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Tamworth in 1842

TAMWORTH, a municipal and parliamentary borough on the border of Staffordshire and Warwickshire : the municipal borough, which includes the greater part of the town, and the parish, which is far more extensive, having an area of 12,920 acres, are divided between the two counties : the parish is partly in the northern and partly in the southern division of Offlow hundred in the county of Stafford, and partly in Hemlingford hundred in Warwickshire. The church is in Staffordshire, on which account the town is commonly described as being in that county. Tamworth is 102 miles in a direct line north-west of the General Post-office, London, or 129 miles by the London and Birmingham Railway to Hampton in Arden, and from thence by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway.

The town first comes into notice in the time of the Heptarchy: several of the Mercian kings appear, from the date of charters granted by them, to have had their residence at Tamworth. In the Danish wars a fort was built here in the reign of Edward the Elder (A.D. 913) by his sister Ethelfleda, lady of Mercia, who died at Tamworth, A.D. 920, and Mercia passed under the dominion of Edward, who received the submission of the Tamworth men, A.D. 922. Shaw (Hist. of Staffordshire) ascribes to Ethelfleda the mound on which the present ruins of the castle stand, but the ruins themselves are of later date. An old ditch, yet visible, called ‘the king’s dyke,’ which surrounds the town on three sides, is supposed by Shaw to be of yet greater antiquity than the time of Edward. In the ‘Saxon Chronicle’ the town is called Tamaweorthige, Tameweorthige, Tamanweorthe, or Tamweorthe : in other ancient writings the orthography is still further varied. The place is not described in ‘Domesday ;’ but the ‘burgenses’ (burgesses) of Tamworth, are mentioned in that record, in the notice of other places.

After the Conquest, the castle and adjacent territory were granted to Robert Marmion, hereditary champion to the dukes of Normandy ; and afterwards, on the extinction of the male line of his family in the time of Edward I, passed to the family of Frevile. The castle now belongs to Marquis Townshend. Sir Walter Scott has enumerated ‘Tamworth tower and town’ among the possessions of his fictitious Marmion : but the family had become extinct long before, as observed by Sir Walter in the Appendix to his poem.

The town stands on the north bank of the rivers Tame and Anker, just at their junction, and consists of several streets not very regularly laid out. The streets are paved, but had not been lighted when the Municipal Boundary Commissioners’ Report was drawn up (Parliamentary Papers for 1837) ; the inhabitants were however about to assess themselves for the purpose. ‘The church is a large and handsome edifice, with a fine tower, and a crypt under part of the church. Some portions are of decorated date, and some perpendicular, and both good : some of the windows have had very fine tracery. In the tower is a curious double staircase, one from the inside and one from without, each communicating with a different set of floors in the tower.’ (Rickman’s Gothic Architecture.) The remains of the castle are on a mound close to the Tame ; they are of various periods, and some modern buildings have been added to adapt the whole to the purposes of a modern residence : the castle commands a fine prospect. There are some Dissenting places of worship ; an almshouse, founded by Guy, the founder of Guy’s Hospital in Southwark ; a town-hall, with a small and inconvenient gaol underneath ; and two bridges, one over the Tame, the other over the Anker.

The population of the municipal borough in 1831 was 3,537, that of the whole parish (containing several hamlets and townships) 7,182. Some manufactures are carried on ; but the whole number of men employed in them in the parish was, in 1831, only 38. Some coals and brick-earth are dug in the neighbourhood, and bricks and tiles are made. The market is on Saturday : there are three chartered fairs for cattle and merchandise, and several new fairs for cattle only ; some of them held at Fazeley in the parish. The Coventry Canal passes near the town.

Tamworth was a borough by prescription ; but the town having declined and ceased to be regarded as a corporation, was incorporated anew by letters patent of Queen Elizabeth : the governing charter is one of Charles II. By the Municipal Reform Act the borough has four aldermen, and twelve councillors, but is not to have a commission of the peace except on petition and grant. The criminal jurisdiction of the corporation had fallen into disuse before the passing of that act, as well as the court of record : quarter-sessions were held, but for civil purposes only.

Tamworth first sent members to parliament in the reign of Elizabeth : it still returns two members. The number of voters on the register in 1835-6 was 531 : in 1839-40, 501.

The living of Tamworth is a perpetual curacy, of the clear yearly value of £170, with a glebe-house. There are in the parish the perpetual curacies of Fazeley, Wigginton, and Wilnecote, of the clear yearly value of £235, (with a glebe-house), £92 and £90 respectively : the curate of Tamworth presents to Wigginton and Wilnecote. There are also in the parish two chapelries, Amington and Hopwas.

There were in the borough, in 1833, three endowed and three unendowed day-schools, with 183 children, namely 142 boys, 21 girls, and 20 children of sex not stated ; and and three Sunday-schools, with 203 children, viz. 97 boys and 106 girls. In the rest of the parish were one infant-school, partly supported by subscription, with 88 children, namely 41 boys and 47 girls ; ten day-schools of all kinds, with 96 boys, 80 girls, and 80 children of sex not stated, making 256 children in all ; and three Sunday-schools, with 288 children, namely 150 boys and 138 girls.