|No names for Yardleians earlier than those of the C 13-14th have
survived. In the earliest tax returns no families can be plotted as
dwellers in the school area, but there were several around it : John
and Henry Lowe (Stoney Lane area), Richard de Fulford, Adam de Faucombe,
and Walter de Clodeshale : Robert and William de Grethurste (Moseley
Golf Course), Wyot de Bulleye, and Adam de Swanshurste. The last name
means 'Peasants Wood', and it was in fact part of Arden : this was
not a forest as Shakespeare wrongly called it, for royalty claimed
no rights to it, and anyone might raise a house and make an enclosure
to keep game out of crops as long as he did not impede others' access.
Stock was allowed to roam freely across the unfenced borders of the
woods of Kings Norton, Yardley, and Solihull, but might not be driven
across. In 1221 the local tenants brought suit against the manorial
lord who had erected fences which stopped their way to the wood.
Greet, whose manor house lay on the east side of the Cole beside
Warwick Road, was a sub-manor in Yardley. Its great open fields
lay over Sparkhill, separated by Stratford Road : this track was
named in the AD 972 Charter as Leommanningweg, the way of Leommann's
folk. In the Middle Ages Greet was owned by Studley Priory, while
Fulford, Faucombe, Greethurst, Swanshurst, and Sarehole were the
property of Maxstoke Priory. Greet Common was ringed by church land.
Yardley had passed into lay hands long before the priories' estates
became available for purchase after the Dissolution.
Beyond the open fields of Greet, which were laid out in furlong
strips and farmed according to 'the custom of the manor', were the
commons, woods, and waste. The term 'waste' does not imply useless
land, but land not yet brought into cultivation as field. Showell
Green, Wake Green (which extended across the border into Norton),
and Greet Common were all free pastures, whereon tenants might graze
stock, cull timber, nuts, and hay, and 'squat'. Greet Common would
today be enclosed by Yardley Wood Road, College Road, Springfield
Road, and Coldbath Brook, with Wake Green Road bisecting it. One
of the last parts of Yardley to be enclosed, the Common is still
largely open space - though it may not be for much longer, so great
is the demand for building land in the city.
The medieval custom of leaving estates to religious houses extended
to bequests for the upkeep of schools. The Great Trust, administrating
property left to the School in Yardley village, came to own several
pieces of land in Swanshurst Quarter as elsewhere in Yardley. Of
these surviving patches are Sparkhill Park and the Yardley Poor
Allotments opposite the school.
Much medieval traffic lay between the great monasteries, and the
pilgrims' ways were provided with simple hostels for their shelter.
There is no evidence that any of these were on the priory estates,
and the way from Pershore to Maxstoke was probably by way of Titterford,
Highfield, Fox Hollies, and Stockfield Roads. But at Springfield
there was a spring whose water was said to have medicinal properties,
being specially good for the treatment of eye diseases. If this
spring, probably made into a walled basin like that at Berkswell,
was considered to be a holy well, there may have been a small house
beside it - but this is all conjecture.