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Queen Eleanor and Lady Byron

Longdon Hall

There are two roads in the Copt Heath area named after ladies of history. Both have connections to the local Manor Houses, that is those of Knowle and Longdon. One is Queen Eleanors Drive, the other is Lady Byron Lane.

The Manor of Knowle was, according to Eva Wootton in her book The History of Knowle (ISBN 0 907083 00 5), first recorded in about 1200, when it is recorded that the whole of 'Gnoll' was gifted by William de Arden to his wife Amice. It then passed to descendants in the de Arden family, who lived as Lords of the Manor in the Manor House.

This is believed to have stood on the same site as the present 'Manor House' in Kenilworth Road. The current building is from the 16th or 17th century, but two former Manor Houses are thought to have stood on the site. Although it continued to be called the Manor house, that role moved to Knowle Hall.

In 1285 the Manor of 'Knolle' was sold to King Edward I and Queen Eleanor. When the Queen died in 1290, it appears that the King gave away estates that reminded him of his beloved Queen, and the Manor into the ownership of Westminster Abbey. Upon the dissolution of the monasteries title reverted to the crown and thus it remained until the reign of James I who gave the Manor to Lord Brooke.

It was Lord Brooke who migrated the manorial seat to Knowle Hall, which he had built further along the road to Temple Balsall. Although subsequently rebuilt it remains on the same site today, off the Kenilworth Road on the far side of the Grand Union Canal.

The adjacent Manor of Longdon lay to the north of the Manor of Knowle. According to Joy Woodall and Mollie Varley, in their book Solihull Place Names (1979), the first record of Longdon was as Langedone, meaning 'long hill' in 1086. The long hill in question was what is now Solihull's Marsh Lane and Yew Tree Lane, leading from the River Blythe up onto Elmdon Heath. However, the Manor's seat was at its fringe on Copt Heath. This was the moated Longdon Hall (pictured above), set where it stands today in the heart of the Golf Course.

In the 1800s ownership of Longdon Hall and with it lands stretching from Malvern Park to Copt Heath, passed to Ann Millbank Noel, wife of Lord Byron, her family having owned the estate since the 1600s. Although Lord Byron died in 1824, she lived until 1860 and regularly visited her estate. However, as tenants were resident in Longdon Hall, she frequently stayed at The Mermaid, built as a coaching inn on the turnpike to Warwick and now known as The Greswolde Arms Hotel.

When, much later, a country lane within that estate leading from the Warwick Road to Tilehouse Green was developed with housing, it was named Lady Byron Lane. Then, in the 1980s, a small but prestigious new housing development was planned off Jacobean Lane. The new road was named Queen Eleanors Drive.

Meanwhile, ownership of Longdon Hall passed to the adjacent Golf Club, who let it for a prolonged period, during which a lack of investment took its toll. In 2011 it was sold to new owners, who are committed to its restoration.