Holy Trinity Church: as observed in 1883

This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in July 2013.

“From the Archives” for June (2013) contained an itemised list for the cost of the restoration of Holy Trinity Church in the 1890s. By that time the church building was in a perilous state – all attempts to raise the necessary money for the extensive reparation had failed. Action needed to be taken, and it fell to the then Rector, Rev J H Eld, to undertake the challenge.

The following extract is a contemporary description of our parish church in 1883 – approximately ten years before the commencement of the restoration of 1894. It is taken from the publication: “Rambles and Researches among Worcestershire Churches” by George K Stanton, and published by the Bromsgrove Messenger in 1884.

The church, which sadly needs restoring, is in the Pointed style, and was probably built about the year 1250; but it has been mutilated and disfigured.   In the edifice, however, are traces of an earlier date, notably an ogee-headed doorway on the north side (now blocked up), and one or two semi-circular doorways built into, comparatively speaking, modern walls.  Originally there was a porch on the south side, but the same was destroyed at the time the south aisle was altered, and when that entrance was dispensed with (1826).  Singular to relate, also, at that time was removed one of the pillars which supported the roof dividing the aisle from the nave, and thus left the building not only insecure but unsightly.  The entrance to the church is now underneath the tower, at the west end.  The edifice consists of nave, south aisle, chancel (on the north side of which is the vestry), and at the west end a tower and spire, under which is a large ugly gallery, which considerably disfigures the church and entirely hides from view the west window.  I noticed that the stone tracery had been removed from several of the windows, and rods and bars of iron substituted.  The chancel was restored about thirty years ago, at a cost of well-nigh £1000, which was borne principally by the late rector, and with its massive, open timbered roof, it has a pleasing appearance.  The carved oak pulpit is placed at the south-east end of the nave, against the chancel arch, and the entrance to the same is in part up the old rood-loft stairs, which are still in existence, as is also a hagioscope, which is cut in a somewhat slanting direction, so as to enable the priest, or other person, to see the elevation of the host whilst standing on the top of the spiral stairs.  In the wall beneath is a square hole, in which pilgrims and others formerly laid their offerings.  The prayer and reading desk stands on the north side, at the entrance to the chancel.  This is also of ancient carved oak, and the figures on the front are said to represent the Holy Trinity, to whom the church is dedicated.  The sedila, though plain-looking, is perfect; opposite to which, on the north side of the chancel, is an arched canopy – probably the remnant of the “Easter Sepulchre” or the canopy to an ancient tomb.

The three-light east window, of the Decorated period, is filled with stained glass representing “Scenes from the Life of Christ”.  It was the gift of Miss Shepherd, a maiden lady who formerly resided in this parish.

The font, which for convenience is placed nearly at the entrance to the chancel, on the south side of the nave, is very old, probably Norman; the basin is octagonal in shape, and large enough for the total immersion of children.

The “….late rector” who bore the cost of the chancel restoration of the 1840s was Rev. Woodgate.  Upkeep of the chancel was the responsibility of the Rector of the parish, care of the nave being borne by the parishioners. This practice in recent times has brought unexpected financial responsibility to unaware holders of former rectories, who unwittingly have taken over a lay rectorship and thus find themselves responsible for the costly upkeep of a focal part of the parish church.