A chapel of ease of Kings Norton, St Mary's is first mentioned in 1405. The 16th-century tower was built from the stones of Bromsgrove parsonage. Rebuilt and extended in the 19th century, the church is now largely the work of the Birmingham architect, J A Chatwin.
St Mary's Church website
Visit the website of the United Benefice of St Mary's & St Anne's - http://www.moseleybenefice.org.uk/.
See also A Church near You - http://www.achurchnearyou.com/moseley-st-mary/.
You might also be interested in - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y - Moseley - http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-m/moseley/.
Press function key F5 to refresh the map.
A Chapel of Ease of Kings Norton
Moseley's parish church was founded rather later than Birmingham's other ancient churches. St Mary's is first mentioned in 1405 in a letter of Pope Innocent VII which gave the Bishop of Worcester permission to licence the building for worship. The Pope was responding to a petition from local residents who wanted to save themselves the long journey to Kings Norton. At that time the route ran via Dogpool Lane across the wide marshy valley of the River Rea, which was prone to flooding in winter. (At that time Kings Norton itself was not an ecclesiastical parish but a chapel of ease of Bromsgrove.)
I, Innocent VII, To the Bishop of Worcester. Mandate to license those of the parishioners of the Church of Bromsgrove in his diocese, who dwell hard by the town of Kings Norton, in the
same diocese, and whose petition contained that the said Church is so distant that especially for old men and pregnant women and other weak persons access at certain times of the year on account
of the said distance and floods is impossible without danger, to have mass and other divine offices celebrated by fit priests and ecclesiastical sacraments administered in the nearer and more
convenient Chapel of St Mary, Moseley within the bounds of the said Church.
The oldest surviving part of the building is the tower which was built in 1514 using forty-eight wagon-loads of stone reused from Bromsgrove's old parsonage.
By 1780 the chapel had fallen into such disrepair that services could no longer be held here. The fallen roof was repaired and the church was encased in brick with fashionable round-headed windows in neo-classical style. But only forty years later, fashions had changed and the contemporary leading gothicist, Thomas Rickman was employed to remove the alterations and regothicise the church. He plastered the external brick-clad walls to look like stone, added cast-iron girders simulated as timber and put gothic-style iron frames in the windows.
Another forty years on and all of Rickman's work was lost in further gothic restoration. In 1876 the Birmingham architect, J A Chatwin restored, rebuilt and extended the building in Decorated Gothic style. Ten years later a wide north aisle was added, and in 1897 the chancel and south transept (now the Lady Chapel) were built, bringing the church to its present size. The nave and south aisle were reconstructed in 1910 by Chatwin's son, P B Chatwin who later also repaired the German bomb damage which occurred in 1940 during the Second World War.
Inside the church on the east wall of the tower can be seen the marks of three roof lines, the lowest probably that of the original building, a higher one that of the 18th century and the highest that of Rickman's rebuilding. The present roof is the work of J A Chatwin.
The Bells of St Mary's
Until 1874 Moseley church had three bells dating from 1638, 1650 and 1740. These were transferred in that year to St Anne's Duddeston.
Until 2012 St Mary's had a unique ring of bells which attracted visiting ringers from all over the country. The peal originated in Sheffield. In a pioneering venture in 1861, eight steel bells cast by a Sheffield foundry were loaned to St Marie's Roman Catholic Church. This was an unusual experiment as English bells have been made from time immemorial with a copper-tin alloy known as bell metal. In comparison with bell metal, steel bells are very heavy for the note they produce. The steel bells were bought for St Mary's in 1874 by Sir John Holder of Pitmaston, Moor Green.
However, when the church was partially rebuilt in 1910, the ringing room floor was removed and the bells could no longer be rung full circle, only chimed with hammers. Examination in 1979 found the bell installation to be unsafe and it was recommended that it should be removed. However, a suggestion was made to the Parochial Church Council that the bells could and should be restored, these believed to be the only surviving peal of steel bells in the country. After a great deal of fund-raising and 5000 hours of volunteer labour, the restoration was completed by Easter 1991, when the bells were rung from the ground floor after morning service for the first time in over 80 years.
Unfortunately the bells were not easy to ring and their tone left much to be desired. In 2012 a fine new peal of ten bells by Taylor's of Loughborough was installed.
Acknowledgement - See British History Online - Victoria County History of Warwick Volume 7 The City of Birmingham ed. W B Stevens 1964 - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22975.
See St Mary's & St Anne's - http://www.moseleybenefice.org.uk/ ,
history pages - http://www.moseleybenefice.org.uk/index.php/discipleship/41-history/766-queen-or-duchess.html and http://www.moseleybenefice.org.uk/index.php/hospitality/44-what-to-see/85-what-to-see-in-st-marys.html?showall=1.
See A New Voice for St Mary's in the Heart of Moseley - http://www.stmarysbells.org/,
photos on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/88241278@N02/sets/72157631720139673/;
and also Church Bells of Warwickshire by Mike Chester - http://www.warksbells.co.uk/.
John Morris Jones's Walk Around Moseley Village is available at http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/teacher/history/jm_jones/moseley/section_3/index.htm.
This is a Grade II listed building whose record can be found on the
Historic England website - https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1076209.
Thanks to Rob Brown for arranging my visit, for showing me round and for sharing his considerable knowledge with me.
William Dargue 02.03.2013