St Mary, Moseley

Statement Of Significance

A religious building dedicated to St Mary has been at the heart of Moseley for over 600 years. The foundation of the church for public worship is taken to be the Papal Mandate from Pope Innocent VII dated 2nd February 1405 by which he instructed the Bishop of Worcester to allow the local parishioners to have mass and other divine offices celebrated by fit priests in the existing private chapel dedicated to St Mary Moseley.

In October 1494, a parcel of waste land was given to the trustees of the chapel of the Blessed Mary in Moseley by the Lord of the Manor, Cicely, Duchess of York, who was the mother of Edward IV and Richard III, so as to augment the living, in return for a red rose every midsummer’s day. It was not given for any particular purpose, being entirely covered with water. Earlier suggestions that Queen Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and wife of Henry VII, gave this land upon which to build a church are mistaken and, in any event, she did not become the Lord of the Manor until May 1495 on the death of her grandmother.

This chapel is likely to be the same building as the one mentioned in 1405. There is no evidence that another was built on the same site or elsewhere, in the intervening 90 years.

In the fifth year of the reign of King Henry VIII (1513-1514), a tower was built using 48 cart loads of stone from the walls of the parsonage at Bromsgrove. In addition, repairs were done to the chapel at this time and bells were bought. By the time of a royal survey for an inventory in 1552, three bells had been installed in the tower, and four years earlier, the Commissioners of Edward VI from the Court of Augmentations had confirmed the continuation of a Minister in the chapel at an annual salary of 7 Marks (£4 13s 4d) payable by the Exchequer. In the reign of Philip and Mary, Letters Patent dated 1558 confirmed the salary and ordered arrears to be paid. This award was still being paid to the Incumbent at the same amount less tax well into the 20th century.

Dissenters ministered in the chapel during the middle of the 17th century but were ejected in 1662 after the restoration of Charles II.

Throughout this time, Moseley Chapel was regarded as a Chapel of Ease first to Bromsgrove and then to King’s Norton churches with trustees looking after it. As a result of augmentations to the living from Queen Anne’s Bounty during the 18th century, Moseley became a Perpetual Curacy as an ecclesiastical parish (‘body politick’) in its own right, but without a defined boundary, in 1780. Strangely, despite the increased clergy stipend, the church building itself was falling into disrepair at this time and for some years no services had been held in it. As a result of a public subscription confirmed by Letters Patent of George III in 1779, the Church was rebuilt and enlarged.

In 1823 the Church was redesigned along Gothic Revival lines by Thomas Rickman This church was about the length of the Nave of the present church. There was no Chancel, but rather an apse for the altar at the East End. Against the tower at the West, there was a loft, accessed from the belfry, which housed a small barrel organ and a small singing group.

This instrument produced a very small selection of hymn tunes (probably only 6) and a short-lived music group was introduced to enhance the music but it was found to be too expensive to maintain. Miss Sarah Taylor of Moseley Hall then provided the church with a new, much improved barrel organ in 1838, the loft having been converted into a larger gallery with seating for about 150. In 1856, a manual organ by Bosward & Sons of Birmingham was installed in the gallery and the barrel organ found its way to Yardley Wood Parish Church. The choir continued to sing from the gallery until 1868 when they moved to the East end in front of the apse and were surpliced for the first time.

Shortly prior to this, in 1853, Moseley Chapel dedicated to St Mary was granted a fully defined boundary and became a District Chapelry with the Incumbent, still a Perpetual Curate, able to celebrate Holy Matrimony and receive the statutory fees. In 1866, the District Chapelry became a Vicarage and for the first time the Incumbent could be called Vicar. A parsonage house had been built in 1856 on glebe land in School Road. The detailed specifications for the building included servants’ quarters, a system of calling bells, a piggery and a chicken coop but no bathroom.

No sooner had the Parish of St Mary, Moseley secured settled boundaries than a large portion to the south was created in 1863 into the separate Consolidated Chapelry of All Saints, Kings Heath which itself became a vicarage in 1866. The same occurred for the District Chapelry of St Anne’s, Moseley in 1875 with land to the north.

Nevertheless, the population of Moseley increased considerably over this time from a small village of 1500 people to an urban suburb of nearly 17,000, according to the Census records from 1851 to 1911. More space and additional worship buildings were required.

In 1872, the church was extended eastwards by 21 feet to provide the first chancel. At the same time, the Bosward organ was enlarged and moved from the gallery to a purpose-built chamber to the north of the new Chancel. The choir also moved to sing from the chancel. A further 50 additional sittings were provided. This was the work of the Architect, J.A. Chatwin and began his association of over thirty years with the alterations to the church.

Before any further building took place, the church acquired a new set of bells. The three 16th century bells had been recast in 1638, 1650 and 1740 respectively, and were purchased by Miss Rebecca Anderton for the new St Anne’s church in 1874. In the same year, the tower at St Mary’s was provided with a ring of eight steel bells from Sheffield which had hung in to St Marie's R C Church for a few years. They were bought by Sir John Holder of Brewery fame who lived at Pitmaston, Moor Green. During the rebuilding work of 1909, the bells became silent and until the restoration work in 1991, only certain bells could be swung for chiming but this was rare. In 2012, the steel bells were replaced with a new peal of ten, seven of which were newly cast by John Taylor of Loughborough.

With the rapidly increasing population, especially following the erection of numerous shops and cottages directly opposite the church in St Mary’s Row, thoughts turned again to providing additional accommodation for worshippers. This began with the idea of building a completely new church in the east of the village which became St Agnes Church, consecrated in 1884, as a second worship centre within the parish and eventually gaining parochial status in its own right in 1914.

It became clear that an enlarged space was required even with the Temporary Church and the building of St Agnes. J.A. Chatwin produced plans to expand on the north side with the creation of a new North aisle and arcade of six columns. The contract was given to the builders, Sapcotes, at a total cost in the region of £1700 and, to their credit, not a single service was lost during the building work. It was consecrated in May 1885 and provided an additional 326 sittings of which 150 were free.

In 1887, the larger organ chamber was built and a new organ installed at a cost of £750. It was built by Henry Jones and Son of London for the National Art Treasures Exhibition at Folkestone in 1886 and was brought to Moseley by train to the recently opened station. It is enclosed in a handsome carved case of solid oak, and was the inspiration of the parish organist Frederick H Bell to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. This organ is still in use today. Chris Kearl has written a detailed history.

Further additions were made by the Chatwins, father J.A. and son P.B., in 1891 with a Parish Vestry at the west end which became the choir vestry and in 1897 when the Chancel was enlarged and a transept erected on the south side of the Chancel for even more additional seating. Subsequently, this was transformed into a side chapel and is now known as the Lady Chapel.

In 1904, a finely ornate alabaster Reredos was erected at the High Altar in memory of the church organist, Frederick H Bell who died in 1903. Unfortunately, this was damaged beyond repair by a bomb in December 1940 which also destroyed a good deal of the stained glass. In 1981 the Magnificat window, designed by Laurence Lee, was installed in the North aisle.

The major work of P.B. (Philip) Chatwin was the expansion of the building to the south in 1909-10 with the erection of a new south aisle and clerestory built with increased roof height and a south arcade of columns to match those on north. Old oak high pews were cut down to their present size. New porches were also created at South-East and South-West ends, the latter replacing a previous door to the east. At this time, the West gallery was removed, revealing the medieval arch. The total seating was then 907.

During the 1920s and 1930s, much was done to beautify the interior of the church with much stone facing of the internal walls and wooden screens. The tower was restored in 1923 and a lych gate was constructed in place of the Victorian gateway in 1933, close to the War Memorial, erected in 1920. A Sacristy was added on the north side of High Altar sanctuary in 1934 and in the same year, with a bequest in memory of Cllr. F. D. Tippetts, a fine pair of wrought iron gates was installed by The Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, famous for the Buckingham Palace gates.

A clock was first installed in the tower in 1857. By 1937, it had ceased to function and was replaced in commemoration of George VI’s coronation, with faces on the West and South elevations. It was repaired and refurbished in 2008.

In 1998, an old low wall separating the chancel and the nave was removed, a platform built extending the chancel into the nave, and a nave altar was dedicated.

In 2011, a set of 48 photo-voltaic solar panels was installed on the south-facing roof of the nave. They have a peak power of 9 kW and deliver about 7.5 MWh of energy per year.

Churchyard Development


St Mary's Graveyard

The original graveyard is the area closest to the church on the south side. It is not known how large this was but in 1822, Rev Edward Palmer, sold part of his glebe land, amounting to 880 sq. yards for an agreed price of £34, to be held on trust for the church. The churchyard then comprised the area shaded pink above.

The next acquisitions took place in 1850 when William Morrell Lawson was the Curate. First, by a Conveyance dated 31st August 1850, he gave the area shaded pale green amounting to 1510 sq. yards and including two cottages which used to stand at the western edge of that plot. Later that year, on 12th November, a long strip on the eastern boundary (pale blue) was bought back from the Midland Railway Company, having been acquired under the provisions of a private Act of Parliament in 1836 and was obviously surplus to requirements.

We are fortunate to have a full index of burials by name, date and, in many instances, precise location. In addition, we have a beautifully ornate Burial Pan drawn by the Surveyors, James & Lister Lea in 1903 which is now in need of repair.

In 1878 an additional 4494 sq. yards of land at the rear of the Church (orange) was purchased from Mr. William Dyke Wilkinson at 7/- (35p) per sq. yard, and in 1882/3 two further plots were purchased (dark blue and yellow) to bring the churchyard to its present size. At this time, the church also acquired a legal right of way over the passageway between what is now Barclays Bank and Atlantis Fish Bar, by a Conveyance dated 28th October 1882, when Mr. Wilkinson sold some of his land at the rear of the Bull’s Head.

Unfortunately during WW2 several bombs fell in the churchyard causing a lot of damage to memorials. In 1974-81 many gravestones were cleared to facilitate maintenance. A complete record was made of all the inscriptions on behalf of the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry. The space was grassed over but the graves themselves were left undisturbed. By Order in Council dated 10th June 1981, all further burials, except in existing vaults or marked graves were discontinued so that it is now a ‘closed’ churchyard under the general maintenance of Birmingham City Council pursuant to s.215 Local Government Act 1972.

R H Brown
November 2013