Category Archives: Places

Lea Ford Cottage

Lea Ford Cottage in its original locationLea Ford Cottage is a rare example of a 17th century farm worker’s cottage, largely unchanged in over 300 years.

The cottage originally stood on an isolated patch of farmland between the Birmingham-Derby railway line and the River Tame, near Lea Marston village.

In 1975 the building was dismantled and moved into the grounds of the Hams Hall Environmental Studies Centre. Here it was reconstructed and renovated by conservation experts from Avoncroft Museum of Buildings.

Downstairs the cottage has a main room, where the occupants would live, cook and eat meals, and an inner room which would have been used for storage. Upstairs were two bedrooms.

Maggot’s Croft

The exact age of the cottage is unknown. The first documented mention of the building is in 1675, when the house, together with a barn and garden, was sold to Sir Charles Adderley, the owner of Hams Hall, for £20. The cottage was then known as Maggot’s Croft and the residents were Timothy and Elizabeth Holden.

The Holdens lived at the cottage for the next 43 years until Elizabeth died in 1718. Little is known of the occupants for the next 100 years, but they were probably agricultural workers employed by the Hams Hall Estate or local farmers.

In the early 1800s the cottage was rented by Charles and Mary Bassett for the princely sum of £2. Their younger son Charles inherited the tenancy and lived there with his wife, Jane. Following Charle’s death in 1857, Jane lived on at the cottage, eventually marrying William Parker in 1874. During these years the cottage was variously known as Godwin’s Croft, Church Pit Cottage and Fisherman’s Cottage.

The cottage was occupied until 1938 when the last tenants, Mr Stanley Finney and his family, moved to a larger property in Lea Marston village.

The cottage then lay empty for the next 36 years, slowly crumbling but protected from vandals by it’s isolated position, until it’s historical value was recognised by Birmingham Architectural Association in 1974.

Working with experts from Avoncroft Museum, and with funding from the Central Electricity Generating Board and Birmingham City Council, the building was carefully dismantled, restored, and rebuilt in the grounds of nearby Hams Hall Environmental Education Centre in 1975.

The building was restored using traditional techniques and materials. The tile roof was replaced with thatch and the brick infill (which can be seen in the picture above) was replaced with woven hazel ‘wattles’ and ‘daub’, made from clay, straw and cow dung.

The cottage has been restored close to it’s original state and would be instantly recognised by it’s original tenants, Timothy and Elizabeth Holden.

WWII Bunkers

Take a stroll along the western bank of the River Tame at Tamworth and you might make a surprising discovery.

Hunkered down in the grass by the edge of the riverbank, in the shadow of Tamworth Castle, is a squat, hexagonal, concrete bunker. This pillbox dates from the early 1940’s, one of around 28,000 similar defensive structures built at strategic locations across the country to slow down a potential German invasion force during World War II.

Follow the river and canal network and you will encounter several more of these fortifications, stark reminders of a dark time in our history.

Read more about anti-invasion preparations during WW2 at Wikipedia.

Watch ‘War on the waterways’ video by Canal & River Trust.

Where is it?

Hams Hall Power Station

During the 1920s, the City of Birmingham began constructing the first of three giant power stations at Hams Hall.

When completed, the Hams Hall site was the largest power station in Europe, with a combined generating capacity of over 900MW. Together the three power stations burned around 1.25 million tonnes of coal a year.

Watch a British Pathé news reel of the opening of Hams Hall power station in 1929.


The site was nationalised in the 1940s and continued generating electricity up until the 1990s.

By 1993 all three power stations had been closed and demolished, and the site was sold for redevelopment. The only building to escape demolition is the sub-station control building, with its magnificent domed ceiling. The building has a new purpose as a bat roost and is home to brown long-eared bats.

The site is now the Hams Hall Distribution Park and is home to many large companies, including E.ON, Sainsbury’s and BMW.

In one corner of the park, in the old walled garden of the long-gone Hams Hall, is the Hams Hall Environmental Studies Centre, the current home of the Tame Valley Wetlands team.


▸ Visit the Britain from above website to see more aerial pictures of the Hams Hall power station.

▸ Visit the Power Stations Revisited website for a comprehensive range of photographs showing all aspects of the power station, from construction to demolition.

▸ Visit the 360cities website to see a fascinating 360° panorama of the inside of the Hams Hall substation control room, the only remaining power station building.

Where is it?

The Hams Hall Power Station was demolished in the 1990s and is now the location of the Hams Hall Distribution Park.

Drayton Turret Footbridge

This unusual Gothic-style footbridge was probably built in the 1830s by the celebrated architect Sir Robert Smirke, while constructing nearby Drayton Manor for local MP Sir Robert Peel (later to become Prime Minister). The manor house was demolished in 1929 and later became the site of the Drayton Manor Theme Park.

The Grade II listed footbridge is located near to the entrance of the Drayton Manor theme park and is among the most ornate bridges anywhere on Britain’s canals.

The bridge has been restored by the Canal & Rivers Trust as part of the Tame Valley Wetlands Scheme. Read more…


Where is it?

Whitacre Heath Pumping Station

The pumping station at Whitacre Heath waterworks was built around 1860 to supply fresh water to Birmingham.

The magnificent red-brick building was built in a Venetian Gothic-style and supplied up to six million gallons of fresh water per day, extracted from the River Blythe and the River Bourne. The building originally contained two large beam engines, designed by James Watt.

In 1904 Birmingham’s water supply was switched to the Elan Valley reservoir. The pumping station was then used to supply Coventry and Nuneaton.

The site is now operated by Severn Trent Water.


Where is it?

Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal runs from central Birmingham to Fazeley Junction, just south of Tamworth, where it joins the Coventry Canal.

It is 15 miles long, has 38 locks and was completed in 1789 by chief engineer John Smeaton.

Curdworth Tunnel is the only purpose-built tunnel along the canal. It is 50 metres long and is an early example of tunnel engineering.

At Tameside, near Tamworth, the canal crosses over the River Tame on a short viaduct.

For more information about the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, visit the Canal & Rivers Trust website:


Where is it?

For Curdworth Tunnel, access the canal towpath from Wishaw Lane and head north.

Tamworth Castle

Tamworth Castle perches above the confluence of the River Anker and the River Tame, guarding the river crossing. It is one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England.

The stone castle was built in the 12th century, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

During the English Civil War (1642 – 51) the castle was captured by Parliamentary forces after a short two-day siege and luckily avoided being demolished.

In 1891 the castle was purchased by Tamworth Corporation to mark Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

For more information about the castle, and opening times, visit:


Where is it?

Middleton Hall

Middleton Hall is a Grade II moated manor house, parts of which date back to medieval times.

The estate was originally owned by the de Freville family until it passed to the Willoughbys in 1418. During the 17th century it was the home of the naturalist and mathematician Francis Willughby.

By the 20th century the house had fallen into disrepair, but was rescued in 1980 by a charitable trust. The trust has been restoring the buildings and grounds, including the 16th century jettied building (pictured), which was close to collapse.

The site now features a restored Tudor barn complex, with craft shops, a walled garden and the largest man-made lake in Warwickshire.

For more information about Middleton Hall, and opening times, visit:

Where is it?

Hams Hall

The Hams Hall Estate was owned by the Adderley family for over 260 years. The name of the estate was derived from the fact that the land lay in a great hook, or “ham”, of the River Tame.

Hams Hall was built in the late 1700s for Charles Adderley by Joseph Pickford, one of the leading architects of the 18th Century, on the site of an earlier Tudor mansion. It was described as “a charming country house”, three stories high and with seven bays.

Following Charles’ death in 1826, the house passed to his great nephew, also called Charles Adderley, who later became the 1st Baron Norton.

Charles Bowyer Adderley was a wealthy philanthropist. In 1848, he donated eight acres of land to Birmingham City Council to create Adderley Park in Saltley, Birmingham’s oldest public park. He also built a school, church and a housing estate for workers  He was MP for North Staffordshire for 37 years and pioneered self-government for parts of the British Empire, drafting the New Zealand constitution. He was also famed as an “agreeable host” and the house entertained many prominent guests, including four-times Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone.

The house was gutted by a devastating fire in 1894 but was rebuilt the following year as an exact replica of the original.

Did you know?
In 1852, Charles Adderley successfully sued the City of Birmingham over the poor state of the River Tame, which was dreadfully polluted by sewage and industrial waste. Despite winning his case, it took almost 150 years for the river to recover.

Following the death of Lord Norton in 1905, at the age of ninety one, the estate was sold at public auction to pay death duties. The estate was purchased by the City of Birmingham, who sold on the house to an American shipping magnate, Oswald Harrison. He demolished the building, sending the lower floors to America and using the front facade at Coates Manor, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It is now known as Bledisloe Lodge, a private residence in the grounds of the Royal Agricultural College.

Where is it?