Hill

St James

Serving a rural community north of Sutton Coldfield, St James's Church was built in 1835 in a simple design of the early Gothic Revival. At the beginning of the 20th century the chancel was rebuilt in a much grander style, but the project to similarly replace the rest of the church was never completed. 

 

St James' Church website

Find the church's own website at - http://www.stjameshill.org.

 

You might also be interested in - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y Mere Green -http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-m/mere-green-sutton-coldfield/

 

and Hill - http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-h/hill-hill-hook/.

 

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St James', the parish church of Hill stands on Mere Green Road. It is a church in two distinct parts and the work of two Birmingham architects.

 

The original small church was designed by Daniel Rollinson Hill in 1834 in a simple gothic style. (Hill went on to build St John's at Walmley as well as the Borough Lunatic Asylum and prison at Winson Green.) In the minutes of the Incorporated Church Building Society who partly funded the construction, is stated:

 

'The architect we employed was educated by Mr. Rickman who has been as much engaged in Church Building as any man perhaps of the present day.'


Thomas Rickman was a Birmingham-based architect and an important early figure in the Gothic Revival of church architecture.

 

The momentum to build a church here at this early date is a little surprising. The hamlets of Hill, Little Sutton and Mere Green in the 1830s were not much more than a string of cottages along Hill Village Road, Little Sutton Road and Mere Green Road respectively set a completely rural area. The 1841 Census shows a community almost entirely based on agriculture. A number of farmers are listed and a large number of agricultural labourers and their families. Furthermore, the district lies less than 2 miles from Holy Trinity, Sutton’s parish church. It may be that at Holy Trinity at this time most of the seats were appropriated ie. box pews rented by those who could afford them. There may have been little room for even wealthy farmers from Hill, let alone their agricultural workers.

The cost of building the church, some £1600 was raised by subscription with a contribution from the ICBS , the Incorporated Church Building Society. The Society’s main aim was to enable churches to provide free seats and their grants are often recorded on a plaque stating that it was given ‘upon condition that all the sittings are for the free use of the parishioners according to law.’

 

The Society allowed little for aesthetics. Although designed in a gothic-type style, their plain church buildings were later disparagingly described as ‘preaching boxes’. The original church of St James was of such a style. It comprised a nave, a small chancel and a west tower with pinnacles of poor quality sandstone. The church was built of brick but rendered in cement and coursed to resemble ashlar. It had thin buttresses and simple lancet windows.

 

Internally there was a central aisle and most of the seats were bench pews which were free sittings. The pulpit was placed centrally in front of the chancel in 18th-century style and a number of appropriated pews were placed facing it and each other on the north and south sides. A gallery was built at the west end on which the arms of William IV are displayed

 

During the 19th century a single bell was hung in the tower.

 

In 1853 Hill was made a separate parish out of Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldield.

 

In the last years of the 19th century the 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde, a very wealthy Irish MP bought the Four Oaks Hall estate for superior housing development. Building continued for 20 years. The hall was demolished in 1898, its site that of the present Carhampton House in Luttrell Road. Among the high-status houses built here were some by C E Bateman, an architect competent in historic styles. With the influx of wealthy newcomers to the parish, Bateman was approached with the intention of rebuilding the church in a style a size more fitting to their aspirations. 

By 1908 the original small chancel had been demolished and a much larger one built in its place. North and south transepts, an organ loft and vestries were also added, the new building being built in red Hollington sandstone ashlar.

 

The style was an Arts & Crafts interpretation of gothic with decorated windows and detail. The pews in the nave were rearranged along two aisles and more pews took the place of the box pews and in the transepts increasing the accommodation to seating for 300 worshippers. The interior of the new extension is in a good Arts and Crafts style with plaster leaf friezes round the windows and an elaborate organ surround. 

However, the rebuilding of the nave and tower was never carried out, and the original 1835 building still stands rather incongruously alongside the 1908 extension.

 

In 1935 the pews in the nave were rearranged again into two blocks with a central aisle. In the 1990s extensive restoration and refurbishment was undertaken. Perhaps the most obvious effect was the painting pink of the exterior of the nave and tower. Previously splatter-dash rendered the pink was chosen to make a visual link with the red sandstone of the chancel.

 

There large churchyard is well-known locally for its mature trees in the churchyard and springtime display of bulbs.

 

Weblinks

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/1075801.

 

William Dargue 10.06.2016