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

The Consecration of St Paul’s

In December 1777 a notice in the Gazette had said that the chapel would be ready for consecration by the March 1st 1779. No public notice has been found yet of the date of completion, nor of the date of consecration, but we do have in the City Archives the manuscript 29 of the “Sentence of Consecration of Chapel and Chapelyard” dated June 2nd 1779. It is a large parchment with faded ink and not very easy to read. It was “Signed Sealed and Delivered by the within mentioned Lord Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry the parchment being first duly stamped and signed in the presence of us N FotheringhamArchdeacon of Coventry Thos White          Principal Surrogate B Spencer (?)       Vicar of Aston C NewlingMA      Rector of St Phillip’s Birmingham R B RilandMA     Rector of Sutton Coldfield J RilandMA         Chaplain of St Mary’s Birmingham John Darnal AB     Vicar of Walsall A B HadenAB      Curate of Castle Bromwich Calvt Clapham    Notary Pub. Secretary T Buckeridge       Clerk AM Depy Registrar Geo Hand Junr   Notary Publick Sentence of Consecration of the Chapel and Chapel Yard of St Paul in Birmingham Second day of June 1779 in this fifth year of our (the bishop’s) consecration. East to West about 80’ in length from North to South about 64’ in breadth —–3 acres”. The earlier estimate of the date of the passing of the Act was on or just before May 30th 1772. The date here for consecration of June 2nd 1779 puts it just 2 days over 7 years since the Act. It was a tight run thing and it reads as though the Church was complete, as it had “Communion Table and Rails, Pulpit, Reading desk, font galleries and convenient seats or pews, Belfry, a Bell, and all things requisite and necessary and the said seats or pews are sufficient to raise a competent yearly income salary or endowment for the maintenance of the several and respective Curates of the said chapel for the time being pursuant to the directions of the said Act. And whereas the said Charles Colmore and the Rev William Hinton Doctor in Divinity, the present Rector, and the Church Wardens and parishioners of St Martin’s and other inhabitants of the said Town of Birmingham have duly petitioned us:- —the chapel may administer baptism, —the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, —Church Women after Childbirth, —Instruct Children in the Catechism, —Burial of the Dead, And others as is usual except the Solemnization of Matrimony” As well as consecrating the Chapel yard the “several vaults made under the said Chapel” were also consecrated. Just how many vaults were made under the Chapel is not known, but many memorial tablets in the Church refer to a nearby vault. From the NADFAS record 30 this could amount to 12 vaults. The necessity to pay the standard fees to the rector of St Martin’s was made clear, and there had to be “competent and reasonable allowances for the Clerk and sexton”. Dent 13 described the chapel thus “Shorn of the one redeeming feature (the steeple), the new Chapel presented a heavy gloomy appearance” and also commented “The rising ground beyond Great Charles Street, which was selected as the site of the proposed chapel, was yet sufficiently removed from the busy hive of workers, although the town was gradually creeping across the fair demesne of the Colmore family, and bade fair at no distant date to provide the sacred edifice with an ample congregation close to its very doors.” Hutton’s view of the chapel was that it was built “upon the declivity of a hill, not altogether suitable for the elegant building it sustains, which is of stoneplain beauty unites with strength. This roof like that of St Mary’s appears too full”. There has been some discussion by C.Pickford 31 on whether there was a bell when the chapel was built in 1779. The consecration document confirms that there was a bell from the beginning but no details of it are available. It is said that there was chalked on the walls of the town “A large town, a proud people    A fine church and no steeple” To be a churchwarden you had to be officiating in a church. A chapel of ease did not qualify, so they appointed wardens. In the St Paul’s Vestry Minute Book of this period wardens were appointed. The first wardens were Daniel Winwood, who was Chairman of the Trustees, and John Startin. The day for the Vestry meeting, Easter Tuesday, when wardens were appointed, had passed, so it was the Vestry meeting in 1780 when the two were officially appointed, Daniel Winwood by the “subscribing inhabitants present” and John Startin by the Minister. It is recorded in the Town Book that at a meeting on June 27th 1781 the Churchwardens of St Martin’s and St Philip’s presented their accounts for the previous year, and wardens of St Mary’s and St Paul’s theirs, so that the levy may be determined. In addition a bill was produced for the consecration of St Paul’s chapel amounting to £56 19s 6d and it was agreed it would be paid out of the next year’s levy.

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