Tipton is a relatively flat area covering just under 3,000 acres, lying on Carboniferous coal measures, and clay deposits. To the south and west are the Silurian limestone and shale hills at Sedgley and Dudley, and to the south east are the once volcanic Rowley Hills, consisting of Carboniferous dolerite. The northern boundary is near to Lea Brook which rises in Willingsworth and flows into the River Tame.

The area, which was once thickly wooded, like most of the Black Country, was crossed by Cockle Brook, which flows off the Dudley and Sedgley hills into Wall Brook, and finally into the River Tame. All traces of early colonisation have disappeared due to the intense coal mining and industrialisation during the 19th and 20th centuries that destroyed any remaining archaeological evidence.

Although the Romans left their marks on the region, there is no evidence of Roman roads or occupation in the immediate area, possibly because of the thick woodland that was there at the time. Roman coins from the first century were found at nearby Wednesbury in 1817, including examples from the reign of Nero, Vespasian, and Trajan. Another Roman coin was found at Wood Green during the excavation of the railway cutting, a piece of Roman glass came to light in Monway Field, and a Roman brooch was recently found at Aldridge. Other Roman coins have been found in Bilston, Perry Barr, Great Barr, Barr Beacon, and at Stonnall near Walsall Wood. Traces of a Roman road have been found at Bilston, and in Sutton Coldfield where the road from Wall to the fort at Metchley ran.

During the Roman occupation there were raids from the continent, carried out by people from France, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. They were mentioned by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus in 365 AD. He considered them to be barbarians along with the Picts and Scots. The mid-fifth century Gallic Chronicle records a large raid in 410 AD after the Roman army had departed.

Around this time there were frequent raids, and so many towns employed mercenary soldiers for protection. These soldiers were Angles and Saxons from northern Germany who brought their families with them and were given farmland as payment for their services. Soon the mercenaries realised that they were stronger than their employers and so began to take over the running of many areas. The Anglo-Saxons slowly colonised England, moving northwards and westwards, pushing the native Celts into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. By 850 AD there were three competing kingdoms; Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex.

South Staffordshire became part of Mercia, a name derived from the old English word "Mierce", meaning People of the Boundaries. The kingdom developed from settlements in the upper Trent valley and was colonised by a band of Angles called the Iclingas. Slowly the area was populated, and the kingdoms of the Saxon and Angles in the midlands amalgamated to form the kingdom of Mercia, with its capital at Tamworth.

In 913 Stafford became the capital of Mercia after it had been fortified by Queen Aethelfaed. Within a few years the Shire of Stafford was formed, which was divided into 5 'Hundreds', each consisting of an area roughly supporting 100 households. They were Cuttlestone, Offlow, Pirehill, Seisdon and Totmonslow.

It seems likely that early colonisation of The Black Country began in the 7th or 8th century when a tribe called the Anglian Mercens came from the north. Initially they followed the Trent Valley, and began spreading along the valleys of the Tame and its tributaries. They were known as the Tomsaetan (dwellers by the Tame). They would have been the first people to settle here, and no doubt made use of the ready-made clearings, and the excellent water supply from the local brooks.

An impression of the area at the time of colonisation.

Many local place names are Anglo-Saxon in origin, as can be seen from the entries in the Domesday Book. Wednesbury is recorded as Wadnesberie. The first part of the name (Wadnes) refers to Woden the Saxon's god of war, and the second part (berie) is derived from the old English byrig, meaning a burgh, or burh, which is a fort. So the derivation of Wednesbury appears to be Woden's fort. Many place names end in 'ley' which comes from the old English word 'leah', meaning a clearing. Sedgley means Secg's clearing, and Dudley means Dudda's clearing. Others include Brierley Hill, Coseley, Cradley Heath, and the area of Darlaston known as The Leys.

The old English word 'halh' meaning a pocket of land appears in Willenhall, which means the meadowland of Willan. The word "tun" meaning a settlement is found in Bilston, Darlaston, Essington, Wolverhampton, and of course Tipton itself. The old name for Tipton was 'Tibbington'. The middle part of the name 'ing' simply means plural, so the name refers to the settlement of the Tibbs, the surname of the settling family, or their leader.

Tipton was in the southern part of 'The Hundred of Offlow', which would have been headed by a hundred-man or hundred elder, who oversaw justice and administration in the area, organised the supply of soldiers, and led them into battle. Hundreds were usually named after the place where meetings where held, to discuss local issues, and where trials were held. Offlow consists of two Old English words, 'Offa', a person's name, and 'hlaw', a mound. So meetings were held at Offa's mound.

After colonisation Tipton remained as a small farming community for several hundred years. Around one sixth of the land would have been cleared for farming, all that was necessary to support such a small population. In Saxon and Norman times there would have been just a few single-storey timber-framed buildings, possibly clad with timber, or even wattle and daub, and covered with a thatched, or turfed roof. As timber would have been in plentiful supply, it was an obvious building material. There would have been a hearth for a fire, but no chimney (chimneys didn't appear here until at least the late 14th century), the smoke escaped through the roof. All the furniture such as beds, benches and tables would have been made of wood. Valuable items and tools would have been stored in a wooden chest.

Some Saxon houses were built above a hole, up to 9 feet deep, which may have been a basement below a wooden floor. The houses would have been surrounded by farmland for crops, and grazing for cattle.

How the early village might have looked.


After the Norman invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror made it known that he personally owned all of the land in the country. He appointed around 200 barons as tenants in chief, and allowed them to hold large areas of land, in exchange for the payment of taxes, and the provision of soldiers when necessary. The system, known later as feudalism was the key to the Norman's success.

The Normans held on to the Saxon 'Hundreds', but carved-up the land into areas called manors, each controlled by a Baron, or Norman Lord. They had to take an oath of loyalty to the King, carry-out any required duties, and pay taxes for their land. Each manor included several villages whose inhabitants were called peasants. There were several classes of peasant. The highest was a freeman who was free to pursue a trade. The other classes were owned as part of the land, and were not free to move around.

Staffordshire came under the control of a Norman baron called Ansculf de Picquigny who fortified the hill above Dudley. Some time after 1070 he built the first Dudley Castle, a motte and bailey structure, consisting of an earthen mound topped with a timber tower, surrounded by a defensive timber palisade. He was known as the Sheriff of Buckingham, and lived until the mid 1080s. After his death his son William Fitz Ansculf inherited his title and lands.

Although William Fitz Ansculf controlled the Black Country, it seems that he had no interest in Tipton, possibly because he considered it to be insignificant due to the tiny population, and so lack of manpower, and lack of taxes etc.

In 1085 the Danes threatened to invade, and so King William decided to commission a detailed audit of the country, to extract all of the taxes owed to him, and to ensure that the maximum number of soldiers were available to deal with the expected invasion. The survey was so detailed that an entry in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that 'not even an ox, or a cow, or a swine was not set down in his writ.' It seemed so invasive, and all-seeing, that it felt as though judgement day had come. As a result it became known as the Domesday Book.

All 400 pages of the book, record in extraordinary detail, how the Normans organised their new kingdom. Everything on the estate would have been owned and controlled by the manor, or the clergy, including property, money, religion, and even marriage. There were labour services to do on the land, and heavy rents to be paid. The majority of food produced, and animals reared were consumed by the lord of the manor and his household. Many families lived off a simple vegetable soup called pottage. The average life expectancy at the time was just 25.

The Domesday entry for Tipton simply states that in Tibintone there are five carucates of land that were held by the Bishop of Lichfield, and were under the control of William. William was the son of Warren (William Fitzwarren), and became the first lord of the manor of Tipton. A carucate is a piece of land of a size that can be ploughed by a single plough in a year. It is generally reckoned to be about 120 acres, so Tipton had about 600 acres of arable land. It does not include meadow, woodland or uncultivated land. There are no population figures, so the population must have been extremely small. The arable land would have been divided into strips, one for spring crops, one for autumn crops, and another left fallow. They would have been separated by broad grassy mounds.

It has been suggested that the original farming area would have been at Tipton Green, hence the name. In 2011 archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology carried out an excavation in Shrubbery Avenue, Tipton Green which yielded exciting new findings about the medieval origins of the area. Pits, post holes and beam slots were uncovered, along with 12th and 13th century pottery, which is our best evidence for the location of the early medieval settlement, as recorded in the Domesday Book.

Part of a map of Staffordshire from 1610.


Return to the


Proceed to
Medieval Village