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

The people

The whole venture for the two new chapels arose from the problems at St Martin’s with space for worshipping and for burials. It is not at all surprising then to find a lot of names in the Town Book of St Martin’s of people who became trustees for St Mary’s or St Paul’s. People such as Thomas Westley, Thomas Bingham, Thomas Salt, Joseph Guest, Elias Wallin, Thomas Lutwyche, Daniel Winwood all served as churchwardens of St Martin’s, and others such as Richard Rabone, Joseph Sheldon, John Guest, Josiah Pratt,Thomas Simcox, and Joseph Green were sidesmen or surveyors. The prominent men at St Martin’s were the men who implemented the Act. Daniel Winwood, a toymaker, was a churchwarden at St Martin’s in 1775 and did a stint as a surveyor of the highways. He was at the first public meeting about the chapels and was deeply involved in the early negotiations on the bill. He subsequently chaired a number of committee meetings. Although he is not prominent in the building of St Mary’s he is mentioned on one occasion when his advice was sought on an altar rail. In the minutes of the meeting when Henry Kempson is assigned his seat at St Mary’s, Winwood was assigned a £20 seat, but it had been crossed out. Nonetheless it does suggest that he had made a significant contribution .Two years later he emerged as the chairman of the trustees of St Paul’s and he had the unenviable task of recruiting men to become trustees, to meet the requirements of the agreement with Colmore and to become accountable for the building of St Paul’s and the provision of a parsonage. Although describing himself as a toymaker in the Indentures, in trade directories of the time his name appears as a chapemaker, of 32 New Hall Street. Chapemaking appears to be a particular sector of toymaking, and he was one of only 9 in the town. A chape is a small piece of metal that forms the tip of a sword’s scabbard, or a small plate attached to the scabbard, or alternatively it can be a part of a buckle. The directories also mention the partnership of Winwood, Dearman and Freeth as iron founders, suggesting he had interests in more than chapemaking. In an essay on the history of two old Cradley water mills, Peter Barnsley 34 discovered that on August 11th 1777 one of the mills, the Shilton Water Corn Mill was leased to Daniel Winwood, chapemaker, by Thomas Brettell. Just under a year later, Winwood mortgaged the property to Taylor and Lloyd for £1000. Apparently the money was to help pay off his creditors, and he sold other property, including a “Blade mill” at Halesowen, for the same purpose. This appears to have worked in the short term, but Barnsley writes that some years later, perhaps 1787, Winwood became bankrupt and at a public auction his lease on Shilton mill was sold. Also deserving a special mention is:- Henry Kempson, the land surveyor, features throughout the whole undertaking. He was not at the first public meeting, but he is mentioned at the committee stage, staking out the plots for both buildings. He figures quite prominently in the account of St Mary’s and towards the end he produces the scheme adopted for the assignment of sittings, and suggests one for the determination of rents. His contribution is recognised when he is assigned a pew. For St Paul’s he was secretary to the trustees, in the beginning running the business with Eykyn, and it is highly likely that he contributed to the assignment of seats and determination of rents. His notebook is a rich source of information, probably better than a minute book would have been. The pity of it is that he did not continue it to the end. A particular feature of his notebook is his use, from time to time, of shorthand. What more might be revealed if this could be understood? On top of this, his name appears frequently in the Town Book, indicating his approval of this and that, acting as a surveyor of the highways, there is barely a page without his name, and then, in 1781, “Mr Henry Kempson having attended and settled the accounts in the Book sundry times it was agreed to make him a ? of ten guineas and to allow him 2 gns a year to continue his attendance on these occasions”. He died in 1808, aged 63, his obituary stating that “Religion Humility and Kindness ornamented the whole of his useful life, leaving the strongest sense of sorrow and gratitude in the minds of those who shared his friendship, and the universal esteem of all who had the pleasure of knowing him”. The Minute Book has some entries for St Mary’s in later years, one with Peter Kempson a warden in 1811 and a John Kempson at the same time, and a still later entry in 1836 has a Samuel Kempson as a warden and a John Kempson. It really does look as though the perpetual leasehold of Henry’s seat was working well. George Holloway died in 1789, aged 72 and was buried in St Paul’s Churchyard. His is another name that appears frequently in the Town Book. Although not at the inaugural meeting, Holloway’s name soon appears in the Minute Book, as agent or estate manager for Charles Colmore, bringing news of what Colmore was prepared to offer. Later, in 1776, he issued the notice about the intention to start building St Paul’s, but later declined an invitation to become the secretary of St Paul’s trustees. He was not a trustee, but undoubtedly gave Henry Kempson a lot of help. The Revd T W Young died in 1817 aged 62 and is interred at the east end of the church, where there is a memorial tablet on the north wall in the sanctuary. Other than he was a curate at St Martin’s before his selection as minister for St Paul’s, not a lot is known about his ministry. Around 1790 he began to take an active part in the organising of the music festivals for the General Hospital and was invited onto the Festival Committee. There is a manuscript in the City Archives 35 showing that in 1816, acting, with others, on behalf of the governors of the General Hospital, he was involved in promoting a scheme for teaching the singing of oratorios. Apparently when the governors organised concerts for raising funds for the General Hospital they had to bring in singers from across the kingdom and at great expense. The intention of the teaching scheme, centred on the Oratorio Choral Society, was to provide adequate local resources and so reduce the expense. James Kempson made an important contribution when he suggested sharing a festival with the general Hospital, not only for the money it brought in but probably for the publicity created. He was an important figure in the musical world of the Town. In 1762, at the age of 20, he was choir master and clerk at St Bartholomew’s and was involved with others in the creation of the Musical and Amicable Society, a group largely made up of the choirs of St Bartholomew’s and St Philip’s, who enjoyed singing and imbibing together. He emerged as a leading figure of this group and in 1766 he proposed the formation of a more strictly musical society, a Choral Society. There was soon a further offshoot, the Chapell Society that raised funds for charity, as described earlier. In the trade directory of 1774 2 James Kempson is listed as a buttonmaker of 65 Snow Hill. The first recorded clerk of St Paul’s chapel was Thomas Venables Cobbe in the early 1780s, a position he held until 1801, when Kempson succeeded him and held the position until his death in 1822 in his eightieth year. He was buried in St Paul’s Churchyard and his epitaph reads “I know that my Redeemer liveth. Sacred to the memory of James Kempson 21 years Clerk of this Chapel and upwards of 50 years assistant conductor of the Oratorio Choral Society of this Town, who departed this life on March 18th 1822 aged 79 years”. To have acted as assistant conductor for more than fifty years was an astonishing achievementand suggests that he had that position in the late 1760s, when his Choral Society was formed. Rectors of St Martin’s The Rector who gave his approval to the Act was William Chase and his name appears in the Act. There is no record of him attending any meetings. In 1772 he was replaced by John Parsons, who was replaced by William Hinton, Doctor of Divinity, in 1779. By 1781 he had been replaced by Charles Curtis. Trustees of St Paul’s By the time of the 1779 Indenture forty five men had agreed to meet the Colmore obligation and to be accountable for finishing the chapel and the parsonage. If ever St Paul’s needed a Roll of Honour they have it ready made. Their names are given here in the order they appear on the Indenture. Their occupations are as they appear in the 1781 Directory of Merchants and Tradesmen printed and sold by Pearson and Rollason,36 the printers used by Henry Kempson. Daniel Winwood                  Chapemaker                           32 Newhall Street John Dallaway                      Plater                                     48 New Street Elias Wallin                          Bucklemaker                          17 Newhall Street John Startin                          Merchant                               30 Colmore Row Samuel Hammond              Buttonmaker                         89 Snow Hill Edward Hudson                   Buttonmaker                         99 Snow Hill Thomas Simcox                    Ringmaker                            25 Livery Street Richard Walker                    Draper & Mercer                  5 Dale End Joseph Townshend             Brassfounder                          Bread St Newhall Richard Jefcoate                  Enamelled button maker      Great Charles Street Josiah Pratt                           Steel Toymaker & plater      27 Cannon Street Richard Hawkins                 Buttonmaker                           65/66 Edmund Street Samuel Ford                         Merchant                                 48 Newhall Street Thomas Westley                  Plumber and Glazier              Bull Lane John Guest                           Stay maker and Taylor         42 Brick Lane Robert Gill                            Toymaker William Barrs                       Draper                                    Temple Row James Pickard                      Buttonmaker                         26 Newhall Street Joseph Green                       Merchant                               25 New Street Thomas Smith M.D.                                                             23 Newhall Street John Bird                              Grocer                                    31 Colmore Row John Westwood                   Dye sinker & Coffin Plate Furniture Maker                                                                 37 Newhall Street Thomas Green                      Ironmonger                          101 Snow Hill William Hobson                   Merchant Charles Twigg                       Merchant Thomas Fletcher                  Japanner & Painter              108/9 Snow Hill Bernard Shepherd HeatonDraper and Mercer                15 High Street Richard Conquest                Merchant                               47 Newhall Street Thomas Bingham                Bucklemaker                        14 Newhall Street Samuel Brookes                   Tea Dealer                             77 High Street John Iddins                          Timber Merchant                 32 Cherry Street George Colley                       Toymaker Isaac Anderton                     Toymaker                              31 Weaman St Nathaniel Glover                 Brassfounder                           9 Great Charles Street William Dickenson              Mercer William Walker                    Merchant                               11 Catherine Street Francis Parrott Esq.             Surgeon & Man-midwife    52 Bull Street William Villers                     Brazier Joseph Rabone                     Toymaker                              7 Bath Street Joseph Gibbs                         Warehouse & Shops             31 Katherine Street Thomas Lutwyche               Grocer & Tobacconist          138 Digbeth Thomas Rock                        Ironmonger                          26 Great Charles Street William Anderton                Toymaker Joseph Sheldon                    Plumber & Glazier               18 Temple Street Benjamin Parker                  Gentleman   Of the trustees 9 were toymakers, 7 merchants, and 5 buttonmakers out of 18 occupations that made a good cross section of the Town’s business activities. One rather special entry in the 1781 Directory is “James Watt  Engineer Harper’s Hill”. A number of the trustees of St Paul’s became officers of the Town under the manorial system in force then, as recorded by Hutton.1 The positions were High Bailiff, Low Bailiff and Constables. It had become traditional that the High Bailiff position would be occupied by a church man and the Low Bailiff by a dissenter. The High Bailiff’s responsibilities were for the markets and four trustees of St Paul’s were elected to that office viz Thomas Westley 1773, Joseph Green 1778, Daniel Winwood 1780 and Richard Conquest 1787. In addition John Turner, the chairman for St Mary’s trustees, had been elected High Bailiff for 1760 and Thomas Faulconbridge, who chaired the public meeting and consulted the Archbishop of Canterbury, was High Bailiff in 1787. Nine of the trustees had served as constables. They were Elias Wallin, Thomas Bingham, Thomas Lutwyche, John Startin, Joseph Sheldon, John Guest, John Dallaway, Thomas Green and William Barrs. In 1769 the Act of Improvement for Birmingham had been passed 17, an Act “for laying open and widening certain ways and passages within the Town of Birmingham; and for cleansing and lighting of the streets, lanes ways and passages thereto and for removing and preventing nuisances and obstructions thereto”. Fifty commissioners were appointed, including well known worthies such as John Ash MD, Dr Small, John Baskerville and Samuel Lloyd and son. They were to be known as the Street Commissioners. Among them were Thomas Faulconbridge, already mentioned, and John Turner senior, who chaired the St Mary’s trustees. Four of them became St Paul’s trustees, viz., Thomas Bingham, Thomas Lutwyche, Elias Wallin and Thomas Westley. The latter two figured prominently throughout the building of the chapels. Wallin’s plan for rents had been adopted at St Mary’s (Westley was in favour of the Kempson plan), and it was Wallin and Westley who had approached the General Hospital about a joint festival with St Paul’s. Wallin, Westley and Bingham and four other trustees were present at the Vestry Meeting in 1780 when Winwood and Startin were made first wardens of St Paul’s.

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