History of St Bartholomew’s Church, Edgbaston

Of the first Church or Chapel to be built in Edgbaston, we can know little, yet the Anglo-Saxon Church was very powerful, and it needs slender imagination to believe that a Chapel existed in Celboldestone, this important area, through which passed the Roman Rycknield Street. Certainly, a small Chapel stood on the present site in 1340, about the length of the present Nave, and the width of the Tower. In 1500, the Lord of the Manor, Richard Middlemore, added the North Arcade, much of which remains to-day. A few years later, his widow, Margerie, built the Tower. It is related that “She, in her widowhood, vowing chastitie, built the fair tower steeple here as the tradition is; and appointing her sepulture in this Church, directed that £20 should be bestowed at her funerall amongst priests, clerks and poor people.” Her son, Humphrey, became a Carthusian Monk, and was martyred in 1535 during the Henrican persecution of the Roman Catholics. These episodes are recorded in the window at the west end of the South Arcade.

In the Commonwealth period, the Church was plundered by the Roundheads under Tinker Fox. The lead from the roofs was melted down to make bullets, while the roof timbers and stone were used to barricade Edgbaston Hall. After ten years in ruin, “Some time after the Restoration of the Royal Family, the Inhabitants began to rebuild the said Church at their own proper costs up to the wall plates, but finding themselves utterly unable to finish it, the charges thereof amounting to £430, besides the casting of the bells and the mounding of the churchyard, in the year 1683 they obtained the King’s Letters Patent for their collecting the charitable benevolence of his loving subjects throughout the Counties of Warwick, Northampton, Oxford, Gloucester, Worcester, Leicester and Shropshire, whereby they were enabled to complete and finish the same.”

Lady Falconberg, heiress to the Middlemore Estates, sold the property in 1717 to Sir Richard Gough, by whom the Manor was rebuilt. In 1725 Sir Richard restored the Church very extensively at his own expense.

A major restoration took place in 1810, when the interior of the church was almost totally rebuilt. In 1845-46, the exterior walls were altered, the Church re-roofed, and the South Arcade added. In 1885, restoration work was again undertaken, by William, Richard, William and James Middlemore, descendants of the former Lords of the Manor, and the Chancel was added, together with a transept to the North of the Chancel. The Church was completed by the extension of the South Arcade in 1889, and the dedication of the Lady Chapel in 1932.

Today, the church is often referred to as Edgbaston Old Church.

The Bells

The tower contains eight bells, four of which are believed to be the oldest in the diocese. One of the original 17th century clappers hangs on the south wall. Each Bell bears the founder’s mark of John Taylor & Co., Loughborough, who recast six bells and added two new bells to complete the peal of eight in 1927. They are currently rung for divine service by The Birmingham University Society of Change Ringers.

Bell Diameter Weight Note Inscription
ft, ins cwts-qrs-lbs
Treble 2′ 1″ 4-1-6 G To the Glory of God
2 2′ 2″ 4-3-2 F# To the Glory of God, Given by Members of this congregation, “Adeste Fideles”
3 2′ 3″ 4-1-22 E Cast by T. Pyke Bridgwater 1781, Recast 1927
4 2′ 4″ 4-1-24 D To the Greater Glory of God, Recast 1927
5 2′ 5½” 4-2-26 C Mathew Bagley made mee 1685, Recast 1927
6 2′ 7″ 5-2-0 B Mathew Bagley made mee 1685, Recast 1927
7 2′ 10″ 7-1-16 A Mathew Bagley made mee 1685, Recast 1927
Tenor 3′ 2½” 10-0-14 G (802.5Hz) Feare God and Honour The King, Recast 1927

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