> From the Archives
> The Story of the Bells
We are currently carrying out further research into the history of the building. The following reflects the best information which we had at the time of writing, and is therefore subject to change as our research continues.
Read here about some of our latest findings.
St Paul's chapel was one of two new chapels built under an Act of Parliament of 1772. It was designed by Roger Eykyn, a surveyor from Wolverhampton, with Samuel Wyatt, a distinguished local architect, acting as an advisor. The chapel was consecrated in 1779. In 1785 a Vestry Meeting commissioned one Francis Eginton to make a painted glass window on the topic of the conversion of St Paul, to be a copy of a painting on that subject commissioned from Benjamin West. Furthermore Samuel Wyatt was to design the whole setting for the window in what is termed the alter piece. Francis Eginton had been a senior employee of Matthew Boulton in a number of products and a partner in some, but they had parted company and Eginton had set up as a glass painter in Handsworth. Benjamin West, an American, was Court painter to George 111. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy and became President in 1792. Eginton ran into problems with the window and it was to be 1791 before it was finished, six years after the commissioning.
The first Minister of St Paul's was William Young, a curate of St Martin's, the parish church of Birmingham, and a scholar and musician. He was succeeded by his Curate of twenty years Rann Kennedy. He was classics master at King Edward's School, and the father of Benjamin Hall Kennedy, the great headmaster of Shrewsbury and author of the Latin primer.
From the 1830s the social pattern changed. The back to back artisan house began to accommodate the increasing number of craftsmen in the growing jewellery and in the small metalware businesses The new pre-occupation of the Church and its clergy was with poverty, illiteracy and education. P.H.C. Latimer, (who was High Church) and in the eighteen sixties and eighteen seventies R. B. Burges (who was Evangelical), did quite fantastic work in meeting the new social need. Burges and his four curates and two scripture readers, visited all the 16000 people in the parish four times a year- - and kept a record of it all! They had reading and writing classes for 2000 people a week - 120 classes a week - and 2000 children, young people and adults in Sunday Schools and Bible Classes on Sundays. The faithful well-to-do became more and more a source of funds, to help in the good work rather than the object of the good work.
This was the time when the church schools of the parish came into being. Burges made the schools at Spencer Street (closed in 1968) and Camden Drive his main concern. The other great incumbency was that of W. H. Smith - whose thirty-three years are still remembered. He was a huge eccentric, with a capacity for knocking down men of whose behavior he disapproved! He had a different world to cope with. In his time the "Jewellers' Church" gradually ceased to be the home of the manufacturers and merchants. They had by then all moved out to Edgbaston and Moseley, and, while they still retained some affection and loyalty for the place, they saw it chiefly as a place from which "good work was done" amongst their workers. It gradually became a shabby ruin and a typical down-town church, a situation sadly confirmed after local bombing during the 1939-45 war. Unless a new function for St Paul's had appeared its condition (and the disappearance of its population through slum clearance) would have settled its fate. However, scores of thousands of people worked daily in the parish in jewellery factories and in other plants great and small. At one count since the war there were 1,500 separate factories in the parish - a number now greatly reduced by amalgamations and by "factory slum clearances" though the number must still be uniquely large. Nowhere could there be a church more ideally situated to act as the centre of the Church's industrial mission. Time will bring other changes but the clergy of St Paul's and their devoted community have found plenty to do in making friends with managers and trade unionists and with representatives of other aspects of the complex institutional life of our age.
In one respect the wheel of change has come full circle - because of one thing which did not change, the superb acoustics of St Paul's Church. Music has been performed at St Paul's from the very beginning. We maintain the tradition and more and more people are discovering the joy of making music in a building which encourages them.
The Parochial Church Council completed an extensive programme of restoration between 1985 and 1994 with the assistance of the Birmingham City Council, Duchy of Cornwall, English Heritage, local business and other benefactors. The Coat of Arms erected on the West Wall in 1996 represents that of George III in whose reign St Paul's Church was built. The Millennium Window was added in 2000 and a peal of ten bells was installed in 2005.
For nearly 60 years the Polish Lutherans have worshipped at St Paul's and in 1966 they installed a plaque to commemorate the millennium of Christianity in Poland. From the 1940s onwards the congregation was mainly ex-servicemen and women who had served with British forces in World War II and were exiled. Polish Lutheran services usually take place on the second and fourth Sundays of each month at 2.00pm. Further details are available from The Revd T Bogucki -
> From the Archives
> The Story of the Bells