The earliest record of Moseley is in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is listed as one of 18 outlying settlements of the manor of Bromsgrove in the north east corner of the county of Worcestershire. Moseley then was just a small hamlet in an area of forests and heathland and would have looked to Bromsgrove as its nearest centre. Its name in the Domesday Book ‘Museleie’ translates as ‘mouse clearing’, possibly in the sense of ‘a small (i.e. mouse-sized) clearing’. Its nearest church would have been the parish church of St Nicholas in Kings Norton, some distance away across open country. In 1405 a Papal Decree granted permission for mass and other divine offices to be held at the chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, believed to be the origin of the present St Mary’s church. The church tower of St Mary’s was built in 1513-1514 with slit windows as a refuge against attack and incorporated earlier Norman stone masonry which may have been recycled from the demolished parsonage of Bromsgrove. St Mary’s was initially subordinate to King’s Norton and was not created as a separate parish until 1767. The picture shows St Mary’s Row and the Bull’s Head in the early 19th Century – click on the picture to enlarge.
The original village, up until the first half of the 19th Century, was a small settlement clustered around St Mary’s church and extending along St Mary’s Row and the adjacent part of Alcester Road. The Bulls Head is the site of the oldest licenced premises in the village (although the current pub building dates from the late 19th Century). The old houses down the hill from the church, one of which was the forge, were built in 1770 -1780 and are the oldest surviving residential buildings in Moseley. The original village green was located at the junction of St Mary’s Row and Oxford Road where the Marks & Spencer building now stands. This was the highest point of the village on the watershed between the River Cole and River Rea, with extensive views in all directions. The whole of the western side of Alcester Road was occupied by the estate of Moseley Hall, the grounds of which extended as far as Edgbaston Lane, Cannon Hill Park and Moor Green Lane.
Moseley Hall was one of the largest of several large estates in the area up until the early 19th Century. The estate was originally owned by the Grevis family and the first Hall was a moated manor house situated just south of the present-day Chantry Road. A new Hall on the present site was constructed by Sir Richard Grevis, a favourite of James I and High Sheriff of Worcestershire, who is commemorated by a fine alabaster tomb in the church of St Nicholas at Kings Norton. The family sold the estate in 1764 to John Taylor a wealthy manufacturer and non-conformist who associated with Matthew Boulton and other leading industrialists of the day. The estate subsequently passed to his son John Taylor II, whose notable achievement was the founding of Taylor and Lloyd’s Bank (now Lloyd’s Bank) along with Sampson Lloyd. During the Priestley Riots the Hall was burnt out by royalist mobs suspecting John Taylor to be a republican sympathiser. It was subsequently rebuilt in 1792-6 and the grounds landscaped as parkland after suggestions from Humphry Repton, the first person to describe himself as a landscape gardener, in the form of a ‘red book’. The last owner of Moseley Hall, Richard Cadbury, gave the Hall to the City for use as a children’s hospital and it subsequently became, as it is today, Moseley Hall Hospital, part of the NHS.
Moseley from the 19th Century
Between 1850 and 1910, Moseley developed from a rural village into a fashionable suburb, stimulated by the new railway line and trams linking Moseley with the centre of Birmingham. Large country estates were split up and sold off for housing developments. Fine Victorian houses were built, many in the arts and crafts style. The largest estate to be developed was that of Moseley Hall although the Hall itself still survives and is now used as a hospital. The lake and surrounding parkland also remain thanks to a group of local residents who formed the Moseley Park and Pool Company to save it from development. Several relics of Moseley Hall have been retained and restored, namely the Dovecote and Cowshed at the entrance to the drive and the Icehouse within the Park. Since these high quality Victorian developments Moseley has suffered from the gradual infilling of land, the conversion of larger houses into multi-occupation or institutional use and some demolition and replacement with smaller houses and blocks of flats. To prevent further destruction and damage, Birmingham City Council has established two Conservation Areas in Moseley to help preserve this historic environment.
Moseley remained part of Worcestershire (in the Kings Norton district, with Wake Green in Yardley district) until 1911 when both districts along with large areas of Staffordshire and Warwickshire were incorporated into Birmingham by the Greater Birmingham Act.
For old maps see the Historical Maps of Moseley page.