The Growing Parish

st_mary_wythall_extThe history of Wythall Chapel during the period preceding the building of the present church is somewhat obscure. Thomas Habington, County Historian of the early 17th Century, describes it thus ”two miles south from Kings Norton is White (WITHO) Chapel – a poor thing affording neither arms nor monuments” … and in another document dated 1662 we read . . . “It is desired that Mr. Richard Moores licence for that which he calls his House in Withall (which is nothing but the curates chamber over uric code of the chappell and for the room adjoining (which is the chappell  itselfe into which he had made a hole out of the chamber and preached to the people) be revoked”. Some of the parish registers for the period are intact, but they give very little information. It is from the churchwardens’ presentment for Kings Norton that we get hint of the situation. In 1714 and 1737 they reported – ”the roof of Wythall Chapel is out of repair”. Happily in 1777, Nash, the Worcestershire historian, stated that the chapel was being rebuilt.

Peter Prattinton, in 1826, gives a detailed description.

The Chapel stands in a small oblong piece of ground on the left hand side of a lane leading to the north from the crossroads at Weatheroak Hill and on the turnpike from Birmingham to Alcester. It is a small brick building, tiled, with a wooden Bell turret at the West End. Its dimensions internally are 51’ 10” x 22’ 8”. The Walls are neatly coloured. The ceiling flat with an Ornament for chandeliers and the floor paved with quarries. The East window has a circular lead and the six side ones pointed – the centre one on the north side blank. Over the East window and at the West end are circular blank windows to give some tight to the gallery. The entrance is by a plain door with a circular lead on the south. The West has also a semi-circular one to give some light. There are 29 oak pews, three on each side of the communion table, a large pew for the Mynors family at Weatheroak House on the south. The Communion Table and rails are old oak – one step to the rails. The pulpit is panelled oak between the first and second windows south – no sounding board. The hangings of the pulpit and reading desk are crimson cloth with yellow face, that of the pulpit with none.  The plate, if any, is at the clerks at Headley Heath.  The font at the west end is an octagon wooden base on a very short pillar resting on a brick base curbed with wood, the cover is old. The gallery for singers and school children is supported by two iron pillars painted blue. There is only a small bell with WG— MB 1689. In the upper part of the first south window is scratched, with a diamond on the glass:

“this chapel glazed: Win. Samson and John Burton glazed this chapel Sept. 3rd 1777—Win. Samson of Birmingham”.

One seat is marked Mr Wakefield—he has an estate at Barnhill in the chapelry— his son does not reside here, another for Mr Collins—he has an estate here.

There is a school for 20 children by subscription, also a Sunday school. The desks and forms are in place in the aisle and removed for Divine Service. In the church enclosure is a Scotch fir tree and in the hedge toward the lane several old yew trees.

There is a Methodist meeting house near the chapel, not so well attended as it used to be, also a Presbyterian meeting house. The congregation at the chapel is greater than it can afford comfortable room for.

There is about half an acre of meadow on the south sue of the church. A house at Birchy Cross has lately been repaired. Another at Drakes Cross is repairing, with some little land attached to them. Withal Chapel House Farm of about 114 acres, lies near the chapel. Mr Fitter sold it between 32 or 33 years ago to Mr Millington his nephew, a grazier at Birmingham is the present possessor. (Mr Taylor the tenant). The Vicar of Kings Norton appoints the curate, who is licenced and holds his cure for life. One hundred pounds were given by Mr Whately – the interest paid by Mr Carter (£5). The rents of the cottages were given by Mr Collins of Worcester, amounting to £5. The benefactions collected were £15, so that in the year 1699 the curate’s maintenance for Withall was £25.”

A small school for about 45 children was erected near Wythall Chapel in 1839 and was enlarged in 1892 to accommodate 14 extra children. It is interesting to learn from the diaries of Richard Pountney (1804 – 1891): something of the building and construction of the school. Pountney worked for his uncle at Goodrest Farm and his diaries show that as well as farming he did odd jobs as a surveyor for farmers, collected taxes and did the census for the district. During the “hungry 40’s’ he helped organise and distribute the dole. He began teaching school at Wythall in February 1841 as the farm at Goodrest was not paying. One of the reasons for this was the absence of marketing transport to meet the railway competition in the areas. The following extracts are from his diaries:

The school at Wythall began June 1839 and completed Jan. 1841.

  • 8th April 1840 – Fetched 1200 bricks from Mr Pountney’s for the building. 2 doz. gutter tiles.
  • 28th April 1840- 1 ton 11 cwt. lime fetched from Pountney’s for the building.
  • 30th April 1840 – 1 ton 15 cwt. sand fetched from Solihull Lodge.
  • 11th May 1840 – The Carpenters came to work—made 2 days.
  • 18th May 1840 – 1 ton 10 cwt sand fetched from Mr Coxes. I ton more sand fetched from Mr Coxes at Truemans Heath.
  • 20th May 1840 – The mason began to work.
  • 21st May 1840 – The masons at work and carpenter.
  • 22nd May 1840 – The masons at work and carpenter.
  • 23rd May 1840 – The masons at work.
  • 29th May 1840 – 1,200 gutter tiles fetched from Mr. Pourttneys.
  • 3rd June 1840 – Fetched 500 bricks, 6 roof tiles and I gutter tiles from Solihull Lodge.
  • 22nd June 1840 – Fetched 1.200 house tiles from Kemps.
  • 1st July 1840 – Fetched 1,600 tiles from Kemps for the building.
  • 10th Jan 1841 – The childrens dinner in the new schoolroom.
  • 15th February 1841 – Began teaching school at Wythall, only three scholars.”

Apart from minor alterations St. Mary’s School has remained unchanged. In 1963 a new school was built at Meadow Green and the pupils transferred to there. The Old School then came into use as the Old School Hall – where meetings of various organisations connected with the church take place. The Wythall Pre-School Playgroup uses the building for their activities and have made many valuable additions to the inside of the Hall, as have also the Young Wives’ and the Women’s Fellowship.

Towards the middle of the nineteenth century the consolidated chapelry of Wythall was considered important enough to become a parish in its own right, and an Order of Council on the 8th August, 1853 set up the Parish of Wythall, defined its boundaries and ordered “that the right of presentation and appointments of an incumbent or perpetual curate to serve the said church of St. Mary at Wythall aforesaid should be vested in belonging to and whenever the occasion may arise be exercised by the incumbent for the time being of the Parish Church of Kings Norton.

The value of the living, with a residence, was £130 and was mainly derived from land and a proportion of tithes of the three parishes of Kings Norton, Alvechurch and Solihull, including Forshaw Heath.

The school at Forshaw Heath was built in 1847 on the land of the Feoffees of Solihull United Charities, to serve as a dual purpose of a school and chapel-at-ease to the Parish Church at Solihull. Thus for 120 years it has been used for religious purposes. The control of the school was placed by the Feoffees in the hands of the Rector. In 1757 the spire of Solihull Church fell in a storm, damaging the chancel. This was repaired by the Rector – Dr Greenwood – who had it panelled in oak. The Rev. Clive Archer (who resigned the living in 1847) had Dr Greenwood’s work removed to Forshaw Heath School (then in the course of erection) clearly showing that the new building was to be more than just a school. The building, and the lands upon which it stands, are still the property of the Solihull United Charities.

Although the school was closed at Easter 1965, regular church services are still held in the building.

The new Parish of Wythall was in the Diocese and Archdeaconry of Worcester and the Rural Deanery of Droitwich – with a population of approximately one thousand. Its first incumbent was Joseph Amphlett who had come to the district in 1824. He was succeeded in 1854 by Lancelot Capel Bathurst, MA, who soon sensed the wish of the people of the community for a larger and more worthy place of worship. Consequently on Easter Monday l7th April 1854, a meeting of the householders of WythalL took place in the vestry. There are no detailed records of this meeting, but without doubt, it must have been called to discuss the future development in the parish.

In 1859, Thomas Cook Yarranton, MA, became Vicar of Wythall. A typical country gentleman of his day, he rode with the Warwickshire Hunt on his well-known cream-coloured mare. He was a bachelor and one of the best chess players in the Midlands. During the next six years of his incumbency the Vicarage was built, and in 1860 the Church yard opened. Before that date, all burials were at Kings Norton. Coffins were carried there by bearers, and youths used small stools on which to support the coffins whilst the bearers rested.

The next step was to provide a new Church. On 21st May, 1860 a further meeting of the householders was called to consider the means of raising funds for this purpose. The circular describing the project was printed and distributed to all householders in the parish . . . a statement was issued

St Mary’s Church, Wythall

“The present church now affords very inadequate accommodation; it is moreover, in a very dilapidated condition and altogether is a building utterly unworthy for the worship and service of God. It is intended to reconstruct upon the old site, a new Church at an estimated cost of £1,500.

The committee appointed to oversee the building was the Rev. T Yarranton, R (Robert) Mynors Esq, and Mr Richard Burman. The history of St. Marys had begun. Unfortunately with the exception of the architects plan and specification, no details of the building of the church are available. The architect was Mr Frederick Preedy of London who had designed a number of other churches (including St Anne’s in Moseley) and had also made a design for Montreal Cathedral. The builder was Mr Isaac Clulee of Kings Norton. The cost of the church was to be £2.000 and was to seat 352 persons. It was to be financed by wealthy land owners plus grants from the Church Building Society and the Church Extension Society. It is recorded in the Court Rolls of Bromsgrove in 1861 that a Bazaar was held at the Lickey for the re-building of St. Marys Church, Wythall – by kind permission of Baroness Windsor. £200 was raised.”

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in his book ‘Worcestershire” published in 1968, writes of St. Mary’s Church, it is in an aggressive style inspired by Butterfield. Red brick, with black brick and stone pattern. The brick is exposed inside as well. The jambs of windows and arches inside are emphasized by saw tooth cutting. The pier canals inside have Early French Gothic Foliage.

In August 1862, the new church was complete, and on Monday 11th August, the Consecration Service was held, commencing at 11 am, and continuing until 2 pm. The Birmingham Daily Gazette of Tuesday 12th August 1862 reported that “The Church was quite filled by decently dressed and well behaved villagers and their wealthier neighbours. The Lord Bishop of Worcester preached on Kings 9. We understand that the Bishop with clergy and visitors afterwards par took of a luncheon at the school, but as our representative was unable to obtain any information from Rev. Mr Yarranton on the usual complimentary invitation to the luncheon, we are not in a position to state what transpired there.” An afternoon service was held on the same day. The congregation was not nearly so large as in the morning but “an excellent sermon was preached by the Rev. H. Clarke, Rector of Northfield. who took for his text. Jeremiah 51:5.” The collection at the morning service was £49.9.2d. and at the evening service £7.l5.7d.

Probably due to some mis-calculation on the part of the architect. St. Mary’s has always been dark and the following extract from “Rambles and Researches amongst Worcestershire Churches” by G. K. Stanton tells of the impression that the building – not to mention certain of the staff – made upon the visitor…

‘As a rambler and searcher after old churches, manor houses and interesting ruins it has been my (mis)fortune to travel in strange weather. I have, for the purpose of furthering my researches, walked in the heat and cold – in the light and in the dark, but my journey to Wythall on Sunday morning 2nd November. 1884 crowned, in the sense, all my previous perambulations. The break in the clouds towards the south at 8.45 am, led one to hope that the rain, which had been falling, would speedily pass over, and so, hopefully, I left my home, but was doomed to disappointment. When I arrived at Kings Norton Station, about four miles from Wythall, it was still raining and continued a steady downpour during the whole of the day. However, onwards I went, and arrived at the Church. entering the building during the reading of the psalms for the day. The service – like the weather – was dull and heavy. The building was over-heated and so dark that the pulpit candles had to be lit to enable the clergyman to deliver his sermon. The responses were led by a clerk who is over 80 years of age and has held the appointment for upwards of 30 years. The sexton, entering the pulpit with his box of lucifers for the purpose of lighting the candles and failing in the first attempt. reminded me of an old Church in Herefordshire.

The incumbency of the Rev T Yarranton was terminated amidst considerable publicity given by the Redditch Indicator in the edition of Saturday 19th November l887

“The series of scares which have recently occurred in the quiet neighbourhood of Wythall reached a climax on Monday morning when it was reported that the vicar of the ecclesiastical parish the Rev T Yarranton. M.A. had been found dead in bed. Mr. Yarranton was, until quite recently, a hale and hearty old gentleman of upwards of seventy years of age, but during the past six months his friends have noticed a decided change for the worse in his appearance, as though he was gradually breaking up. His illness has been aggravated to a great extent by the recent robbery from a cottage nearby the vicarage by one of his own female servants, Mary Jones, who is now in Worcester Gaol for the crime. This girl has been in the Vicar’s employ for several years and was considered a most trustworthy servant, so that when she was convicted of house- breaking, the shock to Mr. Yarranton was so great as to seriously affect his health – he being a sufferer from heart disease. The deceased had been under medical treatment from Dr J P Gaunt of Alvechurch for a considerable time and although he was in church twice on Sunday last, it was known that his condtion was very serious. When the reverend gentlemen did not come down at his usual time on Monday morning and no response was received to calls, the bedroom door which was locked- was burst open and the reverend gentleman was found to be quite dead. apparently having died some three hours previously. Dr Gaunt certified that death was caused by heart disease, there was, therefore, no inquest. The Rev T C Yarranton had been Vicar for upwards of 30 years. having come there from Beoley. and was unversally respected by his congregation and everyone with whom he came in contact. Great regret is expressed in the neighbourhood by his death”.

During the next four years St. Marys had two Vicars, the Rev W Cotes, MA, who served from 1888-1890 and the Rev. Knapton from 1890-1892. During this period a seventeenth century bell was given to the parish from Kings Norton. This bell hung in a small tower and was later re-hung in the present tower. Little progress seems to have been made during this period, but some concern was felt about the church finances, for in 1889, the first record of church accounts appear in the Vestry Minute Book – the balance in hand being £12 3s 11d.

In 1889 Wythall Institute was erected by public subscription, for entertainments and concerts. It was endowed by the Mynors family with £1,800 consols producing £45 yearly, stock being in name of the administrative trustees.

In 1892 a new incumbent arrived the Rev Ambrose Morris. who was the son of Sir Samuel Morris of Ballybeggan Castle, Tralee. and who had previously held incumbencies in Guernsey and Old Charlton. He was a married man with definite family interests. His presence was impressive for he wore a full beard, heightening his aesthetic appearance. Mr. Morris was evidently a good administrator for he immediately set about putting the affairs of the parish in order. On Easter Tuesday 1892 he convened the first publicly announced meeting of the parishioners since 1860. This meeting was held at 12 noon on 19th April for the purpose of electing churchwardens for the ensuing year – and for auditing the church accounts. At this meeting the election of churchwardens and other officers was carried through without comment, but when the church-wardens accounts were examined it was found “that on the expenses of the previous year there was a deficiency of £6 1s 3d together with two outstanding bills (unpaid) of £16 1s 8d.. making altogether £22 2s 11d.” At the next Vestry Meeting on 17th April, 1893, the churchwardens resigned apparently without giving notice to the Vicar, The meeting was therefore adjourned until 24th April when the Vicar nominated Sir James Johnstone 1as his Warden and the Rev R H Mynors (of Weatheroak) was unanimously elected Peoples Warden – the Church Accounts were examined. audited and passed, the outgoing churchwardens clearing off all debts; Sir James Johnstone and Rev R H Mynors subscribing £1 each towards expenses of the ensuing year.”

After this initial storm, the parish settled down under its new Vicar. In 1895 it was decided to improve and enlarge the church organ, which work seems to have been executed and the second manual being added on 13th June 1895. The Vicars Warden, Sir James Johnstone, died suddenly, having been thrown from his horse near Fulford Hall. A stone commemorating this event is to be seen today near the site of the accident. Mr I Burman was appointed in his place, but at the next Vestry meeting the Vicar had once again to refer to the sudden death of his Warden. There seems to have been some difficulty in getting anyone to serve as Vicars Warden over the period of the next few years and an appointment to this office was not made until the last year of Rev Morris’s incumbency. At the last Vestry meeting with the Vicar in the chair, regret was expressed at the death of the Rev R H Mynors (Churchwarden for thirteen years) and also of the death of Mrs Mynors. The office of churchwarden was, however, kept within their family, for Miss Florence Mynors was elected Peoples Warden in succession to her father. It was also announced at this meeting that the Sunday morning offertory was to be discontinued and replaced with a monthly collection morning and evening.

On 13th January 1905 the Diocese of Birmingham was founded. Its first bishop, The Right Rev Charles Gore M.A., was enthroned in the Cathedral on 2nd March 1905. Bishop Gore was a well-known theologian. The new Diocese of Birmingham was comprised of the rural deaneries of Birmingham City, Solihull, Edgbaston, Handsworth, Moseley, Smethwick, Aston, Bordesley, Coleshill, Polesworth, Sutton Coldfield, Yardley and Kings Norton. The latter which included the parish of St Mary, Wythall.

The Rev Arthur Henry Phelips M.A. (Oxon) became Vicar in 1907, Ambrose Morris having resigned the living in 1906. Rev Phelips had previously held curacies in Balsall Heath and Kings Norton and served as a minor Canon of Worcester Cathedral. Also, in the same year, Miss Burman gave a stained glass window to be placed in the north wall in memory of her parents.

St_Mary_WythallSt. Marys Church was still without a tower but in 1908, the Misses Mynors proposed to give a tower to the church as a memorial to their parents, It was agreed that ‘this magnificent and generous offer be cordially and gratefully accepted.  The tower was to be in harmony with the church and to be finished with a gable roof and timber flâche, as seen in village churches in nothern and eastern France. It was to be 25 foot square and 115 feet to the top of the flâche, consisting of two stages rising above the nave roof, a ringing chamber and an open belfry containing a peal of eight tubular bells. The plans were prepared by Mr W H Bidlake, MA of 37 Waterloo Street, Birmingham (itself now a listed building). and the contractor for the work was Mr Harvey Gibbs of Kings Heath.

Harrington,_Latham_&_CoThe bells were hung by Messrs. Harrington Latham and Co. and the stone work was executed by Mr David French of Kings Heath. Here again we quote from Sir Nikolaus Pevsners Worcestershire

“The splendid central tower of 1908 .,. it is very high, of darker brick and its upper parts all open so that one can see through it. On each side are two very high two-light openings. richly crafted. The top is a saddleback roof with an odd flêche in the middle and an equally odd polygon stair turret running up one corner. The inspiration comes from churches in Normandy. The design is of a high quality, and is indeed W H Bidlake.”

The building of a new vestry was also considered and a stained glass window commemorating the ministry of Rev Ambrose Morris. At a Vestry Meeting in 1909 the Vicar stated “that this past year has been a remarkable one in the history of Wythall Church in that it had seen the completion of the church by the addition of a tower and the addition of new’ vestries”. Unfortunately, extensive dry rot had been discovered in the organ, and it was decided that the existing instrument would have to be removed and a new one installed, the cost of which was to be covered by public subscription. There was little delay in raising the money and a new organ was erected during the winter of 1909. The Morris memorial window, suggested earlier, was also completed in 1910 and installed in the south aisle.

St. Francis’ Church. Hollywood was opened in 1910 as a result of a Church Army Mission in lthe area and thrived under the leadership of a number of Church Army captains for the next thirty years. In 1913 a church room was built at Batemans Green, Hollywood on land given by Miss Florence Mynors. The owners were the Birmingham Diocesan Trustees, the Vicar of Wythall being the administrative Trustee. In this same year Rev Phelips discovered in the living room of the Head Teachers house at Forshaw Heath School a valuable Jacobean Holy Table, which in or about 1847 was removed from Solihull Parish Church and presented by the Rector of SolihulI to Forshaw Mission rooms. It was reported several years later that this table has now been restored to its proper place in the church rooms, and it has been in regular use at Holy Communion since that date. During the seven years of Rev Phelips ministry at Wythall the social life of the parish was developed considerably. and one of the highlights of this period were the garden parties held at Weatheroak Hall.

In 1915 the living was taken over by the Rev Thomas Faulkner who appears to have been something of a perfectionist. His special breakfasts at the Vicarage after Ascension Day Holy Communion are still remembered by some of the older inhabitants of the parish. When ever he went visiting he was always accompanied by his large dog.

With the coming of aerial warfare, some concern was felt for the preservation of the church tower against low-flying aircraft, and the churchwarden, Miss F Mynors took out an insurance to cover this. At this time a gift of a piece of land for the erection of a Church School at Batemans Green, Hollywood was made by Mr Howard Shuttleworth of Gravelly Hill, Erdington. Building has never taken place on this site, but income from its letting is retained by the Vicar and Churchwardens for church purposes. A special meeting of the Vestry held on Monday 15th December 1919 decided upon the design of a war memorial. which was placed on the south wall during 1920.

Throughout the whole Church at this time there was a growing movement towards placing great responsibility upon the shoulders of the lay members and so in the Church of England, representation by the laity was brought about by the provision of the Enabling Act, which ordered that each parish should have a Parochial Church Council elected by the parishioners. The first election of the Parochial Church Council of St. Marys took place at Wythall Institute on Tuesday 13th April 1920 at 7 pm. Twenty-four parishioners were present and the Vicar presided. The following people were elected to the first Parochial Church Council

  • Mrs Archer
  • Mr Lycett
  • Mrs F Baker
  • Mr A Martin
  • Mr Batchelor
  • Mr Mullev
  • Miss Burnham
  • Miss Mynors
  • Mr Cooks
  • Mr W Newman
  • Miss Cooks
  • Mr Perks
  • Mrs Darby
  • Mr W D Richards
  • Mr W Dodd
  • Mrs Richards
  • Mr W Fletcher
  • Mr M Savage
  • Mr A Handy
  • Mr W Thorpe
  • Mr Hughes
  • Mrs Thorpe
  • Mrs Kinnersley
  • Mrs Vernon

In 1933 the Rev T G Faulkner retired from active ministry, although he continued to live in the parish, and was succeeded by the Rev J S Miller BA, a graduate of Trinity College. Dublin, who was instituted in the same year, after a curacy in Kings Norton preceded by many years as a missionary and teacher in China. Up to this date St. Marys had been lit with paraffin lamps necessitating a great deal of regular maintenance, but in 1934. through the generosity of Major Hadley and his wife, a system of electric lighting was installed. The heating system was replaced in 1935 by a new system of hot air heating {which was later found to be inadequate) and a new hot water system was installed in 1956.

RAF Wythall, built on the site of Yew Tree Farm. which was demolished to make way for the station, opened in 1939 as the HQ of No. 6 Balloon Barrage Centre, responsible for the balloon defence of the southern part of Birmingham and Coventry. Later the Centre assumed responsibility for balloon defence of the whole of Birmingham and part of the Black Country. Six hundred miles of territory were covered and many WAAF personnel, as well as RAF men, were engaged at the Centre and on the balloon sites.

After the war, the Station became the WAAF Demobilisation Centre, handling the release of all air service women engaged in every theatre of war. When the Demobilisation Centre was closed, having completed its purpose, the station became the HQ of No. 1 School of Administrative Trades.

The School was transferred to Hereford in 1949 and the station was closed: it remained so on a care and maintenance basis until 1951, when it was taken over by No. 90 Signals Group, now Signals Command.

RAF Wythall was finally closed operationally at the end of 1959. During the next few years of “care and maintenance” it became well known for its beautifully kept gardens and greenways. The station occupied some 12 acres in all. Following the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence and the three Armed Services in 1964, it was decided that the RAF would have no future use for the station and the land was put up for sale by auction. In July 1965, forty three acres, which included disused hangars, were sold by auction and in February 1967 a further 18 acres were sold to Bromsgrove RDC. and has now become Wythe Heath Mobile Homes Park.

St. Marys had a parish magazine dating from the middle of the nineteenth century, but in December 1940, because of war conditions, it was found necessary to discontinue this publication. The question of resuming this was discussed in 1949 but it was decided to be too costly. Church fabric maintenance had caused the Parochial Church Council considerable concern for many years, so in 1949 a restoration fund was launched and during nine years raised over £1,000. On the occasion of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II 2nd June. 1953, the whole of the community subscribed to a pair of oaken gates which were dedicated by the Rev E G Ashford, Vicar of Kings Norton.

After holding the incumbancy of Wythall for twenty-four years, the Rev J S Miller died in October 1957 and was succeeded by the Rev C F Sharpe, the present incumbent 2. Before coming to Wythall, Mr. Sharpe had served as a curate in Falkirk, Scotland and at Kings Norton and had studied for the ministry at Edinburgh Theological College. He was also appointed Chaplain to the RAF until the closing of the station in October 1959.

At his institution by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt. Rev. John Leonard Wilson KCMG, MA, TD, on Sunday 8th February, 1958. the sermon was preached by the Suffragan Bishop of Aston, the Rt. Rev. Clement St. Michael Parker MA. Two Rural Deans were present and the Vicar was presented by the Vicar of Kings Norton, the Rev E G Ashford, MA, who was patron of St. Mary’s.

The Vicarage was obviously in need of drastic renovation and modernisation before it could be occupied. Negotiations were immediately begun with the Diocesan Authorities together with the Church Commissioners and a scheme was drawn up. The work was not completed until November 1958, the Vicar and his family living in a caravan in the vicarage garden. and using the garage as a study. during the interim period.

Within the first five years of his arrival the Vicar began plans for the Centenary of St. Marys Church in 1962. The Restoration Committee was disbanded and the St. Mary’s Centenary Appeal Committee formed. The more ambitious plans for the parish required financial backing and a scheme of planned giving was inaugurated in November 1958.

A Youth Group (the Younger Generation Group) was begun under the leadership of the Reader, Mr P Hudson. and the womens activities were re-organised under the name of the Women’s Fellowship (which superseded the Mothers’ Union) with its Founder-President, Mrs N Parker. Later, a further wornens group for Young Wives was formed and a branch of the Church of England Mens Society inaugurated, also a band of people specially interested in the history and improvement of the church were formed into the Guild of St. Mary, Wythall.

It was discovered that the Mission Church at Hollywood (St. Francis) was in such disrepair that its use for worship was impossible. Accordingly the Parochial Church Council recommended that this church be closed down and the Bishop cancelled the Licence on 13th February, 1959. In September 1959 a new Parish Magazine appeared – the Wythall Messenger – which served its purpose until Christmas 1960 when St. Marys Journal came into being.

There had been no confirmation services for twenty-nine years at St. Marys and much joy was felt when the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt. Rev. J. L. Wilson, officiated on the 15th December, 1959, confirming some forty people.

The first architects report on the condition of the church was received in March 1960 and revealed that at least £5000 was required to put the building in order. The remaining building at Hollywood, St. Francis Church Hall, was also found to be in bad repair. As it was mainly used by the Younger Generation Group, the Parochial Church Council decided that it should be regarded as a Youth Centre. In consequence, the young people themselves immediately began a programme of repair, renovation and modernizing of the building.

On Sunday 5th February 1961, the Bishop of Birmingham celebrated Holy Communion at St. Marys. This was the first episcopal administration for seventy-five years.

Application for a Faculty to make alterations and improvements to the interior and exterior of the church were made and received in 1961 and the work commenced accordingly. The Vicar inaugurated a Birthday Gift Fund – and £550 was raised by the end of the year.

During the Centenary celebrations in 1962, many special services were held. Most outstanding was the Centenary Re-Dedication Service at II a.m. on Sunday 30th September, when the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt. Rev. J. L. Wilson, blessed the Baptistry, the newly-arranged Mynors Chapel and the Sanctuary. The Vicar preached at a Festival Evensong and during the following week there was a Youth Service and Party, an Organ Recital and a children’s party at Silver Street School. An Exhibition of the History of Wythall and St. Marys Church was opened in Woodrush School on Saturday 6th October by Charles Parish of the Birmingham Library, and this proved to be of great interest to people from far and wide. The local newspapers carried reports and photographs of the exhibits. A 13 foot high scroll showing all the dates of Importance relevant to Wythall from as far back as 849 AD. was supported by maps and documents, sketches, photographs, etc. There were many other fine exhibits including a Missionary display, old newspaper cuttings, old photographs, paintings by local schoolchildren, and visitors were able to watch the special edition of St. Marys Journal being duplicated and assembled. All organisations in the parish were represented and it was with much regret that the Exhibition closed down on Sunday evening. 7th October.

The Rt. Rev. D. B. Porter, Bishop of Aston, preached at a special Harvest Festival Service on Sunday evening and in the ensuing week there was a Womens Fellowship Service (at which the preacher was the Rev. John Morris. Vicar of Longbridge) and a Community Service when all denominations in the district joined in worship at St. Marys. The choir at this service was composed of the Wythall Singers. and Canon Bryan Green (Rector of Birmingham) preached a memorable sermon. Towards the end of the month the Celebrations were concluded with a Car Treasure-Hunt—-which was rotinded off with a hot supper in Wythall Institute.

The Rev. 1. S. Miller had stated in 1945 that churchyard space would only be sufiicient for about another 12.18 months and the Parish Cmmncil accepted the responsibility fOr providing a further burial ground. Even- tually, after many disappointments regarding sites and costs. etc.. a piece of land at the corner of Middle Lane and Chapel Làné was purchased after a public meeting had approved the site, scheme and e~enditure. Further delays arose, but at last in October 1962 planning permission was granted and in April 1963 a tender for laying out was accepted. The first phase of development was over 2~ acres, with space for 646 single graves and the rest of the ground to be retained for use in future years.

Wvthall House and estate-comprising 374 acres of grounds in Silver Street and beyond. was purchased by Wythall Community Associa- tion in 1965 and opened in August 1966 as a club for local residents. It has many very valuable amenities and there are plans to build a Community Hall in the near future.

In 1967 a movement called lnterchurch was founded in Wythall- at the urgent insistence of a number of people who felt that they must seek areas of agreement between themselves, and whilst recognising differences, examine them rather than merely reiterate them. Much of the first year was taken up with an act of charity and service and 1967 saw the strengthening of the previous arrangements for the interdenomina- tional effort of Christian Aid Week. In January 1969. Interchurch organ- ganised its first service in conjunction with the Week of Prayer for Unity. Following years have seen many developments and a number of services have been held in churches Of variOus denominations, which many members of lnterchurch have attended.

The Parochial Church Council inaugurated a policy of Churchyard Maintenance in 1969 and this involved the levelling of many graves and removal of damaged kerbs etc.

A Diocesan policy regardittg Vicarages of over 100 years old, noss affected St. Marys Vicarage and in 1970 the Chapel Lane Vicarage was sold and the Vicar and his family moved to a house at 27 Lea Green Lane which had been purchased for the new Vicarage.

Weatheroak Hall and its estate-near the top of Weatheroak Hill -was purchased by Kings Norton Golf Club in 1970, as they had sold their old course (or building land. The Hall was extended-a Bar and restaurant built and a great deal of work done on the estate to make a very splendid Golf Course up to Thternational Standards. This was opened in 1971 when many well known professional golfers and stars of entertainment took part in a tournament to mark the event.

A vergers Staff, made of brass and believed to be more than 100 years old, was found behind the organ at St. Mary’s Church in 1971. When discovered, it was black with dirt and appeared to he merely a stick. After intensive cleaning it was shown to have the letters SM. on its head and it is most probable that this was the original verge of the church-carried in ecclesiastical processions and used as the vergers staff of office. It is now used at Festival times and special occasions.

There are four good schools in Wythall and the oldest one in the records was Silvermead. This began its life in 1883 as. Silverr Street School and before that it was housed elsewhere as Kingswood (Board) School. Prior to 1911 the school was administered by Kings Norton and Northfield U.D.C. and after that date came under the Worcestershire County Council. Originally the school catered for children of all ages. but when the Woodrush School opened in 1957. the older children were transferred there and Silvermead School now caters for the 7-Il year age group. of which there are about S5() on its roll

Woodrush County Secondary School was httilt in Shawhurst Lane and was opened in 1957. The school has its own swimming pool and many special rooms for the study of individual subjects. It is administered by the Worcestershire County Council and in 1972 it became Woodrush High School.

When Meadow Green School opened in 1963 it took over all the pupils from the old St. Mary’s School. but as time progressed the numbers swelled alarmingly and it was then decided to build a ness Primary School. A site was found in Shawhurst Lane and the school – called Shawhurst Primary School – was eventually opened in 1968.

A parish history deals, of necessity. with outstanding events. h must not be forgotten, however, that behind the events recorded thcre is the constant, faithful Witness of the people of the parish. Without them there would be no history. This book is more than -a record of the beginnings of the Church history in Wythall and its development. It is intended to inspire the people of this and ftiture generations who worship at St. Marys to strive for greater things in the years to come.
C F Sharpe and H V F Goodger

1.    Survey of Worcestershire by Thos. Habington, edited J. Amplett, W.H.S. 1899. Vat. II. p. 218.
2.    Calendar State Papers 1661-2. p. 613.
3.    WCBO 4419.
4.    Buildings of England. Worcestershire. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, pp. 337-538





  1. Fulford Hall, which still stands on Fulford Hall Road, was built in 1887 – 90 by Colonel Sir James Johnstone KCSI, who had inherited the estate on the death of his uncle, who died childless in 1881 . Colonel Johnstone was killed on 13th June 1895 when he fell from his horse at a spot close to the memorial on Fulford Hall Road.
  2. at the original writing of this document