include Langley Hall, the former residence of William Wilson and Four Oaks Hall, designed by William Wilson. William Wilson is also known to have designed Moat House and lived in it with his wife, Jane Pudsey. It is Grade II* listed.[31]

Sutton Coldfield in literature

The town is mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Act 4, scene 2. Falstaff, "on a public road near Coventry", who is leading a band of conscripted men on the way to what will be the Battle of Shrewsbury, tells Bardolph of his determination to march from Coventry to Sutton that evening:

Falstaff: Bardolph, get thee before to Coventry; fill me a bottle of sack: our soldiers shall march through: we'll to Sutton-Co'fil' to-night.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Sutton Coldfield)


  2. Hodder, Mike. "Burnt mounds and beyond: the later prehistory of Birmingham and the Black Country" (doc). West Midlands Regional Research Framework for Archaeology, Seminar 2. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  3. Dargue, William. "Langley, Langley Gorse, Langley Heath, Sutton Coldfield". A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  4. Bracken, L. (1860). History of the forest and chase of Sutton Coldfield. Benjamin Hall. pp. 10. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Salzman, L. F. (1947). "The borough of Sutton Coldfield". A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4: Hemlingford Hundred. Republished by British History Online. pp. 230–245. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Dargue, William. "Sutton/ Sutton Coldfield". A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  7. "Sutton Coldfield Local History". Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  8. Weinbaum, Martin (2010). British Borough Charters 1307-1660. Cambridge University Press. pp. 118. ISBN 1-108-01035-0. 
  9. Amphlett, John (2009). A Short History of Clent. BiblioBazaar. pp. 124. ISBN 1-103-20118-2. 
  10. "A History of New Hall". Handpicked Hotels. Retrieved 14 September 2010. " is said that Charles II stayed one night at New Hall during his flight from England..." 
  11. Warden and Society of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield (1853). The charters of the royal town of Sutton Coldfield. Benjamin Hall. pp. 29–38. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Riland-Bedford, William Kirkpatrick (1889 (republished in 2009)). Three Hundred Years of a Family Living; Being a History of the Rilands of Sutton Coldfield. General Books. pp. 13. ISBN 1-150-13395-3. 
  13. Hutton, William (1841). The life of William Hutton, stationer, of Birmingham, and the history of his family. Charles Knight & Co.. pp. 58–59. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Coxhead, Peter. "The Pools of Sutton Park". Sutton Coldfield Natural History Society. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  15. "Sutton Park". Brumagem. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Newcomen bulletin. Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology. 1984. pp. 28. 
  17. "FOR 60 years after the Norman Conquest, Sutton Coldfield was a royal manor". Sutton Coldfield Observer (republished by Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  18. Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 142. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. 
  19. McCulla, Dorothy (1976). Victorian and Edwardian Warwickshire: from old photographs. B. T. Batsford. pp. 112. ISBN 0-7134-3101-6. 
  20. Hall, Sir John (1926). Trial of Abraham Thornton. William Hodge & Co. Ltd.. pp. 1–2. 
  21. Hall, Sir John (1926). Trial of Abraham Thornton. William Hodge & Co. Ltd.. pp. 7–9. 
  22. Megarry, Sir Robert (2005). A New Miscellany-at-Law: Yet Another Diversion for Lawyers and Others. pp. 69. ISBN 1-58477-631-5.. 
  23. Thornbury, Walter (1879). Old Stories Re-Told (new ed.). Chatto and Windus. pp. 238. 
  24. Hall, Sir John (1926). Trial of Abraham Thornton. William Hodge & Co. Ltd.. pp. 55–56. 
  25. National Heritage List 1343304: Sutton Coldfield
  26. National Heritage List 1075801: Sutton Coldfield
  27. National Heritage List 1067116: Sutton Coldfield
  28. National Heritage List 1343300: Sutton Coldfield
  29. National Heritage List 1116360: Sutton Coldfield
  30. National Heritage List 1075800: Sutton Coldfield
  31. National Heritage List 1343333: Sutton Coldfield
  • Jones, Douglas V.: 'The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield: A Commemorative History' (Westwood Press Publications, 1984) ISBN 0-9502636-7-2
  • Midgley, W.: 'A Short History of the Town and Chase of Sutton Coldfield (Midland Counties Herald, 1904)


  • Sylvanus Urban in The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. XXII, page 270, (1790)
  • Jones, Douglas V.: 'Sutton Coldfield, 1974-84: The Story of a Decade: a Look at Life and Events in the Royal Town' (Westwood Press Publications, 1984) ISBN 0-948025-00-X
  • Reed, Alison: 'Sutton Coldfield: a history & celebration' (Francis Frith Collection, 2005) ISBN 1-84589-218-6
  • Smith, Christine: 'Sutton Coldfield under the Earls of Warwick' (Acorn, 2002) ISBN 1-903263-71-9