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

The action begins

As St Mary’s had been consecrated in August 1774 it is understandable that Colmore and Winwood met again in November 1774 to confirm the understanding they had reached in their meeting before the passing of the Act. The trustees would have checked the subscription books for St Paul’s, but evidently not enough was subscribed to get them going. The big difference between St Mary’s and St Paul’s was that St Mary’s had £1700 in two large donations; St Paul’s had £200 in one donation. It has been asserted that Matthew Boulton subscribed £600 in 1776 for a Chapel in Soho. Ettlinger and Holloway 27 wrote that as there was no chapel in Soho, he must have meant St Paul’s. However, at a conference on Boulton at Birmingham University in 2009 it was disclosed that Boulton did indeed have ideas about a chapel at Soho and promised a contribution of £600 for it , but soon after changed his mind and dropped the whole idea, this, apparently, being typical Boulton behaviour. There are no reports in the press of anything happening in the remainder of 1774, nor through the whole of 1775. It was on March 18th 1776 that an announcement was made in the Gazette by George Holloway on behalf of the trustees:- “Birmingham March 14th 1776   RELIGION—At a meeting held this day, of the Trustees appointed by Act of Parliament, for Building two Chapels in this Town, it was resolved to begin St Paul’s, as soon as a sufficient Sum shall be subscribed for that Purpose; and they intend waiting on the Public to solicit their generous Contributions for so necessary an undertaking. George Holloway. N.B. Subscription Books are also left with Pearson and Rollason, Printers of this Paper”. It was almost four years since the Act was passed and yet, if they were following the earlier resolution, £3000 had not been subscribed. With only three years left on the seven years rule the trustees must have been feeling anxious. For the next important development we are indebted to Henry Kempson, who, as mentioned earlier, kept a small notebook headed “Memorandums relative to St Paul’s Chapel”, which is held in the City Archives. 12 It measures some 6¼” x 4” and Kempson has written on 63 pages. The notebook is best known for the reasons and excuses subscribers used for not paying up when it came to the first call, but there is much more to it than that. Kempson records the comments of the two architects who viewed the model of the proposed chapel. He lists his cash deposits from his collection, withdrawals of cash from the bank and payments for goods and services up to May 1778, and some subscriptions. He bought another book the same size as his memorandum book to record the detail of his collections, but this has not come to light. Kempson was a surveyor, and a trustee of St Mary’s, for whom he did much, as has been explained. He was appointed secretary of St Paul’s trustees, for which his own records show that he received an honorarium of £25. There is no evidence that he was a trustee of St Paul’s. The first entry in Kempson’s notebook, to be referred to as HK, is on November 12th 1776, eight months after the announcement in the Gazette. It reads “I was appointed Secretary in the room of Mr Geo.Holloway who begs to decline”. On the next day “Mr Winwood sent me the following books—The Minute Book, 4 Subscription Books, a small ditto of Gentlemen that have not subscribed, 81 Cards of printed summons’s, A parcel of printed receipts”. This is the evidence that Kempson did have the Minute Book. It is possible that he bought another one, but that does not appear in HK. Unfortunately the four subscription books do not appear to have survived. On November 14th in HK, “Waited on Mr Winwood to know when it would be agreeable to wait on Mr Holloway to re-stake out the land” and on the same day “Wrote to Mr Eykyn of W:Hampton to request the favour of his design”. On December 3rd HK writes “Began to collect the subscriptions”. Suddenly it was all happening–stake out the area for the chapel again– get a design (they must have been in some discussion with Eykyn already)–get some money in (the first call must have been made six months earlier)

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