A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST MARY'S CHURCH SELLY OAK
Selly Oak used to be in the Parish of Northfield, but with the large increase in population of Victorian times it was decided that the new of St Mary Selly Oak should be established and a church built.
The land was given by Mr Joseph Frederick Ledsham, then the Lord of the Manor, who laid the foundation stone on 12 July 1860. There is a plaque17, on a pillar beneath the tower, to him and to George Richards Elkington. The inscription reads: "Through whose munificence the Church was built".
The construction of St Mary's took just over a year, and the church was consecrated on 12 September 1861. The architect was Mr Edward Holmes, who built a number of other churches, and other buildings in and around Birmingham. The stained glass window 11 in the Lady Chapel (North Transept), "The Resurrection" of 1861 is to the memory of his wife Ann. Edward Holmes practised from 61 Colmore Row and designed the Midland Bank in New Street, now Dillon's bookshop.
The external walls were constructed using sandstone from a former quarry in Woeley Castle. The same stone is used to create architectural features on the inside of the church. The building is in a Victorian version of the Decorated Gothic style.
The tower above the North West corner, carries a 45 metre spire, which can be seen from many parts of South Birmingham.
There are eight bells18 weighing from 4 cwts to 12 cwts. Six were placed in 1864 and two added in 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. They were recast in 1931-2, when the tower was refurbished.
Anumber of stained glass windows celebrate the Elkingtons, who were noted for their industrial enterprise in Birmingham. George Richards Elkington, with his brother, set up Elkington & Co initially to manufacture silver goods. Alexander Parkes solved a key problem in silver electro-plating for the Elkingtons who had a monoply on the process for many years. There is a brief account of the history of silver electroplating and an account of the operation of the company which was located in Newhall Street. George Richards Elkington and his family lived at Woodbrooke on Bristol Road. The two windows14, "The Good Samaritan" of 1866, in the south aisle, are in his memory. The large East window2, "The Ascension" of 1859 commemorates Mary Elkington. The window depicting "Jesus and Mary"21 that is in the Children's Corner, the south-west corner, of 1872 is dedicated to Margaret Morgan Elkington, George Richard Elkington's second wife. The 1901 window depicting "Jesus and Mary Magdalene"13 in the South Transept is to Hyla Elkington. There is a plaque3 in the Sanctuary that is dedicated to the memory of George Richards Elkington and his wife Auster. The plaque was placed by his children. Sadly it is not clear if there are any surviving members of the family. There is an Elkington Family History which gives a brief account of this much travelled familly.
The Church fabric was neglected during the 1939-1945 war. In April 1941 an incendiary bomb went through the roof. Major restoration had to be undertaken, in 1959-61 to remedy extensive dry rot and to repair the spire. Generous contributions to the cost of this restoration by Stephen Price, son of the first Vicar, Thomas Price, and of Stephen's wife, Margaret Priscilla are recorded on a bronze plaque15 on the wall of the north aisle. During this restoration, the Rood Cross and its supporting beam were taken down and moved to the church at Hadley, near Wellington, Shropshire. Other modernisation included moving the original High Altar to the Lady Chapel8 and replaced with an altar table1. Much stained glass was removed from the Chancel to make it brighter.
Behind the High Altar1 is Reredos of Bath Stone, with a painted and gilded ground.
The Organ, built by Nicholson & Co. of Worcester, has three manuals and an electro-pneumatic action. It was installed in 1906, on the north side of the Chancel, where the console now is. During a restoration and rebuild, in 1957-8, it was moved to its present position5 in the South Transept and the south side of the Chancel. In 1996 it was restored and greatly enhanced; the pipes on the south side of the Chancel were moved to the South Transept creating additional seating on the south side of the Chancel and an electronic control system added. Full technical details can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register ( http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk). I recommend that when you have Logged in using your email address that you search using "Selly Oak" for the Town.
The Lectern, at the crossing of the Chancel and South Transept is made of Oak, in the traditional form of an eagle, the symbol of St John the Evangelist. The Pulpit10, at the north east corner of the crossing is made of stone with panelling and marble pillars.
The Baptistery is at the west end of the north aisle. It has an octagonal stone font19 designed by the famous architect W Butterfield and constructed in 1861. The cover was made by the Bromsgrove Guild.
The Church Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials from 1861 are mainly in the Birmingham Reference Library.
The new wooden cross6 is dedicated to the memory of Edwin Carlisle, Church Warden 1976-1994.This brief history is based on that prepared by AJ Waring in 2002.
Alonger History that describes aspects of the social history of Selly Oak and prominent figures in the early days of the church, the Church Schools (the first was built before the church) and the Peoples Hall is available. This history was written by Francis W Leonard in 1933, for the Parish Appeal. Copies of, The Story of Selly Oak (15 MB), can be downloaded or purchased in church for £3.
As a taster here is a reconstructed sketch map of Selly Oak. The map is based on narratives from around 1850.
The Parish Prayer
OGod our Father, look graciously upon all who belong to Christ's family in our Parish of St Mary, with its church and homes, its schools and colleges, its hospital and its widespread congregation. Prosper we pray Thee, all our endeavors for the advancement of Thy kingdom and so dispose the hearts of us Thy servants that we may freely and cheerfully accomplish what Thou wouldst have done: through Jesus Christ our Lord.