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The great Digbeth / Deritend divide.

HIGH Street Deritend is one of the oldest and most important place names in the history of Birmingham, and yet it seems doomed to disappear from the 21st century city.

By contrast as it has waned so has the name of Digbeth waxed to such an extent that it is no longer just a street between High Street Deritend and the Bull Ring; now it is also used to define a large area.

To the north of Digbeth the street, the new district of Digbeth seems to encompass all those streets from Park Street almost up to Camp Hill; whilst to the south it embraces all those streets below the Bull Ring markets and again almost up to Camp Hill. In reality many of these streets actually lie in Deritend.

This shrinking of Deritend and the expansion of Digbeth has led to confusions and inaccuracies in official communications, on radio stations, in newspapers and on a plethora of websites. Many addresses are given as on Digbeth High Street. There is no such place and never has been such a place. Other addresses are given as in Digbeth when they are not.

The Digbeth Campus of South and City College, the Irish Centre and the Custard Factory are not in Digbeth. All three are in Deritend. As for the Rainbow pub, it is often described as in High Street Deritend Digbeth. But it is in neither as it is on the corner of Adderley Street and High Street Bordesley.

Does all this matter given popular usage? Well it does matter if we care about our historical place names and the people who lived in such streets; and it does matter for all those Brummies who grew up in Deritend and who now watch unhappily as their district is pushed from history.

So where does High Street Deritend begin? The answer is just opposite Rea Street and the Digbeth Coach Station. This is a few yards above Deritend Bridge which carries traffic over the River Rea, which is hidden from view well below. Now, in the later Middle Ages, the Rea split into two channels just by Rea Street. One went along what is now Milk Street, whilst the other went down what became Floodgate Street. Both later joined up.

The Milk Street channel is long gone but its former route marks the boundary between High Street Deritend and Digbeth. Today Milk Street goes from High Street Deritend to the junction of Bordesley Street with Little Anne Street and thence becomes Barn Street. It is an old way that is shown on the first map of Birmingham by Westley in 1731 but is called Rope Walk on Bradford's Map of 1750. Then it ran through fields but did not reach Deritend High Street, simply because of the development along that road; instead it ended at Moore's Row.

Hansom's Map of 1778, however, introduces the name of Milk Street, but remained in a rural a setting - perhaps leading to a name associated with agriculture. Over the next few decades, Deritend and Digbeth became built over, but it was not until 1880 that a clearance of property led to Milk Street running from Moore's Row to Deritend High Street via what had been Meeting House Yard.

The flatness of the land from Milk Street towards Adderley Street emphasises the significance of High Street Deritend, because it runs through the middle of the valley of the River Rea. To the south east is Camp Hill and to the north west are the slopes on which the Bull Ring is found and above which is the ridge upon which Birmingham city centre is built - and which is approached by the aptly-named Hill Street.

We cannot see the Rea hereabouts today as it is so deeply culverted - although we can look at it in Cannon Hill Park before it disappears below Belgrave Middleway. Because it is then lost from sight, many people would not even realise that there is a valley of the River Rea, but both the river and the valley were crucial to Birmingham's rapid development after its lord of the manor gained the right to hold a market in 1166.

The Rea was vital to provide the water for Birmingham's smiths in cooling down the metal that they hammered into shape; and it was as vital for the tanners of leather who needed lots of water to clean and soften the hides that were to be tanned.

And the Rea was also significant for connecting Birmingham to other places locally by way of its crossing points - the most important one of which was between High Street Deritend and Digbeth.

Here a number of important regional roads came together. They were those from Wolverhampton, which came down the modern Soho Road; Dud ley, which went through Smethwick to Dudley Street by the Bull Ring; Hales owen, which followed the line of the Hagley Road; and Stratford and War wick, which went along the present-day Stratford Road and then into High Street Bordesley and High Street Deritend. The coming together of these rout es passed St Martin's Church and Birmingham's markets.

Here a number of important regional roads came together. They were those from Wolverhampton, which came down the modern Soho Road; Dud ley, which went through Smethwick to Dudley Street by the Bull Ring; Hales owen, which followed the line of the hagley Road; and Stratford and War wick, which went along the present-day Stratford Road and then into High Street Bordesley and High Street Deritend. The coming together of these rout es passed St Martin's Church and Birmingham's markets.

Just down the hill from the m is the 'Big Bull's head', on the corner of Milk Street. It is the most prominent land mark at the start of Deritend and its prox imity to the Bull Ring emphasises why Deritend. was inextricably bound to Birmingham even though it belonged to the pa rish of Aston. Located distantly from Aston Parish Church, it had its own chapel of ease, so called because it was easier for its parishioners to reach. This was St John's which was on the opposite side of High Street Deritend, close to where the Irish Centre now stands.

Just down the hill from the m is the 'Big Bull's head', on the corner of Milk Street. It is the most prominent land mark at the start of Deritend and its prox imity to the Bull Ring emphasises why Deritend. was inextricably bound to Birmingham even though it belonged to the pa rish of Aston. Located distantly from Aston Parish Church, it had its own chapel of ease, so called because it was easier for its parishioners to reach. This was St John's which was on the opposite side of High Street Deritend, close to where the Irish Centre now stands.

After Birmingham's lord gained the After Birmingham's lord gained the right to have a market in 1166, the hamlet of Deritend was pulled into a deeper relationship with its near neighbor and soon after it was probably granted to the de Berminghams by their overlords, the Paganells of Dudley.

'' many are given Digbeth. Street. There such place never has such a place.

Recently, the assiduous researcher George Demidowicz made a discovery that has transformed our understanding of medieval Birmingham. He came across the rentals for the borough of Birmingham in 1296.

Other are given Digbeth. they are These indicated a number of streets, one of which was Deregatestret. Mentioned again in a deed from 1319, this Deer Gate Street became Deer-gate End in a document from 1381 and hence Deritend.

The spelling of Deregatestret solves the debate about the meaning of Deritend. Some historians had argued that the 'der' element was derived from the Welsh 'dwr' meaning water, whilst the rest of the name is from 'yet-end' - signifying gate end.

Hence it was the water gate end because it was so close to the River Rea.

addresses as on High is no and been However, the 1296 entry strengthens the case put forward by Joseph Toulmin, a 19th century expert on Birmingham. In his opinion Deritend is from 'der-yat-end' and means the deer gate end.

addresses as in when not End was used to signify an outlying hamlet or the edge of a settlement. In this case it indicated that Deritend was a suburb of Birmingham. As for the deer gate, this would have led into Over Park, recalled in Park Street, where the lords of Birmingham kept deer.

Digbeth was not mentioned as such in the 1296 Borough Rentals, although there is a record of ''versus aquam'.' '.' Meaning ''towards the water'',' this was probably the route that went down to the Rea and which became Digbeth.

This documentary evidence for Deritend is bolstered by discoveries made over the last few years in archaeological excavations on Deritend Island, which lay between the two channels of the Rea. They revealed signs of houses in the 1200s. It appears that they were abandoned later in that century but pottery from the same site indicated renewed activity here in the early 16th century. From the same period these excavations also uncovered evidence of a tannery and of metal working.

Today Deritend Island is dominated by South and City College, behind which is Floodgate Street School. Opened in 1891 it closed in 1940 and the building was then taken over by St Michael's Roman Catholic School.

It is a most striking structure with a tower that was designed by the famous Birmingham architectural practice Martin and Chamberlain.

More on Deritend next week.

'' Many addresses are given as on Digbeth High Street. There is no such place and never has been such a place. Other addresses are given as in Digbeth when they are not

CAPTION(S):

Deritend Bridge in 1932. |

CARL CHINN Mail April 4 2015 Looking up Digbeth from Milk Street, just out of |view on the bottom right and where High Street Deritend begins, and the very busy junction with Rea Street on the left.

| St John's Church, Deritend from the Stone Yard on the left and Green Street on the right. The |building behind the Stone Yard sign was later cleared and the Irish Centre now stands there. Notice the horse and cart as well as the motor vehicles, suggesting this photo was taken in the 1920s.

Ex-servicemen gathering for a commemoration event by the 'Big Bull's head', on the corner of Milk Street with High Street Deritend. Ex-servicemen gathering for a commemoration event by the 'Big Bull's head', on the corner of Milk Street with High Street Deritend.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 4, 2015
Words:1767
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