Early Settlement

Of pre-Saxon sites in the Quarter nothing is known. The region may have been less sparsely peopled, and more clearance may have occurred, than used to be thought; but if farms and hamlets existed they were lost before the advent of maps, or they were taken over and re-named by later comers. That there were folk in the district two thousand years ago is confirmed by a relic too large for total obliteration by ploughing and infilling. This was the ancient earthwork now called Berry Mound in Solihull Lodge - a half-mile south of Yardley Wood.

The name is Saxon and was originally 'buhr mont' (fortress hill), but the work is of Iron Age date, made prior to the Roman conquest. This 11-acre site, an oval 850 yards perimeter, was not the home of a few savages, nor a hurriedly-made defensive position, but a permanent camp which would have taken organised people some generations to complete. In its heyday the fortress was defended by a high bank topped by a palisade, with a deep ditch outside it.

On three sides the slight hillock, actually the end-knoll of a low ridge, was protected by valley marshes. A track led along the ridge between the Cole, Shaw and Peter Brooks, to a causewayed entrance on the south side, which was probably guarded by outer banks. Was the hill-fort a solitary dwelling-site in an otherwise empty area, perhaps erected by a tribe driven into Arden by pressure from others more powerful? Or was it the capital of a settled district in which natural clearings had been utilised for small, family farms? In the absence of archaeological finds, identifiable prehistoric fields, and authentic pre-Saxon names, we cannot answer these questions.

Excavation at Berry Mound has revealed little, being confined to the ditches, since it is in the large central enclosure that evidence would be found. Other earthworks like that at Swanshurst (see below), of which even the date and purpose are uncertain, may have a history of settlement, much earlier than medieval or even Saxon; but this can only be conjectural.

A few finds of single coins hereabout are all that we have to remind us of 3.5 centuries of Roman rule. There are no known Roman roads, though the ridgeways (see below) were probably in use before the legions came; and who is to say that some other of the Quarter's lanes do not go back as far? Whether or not the area was well-peopled in prehistoric times, it undoubtedly had a large animal population of wolves, bears, wild cattle, sheep, goats, and swine, deer, hares and rabbits; the air, the trees, and the marshes were full of birds, and very rill teemed with fish.