Tile Cross

St Peter

Work in Progress . . .

Church website

The church's own website is at -

 http://www.stpeters-tilecross.org.uk/page911.html.

See also A Church near You http://www.achurchnearyou.com/st-peters-tile-cross/.

 

You might also be interested in - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y Tile Cross http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-t/tile-cross/

 

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St John's Mission Hall

The 1884 Ordnance Survey map shows a mission of Sheldon church dedicated to St John on Cooks Lane where St John's Grove is now and this continued until the 1950s when this rural area began to be developed for housing by the City of Birmingham.

 

OS map 1884-1893 from British History Online - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/warwickshire/015/nw
OS map 1884-1893 from British History Online - http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/warwickshire/015/nw

St Peter's church

Shortly after World War 2 'temporary' prefabs were constructed in the Tile Cross area (Some still stand in Leycroft Road) and in the early 1950s, council-house building had begun in earnest. In October 1951 the foundation stone of St Peter’s Church was laid by Rt Rev William Barnes, Bishop of Birmingham.

 

Opened two years later, he building was dual-purpose, serving as church and church hall, being used for church services as well as as a drama centre, youth club, cinema, dance hall and as an annexe to Shirestone Primary School.

 

By the mid 1960s it was decided that a new church should be built adjoining the old one which would then become the church hall.  On the 13 November 1968 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother opened the new St Peter’s church.

 

Extract from A STUDY OF CHURCHES BUILT FOR THE USE OF CONGREGATIONS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND BETWEEN 1945 AND 1970 AND OF THEIR EFFECTIVENESS IN SERVING THE NEEDS OF THEIR CONGREGATIONS TODAY by Michael Gilman, BA, FSA (Scot) -  Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Architecture of the University of Sheffield May 1999

 

St. Peter, Tile Cross

A/L: Haywood Road, B33. Date: 1968. Architect: J. Osborne. Incumbent: Vacant. 

 

The brief descriptive note prepared for the records of the DAC describes the church thus:

'The church was built in 1968, designed by the John Osborne Partnership of Birmingham. The building is of curved forms, having brickwork external walls comprising some steel framework, concrete floors and a large and flat asphalted roof. Main internal areas feature an almost circular "nave", leading to an ocular sanctuary and a choir in an arc to the East. A Baptistry lies off the nave to the South. There is a bell tower and an ocular ridge of clerestorey lights in the main roof. The building is situated on a 1767 s qyd-plot on Haywood Road, having vehicular access from Burleton Road. The Vicarage is adjacent to the North (1506 sq yd) and the adjoining church Hall (1206 sq yd, built around 1952) is to the South.'

This church is identified as being one of the outer Ring Estate churches in Wallace Brown's Report "The Hidden Poor", and is in the first group, comprising Predominantly Newer Type Council Estate Churches (Church actually on Estate). 

 

History 

At the meeting of the DRC on 23rd March 1950, it was noted that the City Council had approved, in principle, the conveyance of a freehold site. At the DRC meeting on 7th June 1951, it was noted that the War Damage commission had agreed to the transfer of the payment made in respect of St. Anne, Duddeston. The foundation stone of the Hall was laid on 5th October 1951.

A general Report on Diocesan Needs in New Housing Areas, submitted to the DRC on 15th December 1954, says of Tile Cross: 'About to become a statutory district. A church should be built, also a house as a vicarage. ' A report to the Diocesan Conference on 26th November 1956 notes that a house'at 422 The Radleys had been purchased as a clergy house. The church was consecrated on 13th November, 1968. 

 

Description of the building

The building is a curious and complex one. Externally, it has all the hallmarks of a Liturgical Movement church, but manages to achieve the cluttered look of a pre-Liturgical Movement church. In plan, the church is formed as a circle, but is cut off on the south side by the hall complex. Internally, this incomplete circle encloses the nave, which forms a smaller circle, also incomplete, and defined by the balcony on the south side of the nave, and the sanctuary, which is a yet smaller circle, defined by the communion rails and the altar pace, and interpenetrating that of the nave.

The church has tall, sheer, brick walls, curved in plan, particularly noticeable at the east end; full-height windows, extending to the base of the parapet; a tower in the form of a short stretch of wall rising above the height of the main building, supporting a skeletal metal "spire" and housing six bells; and a top-light, above the sanctuary.

To one side - the liturgical south - is a complex of lower, flat-roofed buildings, housing the hall, kitchen, and other accommodation. This, as it were, cuts off a portion of the circular church, leaving an incomplete circle of some 200 degrees. Internally, this incomplete circle commences at the bell tower, at the liturgical west end, includes a balcony on the north side of the church, the sanctuary, and a short return on the south side. Instead of a balcony, the south side has a concrete beam supporting a length of wall, oversailing the nave on the south side, which extends briefly, beneath the beam, to form an entrance area, approached from a common entrance to the hall and the church. Externally, this wall, visible above the roof of the hall, is formed of pre-cast concrete panels. Within the circular interior the strong line of the balcony, on the north side forms a smaller - and incomplete - circle, into which a smaller circular sanctuary interpenetrates.

The sanctuary is defined by a single raised step, which extends into the nave and houses the communion rails, which surround the altar on both west and east sides. To the rear of the altar is a narrow passage - left-over as it were, between the altar pace and the rear wall of the church. The sanctuary, which is top-lit, is surprisingly small; it is further cluttered by two seats and two prie-dieux; the narrow corridor behind houses the president's chair, other seats, and a cupboard, making a narrow space even more cramped. Set against the wall on the south side of the sanctuary, and beneath the beam - against the 'throat' of the sanctuary opening, is a substantial pulpit, set well above the level of the congregation. and constructed of brickwork, plastered.

The seating is formed as pews, curved in plan, and dark stained in finish; the brass eagle lectern came from another church in the diocese, and was originally given to its first home in 1883. 

 

I have not, so far, been able to learn anything of the thinking behind this church. The church was consecrated in 1968, by which time the Birmingham Institute had had a major impact on church building both in the diocese, and elsewhere. Clearly, the architect was sufficiently familiar with churches of the Liturgical Movement, both in this country and abroad, to incorporate structural and design features - the sheer walls, the bell-turret, the tall windows; somewhere along the line, there seems to have been a lack of understanding of the purpose of the exercise. The large - indeed over-large - pulpit dominates the congregation. The sanctuary, with its curious passageway behind, is too small to permit a dignified celebration of a Parish Communion, and, as a result of its form, which is defined by its enclosing walls, supporting the balcony to one side and a concrete beam on the other, is very difficult to alter. The pews are fixed, and therefore too inflexible, and are traditional - i. e. nineteenth century - appearance, at least because of their colour and fixed alignment. The brass lectern is a genuine import from the nineteenth century. Taken together, these elements give the impression that the final result of the erection of the church, if not the original intention, was to create a traditional interior, in spite of the 'contemporary' exterior. The result is a building which appears to be designed to defeat the intention of creating a setting in which the People of God can gather together around His table, to celebrate the Mysteries with dignity.

 

At the time I visited this church - in the autumn of 1996 - the parish had an interregnum. I would be fascinated to revisit the parish, in due course, to see what plans a new incumbent has for this somewhat intractable building. 

 

Acknowledgements 

Some of the information here is from St Peter's church website - http://www.stpeters-tilecross.org.uk/page911.html.

See Mike Chester's Church Bells of Warwickshire -  http://www.warksbells.co.uk/ 

 

William Dargue 05.06.2016