Windmill Naps

Description of this historic site

The site of a managed woodland dating from the Medieval period and contains earthworks including a boundary similar to that surrounding a deer park. It is located 750m south east of Birmingham Rugby Football club.

Notes about this historic site

1 Windmill Naps is a complex wood of 33ha. The earthworks consist of large woodbanks and ditches around the two areas of probable ancient woodland, Tylers Grove to the north and Ladbrookpark Coppice to the south. Between and around these old woods are areas of woodland overlying ridge and furrow of varying sizes, probably dating from the medieval or post-medieval periods up to the 18th century and demarcated by woodbanks of varying sizes.

The coppice wood known as Ladbrookpark Coppice is divided into three separate compartments by large banks and ditches. A wood account for Tanworth of 1403-4 notes £20 received for all wood growing “intra clausur’ de Lodbrookes” (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Box 102 extra information). The account clearly identifies this site as a wood. After felling the wood was (again?) enclosed. The enclosing is recorded as three separate measurments, the ratios of which are very similar to the ratios of the lengths of the surviving woodbanks. They suggest a perch of between 16 and 18 feet, which is credible. The woodland perch could vary from 15.5 to 30 feet. The 18 foot perch was common throughout England and Wales and is recorded before 1600. In Binley, Warwickshire it was still used in the 18th century.

If this reasoning is correct, it tells us that Ladbrookpark Coppice probably existed in very much its present shape and size in the early 15th century; that it was divided into three compartments at that time; and that the woodbanks probably date back to at least that date. It provides evidence of the size of perch that the medieval woodmen were using there.

The survey of the earthworks also reveals other features, including a double-ditched deer park-type bank along the north edge of Tylers Grove; Tylers Grove may well be the Tylhous Grove of 1373 or 1374. As the deer park bank stretches along the length of Tylers Grove, including an eastern secondary extension to that wood (marked by large ridge and furrow), it may indicate that the addition to Tylers Grove existed by the time the deer park was created, which may have been c.1350. There is another stretch of deer park-type boundary along the east edge of Ladbrokpark Coppice. There is also a probable windmill mound, 30m across, which is now buried in woodland between Tylers Grove and Ladbrookpark Coppice in the area which was once a field called Windmill Naps. (In 1373 there was a Wynmelfelde hereabouts.) As windmills were often placed close to woods to channel the wind towards the mill in East Anglia, this mound may show that the wood (or both woods) and a functioning mill existed at the same time.Progressively smaller woodbanks mark the changing edges of the woods as trees probably crept out into underused farmland; a plan of 1707 appears to mark the small additional woodbank on the north edge of Ladbrookpark Coppice as “The New Ditch”. 18th and 19th century documents show that much of the new woodland on ridge and furrow (apart from the possibly ancient Tylers Grove extension) arose around the end of the 18th century, at a time when, in general, more land was being brought into intensive cultivation throughout England.

The two old coppice woods at Windmill Naps still, after two centuries, form islands of distinct woodland types, with plants like sessile oak Quercus petraea, hazel Corylus avellana, wood anemone Anemone nemorosa, common cowwheat Melampyrum pratense and wild service tree Sorbus torminalis still restricted to them within the complex.

2 Discussion and analysis in to the Windhill Naps earthwork complex, illustrated with plans.
3 Revised version.

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