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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of the West Midlands

by Peter Kessler, 11 April 2010. Updated 16 October 2010

 

 

Solihull Part 1: Churches of Hockley Heath & Knowle

St Thomas Church, Hockley Heath

St Thomas Church, Hockley Heath, is actually outside the village. More specifically, it lies in Nuthurst cum Hockley Heath, which is to the south of the village. Historically part of the parish of Hampton-in-Arden, the earliest historical reference in this area is not to Hockley Heath but to Nuthurst. It has been identified with the woodland 'aet Hnuthyrste' which was given with Shottery to Worcester Cathedral by King Offa of Mercia about 705.

St Thomas Church, Hockley Heath

The parish of Nuthurst cum Hockley Heath was formed in 1878 with the addition of the modern village of Hockley Heath from Tanworth. It mostly lies between two roads from Henley-in-Arden to Birmingham which meet in the extreme north of the civil parish, where the church of St Thomas, a red-brick structure in the Early English style, was built in 1879 and consecrated on 30 June 1880. It was dedicated to St Thomas, as a compliment to Thomas Burman, the chief subscriber.

Umberslade Baptist Church, Hockley Heath

Umberslade Baptist Church, Hockley Heath, is at the southern end of a three hundred metre-long pathway leading from Spring Lane, to the south of Hockley Heath. The church dates from 1877, the sole survivor of the grand chapels which were associated with the rise of Birmingham nonconformity. As a nonconformist 'estate' chapel it is also highly unusual. It was commissioned by George Frederick Muntz, a Baptist convert, in Umberslade Park, his country seat.

Umberslade Baptist Church, Hockley Heath

The church is also the last surviving major chapel by the Birmingham architect, George Ingall (1868-1910), who took his inspiration from the mediaeval Decorated style, lavishly enriching the church with pinnacles, finials, buttressing, parapeting and an elaborate tower and spire complete with carillon and clock. Inside, the timber furnishings are largely intact and include a large Gothic central pulpit with an open baptistery in front, and benches with ornate standards.

The Collegiate Church of St John Baptist, Knowle

The Collegiate Church of St John Baptist, St Lawrence the Martyr & St Anne, Knowle, is on the northern side of Kenilworth Road, near the High Street. The hamlet of Cnolle was within the parish of Hampton-in-Arden, but the church there meant a three-mile walk, not so easy for parishioners when the un-bridged River Blythe was in flood. A chapel of ease of unknown location did exist in Knowle from as early as 1222 for the benefit of Sir William de Arden, but nothing else.

The Collegiate Church of St John Baptist, Knowle

Knowle gained its own church in 1403, thanks to Walter Cook's application of 1396. It was a smaller version of today's building, and was almost destroyed at the Dissolution in 1547, owing to its links to monasticism (it was a chantry church). It remained a daughter church of Hampton until 1858, when it gained its own parish. The small bell cote was replaced by a splendid tower, and many other changes were made to increase the size and beauty of the building.

All photos on this page contributed by Aidan McRae Thomson.

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