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1857 - 1957 Chapter 1

THE PARISH CHURCH

OF

ST. MICHAEL BOLDMERE

SUTTON COLDFIELD

1857 - 1957

 

A short account
of the
Parish Church of St. Michael. Boldmere,
written in celebration of its centenary
by
E. M. JOINER, B.Sc., F.R.I.C., A.C.I.S.

 

 

PREFACE

---------

 

In writing this I have endeavoured to be as factual and objective as possible; where doubt exists this has been expressed in the context.

Many people have helped me with this work; some by supplying written information and others
by oral evidence.  The Librarians and staff at Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham Public Libraries
have been most co-operative. The vicar of Boldmere, Canon E. W. Brown, has encouraged me
in the work, the Rev. J. D. Murray has provided valuable criticism and guidance in the preparation of the M.S., Mr. R. Beckett has supplied a technical description of St. Michael's organ, and my son, John, has copied the map and taken the photographs of the reredos, nave and font.

All this assistance is greatly appreciated and gratefully acknowledged.

E. M. Joiner.

 

CHAPTER 1    "Early Days"

 

BISHOP VESEY.


There is some doubt about the birthday of a certain John Harman, son of a yeoman of substance, who was born in the lordship of Sutton Coldfield towards the close of the fifteenth century; there is a similar uncertainty about the reason why he changed his name to Vesey; there is no doubt whatever that he was a man of outstanding ability and that he played a profound part in the development of his native town.

Vesey went to Oxford in 1482 and was elected a fellow of Magdalen College about four years later. Wolsey was a contemporary student at his college, a fact which seems likely to have reacted to Vesey's advantage. After occupying the chair of Civil Law at Oxford for a short time Vesey became attached to the Queen's household but later sought preferment in the Church. He was the nominal occupant of many livings‑by no means uncommon then‑and he seems to have won esteem as a just and upright man‑then a much rarer distinction‑and he is remarked as the executor of the wills of many prominent gentry of the time. He also established a good reputation as Warden of the Marches of Wales.

In 1519 in his capacity as Dean of Windsor, Vesey played a prominent part in the investiture of Wolsey as a cardinal by reading the Papal Bull. Four years later Vesey became Bishop of Exeter but this preferment seems to have been little to his liking and in a few years he set up an establishment in Sutton Coldfield where for nearly thirty years he devoted much of his time, energy and wealth to the betterment of his native town. He obtained a Royal Charter which decreed that the management of civil affairs should be vested in a warden and corporation of 24 members. He built a town hall and a market-house, paved the main streets and fenced the park. Among his other benefactions were an organ and two aisles for the parish church, bridges at Curdworth and Water Orton, stone houses (some still in existence) and the foundation of the Grammar School which bears his name today.

Vesey brought order, organisation and permanence to Sutton Coldfield and may justly be regarded as the founder of the Royal Town. His work was fundamental and posterity has greatly benefited by his wisdom. It is not unreasonable to regard the church of St. Michael, Boldmere, as a link in the great chain of local progress forged initially by Bishop Vesey and developed up to the present time. 

Rev. R. B. RILAND.


The next two hundred years of local history‑by no means without interest‑may be passed over as not apposite to the present purpose. In 1758 Richard Bisse Riland became rector of Sutton Coldfield. A man of conspicuous appearance, he is described by a contemporary as "A zealous, orthodox minister, a faithful pastor of his flock and as charitable a kindhearted, generous creature that ever need to live. As the rector of a parish possessing no ostentatious pride, free from asperity . . . . a true defender of the Established Church".

He was a painstaking, conscientious clergyman who took his religious and secular duties seriously; and thanks to his diligence an accurate description of Sutton Coldfield in 1772 is available. Writing to his diocesan, the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, the rector describes his parish as "Nearly an oval figure whose longest diameter is seven miles and shortest four. It comprehends several hamlets, viz. Money, Hill, Little Sutton, Walmley and Wigginshill besides several single farmhouses and cottages dispersed at considerable distances from each other and from the church. The whole number of houses is nearly 376 . . . . there are three Roman Catholic families in my parish . . . . only one family of Quakers. I know of no Anabaptists nor Moravians . . . . one meeting house of independents . . . . duly licensed at the sessions whither they who are called Methodists do also resort to the amount of eight or ten families. Two sermons have been preached every Lord's Day in this church ever since I have been incumbent thereof. The sacrament of ye Lord's Supper is administered on the three great festivals and on the first Sunday in every month. But the people are very negligent in their attendance upon it inasmuch as not more than 120 usually communicate at ye festivals and at each of ye monthly sacraments not more than 70. There is a school for grammar and rhetoric in the town free for all the parish. There is no hospital or almhouse of any sort in the parish . . . . there is no school for the poor."

Two years later the rector took a census of the parish which showed the number of freehold houses as 53, cottages 106, total houses 485, total inhabitants 2,587, giving five persons as the average family.

Riland died in 1790 and is memorialised by a marble tablet in the chancel of Sutton Coldfield Parish Church. He was in some respects a man whose ideas were ahead of his time. He advocated the enclosure of waste and common land nearly fifty years before it was put into effect locally. The close of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth saw the repercussions of the advancing industrial revolution beginning to be felt in Sutton Coldfield. Three events of outstanding importance in the development of the district took place. The first was the formulation of an Enclosure Bill in 1824 which passed into law the following year. This ensured a more orderly arrangement of agricultural affairs and had the effect of creating more local employment. The second was the proposal to extend the railway from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, the general effect of which was to attract more people into the locality. The third event was the approval given in 1825 by the Court of Chancery to measures for the appropriation of Corporation funds for educational and charitable purposes. This gave considerable impetus to local education and indirectly to church work also.

The rector of Sutton Coldfield at this time was Rev. William Riland Bedford and he organised Divine Service at Hill, Little Sutton and Walmley in the new schools which were built there. Churches soon followed. St. James, Hill, was consecrated in 1835 and St. John, Walmley, in 1845. Attention was then given to the south side of the parish where the population was increasing steadily. In 1840 a boys' school was erected in Green Lanes near to Chester Road. Wylde Green, and Divine Service was held there on Sunday evenings. Eight years later a school for girls and infants was built in Boldmere and morning service followed shortly afterwards. These events led quite naturally to the formation of the church of St. Michael, Boldmere, in 1857.

 

Rev. WM. KIRKPATRICK RILAND BEDFORD.

William Bedford died suddenly before his son Kirkpatrick was of age so that from 1843‑50 the rectory was occupied by Rev. Dr. R. Williamson, Headmaster of Westminster School. He removed to Pershore in 1850 and Rev. W. K. R. Bedford became the rector of Sutton Coldfield, a benefice which he was to hold for 42 years. This rather remarkable man with an active and vigorous mind was the sponsor of St. Michael's. He did not enjoy the best of health and spent much of his youth receiving medical treatment in Edinburgh and London during which time he developed a considerable literary talent. Despite frequent winterings abroad he seems to have led a very active life with many varied interests including a prominent part in local affairs. He was also a noted sportsman, his main recreations being archery and cricket. It is of interest to note that he was the founder of the famous Free Foresters Cricket Eleven and that their first match was played at Rectory Park on 20 July 1856. This club has made a notable contribution to cricket in this country and abroad. Among other distinctions W. K. R. Bedford was a chaplain to King Edward VII, a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem of England and Grand Chaplain of England in the Masonic Order. 'He was Master of the Lodge of Light, Birmingham, in 1855 and five years later he founded the Warden Lodge, Sutton Coldfield. He has been described as a cultured man, an able preacher and a clever writer with a racy style who wrote many books and articles of an historical character.

 

THE NEW CHURCH.

In 1853 the rector (Rev. W. K. R. Bedford) established a committee of interested and influential people to further the project of choosing a site, gathering funds and supervising the building of a new church in the "Baldmoor" district of Sutton Coldfield. The chairman of the committee was Dr. George Bodington then the warden of Sutton Coldfield but now remembered for his revolutionary methods of treating pulmonary tuberculosis by sunshine and fresh air. The derision which his methods attracted during his lifetime has now changed to an admiration which has recently been given expression to by the memorial garden at Maney Corner which commemorates his life and work. But the committee encountered difficulties in selecting a suitable site, in dealing with the architect and especially in raising sufficient money for the purpose in hand. Only by the persistence of the rector who when failure seemed imminent accepted responsibility for the balance of the money still required was the effort brought to a successful conclusion.

 

THE FOUNDATION STONE.

On 10 September 1856 following Divine Service in the Boldmere Infants Schoolroom the foundation stone of the new church was laid by the Countess of Bradford, the choral work during the service being provided by the choir of St. Paul's, Birmingham. The stone presumably was removed during the building of the south aisle and its whereabouts at present is unknown but the commemoration plaque is now situated near the organ and bears the following inscription:-

This church for the District of
St. Michael's Boldmere,
in the Parish of Sutton Coldfield,
Diocese of Worcester,
Archdeaconry of Coventry,
is Dedicated to God in honour of
St. Michael the Archangel.

This foundation stone was laid by
The Right Honourable Helen Countess of Bradford,
On Wednesday, the tenth day of September,
In the year of grace 1856.

In the 20th year of the reign of
Her Majesty Victoria 1st.

of Great Britain and Ireland,
Queen Defender of the Faith.

The Most Reverend John Bird Sumner,
Archbishop of Canterbury,
Primate of All England and Metropolitan,
The Right Reverend Henry Pepys,
Bishop of Worcester.

The Reverend William Kirkpatrick Riland Bedford,
Rector of Sutton Coldfield,
The Reverend Edward Hooper Kittoe,
Incumbent of St. Michael's Boldmere.
Ps. CXXVII, VI.

Nisi Dominus ædificaverit Domum
in vanum laboraverunt qui
ædificant eam.

 

THE BUILDING COMMITTEE.

Besides the Warden the committee consisted of the Rector, H. Addenbroke, Baron D. Webster, Thomas Chavasse, Richard Sadler and John Smith with Rev. M. W. Gregory as secretary. Subsequent members, included at various times, were Lord Somerville, R. Garnett, Sir William Hartopp, Rev. Jas. Pachwood, Vincent Holbeche, J. Wiggan, J. L. Loveridge, F. Crockett, Campbell Bedford and J. S. Eddowes. The Rev. M. W. Gregory was succeeded as secretary by Rev. J. F. Green and finally by Rev. E. H. Kittoe who was then curate at Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield, and later became the first incumbent of Boldmere.

The committee first met at the Moot Hall‑the old town hall at the top of Mill Street‑on 16 May 1853 and in all 28 meetings were held. Difficulties arose about the site chosen and there seemed a marked lack of enthusiasm among the committee so that progress was slow. On 2 September when the architect came from London to submit his plans only the rector was present to meet him although several members inspected and approved the plans a few days later. It was nearly twelve months before the architect could be induced to appear before the committee again and full approval was not obtained until 12 July 1854.

When tenders for building the church were received they were much higher than the architect had led the committee to expect and much beyond the resources available. By March 1856 it
seemed that the project would fail for lack of support but the rector was made of sterner stuff than his committee. He had found a new contractor whose prices were more reasonable and he wrote offering to be responsible for the balance of money required believing that it would eventually be raised. "I am most anxious to see
it begin" he wrote to the committee. The offer was accepted and a new urge given to the work. At the twentythird meeting of the committee on 8 May 1857 the secretary was authorized "to expend two shillings per head in providing a supper for the men employed on the works. "Fortified by this production incentive the building was completed in twelve months, a remarkably good achievement.

The architect was J. F. Wadmore of London and the builder was Isaac Highway of Walsall. His contract was for £2665 and the total cost involved was about £3000. Of this amount £150 was contributed by the Warden and Society of Sutton Coldfield, £120 by the Coventry Church Extension Society, subscriptions and collections amounted to £560 while a bazaar yielded about £960. Apart from a few small items amounting to less than £100 in all the balance, about £1000, was provided by the rector. The bazaar took place in Sutton Park on 26, 27 and 28 July 1857. Tents were erected near Blackroot Pool, two bands were engaged and public dinners were held each day. The distinguished patronesses included Countesses Craven, Warwick, Talbot, Bradford, Lanesborough; the Viscountess Lifford; Ladies Scott, Bristowe, Harding, Somerville, Calthorpe, Wrottesley, Wenlock, Leigh, Noel, Jarvis, Adderley, Chetwynd, Hartopp and Stott; the Hon. Mrs. Campbell and other ladies.

The final meeting of the committee was held on 25 September 1857 four days before the date fixed for the consecration of the new church of St. Michael and they were able to report "the gift of costly and elegant communion plate" by Miss Pimm. Their long and at times frustrating task could not have ended on a happier note.

 

THE CONSECRATION OF ST. MICHAEL'S.

The following notice appeared in the columns of Aris's Birmingham Gazette for Monday, 28 September 1857.

St. Michael's Church

Boldmere, near Oscott, Sutton Coldfield.

THE CONSECRATION of the NEW CHURCH has been appointed by the Lord Bishop of Worcester for tomorrow (Tuesday), September 29, at half-past Eleven O'Clock a.m. and his Lordship has kindly promised to Preach on this occasion.

There will be an Afternoon Service at Four O'Clock when the Reverend R. Williamson D. D.* will Preach. The Clergy are requested to attend in their Surplices.

 

*Rector of Sutton Coldfield 1843/50. Warden 1848.

Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

 

At the service of consecration on St. Michael's Day 1857 the Rector and Churchwardens of Sutton Coldfield presented a petition to the Bishop of the Diocese for the establishment of a church at Boldmere. The Bishop in reply delivered this Sentence of Consecration which was read by the Principal Surrogate, Rev. Robert Sarjeant.

"Whereas the population of the parish of Sutton Coldfield in the County of Warwick and the Diocese of Worcester hath much increased and is still increasing and parts of the said parish are at a great distance from the Parish Church . . . . . . and whereas a Church or Chapel hath now been erected . . . . and furnished with a Font, Pulpit and Reading Desk and all other things necessary for the performance of Divine Worship therein and is in all respects fit and ready for Consecration.

Therefore we Henry by Divine Permission Bishop of Worcester by virtue of our Authority Ordinary and Episcopal do separate and set apart this Church or Chapel from all common and profane uses and do dedicate it to God and St. Michael and do by such name Consecrate it for the celebration of Divine offices therein and do openly and publically pronounce decree and declare the same to be so dedicated and consecrated and that it ought to remain so for ever."

H. Worcester.

29 September1857.

 

Not content with sponsoring the new church the rector saw that it was suitably endowed by a gift of 55 acres of glebe land; he also subscribed generously to the building of the parsonage house. In fact he maintained a close interest in St. Michael's for the rest of his life, frequently taking part in its services and always figuring in its subscription lists. It is noteworthy that he preached the sermon at the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving Service of Queen Victoria at St. Michael's on 20 June 1897 and the following year at the Harvest Festival.

 

ST. MICHAEL'S.

The original church constructed in the Early Decorated style consisted of the nave, chancel and tower; it measured 102 feet from east to west and the width was 28 feet. The outer walls are Rushall grey limestone‑now nicely mellowed‑with white Hollington (Staffs) stone dressings while the interior masonry is Bath stone. The roof is of timber, stained and varnished, the part over the chancel being formed into an arched and panel-like ceiling. A children's "gallery" near the West door probably consisting of tiers of seats without backrests was also provided. This later was removed probably when the south aisle was built. Provision was made originally for 350 sittings (there are now about 700) of which 275 were free.

It has been decided recently that in future all sittings will be free. This decision made on the instigation of the vicar will be warmly welcomed as in keeping with modern conditions and the wishes of the congregation generally.

The chancel roof is covered with a design comprising 25 facets consisting of alternate placings of the well known Christian symbols, I. H. S.; Alpha and Omega; Christos. Around the chancel walls is an inscription "With Angels and Archangels and with all the Company of Heaven we laud and magnify Thy Glorious Name evermore praising Thee and saying Holy Holy Holy Lord God of Hosts Heaven and Earth are full of Thy Glory. Glory be to Thee O Lord Most High‑Amen." The chancel is divided from the nave by a wood screen erected in memory of F/O Stanley Baldwin who was killed in the last war flying over Germany.

The sanctuary is rather small but about adequate and is backed by a stone reredos given by Mrs. Kittoe in memory of her mother Elizabeth Goss Dewing. Originally it was somewhat plain and austere but it was much improved in 1895 by the insertion of five panels depicting the four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Oriel surrounding a central design showing corn and grapes representing the communion with the Roman letters I. H. S. (Jesus Saviour of Men) indicating the presence of our Lord at his Feast. This addition was carried out as a tribute to the work of the first vicar (E. H. Kittoe) and dedicated by the Bishop of Coventry on 13 February 1895. More recently (1938) the reredos has been cleaned and the tablets relacquered to great advantage.

The altar is of oak and the first cloth used on it was presented by the Countess of Bradford to be replaced in 1892 by a cloth given by Mr. and Mrs. Ansell. The communion plate is that originally presented by Miss Pimm.

The floor of the sanctuary is paved with grey and white marble insets, a gift of Rev. E. H. Kittoe, and it is richly carpeted. The sanctuary is divided from the choir by a substantial communion rail given in 1891 by Henry Edwin Yates, churchwarden, in affectionate remembrance of his parents.

 

AN EARLY COMMENTARY.

The church of St. Michael, Boldmere, was originally a small country church set in a pleasant but sparsely populated rural area. There were a few wealthy people in the neighbourhood‑some "gentlefolk," others prosperous businessmen with factories in Birmingham ‑ a leavening of artisans, smiths. farmers, public servants, commercial travellers and shopkeepers, while the remainder were labourers and servants of one kind or another. For the wealthy times were good and for the rest life was hard. The church was very much the centre of the village and such social life as existed for the majority developed from it. The vicar was both priest and squire and very much the central figure in the community. The men of the village touched their hats to him and the children curtsied to his wife. He was austere in manner but kindly withal and much respected.

Church services consisted of matins and a monthly communion service, an occasional baptism, less frequently a wedding and on comparatively rare occasions a funeral when the coffin would be carried up the hill with frequent pauses for the bearers to regain their energy. The ritual was as now central church. Special emphasis was laid on good singing, ladies formed part of the choir and no vestments were worn. These came later when four singing clerks were employed to augment the choir. Music was provided from a small harmonium and other instruments were probably employed as occasion offered. There was no formal procession of the choir before and after service each member entering and leaving as he pleased.

In his book "Wandering through the Aisles" Bernard McEvoy describes a visit to St. Michael's in 1878. He says "The church of St. Michael, Boldmere, is one that as far as outward appearance is concerned will improve with the years. It will look far better in a century than it does now. No one with any taste can quarrel with its architecture. But the church though correct looks cold. It is built of a frigid grey limestone; over its walls at present neither moss nor ivy grows. Although the trees in its churchyard are more umbrageous than they were the edifice still looks too much like an architectural drawing done in Indian ink and Payne's gray. Nature will alter this if time be given her." Well, St. Michael's has undoubtedly improved with the years in the way predicted and the avenue has for a long time now been a constant delight to all who regularly approach the church by this well-worn tract.

McEvoy was also critical of the church interior. "A little of the coldness of the outside aspect seems to have crept into the interior where the white stone facings are so white that one longs for rich stained glass of which there is hardly a square inch. One is not surprised to see a gigantic thermometer hanging up close to the reading desk as if the authorities were determined that if any warmth did by chance creep into the place it should have the opportunity of registering itself. But time will no doubt remedy this. In a hundred years even in a place like Boldmere someone will die worth commemorating by a window whose stained panes will supply the lacking colour and make the new reredos look better by contrast than it does now. The ugly cast-iron pipes will sink to their proper place beneath the floor of the aisles and no longer convey to the sensitive eye the idea of an engine house or gas works, while the effigy of the satirical old ecclesiastic who at present smiles down somewhat sarcastically from one of the gargoyles will no longer have reason on his side. "What was probably the first memorial window to be put in the church appeared some six years after this comment was made but others followed so rapidly during the next fifty years that there are now only three small windows in the church to be filled. Undoubtedly, the appearance and character of the church have been greatly improved thereby as McEvoy suggested they would be.

The same writer goes on to describe the preacher and the sermon which he heard.  "The clergyman who conducted the service was a tall gentleman of about five and fifty years, with a grayish beard, a face of transcendent gravity, a somewhat jewish nose and eyes that scanned the church with somewhat of suspicion.  He looked far above any sympathy with the weakness of human nature and so surrounded by a stern respectability that any 'homeless ragged and tanned' vagabond getting incontinently in his way would at once feel an irresistible impulse towards rapid flight.  We did not expect him to announce for his text such words as 'Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest' but we were somewhat surprised when he announced as his theme the enthusiastic and imprudent benevolence of her who broke the box of ointment worth three hundred pence ‑ not however to set before us the impulsive worship of her intense devotion.  The text was made the medium of 'pitching into' certain people who objected to a recent innovation by which the offertory is more frequently collected than of yore and who had even carried out that objection to the length of absenting themselves from worship.  It is to be regretted that these persons did not attend to receive their castigation which was evidently prepared with great care.  The preacher's voice was full and sonorous and he read his manuscript with great dignity as he had done the rest of the service; but there was something too distant and magisterial in his tones for them to be effective and moving; and his sermon was too didactic to be powerful.  There is a perverse dislike in congregations to being lectured and while they are capable of being affected by the lively setting forth of a noble example of unselfishness they have an invincible distaste to being scolded from the level of an assumed superiority."  There is plenty of evidence that Boldmere people were not ungenerous in those days; in the next few decades they positively poured out money for church enlargement, church extension, hospitals and many other good causes.

This spirit still permeates St. Michael's today and must always predominate in any church worthy of its calling.

 

THE PARISH OF BOLDMERE.

When St. Michael's was consecrated the new parish as recommended by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners stretched from Erdington to Powell's Pool in a northerly direction and from Banners Gate to Walmley going west to east (see map). The population of Sutton Coldfield was then 4,630 and the new parish probably contained 500-750 people (Today it is more than ten times in both cases). The legal formalities for the formation of the parish were completed on 6 April 1858 when an Order in Council ratifying a Representation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for assigning a District Chapelry to the church of St. Michael, Boldmere, was approved by H.M. Queen Victoria at the court of Windsor.

The parish boundaries have since undergone modification due to the creation of the new parishes of Maney, Wylde Green and Kingstanding and to the establishment of the Statutory District of Banners Gate.

 

THE PARISH REGISTERS.

Five days after the church was consecrated the first baptism took place. The child was James son of John and Sarah Palmer and the father was a smith by trade. The first marriage did not take place until 13 March 1859 when William Allen was married to Elizabeth Astbury. The bridegroom, a labourer and the son of a labourer, was 18 and the bride, the daughter of a labourer, was 19. The groom signed the register in a bold. clear hand, the bride with a trembling hand and the groom's father, as witness, made his " mark."

By the time the centenary is reached the number of baptisms m the church will be about 6,000 and the weddings will number about 3,000 while the figure for burials will be about 5,650. Compared with the first decade the weddings and burials are about 14 times and the baptisms 8 times as numerous in the present decade.

At the moment the parish records with some exceptions are intact, a circumstance which has contributed materially to the writing of this account, but it is felt that this advantage arises more through good fortune than by any conscious effort on the part of anybody to preserve them. In the writer's opinion it would be a prudent move for the church council to take effective steps to put the maintenence of church records on a sound basis for the sake of orderly housekeeping and in order to discharge its obligations to past and future generations.


CHURCH ENLARGEMENT.

Within a dozen years of its existence St. Michaels had to contemplate the problem of church enlargement. The increasing prosperity of nearby Birmingham as an industrial and commercial centre together with improved communications exerted its influence and the Boldmere district began to develop as a dormitory suburb. Fortunately, the correspondingly increased church attendances had been anticipated in the original design so that pillars and arches for aisles had been constructed and embedded in the walls with the result that extension was made easier thereby.

On 14 May 1869 a committee called together by the vicar (Rev. E. H. Kittoe) met in Green Lanes School to consider building a north aisle and a spire and putting in heating apparatus. A tender was accepted and the necessary money collected with some difficulty and the work completed in 1871. The building of the spire was possible by reason of a legacy left by Rev. R. R. Mendham son of Rev. Joseph Mendham, a former curate of Sutton Coldfield. When the spire was completed it proved to be a foot higher than the architect intended and the builder claimed an additional £30 for his work but the committee firmly resisted any such idea. A vestry and organ chamber were added in 1876 and at the same time the addition of the south aisle was envisaged but not proceeded with.

 

PULPIT AND LECTERN.

The original stone pulpit was the gift of the church architect, J. F. Wadmore, but it has been modified over the years. Brass rails were added in 1879 while in 1891 the Misses Inston provided the carved oak body which is still in use. At the same time these generous benefactresses gave a brass eagle lectern.

 

THE ORGAN.

The organ was installed in 1876 by Banfield's of Birmingham at a cost of £365. John Banfield had served an apprenticeship with a firm of organ builders at Norwich and gained a reputation which had been enhanced by his successful rebuilding of the organ in St. Paul's church, Ludgate Hill. The organ which he built for Boldmere church still serves today although it has been repaired several times and has received a major overhaul (about 1925) following a report that "its condition is deplorable." This rebuild was the subject of some controversy and protracted negotiation; it cost nearly £1000 and final satisfaction was only obtained after the key pressure had been reduced by fifty per cent. It has since been remarkably free of trouble.


The organ is tracker action and although sweet-toned is not to be compared with the modem pneumatic and electric organs. It very much lacks variety being devoid of many of the resources one expects to find in organs today. Whether it is adequate for its present purpose is a matter which may soon have to be decided.

For the first nineteen years of its existence the church used an harmonium which was hired and maintained at a cost of £15 per year. This sum was therefore available to pay the interest on the debt of £300 which was incurred when the organ was purchased. The loan which was underwritten by the vicar and churchwardens was repaid during the succeeding seven years. The organist at the time was A. J. Large and his salary was £15 per annum, later increased to £20 in consideration of his teaching the choir. The organ-blower's fee was two guineas per annum.

It may be of interest to recall that when the organ was out of action for a few weeks in 1933 part of the service was relayed on gramophone records thanks to the initiative of Mr. (later Dr.) W. Wilson.

 

MEMORIAL WINDOWS.

St. Michael's was now entering a period of prosperity and the year after the organ debt had been wiped out the churchwardens were able to declare the church free from debt of any kind. Probably as a thankoffering for this satisfactory state of affairs a project was put in hand to erect a painted window in the sanctuary. The cost amounting to £260 was quickly met. This window contains glass of considerable artistic merit, the ultramarines, violets, carmines and cerises being most attractive. It dominates the sanctuary and in its portrayal of the Ascension one can see how carefully the artist has depicted the attendant witnesses of the ascending Christ. Astonishment in one, grief in another; bewilderment, longing, reverence, reflection, supplication are all set forth. There is a time when we should "stand still and see."

There is a fine window over the west door and another in the memorial chapel: neither should the small window on the south side of this chapel be overlooked by those who have an eye for beauty for it is of charming design.

In the church itself there are 19 windows excluding top lights and vestry windows. Six are in the chancel and the remainder in the nave and aisles. All but three have been designed in painted glass as memorial tributes and would well repay the time given in earnest study and meditation. The casual, occasional glance they mostly receive scarcely does justice to the skilled hands that produced them and reveals little of their hidden treasure. It seems probable that taken as a whole the memorial windows in St. Michael's would bear comparison for elegance and beauty with any parish church in the Midlands. Given plenty of sunshine, and this is essential, they certainly depict the Christian faith to great advantage.

The windows bear their silent witness to the varying experiences in the lives of parishioners now departed; experiences which are re-enacted in succeeding generations. Lives full of years and contentment; good wives and mothers have their memorials; so too have lives of men and women ended in middle or early life; the tragic loss of a young child is commemorated; the parish priest is revealed as bereaved of a well-loved son who died at 36. But the windows tell too that those who have suffered loss have their hopes fixed on Christ "in whom shall all be made alive."

 

A detailed description of the windows is given in Appendix 1.

 

REV. E. H. KITTOE M.A. VICAR 1857‑1894.

In 1889 the vicar lost his only son and this bereavement no doubt reacted heavily against a man now past the prime of life. He became ill but rallied after a few months and continued his work with the help of Rev. T. Denham Williams, the first curate to be appointed to St. Michael's. Early in 1894 E. H. Kittoe died, to be followed within a few weeks by his wife. Both are buried outside the west door of the church they loved and served so well.

As curate to Rev. W. K. R. Bedford, rector of Sutton Coldfield, E. H. Kittoe played a prominent part in the establishment of St. Michael's and for a time was secretary of the organising committee. He planned the new vicarage and contributed generously to its cost. He took great pride in the vicarage gardens and kept several gardeners busily employed. People living in surrounding districts thought it well worth while to travel long distances to see the gardens. The beautiful avenue of lime trees leading up to the church from Boldmere Road is a tribute to his horticultural capabilities. During his long vicariate he carried out his duties earnestly and devotedly and he played a notable part in establishing St. Michael's on a sure foundation. He was responsible for adding the north aisle, for lighting the church with gas, for installing the organ and indeed he had plans for building the south aisle although they were not realised in his life‑time. He was also active in local government as shown by the fact that he occupied the office of warden of Sutton Coldfield for four years from 1867-70.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of E. H. Kittoe's pastoral work which gave a composed and steady start to St. Michael's. Tribute must also be paid to him for his meticulous recording of events in the church's life. He seems to have been a careful, thorough and painstaking man and human enough to tell his congregation occasionally to "do as I say and not as I do." It was not unknown for gunshots to be heard during his sermon which he would interrupt with the philosophically delivered remark "There goes another of my rabbits. "But his record is most reliably interpreted by the people among whom he worked. The vestry of 1894 recorded "the great loss which the parish has sustained by the death of its much esteemed and beloved vicar who as pastor for more than 37 years took a deep and active interest in the intellectual, moral and spiritual welfare of his parishioners and whose long and faithful service will be remembered and acknowledged." The churchwardens report ran "He laboured with such kindly zeal and earnestness as to endear him to us all."

 

The passing of E. H. Kittoe was also the end of an era in the church life of St. Michael's, Boldmere.