In the 1920’s the land at present occupied by Hollyfield Drive and the church site belonged to Miss Winifred Ansell, a member of the well-known Birmingham brewing family. Miss Ansell married a Doctor Fluett, and they set up home in a Georgian style house, surrounded by woodland, which fronted on to the present Hollyfield Road. Mrs. Fluett generously gave a large plot of her land to be used for the building of St. Chad’s, and retained a wicket gate to give her direct access from her own home.
A local resident can still remember how the governess could often be seen driving the three children of the family in an open horse-drawn gig. The young son is later remembered for the way he drove his Lagonda car along Hollyfield Road. Tragically he died later in an aircrash.
The house was put up for sale before the second world-war, and was subsequently knocked down, to make way for the building of the present houses. The grounds were noted for the richness and variety of trees and shrubs which they contained, including date and fig trees. At that time the parish of Holy Trinity included the present parishes of Bannersgate, Maney and St. Chad’s.
When the population of Sutton began to increase a need was seen for the building of daughter churches. St. Chad’s congregation began life in Sylvester’s Barn in Lindridge Road, moving to the Tin Tabernacle in Whitehouse Common Road – now a Judo club – before coming to the present site in Hollyfield Road. Full independent parish status was not attained until 1959.
The Church was built by Messrs. Bateman and Co. being completed in 1927. The Foundation Stone was laid by Winifred Ansell in September 1925. It can be seen on the East front of the building, surmounted by an inlaid stone cross. Above this is a fine example of a stained glass window, more of which later.
These quarries were re-opened when further supplies of stone were needed for the building of the Lady Chapel to celebrate fifty years of life at St. Chad’s.
Beneath the vestry is the Crypt, with access only from outside the Church. The crypt was originally the boiler house, where the coke-fired boiler for heating the church was housed until 1956. In 1956 the present electric heating system was installed. The crypt now houses a formidable array of electrical switchgear, and is indispensable for storage of certain bulky items.
On entering the Church by the main door, and immediately to the left on the wall is a framedpoem by G. Herbert dated 1633.
God is more there than thou: for thou art there,
Onely by His permission. Then beware,
And make thyself all reverence and fear,
Quit thy state,
All equall are within the churches gate.”
Thereafter, one is immediately impressed by the unusual interior. The lovely arched roof, which has a plaster barrel ceiling enriched with plaster bands, is supported by steel columns, which are faced with Hornton stone, to give an appearance of age.
A few steps and one is in that part of the churchknown as the Baptistry. This houses the carved stone font, decorated with a pattern of pomegranates and Tudor roses, the Tudor rose being a symbol especially associated with the Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield.
This enabled the cover to be easily raised when the font was needed for baptisms. However, it was deemed unsafe by a structural engineer and taken down.
From the back of the Church looking East towards the altar, there is seating accommodation for some 200 persons.
In the wall on the left some five feet from the ground, can be seen a hole in the brickwork serving no apparent purpose. The story goes that during the building of this wall, a pair of robins decided to nest there, and rather than disturb them, the workmen carried on around them and the hole was never filled in.
Either side of the war memorial there are two further memorials listing the past vicars on the left and past church wardens on the right.
Proceeding down the aisle one passes the churchwardens’ staffs, which were presented to St. Chad’s by Holy Trinity in May 1959 on our reaching parochial status.
The staffs are carried by the Wardens of the church in Processionals, being symbolic of the time when the Bishop and Clergy needed to be protected from villains. The original ornamental tops have been replaced following their loss in 1976 when the church was vandalised. One was in the form of a crown – for the people’s warden and the other a Bishop’s Mitre, for the vicar’s warden.
On approaching the Chancel from the centre aisle, one may observe on the left the grand pulpit, with a canopy above, while on the right is the splendid carved wood lectern, with the Holy Bible in position for readings during Services.
Immediately above the pulpit there is in the ceiling, a plaster figure (head and shoulders) of a lady in the attitude of prayer, who it is said to be St. Cecilia, the patron saint of Music. Also in the plaster work can be seen a number of other well defined mouldings.
In the Chancel are the choir stalls with space for around forty choristers. On the right is the organ console. Above the choir stalls on the left is the organ loft, containing the organ pipes and the electric wind pump which supplies them with air. The junior and Lady Choristers also use this loft as a Vestry.
The original organ was replaced in 1959 by the present one. The tubular metal pipes which form the ornamental front of the organ loft are from the original organ, and are no longer in use. The organ engineers say they are unfriendly and mute as they no longer speak.
The first organ, used at the opening service in March 1927 was a small, second-hand single manual. The second one was purchased from Canwell Parish Church, was slightly larger, single manual with pedals, built by the London Positive Organ Company.
The console of this organ was, however, located in a most unfortunate part of the organ loft where the organist could neither see the clergy and choir, nor hear the congregation!
The present organ is a complete rebuild by Hawkins & Son of Walsall Wood, of the Walker instrument formerly in the now demolished Bradley Parish Church. It has two manuals of 61 note compass and a 30 note pedal board. This organ was opened on March 27th 1960. In front of organ console on the right of the choir stalls is a prayer desk in memory of Ellen Wing (wife of William Wing) who died on 27 March 1917.
Underneath the organ loft is the Vestry or church office, the door of which is behind the choir stalls. Three sets of Registers are kept in the Vestry. The Register of Weddings, in which is recorded every wedding that has taken place since the church was opened. Copies of these entries have to be sent regularly every quarter to the Registration Authorities in Birmingham.
As the Church of England is the Established Church, her parish priests also have the authority of legal Registrars, hence they can call Banns and conduct weddings without reference to civil authority.
This information is then signed by the clergyman who was responsible for the service. In this way a very detailed record is kept of all services within the church building. On the right here is a prayer featured on the wall of the Vestry.
This was presented by the Shearman family in 1958 in memory of their parents.
The Lay Reader’s Prayer Desk, just behind the pulpit, is also a memorial. It was presented by Mary Riding – presently a chorister at Holy Trinity in memory of her parents Harry and Blanche Riding who died in 1941, both aged 68. Similarly the Lay Reader’s and Verger’s identical chairs are in memory of Cyril G. R. Barron.
The Sanctuary is divided from the Choir by a rail with a carved frontpiece, underneath which is a space for the kneelers used during communion services. On the front of the Altar aredepicted from left to right, the fourArchangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.
On the Altar itself stands a large silver cross of unusual design, flanked by two candlesticks. The Altar furnishings have recently been re-silvered, using six ounces of silver.
Together, these form a frame for the beautiful stained glass window, which isdedicated to the Ansell family, generous patrons and members of the church. Hence this window is known as the Ansell Window.
Between the Window and the Altar is a beautiful mosaic tryptich, (three pictures) depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. On the left His birth, in the centre, His crucifixion, and on the right, His Presentation in the Temple.
To the left of the Altar is a mural portraying the figure of St. Chad in his Bishop’s robes. In his day St. Chad was Bishop of Lichfield, his See included the area of Sutton Coldfield with the Parish of Holy Trinity.
This is one of the reasons why so many churches in this area are named after St. Chad. At the top of the picture of St. Chad are painted a chalice and bible, symbolic of a Bishop.
This is symbolic of the well into which, according to tradition, her body was thrown, she having rejected the advances of Caradoc, a local chieftain’s son.
Caradoc beheaded Winifred with his sword. The actual date is not known, but is believed to be sometime in the seventh century, and the well is at Holywell near St. Asaph in North Wales.
In the pillar on the right of the Altar is a small niche called a piscina. In earlier times this would have been used to wash the Chalice and other sacred vessels. Also onthis pillar can be seen the mark made by the Bishop at the Consecration of the building, together with the date.
THE LADY CHAPEL
Leaving the High Altar and Chancel, a turn to the South leads through a door into the Lady Chapel. This was built in 1977, at a cost of £12,000, to commemorate St. Chad’s Golden (50 years) Jubilee. Previous to this the Church wall at this point consisted of a brick, unfaced, infilling.
Originally, it had been intended to build on a larger vestry when finances permitted. It took fifty years before this challenge was taken up. A similar infilling can be seen outside at the rear of the church, by the Scout Hut. The original plan here was to build on a bell tower!
It is unlikely that finance will ever be found for this ambitious project. A tower built in such a position, high above Rectory Park, would certainly prove a local landmark. There was much sense and foresight shown by the planners of the original church building.
The one bell the building possesses was given by Mrs. Ansell, Winifred’s mother, and is now unusable. The Altar in the Lady Chapel came from the Tin Tabernacle in Whitehouse Common Road.
Until the adjoining church hall was built this Altar stood at the West end of the South wall, with the arched War Memorial fitted above. This Altar was then known as the Memorial Altar.
The altar frontal in the Chapel was made by a group of ladies from St. Chad’s, led by Mrs. MabelDorn: the altar rail kneelers by our Lay Reader and members of the Mothers’ Union.
The altar rails themselves were also given and made by a member of the congregation. The interior decoration, and fittings were also the result of self-help.
The four photos of the construction of the Lady Chapel taken in 1975/76 were provided by Mr. Bill Jennings who was Church Warden at that time.
The chapel furniture was all provided by members of the congregation in memory of friends and relatives. The chapel is thus a very special place for many members of our present congregation.
Recently a stained glass window depicting Mary, Jesus and a shepherd, has been fitted in the South wall, nearest to the Altar. This commemorates jointly Miss Annie Williams-Weston, a life-time chorister and original member of the congregation in Sylvester’s Barn: and the parents of Mr. Ken Rainsford (Ernest Leslie Rainsford 1899-1981 and Winifred Lilian Rainsford 1902-1979), our Group Scout Leader. Annie lived to see the Lady Chapel completed.
Here on the left is the second stained glass window called “Peace be Still” and depicting Christ calming the waves in a storm, is in rememberance of Peter Alan Witney Watts, Canon 1937-1999.
The third stained glass window, (depicting Jesus feeding the 5000), along the south wall of the Lady Chapel, immediately to the right here has an inscription saying “To the glory of God in rememberance of Edward Hughes 1903-1981 and his wife Frances Hughes 1904-1992.
In addition to the Church and Chapel, St. Chad’s also has a fine hall adjoining, with stage, kitchen, cloakrooms etc. This is fully used by church societies and other local organisations, including Sunday School.
To the right here, also in the region of the Baptistry is the book table provided in memory of William Carter, Verger from 1933 – 1944. The book stand on the book table is dedicated to Edith L. Appleby, 1961 by her children.
Here on the left is a picture of the Verger’ chair and Verger’s staff, which in church are situated to the right of the War Memorial in the Baptistry area. The Verger’s chair is identical to the Lay Reader’s behind the pulpit and both are in memory of Cyril G. R.Barron.
The text for this account of St. Chad’s Church was taken from a booklet entitled “A Commentary” available on the book rack and was compiled in May 1984 by:
P. A. Harlond, Esq., Verger
W. G. Reynolds, Esq., Deputy Warden
Mrs. W. G. Reynolds
D. Dorn, Esq., Churchwarden
Mrs. P. A. W. Watts.