By Bernard Taylor
The entrance to the ruins is located in Alwin Road. Presently, public access is only allowed on certain ‘Open Days’, which are organised by Birmingham City Council. A new group called “The Castle Ruins Support Group” was formed on 22nd August 2005 at the inaugural meeting, which I attended on behalf of the society. The curator/manager, Esme Ballard, chaired the meeting. Birmingham City Council in the Community Museums Division employs Esme.
Local residents who were very interested in preserving the site and making it available for viewing attended the meeting. Many of the people present placed their names on the rota for litter picking and keeping the site generally tidy. Also keeping an eye open for any vandalism and fly-tipping by the houses that border the site.
At the meeting discussions took place as to the comparison that could be made with Stokesay Castle at Craven Arms. The society having visited this site on the last day trip I was able to take photographs, which appear elsewhere on this site.
Iris and I visited the site on the last open weekend that took place in August. I took many photographs and hopefully with the use of this photo album, together with parts of the transcript carried out by Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society in 1983, I may be able to paint a picture of what the site would have looked like and the exact location by use of a tithe map of the area.
The Layout of the castle at Weoley
Fig. 1 Plan of Weoley Castle circa 1270-1600
The accompanying sketch-map (Fig 1) is based on the map in the guide to the site published by Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. This has been simplified to present the outlines of the buildings of circa 1270 to circa 1600).
Taking the description of the castle and matching this to the ground plan section by section we obtain the following results: The great hall is clearly the major building at the east end of the site (1 on the plan). The position of the kitchen dictates the position of the pantry and buttery, which are said to be in the 'nether' end of the hall.
The great chamber, nursery, little chambers and cellars in the upper end are therefore to be identified with the remains to the north of the hall (2). The second great chamber, other chambers, pantry and buttery lie to the south of the hall (3).
Weoley castle ruins sections 1 to 4
The kitchen is marked by the large tile-built hearth and lies in the south-eastern corner of the site (4). The chapel and vestry are apparent on the plan (5). The identification is confirmed by the existence of the altar at the east end of the chapel. The only possible candidate for this is the building to the west of the chapel (6). There is also only one building that fits this description. This is the one identified on the museum guide as the laundry, standing against the south wall and to the west of the kitchen (7). The laundry is, in fact, expressly stated to be in the "utter court".
Only disconnected remains of this are visible at the south-western corner of the site, where a sequence of ovens was discovered during excavations in the 1950s (8). As we are left with only one building, which has not been identified this must be the house mentioned. It is located at the north-eastern corner of the site, between the chapel and the great hall complex (9). The gate is at the north-western corner of the site (10). The other turrets are spaced irregularly around the wall (11 - 15). It is not clear from the description whether only the gate had chambers and chimneys or all the turrets.
The garden must have lain to the west of the hall. It may possibly be connected with an enigmatic drain (16) that seems to serve no obvious purpose.
The Outer Court
We are told that it contains a barn of eleven 'spaces', a house for a stable of five 'spaces', a dairy of two 'spaces', a laundry of three 'spaces', a gatehouse giving onto the park and another house for a stable of five 'spaces'. If we assume that the 'spaces' referred to represent the bays of timber-framed buildings and allow an average of 15 ft for a bay we find ourselves dealing with buildings of 165 ft, 75 ft, 30 ft, 45 ft and 75 ft, plus the gatehouse. In addition the description strongly suggests that two gardens 'lying to pasture' lay in the outer court as well. It is inconceivable that all this could have been contained within the existing walled area. Indeed the very phrase 'outer court' suggests a separate enclosure. If this is so then presumably we should look for this enclosure to the west, outside the gateway.
Fig. 2 - Northfield Tithe Map
Examination of the tithe map for Northfield (Fig.2) provides evidence for the probable outline of the outer court. Immediately to the west of the moat is a meadow, parcel no. 1034. The southern and the southern half of the eastern boundaries of this are formed by long, narrow strips of water or of coppice strongly suggestive of filled-in ditches. The northern and northern half of the eastern boundaries seems to have been disturbed during the construction of the canal in 1792. The Bourne Brook is shown flowing across the meadow but, if the meadow really preserves the outline of an enclosure, then it seems likely that the Bourne originally fed a moat around the enclosure before flowing on into the moat around the castle proper. If the two gardens referred to above really did lie within the outer court then the description provides corroborative evidence that this was moated, since one of the gardens is said to be sited 'next the mote on the south pte'.
The proposed curator of the site has likened it to Stokesay castle at Craven Arms. Pictures of Stokesay Castle can be found on the Past Events section of this website, under "Museum Visits". Click Here to go straight to the Stokesay Castle pictures.
My thanks to Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological society for the transcript, also to Birmingham City Council Community Museums Division and Esme Ballard for their permission to use parts of the above material. It is important that we preserve our heritage, if you would like to become a member of the support group then please contact Esme Ballard on 0121-464-0402. If you do, then please mention that it was because of an article in this journal.
© QLHS - Bernard Taylor 2006
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