A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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CHURCHES (fn. 1)
Until the foundation of the diocese of Birmingham in 1905 Birmingham was far from being a homogeneous ecclesiastical area. It was situated on the boundaries of two ancient sees: of the nine ancient parishes which since 1931 have been largely included in Birmingham County Borough, two-Handsworth and Harborne-were in the diocese of Lichfield (earlier Lichfield and Coventry) and in the archdeaconry of Stafford, three-Northfield, King's Norton and Yardley-were in the diocese and archdeaconry of Worcester, and the remaining four-Aston, Birmingham, Edgbaston and Sheldon-were in the archdeaconry of Coventry, which was transferred from the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry to that of Worcester in 1837. (fn. 2) In 1905 the new diocese of Birmingham was established: (fn. 3) it takes in the whole of the county borough, which forms slightly less than half of the diocese, the remainder being made up of Smethwick, a narrow strip of territory running from Smethwick round the south-west and south of Birmingham, and an area extending east of Birmingham to include Coleshill and stretching from Newton Regis in the north to Lapworth in the south. The diocese is divided into two archdeaconries, Birmingham and Aston, which form roughly its eastern and western halves, and into eleven rural deaneries of which seven are wholly or largely within the county borough. Approximately two-thirds of the churches in the diocese are in the county borough. (fn. 4)
The main differences between the extent of the county borough and the extent of the nine ancient parishes already named are that the county borough on the one hand includes The Quinton, which was part of Halesowen ancient parish (Worcs.), and on the other hand excludes Smethwick (part of Harborne ancient parish), Castle Bromwich and Water Orton (parts of Aston ancient parish). (fn. 5) The comparatively large extent of the ancient parishes which now form Birmingham and the fact that three of them originated as dependent chapelries suggests that the division into parishes preceded any thorough settlement of the land. The largest of the ancient parishes forming part of Birmingham was Aston, which extended to over 13,000 acres (fn. 6) and until the end of the 13th century included also the 7,000 acres of its dependent chapelry at Yardley. (fn. 7) King's Norton, the second largest with a little over 12,000 acres, was originally a dependent chapelry of Bromsgrove and in fact remained dependent ecclesiastically on Bromsgrove until 1846 although it had long been an independent parish for secular purposes. (fn. 8) Edgbaston and Harborne, two of the smaller ancient parishes in Birmingham, once formed a single ecclesiastical unit (fn. 9) of over 5,000 acres. The average area of the nine ancient parishes in Birmingham is 6,500 acres, half as large again as the average for Staffordshire and over twice as large as the average for Warwickshire and Worcestershire. (fn. 10)
The extent of the parishes and the existence in most of them of scattered hamlets gave cause for the foundation of a number of chapels of ease which, unlike those at Edgbaston and Yardley, were unable to achieve independence. (fn. 11) In Aston there were medieval chapels at Castle Bromwich, Water Orton and Deritend, and the 16thcentury chapel (which probably did not long survive) at Ward End. (fn. 12) In Yardley there was the early-18th-century chapel at Hall Green, (fn. 13) in King's Norton the 16thcentury chapel at Moseley, (fn. 14) and in Harborne the 18th-century chapel at Smethwick. (fn. 15) With the exception of the Deritend and Hall Green chapels, where the nature of the benefices may have caused delay, each of these chapels achieved parochial status in the middle years of the 19th century. (fn. 16)
By that period growth of industrial population was creating the demand for new churches in some of the outlying parts of the modern county borough. In the ancient parish of Birmingham Church extension as a result of commercial and industrial development had begun early in the 18th century with the building of St. Philip's, and had continued slowly through the 18th century with the chapels of ease of St. Bartholomew, St. Mary, St. Paul, and, just across the boundary with Aston in the new middle-class suburb of Ashted, St. James. (fn. 17) Each of these new churches, however, provided only a small number of seats for the increasing numbers who could not afford pews, and most of these free seats were reserved at the main services for schoolchildren. Christ Church, Colmore Row, (fn. 18) was built in 1805 with the express intention of providing free accommodation, under an Act which in many ways anticipated the spirit of the Church Building Acts of 1818 and later. Shortage of the means of providing for public worship has been the major problem of the Established Church in Birmingham for centuries-possibly since the Reformation, when Birmingham lost the free chapel at St. Thomas's Hospital and Aston probably lost the newly endowed chapel at Ward End, and when Birmingham, Aston and King's Norton lost the services of their chantry priests. (fn. 19) The 19th-century Church Building Acts, (fn. 20) while in no way overcoming the difficulties, at least enabled the Church to make up some of the lost ground. In the twenty years following the Act of 1818 five new churches were consecrated in Birmingham ancient parish, (fn. 21) two in Aston, (fn. 22) and one each in Edgbaston and Handsworth. (fn. 23) The rate of Church extension in central Birmingham was still thought to be too slow, and in 1838 the Birmingham Church Building Society was founded with the object of establishing ten new churches (the society was usually known as the Ten Churches Fund) in the rural deanery of Birmingham. The result of the society's activity, however, amounted to only five churches, and even for these the money raised was insufficient, so that in four of the five instances cheap building produced churches which did not wear well. (fn. 24) From 1838 until 1865, the year in which the Birmingham Church Extension Society was founded, twelve churches, apart from the five of the Ten Churches Fund, were consecrated in Birmingham, Aston and Edgbaston ancient parishes; the number includes a mortuary chapel, (fn. 25) Queen's College chapel, and, in Aston, one church (fn. 26) still some distance from the built-up area of Birmingham and Aston. (fn. 27) Nine churches were built in the same period in the other parishes which form part of the modern county borough. (fn. 28)
The Birmingham Church Extension Society, like the Ten Churches Fund, was hampered by lack of financial support: in 1865, the first year of its existence, it raised £3,120, while the Sheffield Church Extension Society, founded the same year, raised £23,000. Over the forty years of the Birmingham society's existence (1865-1905) its total expenditure was £60,500, of which £26,000 came from three large donations by two individual benefactors; and the half of this total expenditure that went on grants towards buying sites and building new churches amounted to perhaps one-sixth of the total cost of the churches built with the society's aid. In the area of the modern county borough, these churches numbered 32: only seven churches were built in the area between 1865 and 1905 without the society's help, and five of these were outside the sphere of its activity. (fn. 29) The pace of building new churches reached a peak in the late sixties, (fn. 30) paralleled only at the turn of the century (when four new churches were consecrated in Aston in three years) (fn. 31) and in the nineteen-thirties. From about 1870 mission chapels and mission rooms-cheap, adaptable, and abandoned without difficulty when redundant-began to suffice in many places where beforehand a permanent church would have been thought necessary. Several of these missions, particularly in the new suburban housing estates, later acquired permanent buildings, were consecrated as churches, and had parishes assigned to them. A greater number flourished briefly, lost their attendance, and were ultimately abandoned. In all there have been, at various times, about 150 mission chapels and mission rooms in Birmingham. (fn. 32)
The foundation of the bishopric of Birmingham in 1905 followed not long after the report, in 1898, of the Bishop of Worcester's special commission on the needs of the Church in Birmingham (i.e. in the ancient parishes of Birmingham, Aston, Edgbaston and King's Norton). On the assumptions that no parish should have a population of more than 10,000, that there should be one clergyman for every 3,000 of the population, and that total Church accommodation, including that of mission rooms, should provide for one in eight of the population, the report urged the need for the creation of six new parishes, the employment of 82 additional clergy, and the building of six permanent churches and 32 mission chapels and rooms. (fn. 33) The Bishop of Birmingham's Fund, which assumed the income and liability of the Birmingham Church Extension Society, (fn. 34) thus had, for central Birmingham, a general scheme to work on. The main difficulty, shortage of money, was in no way lessened by the creation of a new diocese. The number of new churches consecrated within the area of the modern county borough was in fact smaller in the seven years of Gore's episcopate than in the pre ceding seven years: eleven from 1898 to 1904, (fn. 35) seven from 1905 to 1911. (fn. 36) On the other hand, the number of mission rooms increased rapidly after 1905. (fn. 37) From the point of view of Church extension the seventeen years following Gore's episcopate were the bleakest since the early 19th century: during a period of extensive suburban development only four new churches (fn. 38) were consecrated in the whole of the area of the modern county borough. A revival began in 1928, and between then and the outbreak of the Second World War fifteen new churches were consecrated, (fn. 39) all of them in the newer suburbs, all but one of them being more than three miles from the city centre. Altogether 107 churches were consecrated between 1708 and 1939, and all but four of these achieved full parochial status. (fn. 40) Up to 1955 only one more new church had been consecrated in Birmingham. (fn. 41)
The fifteen new churches consecrated between 1928 and 1939 mark the third of three phases of rapid expansion, the first being in central Birmingham in the late sixties, and the second in the inner suburbs at the turn of the century; the third phase represents one side of the centrifugal movement of Church extension. The other is seen in the reduction in number of the churches in the central area, where the maintenance of redundant buildings, many of them of Victorian amplitude, drained funds which might be usefully applied to new buildings elsewhere. The gradual depopulation of central Birmingham (fn. 42) was beginning to affect the size of congregations by the seventies: the population of the ecclesiastical parish of Christ Church, Birmingham, fell from 6,636 in 1871 to about 2,500 in 1896. (fn. 43) This church and St. Peter's, Birmingham, were closed under an Act of 1897, (fn. 44) and three more churches, each built in the 18th century, were closed between the wars. (fn. 45) Enemy bombing during the Second World War largely destroyed one church in central Birmingham (fn. 46) and by seriously damaging others helped the authorities to decide which churches should be closed, while the removal of a number was planned as part of slum clearance schemes. In all eight churches in central Birmingham were closed between 1945 and 1955. (fn. 47)
Birmingham is well known as fertile ground for religious eccentricity, but this characteristic cannot be shown to have developed as early as is sometimes supposed. Toulmin Smith's belief that the foundation of Deritend chapel in the late 14th century resulted from the desire of adherents of Wycliffe to be independent of their orthodox parish priest is entirely without foundation. (fn. 48) John Rogers, the first of the 'Marian martyrs', seems to have had little or no connexion with his native Deritend after he had left to go to Cambridge, and his advanced Protestant opinions did not become manifest until some time later. (fn. 49) By the mid-17th century, however, there is evidence of heterodox beliefs at Birmingham, when Presbyterians held the pulpit at St. Martin's and the rivalry of two presentees caused riots in the church, (fn. 50) but in this Birmingham was experiencing nothing more extreme than many other parts of the country. The story of the growth and multiplication of nonconformist sects from the second half of the 17th century is told elsewhere, (fn. 51) but the nonconformist tradition of the town, acting within the Established Church also, is reflected in the careers of men such as Bishop Barnes and Canon Guy Rogers, Rector of Birmingham. (fn. 52)
Riots which occurred in Birmingham at the beginning and end of the 18th century appear superficially to have resulted from the violence of religious convictions. A disturbance in 1714 (fn. 53) is attributed by Hutton and earlier writers to the influence of Dr. Sacheverell's preaching at Sutton Coldfield three days before George I's coronation, and Hutton has been followed by other writers in seeing Sacheverell as a stimulant to the rioting which took place in Birmingham in 1715. Similarly, the 'Church and King' rioters in 1791 directed their hostility against prominent nonconformists and their associates. Yet it is difficult to believe that enthusiasm for the Church of England, though presumably sufficient to provide plausible justification, was great enough to set off these riots, or that doctrinal differences were more than an excuse for disturbance, and the distortion in Hutton's account of the events of 1714 and 1715 undermines its reliability. (fn. 54) In 1714 and 1715 the political causes of unrest, in Birmingham as elsewhere, are obvious. Hostility to the admirers of the French Revolution accounts for the 'Church and King' riots, and it is significant that the mob, travelling fair distances to attack the selected targets, directed its violence not against dissenters indiscriminately, but against Unitarians and others (including the Anglican Dr. Withering) assumed to be in sympathy with the Revolution. (fn. 55)
It is evident, in fact, that Birmingham has been remarkably free from friction between Church and Chapel, although nonconformists have suffered from mass excitement roused on the pretext of loyalty to the Established Church. Wesley was received with tolerance in Birmingham by all but unruly elements of the mob, (fn. 56) and Hutton wrote of the unanimity among the sects, which, 'with benign aspect, seems now the predominant star of the zenith', and of his own pleasure at seeing 'the Churchman, the Presbyterian and the Quaker uniting their efforts like brethren, to carry on a work of utility'. (fn. 57) Many of the leading Anglican clergy in Birmingham in the 19th century were noted for their wide sympathies and friendliness towards dissenters. In the early part of the century there were Edward Burn at St. Mary's and John Garbett at St. George's both noted for their tolerance of dissent. (fn. 58) Although the middle years of the century saw the growth of a certain hostility, this was manifest mainly among people who had no particular loyalty to, and no office in, either Church or Chapel; (fn. 59) and despite occasional minor irritations, such as that caused by the complete absence of Anglican clergy from the unveiling of Priestley's statue in 1874, (fn. 60) the leaders of the Anglican and dissenting communities on the whole followed the example of Grantham Yorke of St. Philip's and John Cale Miller of St. Martin's in their friendliness and toleration towards each other. (fn. 61) It is noticeable that accounts of the disturbances in Birmingham caused by Murphy's inflammatory speeches in 1867 do not mention any of the Birmingham Anglican clergy as giving him their support. (fn. 62) By the end of the 19th century co-operation between the Church and the larger Protestant nonconformist groups had become the rule. The passage through the House of Commons of the bill to establish the bishopric of Birmingham was due largely to a speech in its favour by Joseph Chamberlain, who had earlier been an outspoken critic of the Established Church. (fn. 63) His enthusiasm for the project arose from his admiration of Charles Gore who, as first Bishop of Birmingham, numbered the Cadburys among his closest friends there (fn. 64) and whose enthronement in 1905 was attended by representatives of all the main Protestant churches. (fn. 65) The survival of this sort of atmosphere has made unusual experiments possible in Birmingham when in other towns such events as a sermon in the old parish church by a Quakeress (fn. 66) might have caused uproar. Gore's successors, Russell Wakefield (1911-24) and E. W. Barnes (1924-52), were both notable for the friendly relations they established and maintained with the free churches in Birmingham. (fn. 67)
Doctrinal controversies within the Church of England seem to have become acute only in the 20th century. The secession to the Roman Church in 1851 of the Hon. William Towry Law, Vicar of St. Peter's, Harborne, (fn. 68) does not indicate any special characteristic of Birmingham's religious life at that time. In fact, Birmingham seems to have been less affected by Tractarianism than most large towns, and despite the rapid expansion there of the Roman Church and the presence of several leading English Catholics (fn. 69) the Anglican clergy in Birmingham do not figure significantly among the numerous clerical converts of the middle years of the century. Apart from Law, only a curate of Northfield is named in the lists of converts to Rome published during the period. (fn. 70) A more remarkable secession from the Established Church was that of another Harborne incumbent, T. Huband Gregg, Vicar of St. John's, Harborne, who in 1877 introduced into England the Reformed Episcopal Church. (fn. 71) R. W. Enraght, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, though briefly imprisoned and later deprived of his living (in 1883) as a result of his ritualistic practices, died as a beneficed clergyman of the Church of England. (fn. 72)
A considerable controversy arose in 1903 when Gore, as Bishop of Worcester, persuaded the Vicar of Christ Church, Yardley Wood, to resign on the grounds that he had preached sermons impugning the validity of certain scriptural miracles, but the affair achieved notoriety more from the method of the vicar's removal than from the nature of his teachings. (fn. 73) As Bishop of Birmingham, Gore's energy was consumed mainly in the organization and administration of the new diocese, and his successor was not notably active in matters of doctrine and ritual. (fn. 74) It is possible that in these matters the diocese had been allowed to get out of hand, and when Barnes became bishop in 1924 he described the diocese as a 'bear garden'. In particular, he set out to eradicate the custom of perpetual reservation of the sacrament, and his struggles with the twenty-odd incumbents who resisted continued until they had died or moved to other dioceses. But the bishop's own orthodoxy was suspect, and in 1947 the two archbishops condemned his book on The Rise of Christianity as seriously minimizing the essential doctrines of the Church of England. (fn. 75)
The work of the Church of England in Birmingham has often been overshadowed by the 'paramount influence of nonconformity'. (fn. 76) The combined membership of the Protestant nonconformist sects has never noticeably outnumbered the body of churchgoing Anglicans in Birmingham, (fn. 77) and the significance of Protestant nonconformity there is to be seen not in terms of numbers but in the leadership of prominent nonconformists in commerce and local politics. The Church of England, on the other hand, has had, from the middle of the 19th century at least, a good record for its social work among Birmingham's poor. (fn. 78) In 1858 Grantham Yorke claimed that 'domiciliary' visits were made almost exclusively by Anglican clergy, that in emergencies the poor went most frequently to them, and that there was no part of England where the clergy were 'more respectfully treated than they are in Birmingham'. (fn. 79) Yorke's own work for 'ragged schools' in Birmingham (fn. 80) and the introduction, as the result of initiative by Anglican clergy, of the Hospital Sunday (1859) and Hospital Saturday (1869) Funds (fn. 81) attest the social consciousness of the Church in Birmingham. The location of churches and especially, in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first of the 20th, of missions shows how the Established Church attempted to bring the benefits of religion to the poorest sections of the population. In this, the Church had an advantage over dissent: the comparative autonomy of dissenting communities, the disappearance from Birmingham as the century passed of the type of mixed neighbourhood where rich and poor lived near to each other, and the dependence of the dissenting minister for his living on the contributions of his followers tended to confine nonconformist activities to those sections of the population which could afford to support them.
Birmingham's bishops have taken a leading part in the social work of the Church. Gore, a somewhat surprising combination of high-churchman, evangelistic and radical liberal made it his business to visit the poorer parts of the city as systematically as possible, and on one occasion when invited to stay the night with a well-to-do churchwarden preferred to lodge in a bricklayer's house. (fn. 82) His successor is described in his obituary as 'the layman's bishop' and as a social rather than an ecclesiastical reformer. (fn. 83) In the twenties and thirties this type of activity was consolidated in the Birmingham Christian Social Council, (fn. 84) in which a leading part was played by Canon Rogers who appears to have been as much at home among the pedlars of the markets as in the pulpit of St. Martin's. (fn. 85)
The names of a number of people prominent in the affairs of the Church in Birmingham have been mentioned above. A few others, some of them named below in connexion with the individual churches with which they were concerned, deserve to be singled out for mention here: Miss Louisa Ann Ryland (d. 1889), a munificent benefactor to Birmingham and particularly to the Church there; (fn. 86) Canon T. H. Freer (d. 1904), who left £10,000 as an endowment for the new bishopric of Birmingham; (fn. 87) various members of the Calthorpe family, benefactors and dutiful patrons of several Birmingham churches; and, not least, the architect J. A. Chatwin (d. 1907) who, in designing, restoring or enlarging over 30 churches in Birmingham, showed a remarkable facility for providing buildings which were inexpensive and structurally sound, and at the same time satisfactory both aesthetically and in terms of accommodation. (fn. 88)
Individual accounts of all the consecrated Anglican churches which have been situated within the area enclosed by the modern city boundary are given below. Churches outside that area are not included, even though the parishes attached to them may have been partly within it. The churches have been arranged in two groups, numbered in a single series throughout:
(i) Churches built before 1800. Those which have not already been described in the History, i.e. those formerly in Warwickshire (excluding Sheldon) and Staffordshire, form numbers 1 to 12. Histories and descriptions of churches built before 1800 which have been described in earlier volumes of the History, i.e. those formerly in Worcestershire parishes and in Sheldon, are not repeated in full here, but the churches are listed (numbers 13 to 18) for the sake of convenience, and additional facts about them are given in summary form.
(ii) Churches built since 1800. These are treated briefly: the facts given for each church are intended to indicate the history of the church as a place of worship, the changes in the patronage and nature of the benefice, the establishment of and changes in the parish assigned to the church, and the provision for worship in places other than the parish church. Under this heading the names of earlier churches are listed in square brackets, so that a single complete list of Anglican churches is provided.