The river Tame is the main river in the West Midlands though is a tributary of the mighty Trent. The river's sources are in Oldbury and Willenhall which link up at Bescot and the river then flows East through the North of Birmingham before heading up to Tamworth (which gained its name from the river) and finally joins the Trent at Alrewas and then you eventually reach the North Sea via the Ouse.
River Tame in Witton, North Birmingham
The Tame basin is the most urbanised in Britain with 42% of it in built-up areas. This has had a dramatic effect on the river with it becoming notoriously polluted during the Industrial Revolution and was once regarded as one of Britain's dirtiest rivers. Although the river has never been made navigable (although there were proposals in the 19th century to use it and the Trent to link Birmingham to the Humber) it was heavily used for industrial and agricultural processes from as early as the 12th century. However the nature of the river meant that this was later than in some other areas. A number of water mills were sited along the river in places such as Sandwell, Bromford and Minworth to grind wheat. Later on the power of water was used to drive bellows and hammers. Such was the demand of industry on the river and its feeding streams that there were often disputes between millers over water supply. Some furnaces in places like Hamstead had to be closed down due to insufficient water supply however by the 19th century steam was replacing water wheels as the primary source of power.
Erdington is listed as having a mill in the Domesday Book, which was probably Bromford Mill located near the confluence of the Tame and the Rea. Later on a fulling mill is also mentioned in the sources on the Plants Brook in Pype Hayes which used to join the Tame nearby. Both mills are known to have existed until the early 17th century. Later on Bromford Mill became a forge and machinery was installed to make nails and later wire. This site was later owned by the Rollason family and existed as a company until the 1950s. A road was later named after them during the residential expansion of Erdington in the early part of the 20th century, the road i grew up on incidentally!
Plants Brook in Pype Hayes Park, Erdington
Much of the river's early course, especially in its Willenhall and Oldbury Arms have been modified by man. The construction of the motorways also meant that the course of the river had to be changed especially near the Gravelly Hill Interchange in Northern Birmingham and near the M5 in Bescot.
River Tame alongside A38(M) Aston Expressway, Aston
More recent remodeling from the 1980s onwards has tried to prevent flooding and also improve the habitat for wildlife. Now much of the river is a haven for wildlife including geese and swans but maybe flows quietly away from much attention as is winds its way through the big city and beyond.
W.B. Stephens (Editor). "Economic and Social History: Mills." A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964): 253-269. British History Online. Web. 19 April 2012. <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22970>
Post Office Directory of Birmingham, 1867 p 359
History, Gazetteer & Directory of Warwickshire, 1850 p 84
Charles Anthony Vince, History of the Corporation of Birmingham Vol 3 1885-1899 (Birmingham: Cornish Brothers 1902), p 366