The three Chapels of Ease to St Martin’s
The two chapels of ease, St Mary’s and St Paul’s, established by Act of Parliament of 1772, were consecrated in 1774 and 1779 respectively. In 1841 they were given designated areas and licensed to publish banns of marriage and carry out marriages, but they were still chapels of ease. It was to be 1868 before St Paul’s became St Paul’s church, a parish church with its first vicar. St Mary’s steeple was rebuilt in 1866.Because of need for land for the expansion of the General Hospital, and under an Act of Parliament in 1925, St Mary’s church was closed, pending demolition. The subsequent sale of the church land paid most of the cost of £20,415 to build another St Mary’s at Pype Hayes in 1929-30. St Bartholomew’s was created a parish in 1847, and closed in 1937. The building was badly damaged by a German bomb in 1942, and was demolished by 1943, except for a fragment of the east end and east window. By 1961 it had disappeared entirely and the site was a car park. For St Paul’s, Wyatt was back on the scene when a Vestry meeting in 1785 agreed to a new east window to be made by Francis Eginton to a design by Benjamin West and with the “architecture” by Wyatt. It took six years to complete, raising the funds being, again, a major problem. It was surprising to find in St Paul’s Vestry Minute Book an entry for September 30th 1794, just 15 years after consecration, as follows “At a meeting of the Inhabitants of the Town held here this day it was determined that the Chapel be put into proper repair”. Unfortunately no further details are given. On August 6th 1822 an Indenture, available in the City archives 43, was signed by Matthew Seaborne, a stone mason of Birmingham, and a committee of subscribers, for the building of a steeple for St Paul’s chapel to the design of a London architect, Mr Francis Goodwin, and at a cost of £1097. Each of the 9 subscribers was responsible for one ninth of the cost, and they were:- Revd Rann Kennedy Minister Thomas Pemberton, the younger Brassfounder Robert Wheeler Gunmaker William Aston Button maker John Chamberlain Gentleman John Walthew Builder William Baldwin Buttonmaker George Frederick Muntz Roller of metals William Henry Bates Factor The steeple was completed in 1823. On this occasion, and in contrast to the previous building contract, Seaborne made sure that if any of the nine defaulted, the others picked up his share of the cost. Muntz was a larger than life Birmingham character, as the size of his signature on this document attests. As part of a plan to increase the number of seats, particularly for Sunday School children, a scheme devised by Hansom and Welch in 1832-34 44 included the forward extension of the west gallery. This then needed further cast iron columns, three on each side. St Paul’s survives, cleaned and restored, and in the rejuvenated Square it probably looks as fine now as it ever did. However there is one big difference in the building, a peal of ten bells. In 2004 the Vicar of St Paul’s , the Revd Tom Pyke was asked by Richard Grimmett, the Master of St Martin’s Guild of Church Bellringers, if he would be interested in having a peal of ten bells. In 2005 the Guild would be celebrating their 250th year and they thought that this would be an appropriate way of marking it. Tom, the PCC and the Diocese agreed and in November 2005, largely through the efforts of members of the Guild, the first peal was rung. It had cost some £140,000, raised by public subscription. Two hundred and thirty four years after the parishioners of St Martin’s had made the first moves for a chapel of ease, the task had been completed. There could not have been a more appropriate group to do it than the bellringers of St Martin’s.