Kingsbury History Society, Warwickshire England
Local History Kingsbury, Warwickshire

The parish of Kingsbury was once much larger than it is now and included the hamlets of Hurley, Whateley, Slateley, Dosthill, Cliff, Bodymoor Heath, Coton, Whitacre Heath and Plumpton. Many of these settlements still exist while others have been reduced to single farmhouses or have disappeared altogether. Kingsbury was the most important settlement of the parish having the ‘mother’ church of St Peter & St. Paul.

There is evidence of both Prehistoric and Romano-British habitation in the area and after the Romans left Britain in AD.410, Mercia emerged as the largest and most important of the Saxon kingdoms. By the time Offa became its king in AD.757, Tamworth had become the favoured capital and residence. The Saxon name for Kingsbury is ‘CHINESBURIE’ meaning ‘a royal, fortified site’. Situated on a bluff above the river with a panoramic view across the Tame valley, it was a strategically important place to build a ‘burh’ or fortification. The surrounding countryside provided a rich hunting ground with its proximity to the great Forest of Arden and the ‘burh’ may well have been a royal retreat. In AD.851 King Bertwulf, fearing the threat of a Danish invasion, called all his nobles together in a ‘Great Council’ at Kingsbury to make plans that proved to be useless when Tamworth was sacked in AD.874.

By the reign of Edward the Confessor, Kingsbury was held by Earl Leofric of Mercia and his wife, the Countess Godiva but they were deprived of it by William I who gave it to Turchill de Arden after the Norman Conquest. The Domesday entry for the village describes it as an estate of about 700 acres worked by 33 villeins who held land in return for services rendered to the Lord of the manor. There was an area of woodland to the north-east, two priests and a mill valued at 9s 4d making it an estate of average wealth. Turchill de Arden’s wife was Godiva’s granddaughter Leverunia and from them the manor of Kingsbury passed by marriage into the Bracebridge family.

From the 13th to the mid 16th centuries, Kingsbury’s fortunes laid in the hands of this soldiering family from Lincolnshire several of whom fought for their country at Crecy and Agincourt. Many were knights, the last being Sir Ralph de Bracebridge in 1403, and they built a chapel onto the church in which now lies the remains of two desecrated effigies. The Bracebridges built and lived in Kingsbury Hall although little of their building now survives as additions and alterations have been made over the centuries. The last Bracebridge to hold the manor was Thomas the Younger in 1585 when he duped Sir Francis Willoughby of Middleton Hall into buying it in order to extricate himself from debt. Poor Sir Francis was an unlucky man having the misfortune to have married a wife who may well have poisoned him!

The manor eventually passed into the Peel family from Drayton Manor, and four successive Sir Robert Peels owned land in the parish that has always been essentially a farming community. Industry started to appear towards the end of the 19th century with the opening of Cliff Brickworks but it was the development of the Warwickshire coalfield that brought the greatest change to the village. 

Kingsbury Colliery was opened in 1897 and almost overnight fortunes changed as farming gradually gave way to the extraction of coal for use in Birmingham and at Coleshill’s Lurghi Plant. After the colliery shut in 1968, additional farming land was lost to the more lucrative gravel extraction at Bodymoor Heath and to the construction of the Oil Terminal on the Trinity Road. Kingsbury Water Park grew out of the old, gravel workings in 1975 and has become a haven for bird watchers and walkers alike. 

Of all the houses in the village, the oldest and one of the most interesting is the School House in Church Lane dating from 1684 and given by Sir Thomas Coton for the provision of a rudimentary education for the local poor children.

Kingsbury is now a large, semi-rural village that with construction of the M42 motorway, has become very much a ‘dormer’ community for the surrounding towns and cities.

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