Handsworth was recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086, as a holding of William Fitz-Ansculf, the Lord of Dudley. The name Handsworth originates from its Saxon owner Hondes and the Old English word weorthing, meaning farm or estate. Archaeological finds have dated Handsworth back to the Stone Age.
The ancient parish of Handsworth was divided into two halves. The Perry Barr half lay on rising ground north-east of the River Tame. The southern part of Handsworth south-west of the river was confusingly known simply as Handsworth, and so was the hamlet around St Mary's Church.
Historically in the county of Staffordshire, it remained a small village from the 13th century to the 18th century. Accommodation was built for factory workers, the village quickly grew. Handsworth parish was transferred from Staffordshire to Warwickshire, and became part of Birmingham, in 1911.