TAME PAST PRESENT FUTURE

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8. Castle Bromwich & Vale

RiverTame DunlopChannel Castle Hills Pimple Hill Brook Plants Race Course ParkhallWood Langley HillWood British Industries Fair Buildings Jaguar Landrover AIRFIELD M6 N
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8.a- Pimple Hill & the Castle Bromwich Castle

Beneath one of the feeder roads for the M6 lies the old ‘Pimple Hill’; the misshapen mound to a motte and bailey hill-fort. The fort was here to guard an important crossing of the Tame and would have been topped with a wooden castle and surrounded in a palisade wall.

Like much of the River Tame’s history, the motte was incorporated into the plans of the M6, and although not removed, turned into an embankment and left to be forgotten apart from to those who know where to look for it.

Excavations revealed the remains of some of the wooden fort, as well as 12th century buildings and a 16th century house, though the mound is probably older, and there are traces of Roman history in the area.

Before the ‘pimple’ was concealed, just as the M6 was being built, David Warrington climbed the mound: “The view from [the top] took in an elevated stretch of the new M6, a meandering River Tame, and beyond that the tower blocks of the housing estate, together with the low mass of a giant factory producing car bodyshells.” Phyllis Nicklin also climbed to the top of the mound in 1968 and took a number of images up and down the Tame Valley, as well as out towards Dunlop (see images below).

 

8.b- Castle Bromwich Airfield

The airfield was situated on a large area of open grassland to the north of the River Tame, where the Plants Brook cut down towards the river. The first flight from the area took place in 1909, and the site became a stopping point for the air races of the pre-war period. Once war broke out in 1914 the site was requisitioned by the Royal Flying Corps as a training school.

I the years leading up to World War II Castle Bromwich Aerodrome was the largest in the country, and an industrial landscape had developed to the west of the field building trains, cars and, with Dunlop, tyres. It was within this area that a new factory for aircraft construction was commenced in 1938, with an order for 1,000 spitfires being placed upon completion in April 1939. The new site was described once open, with new buildings including a power house, main substation, two power distribution stations and two grid substations (so it was producing its own power), as well as an erecting shop, fuselage shop, engine mounting shops, wing assembly areas, receiving bay, machine shops, plating area, sub-assembly, woodworking shops, press shops, anodising shop, and much more.

The airfield needed work too, it was on a slope, so needed to be levelled, and the “awkward stream course” that cut across the site, which was Plants Brook, was diverted into a new brick culvert.

The factory itself made nearly 12,000 Spitfires over the course of the war, as well as Lancaster Bombers and other aircraft, though this, and the close proximity of other industries building for war, made the site a target for bombs. The area was heavily targeting in 1940, and on 13th August a bomb hit killing six people. This was not the last direct hit, and over the war production was dispersed to other sites to protect output. After the war the factory was bought by Fisher & Ludlow for the production of cars (later taken over by Jaguar) and the airfield reverted to a training facility, eventually closing in 1958.

 

FIND OUT MORE

At the Spitfire Gallery at Thinktank

Bill Dargue’s Website

 

8.c- Fisher and Ludlow

Fisher and Ludlow were a car body company that also made washing machines, sinks and other appliances, but are now part of the Jaguar site in Castle Bromwich.