Tennal Hall – what’s in a name? by Alan Hill

Tennal Hall, located in the appropriately named Tennal Road, was one of the oldest buildings in Harborne. It has also been called Tunnel Hall, from the belief that a subterranean passage way led to it from nearby Weoley Castle. In other sources it has been referred to as Tenhaul, thought to indicate that the original spelling may have been Tynhaul or Ty-yn-haul, which in Welsh means “the house in the sun” or “house with a sunny aspect”. This alternative spelling for the name is not as improbable as you might think, since the hall was situated close to the present day Welsh House Farm Estate, indicating the presence of a community of Welsh people at some time in the past.

Or it may be that Tennal (Tennel or Tennall) was the name of the builder of the hall, or perhaps the first occupant.

Located close to the present day Queen’s Park (off Court Oak Road), the park would have almost certainly been originally part of the grounds of the hall. The name Queen’s Park may originate because Queen Elizabeth I is said to have been entertained at Tennal Hall during one of her “progresses” to Worcester, probably that of 1575, when she was a guest of Sir Ambrose Cave, who was a Privy Councillor to Elizabeth. After this visit the fine wrought iron gates at the front of the house were never opened again.

There are points for and against believing this story. Donald Wright, a local historian, points out that Cave had died seven years earlier but he acknowledges that Elizabeth was passing through the area in the summer of 1575 and could have stayed at Tennal Hall, but the more likely visitor, in his view, was Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. In 1643 she had raised a considerable army of fighting men from Yorkshire for her husband’s cause. She brought them south through the West Midlands, her route needed to avoid the Parliamentarian stronghold of Birmingham. She would have come via Harborne and would have sought rest and refreshment in the largest house in the area-Tennal Hall.

Information extracted from: Harborne & its surroundings, a lecture given 6th May 1872 by James Kenward and Quinton and Round About by A N Rosser.

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