© Mike Kemble©

Trinity Church Sutton Coldfield

The Church has published an extremely informative booklet about the church and its history which can be obtained from the church for a donation. The guidebook is based on the comprehensive history written by the late Norman Granville Evans. Plans and elevations of the building were specifically drawn for the guidebook by Mr Evans himself. This was accomplished in approx 1987. Versions of history will no doubt differ in some details, small in some, large elsewhere. My history of Sutton Coldfield in here, which was written in 1860, obviously finishes at that date, but is very informative, but how accurate it is? Well, who knows?

From the top of Rectory Road  


Trinity Hill 1970
Trinity Hill  
Church from the Town  
The area which once was the graveyard has a history as interesting as the church building. Until 1832, when the burial ground had to be enlarged, an old brick wall, running in a straight line from the east corner of the Sons of Rest building to near the single sycamore tree in the churchyard, marked the boundary of the grounds of the first stone-built grammar school put up by Bishop Vesey in 1541. The south-east approach to the church has been in existence since 1817 - when an earlier entrance lower down Trinity Hill [then known as the Blind Lane) was closed. This is confirmed by an entry in the Vestry Minute Book. On 11th May 1996, the Trinity Centre [in the north-west corner of the churchyard, adjacent to Church Hill and the Sons of Rest building) was opened.

The centre serves the congregation, the community and commerce and is a ‘doorway to the church’ for all who use it. The lych gate on Coleshill Street was built in 1898 during the lifetime of William Kirkpatrick Riland Bedford, in recognition of his unceasing interest and participation in all aspects of the life of the town and parish during his incumbency. The Sutton Coldfield Cemetery in Rectory Road, (at the top of the image on the left) acquired by considerable effort on the part of William K Riland Bedford, was consecrated by the Bishop of Worcester on 4th May 1880 and opened for burials in the following November. It may be assumed from this that no burials took place in the churchyard after this date except in those family graves which were still not filled.

Church Hill Tower Gargoyle

Tower Gargoyle

The tower is believed to have been built in the second half of the fifteenth century, two hundred years or more later than the original chancel and nave and has changed little externally since that time. In early photographs and drawings it appears to be much taller — this is because the roof of the nave was not raised to its present steep pitch until 1863. From 1828 until 1874, the West door was replaced by a cast-iron tracery window so that the tower area could be used as a Vestry. Access from the churchyard was provided by making a door in the south wall of the tower. This opening has been closed with ashlar, but can be seen clearly from the outside. The tablets and plaques on the inner walls are at a convenient height for easy reading and are largely self-explanatory but a few comments about one or two of the people named might be interesting. Richard Holbeche tells us that Mrs Mary Oughton was ‘a very kind old lady in her white lace bonnet’. Ioseph Mendham was a very scholarly man and those who knew him recall that he was ‘a tall sad- looking clergyman of eminent personal piety, impeccable manners and cultivated taste’. Charles Barker was a difficult and controversial Headmaster of Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, who fell dead from the back of his horse, which returned home without him and his body was recovered later. Behind the Oughton and Mendham memorials is a deep groove which was cut to allow a weight to move up and down. This was part of the mechanism of the clock which was put in the tower about 1760, but was removed in 1884 when it had begun to go wrong and to disturb Divine Service by ‘groaning’!

There are eight bells, which were rehung in a new cast-iron frame in 1978, having been removed, retuned and fitted with new wrought-iron clappers. Six of the bells date from 1784 and, being proved unsatisfactory, were recast in 1795. the other two date from 1884, when three of the older bells were recast again. In 1965 the old oak frames began to give cause for serious concern. The greatest problem was getting the bells down — because the west arch was blocked by the organ. This was overcome, at a fair cost, by removing stonework at the base of the west window. Under the guidance of R W M Clouston, Hon. Consultant on Bells to the Council for Care of Churches, restoration and rehanging of the bells was carried out by Messrs John Taylor or Loughborough, and a service of re dedication took place on 6th May 1973.
Main Door with Vesey Rose  
Mary Ashford's grave remains in the church surrounds, it can just be seen to the left of the tree, on the grass, between the window and the main door. John Harman, Bishop Vesey. The Vesey Tomb is placed directly over a vault containing the Bishop’s remains. The recumbent effigy is original but has been restored. The inscription at the base describes Bishop Vesey as ‘John harman or Vesey who died in his 103rd year 1555’. It is thought, however, that his age has been exaggerated and that his birth was not 1452, but rather 1462. This would fit more closely the various stages of his education and career. He is shown wearing pre-Reformation vestments, which would have been compulsory in Queen Mary’s time, 1553 to 1558, but forbidden in the reign of Elizabeth I, suggesting that the effigy was carved shortly after his death. Note the mitre and mass vestments; the alb, a white robe reaching to the feet; the dalmatic, a wide-sleeved loose garment with slit sides; the chasuble, a sleeveless vestlnent worn to celebrate the Mass. He holds the pastoral staff.
The wording on the tomb (above) extols the virtues of the Bishop, and lists the many benefits which he brought about for the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield and he is remembered with gratitude. The Font

The pews date from 1878 and replaced the box-pews which had been in use since 1760. Archaeologists suggest that the font could be Saxon with Norman carvings and decoration. It is of red sandstone and is lined with a marble basin. The latter, supported on a classical pedestal, served as the font from 1760 until 1856 when Richard Sadler presented the Saxon font to the church. This originally stood in the Norman church of Over Whitacre, but was abandoned when a new church was built there in 1766. Later it was found coated with paint, upturned and being used as a mounting block at the village inn at Shustoke.

Brass plaque on the font states:This Font, formerly in the Church of St Leonard, Over Whitacre, Warwickshire, was restored to the Service of Almighty God and presented to this Church by Richard Sadler,
Esqr., sometime Rector’s Churchwarden who died on the 27th November 1856.

Langley Hall Pudsey. The Pudsey family, coming originally from Yorkshire, became the owners of Langley Hall (see note] and the large estates around it during the reign of Henry VIII. They were able to claim descent from Hugo Harman, Vesey’s brother, so it is possible that the large monument (above) to Henry and Jane Pudsey dominating the north wall and the lesson mural tablet in the corner to the right of the altar owe their place in the Vesey Chapel to this fact.

NOTE: Langley Hall used to stand to the east of the present Falcon Lodge Estate. Nothing remains now except a few outbuildings. After Henry Pudsey’s death, his younger daughter Anne inherited the Hall and lived there with her husband William Jesson. The vast estates were divided between Anne and her elder sister Elizabeth, who married Lord Ffolliott for whom Four Oaks Hall was built.
There is only a part picture of this window in the Guidebook, the Vesey Chapel window. This is Joseph asking the Pharaoh for the lands of goshen which alludes to Bishop Vesey asking Henry VIII for the Royal Charter to Sutton Coldfield which was granted to Sutton Coldfield. Also Sutton Park was given to thev town in perpetuity.

Which begs the question, when Sutton Coldfield was absorbed into Birmingham in 1974, should they have absorbed the rights to the Park? I think not, as it belongs to Sutton Coldfield, not Birmingham.
Organ and part of the excellent ceiling Remainder of the ceiling
I took this of a grave stone, one of a few, standing against the wall in the Church Centre Car Park. The person who carved the stone got the 'N' of John the wrong way around! A Head of the Town School which was situated at the base of Trinity Hill
Another name with modern connections in Sutton Coldfield The trees overlooking Mary Ashfords grave on the right of this image

The grave of Mary Ashford, thought to have been murdered but it could not be proved. The initials LB are those of Rev Luke Booker, (right) who was one of those convinced of the guilt of a man Thornton, details of which are on my Mary Ashford page.

The text implies sexual misgivings and murder but nothing was ever proved.
Poor Mary has been slighted methinks. A short cut led to an accident possibly

The coat of arms on the steps above Vesey Memorial Gardens

Vesey Chapel Ceiling
The Building Through the Ages
From the Guidebook Holy Trinity Church Sutton Coldfield
The only religious observances in Sutton Coldfield during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries took place in the Chapel of St Blaize at the Manor House and continued there until the end of the fifteenth century, even though the Parish Church had been built some two hundred or more years before. When both house and chapel were demolished, Bishop Vesey used some of the abandoned stone to build two bridges over the River Tame and put some of the carved stones both into the bridges and into the gable of the tithe barn which stood on the site of the  present railway bridge in High Street. The only remaining traces of the earliest building in the present Parish church are to be found below the east window — a plinth and remains of clasping buttresses known to be features of a method of construction associated with the first half of the thirteenth century. The tower, however, is of an architectural style found in the late fifteenth century. It is thought probable that, for its first two hundred years the church consisted of a chancel and nave rather shorter than at present and that, when the tower was built, the nave was extended westwards to be joined into it.
Documentary evidence of the church being enlarged in Bishop Vesey’s time is to be found in Dugdale’s The Antiquities of Warwickshire, where it is stated that the Bishop gave an organ in 1530 and that, in 1533, he built two aisles. So it is probable that the side chapels were added (the one on the south side to house the new organ] and that these were extended westward during the following three years to form the aisles. The parapet of the tower was restored and five new bells were hung at that time. In the early part of the eighteenth century a small gallery was built across the west end of the nave and, before 1755, galleries had also been constructed over the two side aisles. In 1758 the Corporation allocated £100 for ‘New Pewing in the Parish Church’, but while this work was being carried out, holes appeared in the floor and, at first, the carpenters were blamed. However, on examination it was found that ‘the breach in the Church was occasioned by the Badness of the Foundations of the Arches or Walls of the Middle Isles’.

It is interesting to note that Bishop Fleetwood was to have become Rector of Sutton Coldfield in 1642, but the Civil War prevented him from doing so, Sutton being a Puritan stronghold. It is believed that he gave the carved oak panelling to Worcester Cathedral, but he could never have guessed that eventually it would be brought to this very parish some two hundred years later.
In consequence, by 1760, repairs and  alterations were put in hand under the supervision of William Hiorn, an architect—builder from Warwick. Temporary benches for the congregation were provided in the chancel and two side chapels so that worship could continue and the rest of the church was boarded off while foundations, pillars, arches and roof were rebuilt. In the course of the reconstruction, the new box-pews were installed throughout, the pulpit was set up in the chancel on the south side with its tester (canopy) supported by two Corinthian columns with a reading desk in front just projecting into the nave.

A clock was put in the tower and new galleries were built. The present south gallery is still as it was then, so it is possible to imagine another just like it on the north side over what is now called the Vesey aisle [the far north gallery was not built until the late nineteenth century). The west arch was blocked in and what can best be described as a two-tiered or storeyed gallery was built out over the whole width of the rear of the nave, backing on to the tower arch where the organ pipes are today. The lower part of this gallery was for the use of Simon Luttrell and his family of Four Oaks Hall. In the second tier, the choir and a new organ given by john Riland were accommodated. The total cost of this entire operation was £910.17s.2d., most of which was raised by the sale of trees from the Park. The font at this time was a white marble basin supported on a classic pedestal and standing, probably, somewhere near the base of the tower.

Bishop Vesey’s effigy was recessed in the north wall of the north chapel and protected by iron railings which had been placed there in 1748 when the effigy had been restored and beautified by the Warden and Society, following a period of neglect.

The Vesey Tomb is placed directly over a vault containing the Bishop’s remains. (See the notes on the History of the Parish Church.) The recumbent effigy is original but has been restored. The inscription at the base describes Bishop Vesey as ‘]ohn harman or Vesey who died in his 103rd year 1555’. It is thought, however, that his age has been exaggerated and that his birth was not 1452, but rather 1462. This would fit more closely the various stages of his education and career.
Heated controversy followed the allocation of the newly installed box- pews which continued for some years — the matter being passed to the Spiritual Court in Lichfield to be settled. The Warden and Society, in their Minutes, record that ‘several Greedy People of Low Rank’ had gone over the heads of the Corporation and applied to the Bishop of Lichfield for the privilege of occupying the best pews.

A new ring of bells costing £100 was hung in 1784 but, proving unsatisfactory, was replaced in 1795 by six new bells by Mears of London. The south chapel was used as a vestry at this time.

In 1828 galleries were added to both the side chapels to accommodate the children from the newly built Town School. To minimise disturbance the children entered from the churchyard through small doors made in the east wall on either side of the east window. The outlines of these can be seen today on the outside wall.

Both galleries were approached by narrow stairways. The girls and infants sat in the north — now Vesey — chapel gallery and the boys in the south. Rush matting was put down on the floor where the boys sat to deaden the noise of their boots. From 1828 until 1874 the base of the tower served as the vestry.

In 1829 the tester was removed from the pulpit, perhaps to afford a better view of the preacher from the children’s galleries or, more probably, so that the preacher could keep a sharp eye on the children. A convenient storage place for the tester was found on top of an inner canopied porch which was then over the door on the north side of the Vesey chapel. In 1858, however, the children’s galleries and stairs were removed and the children were then seated on benches in the side chapels, facing west.

In 1863 the nave roof was raised to its present steep pitch, the clerestory windows were enlarged, the double- storeyed gallery at the west end was taken down and the choir moved into the south chapel where a new organ by Gray and Davidson was installed.

In 1875 Bishop Vesey’s monument was in need of repair. On 25th August of that year the stone over his grave was lifted, revealing part of the skull, a jawbone with a few teeth, and various other bones. These were put into an earthenware jar together with a certificate confirming the facts of the exhumation and names of witnesses. The jar was sealed and reburied in the grave, covered by the alabaster stone and the present altar tomb was built over it with the Bishop’s effigy laid on top.
At the same time, the floor of the chancel was raised to the present level andcarved oak panelling and columns, dating from the seventeenth century, bought from Worcester Cathedral [then undergoing restoration itself] provided sufficient wood to make the choir stalls and the screens behind them. Also in 1875 the pulpit was moved to the north side of the chancel — almost as it is now — but with steps leading up from the chancel.

The tester was restored to its proper position supported on slender oak columns. About 1939 the pulpit was moved aroimd the pillar towards the Vesey aisle with the steps rising from the nave. With the coming of the railway the town had grown considerably, so in 1879, the church was extended on the north side by the building of an additional aisle with gallery above to accommodate the larger congregation [only the south gallery was left of William Hiorn’s eighteenth-century timberwork]. In addition, the Vesey aisle roof had to be raised to make the new north extension possible. The present font, lined with the marble basin which was its predecessor, stood in the tower from 1879 until the turn of the century, but it may have stood near to the south door prior to this date.

Bishop Veseys Birthplace, near Moor Hall
In 1884, two more bells, by Taylor of Loughborough, were hung. The clock was removed from the tower because it was not functioning well and it was considered that the Town Hall in Mill Street had a clock quite adequate for the whole town. In 1914 the chancel ceiling was decorated following a design drawn up by Charles E Bateman, who was also responsible for the painting of the nave and Vesey Chapel ceilings in 1929. All the stained glass is classed as modern, the earliest dating from 1863 and the latest from 1965.

In 1929 the stonework outside also had to undergo considerable restoration. To pay for this and for the redecoration of the interior of the building, the Parish raised a large sum of money by all the means at its disposal, the biggest event being at the Town Hall in King Edward Square. This was a ‘Bazaar in a Japanese Garden’ held in November 1928. In 1965 the bells and the frames supporting them were in need of repair, the work was ultimately completed after the many difficulties had been overcome and the bells were rededicated in 1973. During the last decade wire guards have been added to all the windows and unbreakable glass has been put into the porch. In 1986 the outside of the building underwent major restoration of the stonework

The above is extracted from the Official Church Handbook entitles Holy Trinity Sutton Coldfield, which can be obtained, for a donation, from the Church and is reprinted with verbal permission provided I named the source

Image courtesy of Holy Trinity Church Handbook

Trinity Hill
It was to the left of the camera that a disgusting murder was committed on Nicola Wood one New Years night.
I understand that the murderer was eventually caught in the USA but unsure of the facts. Poor girl was beaten to death.

Trinity Church and the rooftop of the former Sutton Coldfield Town School Feb 2014
and Feb 2015 below

This clearly states that the Park is for the free use of the people of Sutton Coldfield in perpetuity. Therefore Bham Council are illegal charging people
at weekends in the summer to use the park. The park belongs to the people who live in Sutton Coldfield, not a Council.

I've seen the light!