The General History of King's Norton
The original village grew up on a hill above the flood plain of the River Rea. This meant that there was a ready water supply, and an easily defended site. A Roman road crossed the area along a ridge to the east of the village, but there is no evidence of the Romans actually settling in the area.
In Norman times it is likely that the village was an expansion of an Anglo-Saxon settlement, being mentioned in the Doomsday Survey as follows:
"King William holds Bremesgrave [Bromsgrove] in demesne with 18 berewicks, Museleie [Moseley], Nortune [King's Norton]. Earl Edwin held this manor in the time of King Edward."
This made the village an outlying estate of a Royal Manor, and it became known as King's Norton (the King's North Town in relation to Bromsgrove). The area around the village was Feckenham Forest, which for many years remained a royal hunting preserve
Although it was a berewick of the Manor of Bromsgrove at the time of the Doomsday Survey, King's Norton seems to have been held as a separate manor before the 13th century, but followed the same descent as Bromsgrove until 1564, when the latter was sold by Queen Elizabeth to Ambrose, Earl of Warwick. King's Norton remained a royal manor until the beginning of the 19th century, being settled of Queen Anne, consort of James I, in 1603, on Queen Henrietta Maria in 1629, and on Queen Catherine after the Restoration.
About the middle of the 16th century, John Leyland passed through King's Norton, and wrote in his itinerary:
"Norton is a pretty uplandish town in Worcestershire. There be some fayre howsys of staplears that use to by wolle and also a faire church and a goodly piramis of stone over the bell frome. There runneth a little brooke at the west end of the towne. Good plenty of wood and pasture and meetly good corne betwixt Alchurch and Norton and likewise between Norton and Bermingham toon that be distant about five miles."
This description of the village in the l6th century is particularly interesting because it is a contemporary view.
At the time of the Civil War, King's Norton was a thriving agricultural community. However, it stood in an uneasy position - between Parliamentary Birmingham and Royalist Worcestershire. On the l7th October l642, a Royalist troop under Prince Rupert encountered a Parliamentary troop under Lord Willoughby of Parham at King's Norton, and a skirmish followed. This is King's Norton's only recorded battle.
On the l0th July 1643, Queen Henrietta Maria lodged overnight in the house of her bailiff, (believed to be the building now known as the Saracen's Head). With her came 3,000 horsemen, 30 companies of foot soldiers, a train of artillery and a long line of baggage wagons. (These figures are from Historic Worcestershire by W. Salt Brassington). The army encamped round the village, and, whatever their sympathies, the people of King's Norton must have been glad to see the back of such a multitude - all in need of food and drink.
The Enclosures Act of l772, (a copy of the Enclosure Award is preserved in the church records), and the revolution in agriculture which followed, brought a number of changes to King's Norton. Some of the agricultural workers turned to cottage industries in the village, others went to work in the industries which were becoming settled in Birmingham. There were also works such as Wychall Mill and Lifford Mill using the River Rea as a source of power. An inter-connected beam engine, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, was built in 1780 and installed in Wychall Mill, where it remained in continuous use until 1943. It was later presented to the Birmingham Museum.
The process of change was hastened by new and improved means of communication - turnpike roads and canals. Engineers on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal faced tremendous difficulties, for instance, the tunnel which begins in King's Norton is nearly two miles long, and the canal which was projected in 1791 was not completed until 1815.
In 1803 King's Norton finally ceased to be a royal demesne, and at that time the population was still less than 3,000.
When invasion threatened in the Napoleonic Wars, Captain W. C. Russell commanded the King's Norton Volunteer Cavalry, which in May 1805 mustered 45 men in all ranks. By 1815, the danger of invasion having receded, it had shrunk to 17 privates, 1 trumpeter and 1 quartermaster.
By 1840, the population of King's Norton had risen to about 5,000, and there were many nailers in the village, using iron obtained from Cradley.
(The population figures in this section refer, of course, to the whole parish, and not just the specific area under consideration).