1731 Map of Birmingham

Colour adaption below and also found at Map Seeker
1731 Map of Birmingham by William Westley (probably junior)

It is thought that William Westley (senior) was the designer of much of the Priory Estate, which was an area in the north-west of the town built up in the early Georgian period; this is likely as a street within the area was named Westley Row (as seen on map). The Priory Estate was Birmingham’s first planned estate of houses, the centre-piece of which was a grand square (possible also by Westley), all of which would have displayed the new fashions in street and house building. Urban planning was new in the towns and this can be perceived as the usage of the houses in the Square was restricted, there was a certain amount of uniformity to the houses, and certain areas were built up as a coherent whole. It was probably a certain amount of family pride that encouraged the production of this, Birmingham’s first map; the Westley’s had had a hand in the changing landscape and preserved it through this and a number of prospects that Westley produced at a similar time.

Westley dedicated the map to Edward Digby and William Peyto (Esq.s) who were Members of Parliament for Warwickshire (this was long before Birmingham had any of its own MP’s). This plate is a later copy, as can be determined from the addition of the text ‘in the possession of Theoph. Richards in the year 1789. Nephew to Mr. Westley’. The man mentioned in Theophilus Richards, who is one of the notable Richards family that resided in High Street for many years and whose gun-making business still survives today. The map contains two written sections which read;
On the left: “In the Year 1700, Birmingham Contained 30 Streets, 100 Courts and Alleys, 2504 Houses, 15032 Inhabitants, one Church dedicated to St. Martin & a Chappel to St. John & a School founded by Edward 6th also 2 Dissenting Meeting Houses.”
On the right: “The Increase of this Town from 1700 to ye Year 1731~ is as follows: 25 Streets, 50 Courts and Alleys, 1215 Houses, 8254 Inhabitants, together with a new Church, Charity School, Market Cross, & 2 Meeting Houses. for a further account see [illeg.]”

The map depicts the relatively newly built St. Philip’s church still on the outskirts of the town; in the same area is the grand New Hall, and also off New Hall Lane (but unmarked) id Bennett’s Hill House and you can see the elegant gardens marked at the rear of the house. Much of the top end of what is now New Street is still being used as cherry orchards, as is much of the land (as Walker’s orchard) where Corporation Street now runs, and Corbett’s bowling green also sits adjacent to here. The original moats can be seen encircling the old parsonage of St. Martin’s and the buildings that were the seat of the De Birmingham’s. You can also find a number of industrial landmarks including Lloyd’s slitting mills and Kettle’s steel houses.

The 1731 map is unusual as it was drawn with west at the top, which makes it a little more difficult to compare this with later maps. For this blog I have turned the 1731 map 90° so that north is at the top and edited the street names so that they can be read the correct way up, but I have left all other landmarks as they were. I have also included the map in its original form for its own value.

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