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

Managing the Business

HK had been appointed secretary towards the end of 1776, Daniel Winwood was Chairman of the trustees and a few other trustees, Mr Startin for example, are prominent in HK’s notes. Nothing much is recorded for the winter months, then from April 1777 onwards there is a burst of activity, the design and the location are agreed. HK collects subscriptions, one of the first from the chairman, Daniel Winwood who pays up £7 10s, being 25% of the £30 to become a trustee. The delivery of materials commences. HK records the payment for the supplies which follows very closely the collection of money. There is no mention of a builder at all at this stage and the evidence points to HK and Eykyn managing the project, or the “business” as they called it. HK was not having an easy time collecting cash. It would be almost five years since some people had made their pledge in the subscription book, so it is hardly surprising that for some their circumstances had changed, others had forgotten or moved away, some had died and their widows were not able to fulfil the pledge. For others there was a genuine concern about whether the chapel would be built at all. They wanted to see real progress before paying up. Typical of them was James Kempson, who some years later was to become clerk of St Paul’s, and who “has no objection to pay but chooses to see a beginning made first”. The same reason was used by Mr Simons, who, referring to St Mary’s pointed out that “We began sooner (to collect) than they did before, for they did not call for money till the chapel was out of the ground”. There were some who preferred to earn the interest on their money for as long as possible, such as Mr Ford of Livery Street who “Objects to letting any body else have the interest of his money”. In total there are more than sixty people listed by HK who would not or could not pay the first tranche of 25%. All of this must have been a real problem for the Trustees. They were starting from pledges, which is what signing the subscriber’s book meant, but no cash. They had to get enough cash to start building to persuade some subscribers to put up their cash. The first thing HK had to do when he had got enough cash was to go to the bank with Joe Cottrell and pay him, acting for St Mary’s, half of the cost of getting the Act through, a bill amounting to £138.19s 4d. The existence of this debt had upset a Mr Goodall, who “objected to paying at first on account of the debt due to St Mary’s for part of the Act”. This debt will have been due since 1772. The brighter side will have been new and increased subscriptions. Thus “Mr Townshend is to make his up to 30£ and to become responsible”. In other words Mr Townshend in paying £30 would become a trustee, thereby joining with other trustees in becoming responsible for building the chapel. Mr Holloway, on the other hand, had a particular problem. “Mr Holloway says he will pay me ….next week or leave it with Mr Winwood for me but he must write to Mr Colmore before he pays his 50£ who is now in France and it will be some time before he can have an answer”. Mr Holloway was set to pay his own subscription and in addition, as Colmore’s manager in Birmingham, was to pay the first tranche of 25% of the £200 promised by Colmore, i.e. £50, but had to get his approval first. Colmore was paying by instalments, as did Mary Weaman. There is no evidence that Holloway became a trustee. On supplies, there is a lot of detail. One of the first items was a search for a brickmaker, and there was a proposal to use clay on the Colmore estate, but, as with St Mary’s, there was no clay on the estate. Supplies pour in to the chapel yard from the end of May to November, for example:- —Mr Nathl Meacham will carry the Stone from the Proprietors Wharf to the Chapel Yard, Load it and deliver it at 14d per Ton. —Job Pratt and Job Pratt’s wife are paid for bricks at 13s per thousand. (St Mary’s had a different supplier at 14s per thousand) They supplied some half a million bricks.(Other than Dorothy and Mary Weaman, Job Pratt’s wife is the only woman referred to in all the documents examined, other than the widows HK meets on his Collection calls). —Mr Jones also supplied bricks. Other suppliers were:- —John Wall and Thos Huxley — Lime —B Greaves — drift sand —John Pyatt — Bricklayers —Various people — “pitching” the brick deliveries. This appears with each brick delivery and is believed to be the stacking of bricks for the bricklayers. Pitching 21,000 bricks cost 3s 6d. —Abraham Simpson — 2 wheelbarrows at £1.1.0 —John Tuckley– tiles —Jos Hands – sinking wells —John Cottrell — plating brick moulds. —Mr Rollaston — advertising the four calls. —Mr Martin — the pool Dam One item attracts special attention. The individual who is paid for all stone deliveries is Eykyn. It is Bilston stone and Eykyn is from Wolverhampton, but more than that, as mentioned earlier, among his various skills he was at one time a stone mason. The cost of stone recorded by HK was £170. With all of this activity Aris’s Gazette is able to report:- “June 2nd 1777 — On Thursday last, the first Stone of St Paul’s Chapel was laid by one of the Trustees, and under the Stone was placed a Medal, with an inscription in Commemoration thereof”. This was followed by the usual exhortation to subscribe. HK reported that Mr Winwood laid the stone at the north corner. We have not found any indication on the wall of the church in the north corner as to where exactly the foundation stone might be. The managing of the business was about to change. Although not mentioned at all by HK, a manuscript in the form of a signed and sealed bond in the City Archives 28 states:- “ Know all men by these presents that we whose names are hereunto subscribed are held and firmly bound to John Standbridge of the borough of Warwick and Henry Couchman of Temple Balsall in the county of Warwick Builders in the sum of Four Thousand and Two hundred pounds of good and lawful money of Great Britain to be paid to the said John Standbridge and Henry Couchman at the times appointed for payment of the same by the Article for the Completion of the said Building”. The date of the bond is August 1st 1777. The 28 subscribers, trustees of St Paul’s, were to pay equal shares of “what sum or sums of Money shall be deficient in the Subscription Money which is or may be collected for the building of the said chapel ”. The trustees had accepted the builder’s cost of £4200 and were to have a date of completion. The trustees who signed this bond are 28 of the 31 who signed up just a few months later to the Indenture of November 21st 1777 which bound them to meeting the £800 Colmore money. It was not until November 10th 1777 that HK wrote “ Delivd the Rough Draft of the Agreemn to young Mr Standbridge to send to his father & desir’d he would let me know when to call a meeting. Mr Carles says the Bond is to be only a Common Printed Bond”. And on the 13th we have “Copy’d the Agreemn for Messrs Standbridge and Couchman and they are to examine them & to be signed on Friday next”. November 26th brought a highly significant entry “ The Agreemn with the Builders was signed & they are to compleat it by March 1 1779”. It had taken almost four months to agree the Article of Completion. The date agreed was three months before the deadline. It is highly likely that the bond mentioned here, being only a printed bond, was a standard builder’s bond guaranteeing the cost and the completion date to the trustees. Having signed up with the Builders it was possible for the Gazette to inform their readers on December 8th 1777:- “It is with Pleasure we can assure our readers, that the Chapel of St Paul, in this Town, will be ready for Consecration by the 1st of March, 1779. It will be a neat substantial Building, and is calculated to contain about One Thousand Sittings”. Payments to Mr Standbridge started only two days after the signing of the agreement, but payments for supplies continued into February 1778, and the records end on May 14th 1778. The only memorandum entry for 1778 in HK was for May 15th when he “Was with Mr Snape setting out the Streets round St Paul’s Chapel Yard 12 yards wide. The Chapel Yard is 126yds by 115 yds. Contains 3 Acres & 8 sq yds”. Three of the streets were to be named after Charles Colmore’s children viz., Lionel, Mary Ann and Caroline. In 1779 he makes only three memorandum entries, one of which, just two weeks before the consecration, is an estimate of the number of bricks required for the chapel wall.

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