The Building of St Paul’s Church, Birmingham in the 1770s

The building of St Paul’s Chapel

In the early stages of the Bill, the trustees had enquired of Charles Colmore what he would be prepared to give, and the message back from George Holloway had been the land, £200, and the right of presentation during his lifetime and the life of the first incumbent in return for the perpetual advowson. In the published Act the requirement was rather different, viz., the land and £1000 in return for the perpetual advowson. There was no mention of £200 or of a special arrangement for the right of presentation, so something had happened between the time the committee accepted Colmore’s offer and the final drafting of the Act. The Act appeared to deal with Mary Weaman and Charles Colmore in similar fashion, albeit with Mary Weaman donating £1200 to Charles Colmore’s £1000. Similarly, there is no mention of the £200 or the right of presentation in the consecration sermon, where it was confirmed that Colmore was to become the patron immediately after consecration. It has been assumed in publications since then that Colmore donated £1000 in money. However, there are manuscripts that throw a light on what actually happened. One such, in the City Archives 26 is a deed labelled “no.270060 Deed of Covenant by the Trustees of St Paul’s concerning the nomination of the Minister thereto. Dated 23rd December 1778   88cm x60cm 2 leaves”. The back leaf starts with a reference to the “parties to the Indenture dated 21st day of November 1777”and is followed by what is essentially a restatement of the main paragraph in the Act about Mary Weaman and Colmore, what was expected of them and their rights. It is confirmed that immediately after consecration Charles Colmore would be patron, own the advowson, and could nominate and present to the bishop a candidate for minister. However, the document continues:- “by certain articles of agreement on or about 19th November 1774 between Charles Colmore and Daniel Winwood Toymaker of Birmingham” and then relates that prior to the passing of the Act when Charles Colmore was consenting to give the land for the chapel, instead of Colmore donating £1000 towards its building, Daniel Winwood agreed with Charles Colmore to pay £800 of the £1000 towards the building in return for the right of presentation and nomination during the life of Charles Colmore. This means that the original proposal of a donation of £200 money and the right of presentation, approved by the committee, had been rejected by the lawmakers, and the £1000 substituted for it. Winwood and Colmore must have known of this before the Act was passed as they made this private agreement before the Act. Colmore had set out ready to donate £200 and the right of presentation and finished donating £200 and effectively selling the right for £800. It is suggested that Colmore had a money limit of £200, and if the deal was to go ahead, Winwood had little option but to agree to find the £800, which was a very large sum. An alternative scenario that Winwood and his fellow trustees were desperate to have a particular person as minister is highly unlikely as the person they eventually nominated was only 17 at this time! It is surprising that the arrangement reached was not made public, and because £1000 was mentioned in the Act it has been assumed ever since that that was what Colmore donated. It has to be said that most accounts of the donations of land and money for the building of churches seem to regard them as acts of pure philanthropy, but they are hardly that. The landowners were selling or leasing the land for financial gain, indeed as the Act itself put it “the building of a chapel upon the land…will increase the value of such of their lands as be adjacent to the intended chapels”. Ettlinger and Holloway27 reported that in 1821 a Mr Drake commented that Colmore’s gift of land “had not altogether been disinterested piety, since the enhanced rent roll of the estate provided him with a handsome return for his gift”. In the case of St Bartholomew’s, John Jennens gave the land and his wife donated £1000, so perhaps this was the “going rate”. The likelihood that the Weaman land would increase in value more than the greenfield land around St Paul’s and that they would be developed faster may explain why the Act required Mary Weaman to donate £1200 compared with Charles Colmore’s £1000. There were other things agreed at the meeting in November 1774, one of which was that Colmore and Winwood placed a maximum figure of £8000 on the amount of money to be raised, which suggests that Winwood was optimistic about raising the money, but is very surprising as he is likely to have known about the costs and the fundraising at St Mary’s. They also determined that the minister’s house should cost not less than £400 and not more than £500 and it had to be built within three years of the consecration of St Paul’s chapel. Until it was built the minister would be paid “an annuity or yearly sum of twenty pounds by two equal half yearly payments”. It becomes clear in the document that the way Daniel Winwood copes with the requirement of £800 is to involve the trustees in an indenture, not the honorary trustees but the people who had paid £30 or more. They were to pay the £800,which, together with the money subscribed would see to the erection of the church and the building of the house for the minister, paying any shortfall in such “shares and proportions” as Daniel Winwood and his fellow trustees determined. They committed themselves to this in the indenture dated November 21st 1777. There were 31 trustees who signed and sealed the indenture.

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