1857 - 1957 Chapter 3

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.

 

CHAPTER 3             "Between the Wars"

 

FIRST WORLD WAR

It is difficult to decide how the impact of the first world war affected the church of St. Michael and the parish of Boldmere generally. Superficially, at any rate for a time it seemed to make little difference. People were perhaps dazed by the sudden change of events and scarcely alive to their full implications. They did not realise that customs, habits and ideas were in the melting pot and that something different was bound to emerge in the future.

Partly due perhaps to the subsequent foment of ideas, to the loss of many men from the parish who joined the forces and to the frequent illness of the vicar a period of decline set in and St. Michael's in common with many other churches failed to grasp the opportunities provided by these new occasions.

However, the work of the church persists thanks to the hard core of workers who always give of their best whatever the circumstances and so it proved at St. Michael's.

About this time attention was being given to the extension of the churchyard.

 

THE CHURCHYARD.

The original churchyard now known as "the old portion" consists of a piece of ground roughly an acre in extent bounded on the south side by Church Road, on the east side by Boldmere Road, on the west by the vicarage garden and extending on the north side to just beyond the main path leading from the gate in Boldmere Road to the west door of the church.

In this old portion the first recorded burial, that of Sophia Griffen, was made on 27 November 1857. Here also are the graves of the first incumbent, Rev. E. H. Kittoe, and his successor the Rev. A. E. R. Bedford. This part of the churchyard contains the family graves of many old Boldmere families such as Ansells, Antrobus, Hooper, Houlston, Moore, Randle, Sadler, Satchwell. and Yates. These families were prominently connected with the church in its earlier days and their names and personalities will be recalled by some of our older parishioners.

A very pleasing feature of this old portion is the Lych Gate on the south side erected in 1931 through the generosity of the Misses H. and C. Inston. This gives easy access from Church Road to the churchyard, the porch and the west door not to mention an alternative and popular approach through the gardens to the vicarage. Timber used in the construction of the Lych Gate was taken from Erdington Hall and is known to be 400 years old.

The amenities of the churchyard are much improved by the splendid avenue of trees which form the approach to the church from Boldmere Road and by the tarmac paths from the west and south doors to the Lych Gate, these latter being the gift of Mr. T. P. Smith of Boldmere Road.

In 1914 the churchyard was extended on the north side and fenced in at the expence of Mr. Appleby; because of the rapid expansion of the Boldmere district a further extension had to be made in 1937 so that the present ground covers rather more than five acres. In the first extension are the graves of former churchwardens, Wm. Adcock, R. A. Eaton, W. J. Greatrex, S. Hoadly, A. R. Lynex and Wm. Randle, men who gave yeoman service to the church. Here also are the graves of two former parish clerks, K. Fellows who as a boy could remember the church being built and J. D. Lauterbach who so successfully sponsored the St. Matthias Help Fund for many years. A former organist and choirmaster, G. L. Lyon, lies buried here too. Of interest to sportsmen and particularly to cyclists is the grave of Victor Johnson who at one time was the world's champion cyclist.

When the churchyard was extended the second time some seventy or so young trees were planted as a memorial avenue. After twenty years they are making good progress and in due course may be expected to rival the original avenue.

At the present time of high costs and labour shortage the maintenance of the churchyard in the condition which everyone would like to see it is a serious problem which all who have their relatives buried there should help to solve by keeping their family graves neat and tidy and at the same time making proper use of the litter baskets which are provided at convenient points.

 

THE FONT.

The font was presented by Rev. E. H. Kittoe and a very attractive cover was added in 1922 as a memorial to Wm. Adcock, a former churchwarden. The carved oak cover is raised by balanced weights suspended from the roof of the baptistry. It is octagonal in plan with sacred emblems in its lower panels. Included are the Ark, the Three Fishes, Dove, Olive Branch, and the Holy Name, Alpha and Omega. The lower portion is surmounted with a spire enriched with delicately carved crockets and crowned with a four-branch finial. The arms of the Borough of Sutton Coldfield are displayed on one face of the spire. The work was executed by Bridgman & Sons, Lichfield.

A new Ewer, the gift of the Mothers' Union, was dedicated on 17 February 1930.

 

WAR MEMORIALS.

Two war memorial plaques are situated in the nave. That for the 1914/18 war records the names of 85 men of the parish who made the supreme sacrifice. It was unveiled in the presence of the Mayor of Sutton Coldfield (Cr. Hooper) by Major A. H. S. Waters V.C., D.S.O., President of the Sutton Coldfield Branch of the British Legion. The preacher on that occasion was Rev. R. M. Gibson, C.F., a former curate at Boldmere who later became a chaplain to the king.

On Remembrance Sunday 1945 the vicar read out in church the names of those then known to have fallen in the second world war. A temporary list served for a time until the second plaque was unveiled on Easter Day 1954 by the Mayor of Sutton Coldfield (Cr. Chas. Stephens) when the names of 36 men were recorded; included in the list is the Mayor's only son. The plaque which was carved by the Boldmere craftsman, A. V. Dwyer, has for its motif a representation of St. Michael taken from the churchwarden's wand of office.

In the south aisle there is a commemoration plate recording the names of six members of the Church of England Men's Society who laid down their lives in the 1914/18 war.

 

CHURCH COUNCIL.

After the first world war the Church of England in common with many other religious and secular societies set out on a programme of reorganisation to identify itself with changes of ideas which had taken place during the war and to meet the challenge of future needs. Among the steps taken was the reformation of church government.

For the first fifty years of its existence the participation of the ordinary churchgoer in the affairs of St. Michael's was largely confined to attending its services and such social functions as were occasionally arranged. He played no part in the management of the church unless he happened to be a ratepayer in which case whether churchman or not he was entitled to be present at vestry meetings which were usually held annually but occasionally at more frequent intervals if more pressing business arose. The vestry elected the people's warden, or parish warden as he was often called, and received a statement of the churchwardens' account. The Local Government Act of 1894 made the parish church council and not the vestry the unit of administration in secular affairs.

A church council seems to have met for the first time in Boldmere on 22 May 1908 under the chairmanship of Rev. Beviss Thompson with Percy Gibbs as secretary. It was composed of "all ex-wardens able and willing to serve" together with conference representatives. It first met in the ringing chamber in the tower. Among its earlier agenda one finds that it considered restoring the use of the natural tone of voice in public worship; the desirability of curtailing the length of notices given out by the clergy on sundays; the distribution of church alms; the election of sidesmen by ballot. At a later date leaders of church organisations were invited to join in the deliberations.

In 1920 following further legislation the modern parochial church council of 24 members, conference representatives and wardens under the chairmanship of the parish priest was elected by the new body of electoral roll voters and the first meeting under the new auspices took place in Boldmere after the Easter vestry on 16 April 1920. The parochial church council is now a body corporate and therefore able to hold property. It has taken over from the churchwardens their powers and duties regarding the care and maintenance of the church fabric and churchyard. When the benefice is vacant it may make representations to the patron of the living as to the type of incumbent required although it may not name a candidate. If it does not approve of the patron's choice it may appeal to the bishop of the diocese who if required to do so by either patron or council must consult a body of advisors before accepting or rejecting the patron's nominee.

A modified method of electing churchwardens was adopted by St. Michael's church council in 1934. Under this scheme no warden serves more than three years and is first appointed vicar's warden before passing on to people's warden. The church council and vicar nominates the vicar's warden alternately.

 

REV. O. H. WETHERED M.A. VICAR 1910-1929.

Owen Wethered, the son of a wealthy brewer, was educated at Eton and Oxford. While at the university he came under the influence of Dean Vaughan and decided to read for holy orders. After experience at Grimsby and Frankley he followed Beviss Thompson as vicar of Boldmere. He was a striking personality being six feet four in height and often seen riding his motorcycle combination about the parish with his sidecar overfull of children. This affords some insight into his character for he was a kindly man who did much good stealthily and he was generous almost to a fault. The former rector of Curdworth (Rev. A. Combe) who served him as curate and knew him well describes him as "a charming, delightful and witty personality!'

At first Mr. Wethered met with some success in his ministry at St. Michael's, the discordant notes which had previously intruded quietened, and church activity increased notably in the Church of England Men's Society whose meetings were well attended and whose speakers commanded a good press. Mr. Combe was responsible for Emmanuel so Rev. Dr. Hughes came to assist the new vicar. But the war came too and disruption set in. The following year Dr. Hughes left to become vicar of St. Mary's and St. Ambrose, Edgbaston. A new curate, Rev. R. M. Gibson, was appointed but his duration was short as he joined the army as chaplain in 1916. Shortly afterwards A. T. Wilding who had conducted a Bible class for young men for the past ten years left the parish. The vicar's health which had never been good got progressively worse and the need for an additional curate was imperative. Eventually, Rev. T. D. Rhys, a former nonconformist minister for fifteen years, came to the rescue and things generally improved.

St. Michael's Men's Club was formed after the war to take the place of the former Men's Institute which had become "swarmed with non-church members." This new club operated successfully for a dozen years or so and the football team gained considerable local and even some national distinction. It is a matter for regret that it is now divorced from the church although the separation has been bridged to some small extent by the sportsman's service which takes place occasionally.

Continued ill-health eventually forced Mr. Wethered's retirement and Boldmere lost a well-loved if perhaps a rather ineffective vicar. He died at Bournemouth in April 1931.

Speaking at a memorial service for O. H. Wethered in Boldmere church Canon Brown said this "He was a man of great gifts, a Latin scholar who could read the classics as most of you read English. His musical ability was considerable and he composed hymn tunes and chants. He represented the sane, central type of churchmanship which is the backbone of the Church of England and when it seemed likely that the living of Boldmere would pass to an extreme party he used his influence and gave generously in order that the living might be handed over to the diocese. He was essentially a shy man at his best with young boys. He was a man of wealth who because he had a real religion spent his life in service."

 

THE MEMORIAL CHAPEL.

In 1933 the chancel chapel was furnished as a memorial to the life and work of O. H. Wethered and the dedication took place on Whitsunday when the Bishop of Birmingham (E. W. Barnes) took the first communion service at the new altar and preached the sermon.

The chapel is situated at the east-end of the south aisle with a wood screen dividing it from the aisle. The design was the work of a church member, A. L. Snow, and much of the craft-work was also done in the parish. The cost of furnishing was £335.

 

THE ADVOWSON.

Originally, the patron of the benefice of St. Michael's was of course the rector of Sutton Coldfield, Rev. W. K. R. Bedford. but shortly before his death the advowson was sold and passed into the hands of Edward Ansell sometime churchwarden of Boldmere. When Rev.  O. H. Wethered resigned the living it was arranged by those who were acting for Mr. Ansell who was ill that Canon E. W. Brown, vicar of St. Andrew's, Bordesley, should be presented to the living. Canon Brown had agreed to preserve the tradition of worship of Boldmere church and to make no changes save with the concurrence of the parochial Church council. Unfortunately, Mr. Ansell died before these arrangements could be completed; shortly afterwards it was reported to the Bishop of Birmingham (E.W. Barnes) that negotiations were in progress for the sale of the advowson to a church party organisation. In the bishop's view when extreme partisans bought the right to present one like themselves to a church where parishioners wish to remain loyal to the Prayer Book and to continue in their present ritual such purchases constituted an abuse of the power of money. Dr. Barnes with the help of friends speedily collected the £800 required to purchase the advowson but with his customary scrupulous fairness declined to hold it in his capacity as bishop and it was transferred to the Diocesan Trustees, a predominantly lay body of men closely and officially interested in the work of the diocese who in due course presented Canon Brown and as the bishop said "can be trusted in the future to consider in the appointments they may make the welfare of the parish and so far as the law allows the wishes of the parishioners."

 

THE NEW LEADERSHIP.

The structure of the Church of England is such that much responsibility devolves upon the parish priest. Among the many (perhaps, too many!) demands made on him is that of leadership. If he is not a leader he will mostly fail in what is required of him despite other good qualities he may possess. Only leadership in front is of any value and no amount of badgering, bullying or imploring from behind is likely to have much effect on a congregation except to drive them elsewhere. For more than twenty years St. Michael's suffered from lack of effective leadership so that a period of decline became inevitable, much previous good work suffered thereby and the congregation drifted away. Fortunately, with the appointment of the present vicar this drift was arrested.

 

When he was instituted to the living Canon Brown was supported in his appointment by some 300 members of his former parish who came to wish him well. The presence of such an unusually large number of supporters besides greatly stimulating the new vicar must have aroused latent feelings of enthusiasm in the parish of Boldmere. Leadership was restored and progress gradually followed.

 

THE NEW LOOK.

The new vicar found a general appearance of neglect in the church building and an atmosphere of apathy among church members so that one of his first tasks was to organise working parties to clean windows and to cut grass. Neither was the freshening up confined to temporal matters for he obtained the bishop's agreement to hold a service of confirmation at Boldmere, the first for 28 years. There were by this time some 8000 people in the parish and the need for an energetic curate was supplied by Rev. R. W. Yaxley who gave valuable help during the next three years and was followed by Rev. N. J. Woodhall who served until his departure as an army chaplain for a world war had again interrupted the even tenor of church work at St. Michael's as it did elsewhere and on a scale unknown before in the history of the world.

 

CHAPTER 4     " The Present Time "

 

THE SECOND WORLD WAR PERIOD.

As a layman one gets the impression that in general the clergy were caught napping by the first world war, were slow to adjust themselves to changing circumstances and unable to grasp their new opportunities. Of course there were exceptions and many showed great devotion to their men in the trenches. Be this as it may the charge would not hold in the more recent conflict when the clergy did magnificent work on the battlefields, the bomb-sites and in the street-shelters.

During the war the vicar was much occupied in correspondence with the men in the services many of whom made a point of calling at the vicarage when on leave. A fire-watching rota was organised at the parish church so that small incendiary bombs could be dealt with promptly. The vicar made good use of these opportunities to talk at length to the men who took part in the duties. Those who were fortunate enough to be in the squad when fire-bombs fell in the churchyard will always cherish the memory of Canon Brown charging the target shielded by a dust-bin lid!

Despite the pre-occupation of the war great progress was made in church work. Congregations increased, collections mounted, more magazines were sold and young people were attracted to the church in increasing numbers. Indeed, they are still being attracted by a vicar who though now past the allotted span still remains young at heart. This interest in children and young people has probably proved Canon Brown's greatest asset in his work at Boldmere.

 

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE.

It is probable that a sunday school has existed from the earliest times at St. Michael's. Certainly there are those now living who can remember Mrs. Kittoe as the superintendent. Children also attended morning service and sat in raised tiers at the west end of the church; no doubt on these occasions they would be instructed in the catechism and the Lord's prayer; they also received religious instruction as part of their day-school education. The sunday school flourished during Mr. Bedford's ministry and prizes were given for regular attendance. Much good work has been done in the sunday school by successive generations of devoted men and women at St. Michael's. Such work is unspectacular and receives little publicity but thousands of people have benefited thereby. Particular mention may be made of the outstanding work of Carrie Baldwin who gave forty years devoted service to Boldmere Sunday School and is remembered with affection by several generations who have passed through her hands.

With the gradual elimination of religion from the curriculum of the state schools and the decline in the number of church schools the responsibility of the church to instruct the young has increased. In some churches this obligation had not been satisfactorily discharged but at St. Michael's in recent years at least the onus has been accepted and every encouragement has been given to spiritual and social work for the benefit of children and young people.

On 14 October 1934 a youth fellowship was inaugurated "as an experiment to meet the needs of all young people over 14 years of age." It was based on a sunday afternoon service and very soon 100 young people were attending regularly. One of its most notable achievements has been to stage a nativity play in church each Christmas. Week-day activities quickly developed and members were soon playing football, hockey, cricket or table tennis, boxing and swimming and taking part in drama and music festivals. The club anticipated the Youth Welfare Service and when this government-sponsored organisation developed in Sutton Coldfield after the war Boldmere Youth Fellowship was already a seasoned campaigner. It took its place quite naturally in the inter-youth competitions and had its share of success. It is satisfactory to note that in this centenary year it has gained first place in the Festival Competition held annually among Sutton Youth Clubs. A very appropriate contribution to our celebrations! In 1942 a junior fellowship for those between 11-14 years was formed and this organisation acts as a feeder to the senior body.

Fourteen years ago a children's church was started by Canon Brown and became an immediate success. Children are encouraged to take an active part. They elect their own churchwardens and sidesmen and have their own choir and bell-ringers. They have their communal prayer which they use at each service and which they are encouraged to use daily. The service has always been conducted by the vicar and he has had the help of many church workers and parents who have assisted in training children for Bible plays and Christmas pantomime. Special features of the children's church have included a service to further the work of the Mission to Seamen for which the youngsters have collected "ship-halfpennies," a Christmas toy collection for poor children and a combined service for parents and children which always fills the church on Mothering Sunday. Regular weekly collections and missionary boxes have enabled the children's church to donate £2000 to the work of the Church Missionary Society, a good example of how " many a pickle makes a mickle." The seal was set on the work of the children's church when it was visited by the bishop. The fact that it was also the occasion of the vicar's silver jubilee (as incumbent of Boldmere) probably meant less to him than the bishop's obvious pleasure and approval of the work which perhaps lies closest to the vicar's heart.

Accommodation for children's work in the parish is provided by a hall which has been erected behind a similar building set aside for youth work at the rear of the parish room. The youth hall was erected just before the last war and the children's hall immediately after it.

In view of the fact that the World Jamboree of Scouts will take place in Sutton Park during our centenary year it may be of interest to note that the first scout troop attached to the parish church was formed in 1909 under the leadership of W. Oldfield and A. Warmington and that it took part in an International Jamboree held at Great Barr in 1933. On that occasion it manned a Wireless Telegraphy stand at an Exhibition held at Bingley Hall, Birmingham. In 1915 R. Beckett, our present organist, took charge while two years later wolf cubs were started with Miss Joan Partridge as leader. A rover group was organised in 1930 under the control of Bassett Smith and more recently, in 1948, senior scouts under M. Gurney were formed. All these groups are still active in addition to the guides and brownies. Indeed they are now busy erecting a new, headquarters, a substantial hut adjacent the children's hall on the parish room site, which has long been the dream of their present scoutmaster, R. H. Blake.

 

 

POST WAR.

The main problems facing St. Michael's after the last war were integrating the returning service men and women into the life of the church, housekeeping problems and extension work in the Banners Gate area.

In a message welcoming the service men and women back home Canon Brown said: "You are Probably in many ways changed. So too are the people you left behind ... the church has not changed but her tactics have. Her job is to win the post-war world for Christ. For this she needs you as a living member joining actively in her work." To give point to these remarks and to recognise the sacrifices made by those who served in the war the vicar appointed one of the returned men, Arthur Grason, as his warden.

The housekeeping problems involved the provision, erection, decoration and furnishing of a hall for children's work; the refurnishing of the parish room which had been used as a store by I.C.I. Ltd. during the war; repairs to the fabric of the church and a reconditioning of the lighting system; an overhaul of the organ. All this was carried out in due course by persistent efforts on the part of the wardens and congregation with appreciable help from many friends of the church of whom particular mention may be made of W. J. Whittall.

Plans were made for developing church work in Banners Gate by mission services, the building of a church hall, and later on by establishing a conventional district with a minister in charge.

 

BANNERS GATE.

The inaugural meeting to discuss the formation of a church at Banners Gate took place in 1948 when representatives of Sutton Coldfield, Maney, Hill, Walmley and Boldmere churches met to discuss the project. The five churches undertook to raise £5000 between them and so enthusiastically was the work undertaken that by April 1949, less than twelve months after the decision to build, the hall was erected and reasonably furnished. On 7 May 1949 the Bishop of Birmingham (E. W. Barnes) dedicated the new building as the Bishop Vesey Church Hall and no more appropriate name could have been chosen. The young church proved very virile and Holy Communion services and Evensong attracted large congregations. Children's Church, Youth Club and Young Wives' Fellowship soon followed. After five years of continued progress Banners Gate has been made a statutory district with Rev. J. F. Capper, M.A., as priest-in-charge.

 

Rev. H. A. Needham and B. L. Hinge, layreader, played a prominent part in the development of church work in this area while A. R. Spencer did valuable work in preparing the plans and supervising the building of the hall. In due course it may be expected that Banners Gate will reach parochial status.

 

CHURCH SERVICES.

The services at St. Michael's are of central church character and over the years have undergone little fundamental change although they have undoubtedly modernised to a shorter and less ponderous style. They are loyal to the spirit of the Prayer Book and they attempt to face the realities of life and to help those who attend. Newcomers to the neighbourhood often with very different backgrounds settle together in public worship with the general body of church members and once they have made themselves known soon find fellowship and friendship.

Special occasions such as Easter Day, Christmas, Harvest Festival and Patronal Festival generally find the church packed to capacity. Generally speaking the congregation is larger at Evening Prayer than at Matins. For the last decade Holy Communion celebrated at Midnight Christmas Eve has been very well attended.

 

THE CHOIR.

Originally, St. Michael's choir consisted of men's, women's and boys' voices, but a choirmaster was not appointed until 1877. Even then one gentleman wanted singing and chanting in which the congregation could join and deemed a choirmaster unnecessary.

Some indication of the type of musical service is suggested by the fact that in 1881 it was decided to chant the Psalms instead of their being said and agreed that the Litany be said instead of being chanted or intoned. It was also considered necessary for the vicar, choir and a committee to discuss the church music with the organist and to appeal for more voluntary male voices. Five years later, in 1886, four singing clerks were appointed and this arrangement lasted until 1923. Interest in music in the early part of this century was considerable and the numerous concert parties, glee clubs and quartets in Boldmere drew their inspiration from the parish church choir as they did no doubt in other communities throughout the country. Many older parishioners will recall with pleasure the noted Boldmere quartet consisting of Messrs. Ashmore (alto), Fenn (tenor), Shelly (baritone), and Sheldon (bass).

Entry to the church choir for boys involved a probationary period of twelve months during which time the pay was one shilling per quarter rising to three shillings and sixpence on acceptance; the head choirboy received six shillings and sixpence per quarter and there would be an extra shilling or so for weddings perhaps. Certificates were given to the boys on joining and duly completed when they left. A short dedication service was frequently arranged for newcomers. There seems little doubt that from the time of the singing clerks the Boldmere choral work has been of a high standard and that it has maintained its quality up to the present day. On the other hand the congregational singing was very poor for many years although more recently some improvement has been effected.

The impact of the second world war was soon felt in the choir. Rehearsals became difficult and for some two years or more the boys practised only on sunday mornings before and after service while the men had to be content with whatever practice could be managed at each other's homes. Three choir boys, Kenneth Horton, George Hodges and Gordon Smith lost their lives in the war.

Since the war the choir, by invitation, has sung at churches in Birmingham and they were present of course at the inauguration services at Banners Gate. Over the years many expressions of appreciation of the work of the choir have been made and the present organist and choirmaster (R. Beckett) speaks highly of their loyal and devoted work which has contributed in a large measure to the devotional character of the church services.

 

REVENUES OF THE CHURCH.

There is a curious notion existing in the minds of many people that the Church of England is subsidised by the state and that its members are thereby relieved of supporting the church's work or paying its clergy. The idea is so deep-seated that during the present century a Minister of the Crown found it necessary to state in parliament that with the exception of chaplains in direct employment by the state the stipends of bishops, priests and other officers of the church are not paid out of public funds.

The main sources of income are from tithes - fortunately a rapidly decreasing source which most people would like to see disappear as soon as possible - legacies of land or money, gifts and collections. Critics often complain of the church's wealth yet in fact the inadequacy of its resources has been a constant hindrance to its work.

St. Michael's played its part in the Ten Years Forward Movement both by contributing its quota to the Bishop's Appeal and by taking part in an act of witness at the cathedral church on 27 June 1948. A still greater effort has been called for by the present Bishop of Birmingham (Rt. Rev. J. L. Wilson) who has launched an appeal for £1,200,000 to which St. Michael's has responded in cash and promises with more than £1,300, a not unworthy contribution.

It may be of some interest to mention that besides meeting its own commitments during its hundred years of existence St. Michael's has donated some £15,000 to national relief appeals, funds for H.M. Forces, hospitals and missionary work. Funds have also been raised for the enlargement of the original church on two occasions, for the building of new churches at Wylde Green and Banners Gate as well as the normal work of church extension and many joint enterprises in which all Anglican churches participate.

In the celebration of the Holy Communion there is a section of the liturgy known as the offertory which associates the offering of the bread and wine with the giving of alms to the poor. By ancient custom of the church the offering at this service is dispensed to the needy at the incumbent's discretion. Collections at other services may be for church purposes or for special objects and are distributed under the direction of the parochial church council.

 

ST. MATTHIAS' HELP FUND.

In 1921 the church council at the instigation of J. D. Lauterbach agreed to "adopt" the poor parish of St. Matthias, Birmingham. Formerly. this church had drawn a prosperous congregation but a changing outlook on life had caused considerable dispersion of population and the loyal church people remaining had found the situation beyond their resources.

In the first ten years of the fund's existence about £500 was subscribed by St. Michael's but the fund is now closed due to the demolition of St. Matthias and the absorption of the parish elsewhere.

 

WOMEN'S ORGANISATIONS.

It is difficult to make an assessment of women's work in the church in general and in St. Michael's in particular. Their part is unspectacular, they have no place in the priestly office, take little part in the administration of church affairs but participate in public worship. But who shall say they are without influence? Far from it. So fundamental is their effect on men's minds and activities and so subtle their influence that in the ultimate issue their share of praise or blame is very large.

The outward and visible signs of women's part in St. Michael's are the clean, tidy church tastefully decorated with flowers, the sunday school teachers, the club leaders, and the catering on social occasions. The inward but equally visible signs to those who will perceive are the grace and patience which seems to come more readily and naturally from women than men. It seems that among the saints of God women will greatly outnumber men.

The Mothers' Union has functioned at Boldmere since the turn of the century and there are several members alive today who were enrolled by Mrs. Beviss Thompson on 13 October 1907 and who may therefore soon celebrate their membership jubilee. There is also a Young Wives Fellowship while a recent experiment has been the formation of a Women's Guild which has made a promising start.

 

MEN'S ORGANISATIONS.

Mention has already been made of the social club, sports club, men's society, dramatic clubs and concerts which were features of former times. For several years now the men's interest has been focussed on a guild which meets at intervals during the winter months. The meetings take the form of a lecture or talk followed by a discussion and a wide range of topics has been under review during the past ten years. Periodically, ladies are invited and an appropriate programme is arranged. In addition, the annual supper, also a mixed company, is always a popular event. The guild owes much to A. T. Edinborough its energetic secretary.

 

REV. CANON E. W. BROWN, M.A., VICAR 1929.

When Canon Brown was appointed vicar of Boldmere the Bishop of Birmingham (E. W. Barnes) wrote "he is one of the best men working in the Diocese." Few would be disposed to dispute such an eminent opinion. Twenty-five years later the churchwardens and officers of the church entertained Canon Brown to dinner to celebrate the silver jubilee of his vicariate of St. Michael's.

This mark of affection measures in some degree Canon Brown's work and influence in the parish and affords confirmation if such were needed of the bishop's opinion.

During his incumbency the vicar has mainly received assistance from three curates Rev. R. W. Yaxley, Rev. N. J. Woodhall and Rev. L. F. M. Helleur and the vicar himself has on appropriate occasions at various times paid tribute to the work of these helpers. Lay help too has usually been forthcoming as required. All this, however, is largely to acknowledge the vicar's ability to successfully organise a large parish with increasing demands. Mention should also be made of the valuable services of Rev. J. D. Murray, a lecturer at Saltley College, who for several years has helped the vicar during week-ends and has proved himself a talented and forthright preacher.

It would be inappropriate at this stage to attempt to summarise Canon Brown's work and influence in the parish for happily his task is not yet ended. Nevertheless, for those who are intimate with St. Michael's, the results are there for those who wish to observe and reflect upon them. It will be the heartfelt wish of all his congregation that their beloved vicar will be present to lead the great " Te Deum " which will surely arise at our centenary service on St. Michael's Day 1957.

THE VICARAGE.

The vicarage stands in extensive grounds convenient to the church and was built about the same time. It is an eight-roomed house, well built and suited to its purpose, then and now, although its fairly spacious rooms present fuel problems in these days. Some 25 years ago it was found to contain dry rot but this was remedied by relaying a floor. There is still evidence of the inadequacy of its protection against damp. Its dilapidations and repairs are now the responsibility of the church council.

There are large cellars which provided useful sleeping accommodation during the war. Nowadays, they serve other purposes including that of a clubroom for young people.

The first vicar was a keen and knowledgeable gardener and in the more leisurely times in which he lived he indulged his hobby to the great delight of the locality generally for his flowers and shrubs were much admired. Succeeding vicars have shown less enthusiasm while their restricted opportunities and resources have made it difficult to retain any semblance of the former glories of the garden.

Like most incumbents the present vicar places his home very much at the disposal of his parishioners and many organisations make good use of it although perhaps they do not always leave it in the condition they expect to find it. That the vicar manages to bear these intrusions with fortitude and for the most part seems even to enjoy them is a never failing source of astonishment to at least one of his parishioners.

THE VESTRIES.

The choir vestry dates from about 1875. Twenty years later it was probably extended and the clergy vestry added. In 1897 Mrs. Hooper equipped the latter with a handsome suite of oak furniture including a wardrobe, armchair and table.

 

THE PARISH MAGAZINE.

The parish magazine was first published by Rev. A. E. R. Bedford on 1 January 1895. He thought it would further church work and remove some of the disadvantages of having no means of communicating with his parishioners except by announcements in church. Success, he said, would depend upon support and he hoped those interested in the welfare of the parish would take the new magazine regularly.

The initial circulation was 250 rising in three years to 450. At a penny per copy it about paid its way until the first world war. During the war paper shortage caused some curtailment of copy and in the cause of economy the then vicar promised to omit his regular letter, but there is little evidence that this was done and still less that it was even necessary. Between 1918 and 1930 the magazine was run at a loss despite an increase in price in June 1920 to twopence per copy. The loss of £40-60 per year was borne by the good-natured vicar who was undoubtedly more indulgent of his parishioners than prudence demanded.

In 1930 the church council assumed financial responsibility for the magazine and the circulation was increased to 1,000 copies rising by 1935 to 1,200 copies. Since St. Columba's, Banners Gate now has its own magazine St. Michael's now circulates at 1,050 per month.

Undoubtedly, the magazine has fulfilled the intentions of its founder while during the last war the vicar found it a valuable means of keeping in touch with men serving in the Forces. There is ample evidence too that the men on service for their part found it a useful link with home.

Rising costs in 1946 caused an increase in price to threepence per copy; another rise for the same reason is likely in 1957. By careful management the magazine has shown a small margin of profit in recent years and this has been used from time to time to purchase cassocks and surplices for the choir, a piano and chairs for the parish room and to make a donation to the youth hall purchase fund.

 

CONCLUSION.

Scant recognition has been given in these pages to many men and women who have played their part in their day and generation in church work at St. Michael's. The fact is that they are so numerous that to mention any but the most prominent would unduly increase this account. To refer to some here and there has seemed inevitable but the rest must remain anonymous. This is in no way to detract from their work or to intend any lack of appreciation of their services.

It seems unlikely that the church of St. Michael, Boldmere, has produced any men or women of outstanding ability and certainly none of genius. What seems evident is that over the years it has inspired ordinary folks to live their lives a little better, to help those in greater need than themselves and to bear some witness however imperfect to the christian faith. It is also clear that successive generations have responded to this inspiration by making this House of God more beautiful, by extending its boundaries still wider and making its activities more useful and comprehensive.

The church at present is healthily full of young people who in due course may be expected to carry on the work and maintain the traditions of St. Michael's; perhaps they may be inspired to do greater things than their forefathers; perhaps even now there may be one who like the apostles of old "will turn the world upside down." Who knows?

The sacred edifices of England are a great heritage and a stabilising factor in this uncertain world. They pass on the message of christianity from one generation to another. In this way they sustain the faint-hearted and encourage the stout-hearted in the faith of their fathers. Inspired by the " great cloud of witnesses " who have worshipped at its altar and led by St. Michael, the archangel, the church in Boldmere can advance confidently into its next century.

 

APPENDIX 1.

MEMORIAL WINDOWS

1.             Sanctuary.

(a)  East Wall behind the Altar.

     Theme:                  The Ascension.

     Inscription:          " Ye men of Galilee why stand ye gazing up into Heaven: this same Jesus who was taken up into Heaven shall so come in like manner".

     Subscription:      " And when He had spoken these things they beheld He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight ".

     In Memoriam:      Francis Vincent Cottrell, obit Martius
XV 1874, Aetat 19.

Erected 1884 by Mrs. Cottrell and members of the congregation.

(b)  North Wall.

     Theme:               Bible study.

     Subscription:      Lydia.

Lydia, a prophetess of Thyatira and a seller of purple, was converted by St. Paul at Phillipi (Acts 16, 13).

 

2.    Nave.

(a)  West Wall over West Door.

     Theme:                  The Adoration of our Lord.

     Inscription:          " Hail highly favoured "

                                    " We praise Thee, O God, we acknow-
ledge Thee to be the Lord, All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father ever-
lasting ".

     Dedication:         This window is erected to the Glory of
God and in loving memory of Philip Barrington and his wife Sarah.

The figure of Christ surmounts apostles (St. Peter with keys,
St. Paul with sword, St. John with palm and St. Jude with boat) prophets (St. John Baptist with cross and shell, Moses with
tables of law) and patriachs (Abraham with knife and fire,
Jacob with oil and crook), Old and young people are in an attitude of worship. This window illustrates the " Te Deum
and deserves detailed study. Erected 1906. Designed by Mr. Powell of John Hardman & Co.

 

3.    Memorial Chapel.

(a)  East Wall.

     Theme:                  The Adoration of the Babe by the Kings.

     Dedication:         " To the Glory of God and in ever-loving memory of Thomas Hooper who died
20th November 1910, and Susan Charlotte his wife who died 5th January 1906, this window is erected by their sons in the
year 1912 ".

This nativity window shows the Madonna presenting the infant Christ to the Kings of Tarsis who have come to offer gifts.
Above the central tracery are angels carrying the " Star ", the
" Chalice " and the " Crown of Thorns " symbolizing the
coming sacrifice of Christ.

The designs are by Burne Jones and the work by Morris & Co., Merton Abbey, Surrey.

 

(b)  South Wall.

Small painted window: crown surmounting  a floral design.

 

4.    North Aisle.

(a)  North Wall.

1.  Theme:                 Moses in the Bullrushes.

     Dedication:         " To the Glory of God and in affectionate remembrance of James Yates this window is dedicated by Henry Edwin and Annie Yates 1890 ".

2.  Theme:                  Sower and Reaper.

     Dedication:         "In loving memory of William S. Riley who died 15th September 1893, and Sarah Ann Riley his wife who died 16th
February 1908 ".

3.  Theme:                  The Journey to Emmaeus.

     Inscription:          " Abide with us for it is towards
evening ".

     Dedication:         "To the Glory of God and in loving memory of William Randle who departed this life 22nd May 1920, aged 72 years ".

4.  Theme:                  Gethsemane.

     Dedication:         "In loving memory of Alfred Homer". Erected by his nieces and nephews 1938.

 

(b)  West Wall behind the Font.

     Superscription:   " Thy children like the olive branches"
" Suffer little children to come unto Me
and forbid them not".

     Dedication:         " In loving memory of Mabel Louise
eldest child of Edward and Mary Ansell, born 12th April 1878, died 3rd December 1881".

5.    South Aisle.

(a)  South Wall.

1.  Theme:                  Christ walking on the sea.

     Superscription:   " Fidelis usque ad enem ".

     Dedication:         In loving memory of Edward Dewing Kittoe born 14th March 1852, died 13th February 1889, aged 36 years.

2.  Theme:                  Paul and Timothy.

     Superscription:   " From a child thou hast known the Holy Scripture".

 

 

     Subscription:      " When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith which is in thee which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois I am persuaded in thee also ".

     Dedication:         " In loving memory of Sarah Ann Sadler who died 2nd January 1892, aged 74 years and her grandson William Martin Sadler who died 13th April 1891, aged 21 years".

 

3.  Theme:                  The Wise Men presenting their gifts.

     Superscription:   " The Gentiles shall come unto thee from all the ends of the earth ".

     Subscription:      " They presented unto Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh ".

     Dedication:         "To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Elizabeth Baker a devoted
wife and mother interred in this church-yard 30th March 1892 ".

 

4.  Theme:                  The Last Supper.

     Superscription:   "Let not your heart be troubled neither
let it be afraid ". " In My Father's House
are many mansions ".

     Dedication:         " To the Glory of God and in memory of
Mary Randle a good and loving wife who
died 26th June 1899 ".

 

(b)  West Wall.

     Theme:                  Victory over Death.

     Inscription:          " Young man I say unto thee, arise "
" He is not here, He is risen "
" By Thy glorious resurrection good Lord
deliver us ".

                                    "Jesus saith unto her, 'Mary'. She
turned herself and saith unto Him,
'Rabboni'".
" Lazarus come forth "

                                    "Maid arise".

     Dedication:         To the Glory of God and in loving
               memory of Edgar Samson Moore who
departed this life 7th February 1915, aged
34 years.

 

 

CHURCH BELLS.

Bell

Diameter

Weight

 

Bell

Diameter

Weight

No.

Inches

Cwt.

Qr.

Lb.

 

No.

Inches

Cwt.

Qr.

Lb.

1.

27⅜

4

1

9

 

5.

33¼

6

3

6

2.

27⅝

4

1

0

 

6.

35

7

2

3

3.

28¼

4

2

11

 

7.

39½

9

3

3

4.

30¼

5

0

24

 

8.

43¾

13

3

14

(Ref. "The Church Bells of Warwickshire" Tilley & Walters 1910.)
 

THE ORGAN

(a) Technical Description.

The Boldmere organ has 23 speaking stops with three manuals each of CC to G, 56 notes. The pedal board has 30 keys, CCC to F, being R.C.O. concave and radiating. Three of the five couplers are pneumatic and there are six combination pistons and a kick swell. There are no borrowings (so common in modem organs) and all the 1,144 pipes speak, there being no dummies.

(b) Specification.

 

Swell Organ

 

Great Organ.

Cornopean

8 ft.

 

Trumpet

8 ft.

Oboe

8 ft.

 

Fifteenth

2 ft.

Mixture 2 Ranks:

 

 

Twelfth

2⅔ ft.

Principal

4 ft.

 

Principal

4 ft.

Double Diapason

16 ft.

 

Keraulophon

8 ft.

Stopped Diapason

8 ft.

 

Stopped Diapason

8 ft.

Open Diapason

8 ft.

 

Open Diapason No. 1

8 ft.

 

 

 

Open Diapason No. 2

8 ft.

Couplers.

 

 

Choir Organ.

Swell to Great.

 

 

Clarinet C to G

8 ft.

Swell to Pedal.

 

 

Wald Flute

4 ft.

Swell to Choir.

 

 

Gambette

4 ft.

Great to Pedal.

 

 

Viol di Gamba C to G

8 ft.

Choir to Pedal.

 

 

Dulciana C to G

8 ft.

Foot lever, Great to Pedal

 

 

Stopped Diapason

8 ft.

Pedal Organ.

 

Combination Foot Pistons.

Bourdon

16 ft.

 

3 to Great Organ.

 

Open Diapason

16 ft.

 

3 to Swell Organ.

 

APPENDIX 2.

Vicars of St. Michael Boldmere.

1.   Rev. E. H. Kittoe, M.A. . . . . . . . . 1857-1894
2.   Rev. A. E. R. Bedford, M.A. . . . .       1894-1907
3.   Rev. R. B. Thompson, M.A. . . . . . 1907-1910
4.   Rev. O. H. Wethered, M.A. . . . . .       1910-1929
5.   Rev. Canon E. W. Brown, M.A. . .     1929

 

 

Assistant Clergy.

T. D. Williams, M.A.

1891-1894

 

T. D. Rhys, M.A.

1920-1923

T. E. Healey, B.A.

1897-1902

 

R. W. Smith, M.A.

1925-1927

J. A. Halroyd, B.A.

1902-1904

 

W. H. Hingley

1927

W. L. Baker, M.A.

1904-1906

 

J. J. Morgan

1927-1930

G. H. Moore

1906-1907

 

R. W. Yaxley, B.SC.

1931-1935

H. Kelk

1907-1909

 

J. R. McCallum, M.A.

1935

A. Combe

1909-1920

 

N. J. Woodhall, M.A.

1935-1940

M. C. H. Hughes, LL.D.


1911-1915

 

L. F. M. Helleur, M.A.


1941-1951

R. M. Gibson, M.A.

1916-1917

 

H. A. Needham

1942-1954

J. Wollaston

1917-1920

 

 

 

 

Organists.

A. J. Large

1875-1878

 

E. S. Reeves

1894-1905

W. Boddington

1878-1879

 

G. L. Lyon

1905-1929

 -. Cooper

1879-1884

 

R. Beckett

1930-

 -. Tunnaley

1885-1894

 

 

 

 

Parish Clerks.

J. Cramp

1857-1898

 

J. D. Lauterbach

1933-1946

K. Fellows

1898-1933

 

 

 

 

Churchwardens.

(From 1875 in approximate chronological order only.)

W. H. Tisdall                  R. Mason                       H. H. Shorter
C. Beaton                       Thos. Turner                 J. D. Lauterbach
Jos. Houlston                 E. G. Houlston              R. A. Eaton
S. Sadler                          Wm. Randle                  J. Grason
Jas. Clews                       H. E. Yates                    J. F. Woodroffe
C. J. Adie                         E. Ansell                         W. Turner
J. Beresford                    Wm. Adcock                 R. K. Mawson
J. E. Bibby                      W. T. Rushton              B. L. Hinge
J. C. Bourne                    S. J. Hoadly                   R. W. Talbot
-. Plante                           S. E. Emery                   E. J. Phelps
W. M. Sadler                  H. S. Ward                     A. Grason
D. Ward                           -. Heaton                       V. Lee
W. J. Yates                      A. R. Lynex                   A. W. Joiner
H. F. Hawkes                 H. Billson                       W. E. Foskett
-. Lovett                          A. Oldfield                     C. C. Wright
W. E. Houlston              P. Gibbs                          A. T. Edinborough
Thos. Billson                  W. J. Greatrex               H. A. N. Lawrence
Thos. Hooper                 C. W. Whitlock
J. H. Fox                          T. H. Parsons


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