St Mary’s Church through the Centuries

Robert Brown
February 2013

1. Introduction

In the days when Charles Dickens was writing about hard times, great expectations and a bleak house, with his vivid descriptions of squalor and injustice in our towns and cities, Moseley was still a country village,

where the roses and honeysuckle grew unplucked outside the cottages by the wayside. The nearest approach from the town of Birmingham(1) was by the Moseley Road, through the great white toll-gate, near the corner of what is now Park Hill, or by footpaths through Jakeman’s Walk(2) and, crossing the Edgbaston Lane, alongside the Park Wall, coming out on the Moseley side of the toll-gate. The way to the new Vicarage(3) was by a pathway through the fields by the side of Elmhurst(4), where lived the genial Mr. Frank Badhams. The Revd John R. Davison was at this time the much-loved Vicar and the Misses Anderton were dispensing their bounteous gifts to the Church, whose exterior picturesqueness in its rural setting caused it to be generally admired by visitors from the neighbouring town.
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St Mary’s Church, 1 April 2007

 
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Moseley Village, 1870

So wrote Frederick Bell, the organist for more than thirty years, of his reminiscences in the Moseley Parish Magazine in 1893. The church then had the outward appearance of the Rickman(5) building, often maligned for its sham interior, of which nothing now can be seen. Some seventeen years later, The Lord Bishop of the recently created diocese of Birmingham(6) , Charles Gore, led a service of commemoration and dedication to sacred uses of the much enlarged and renovated structure of St Mary’s Church. Moseley was shortly to become part of the City of Birmingham in 1911 and, by then, it bore no resemblance to the tiny berewick of Bromsgrove mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. This structure, as it essentially appears today, was also a far cry from the appeal for funds in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette of 1780 after Letters Patent of George III allowed the collection of alms because the middle aisle of the ancient Chapelry was falling down.

Over time, the present site has seen four church buildings. Inevitably, there have been numerous alterations to the fixtures and fittings inside; the area of the Parish, once created in 1853, has been both increased in size and reduced; the churchyard has been extended at least six times as the population of Moseley burgeoned, and the Parochial Church Council has acquired additional buildings for functional use and investment to the west of the church.

How have we arrived where we are today?