St Martin in the Bull Ring

Open: Fri Sat Mon 0900-1800 Sun 0900-1930.
The ancient parish church of Birmingham, at the S end of the Bull Ring, now dramatically placed in an amphitheatre created by the new shopping centre of 2000-3, with a fine view from its balcony. The new development has swallowed its churchyard, and it now rises directly from the square to its N, with the slight feeling of a big ornament or artwork. A church probably existed by the C12 and is documented in 1263. The late medieval building had an aisled naveGlossary Term, a chancelGlossary Term, and a NW tower.

The arcades, with typical octagonal piers and arches with roll mouldings and hollow chamfers, survived until the C19, but the outer walls and tower were encased in brick in 1690, a brick clerestory was added in 1733, and William Hiorn added a SE vestry in 1760. Medieval wall paintings were uncovered during the C19 rebuilding. In 1849 an attempt was made to restore the church, but failed for lack of money. In 1853-5 P.C. Hardwick restored and recased the tower and rebuilt the spireGlossary Term. Then in 1872-5 the whole body of the church was carefully demolished and rebuilt by J.A. Chatwin, following and slightly enlarging the mediaeval plan, and adding transepts and chancelGlossary Term aisles. This is the church that we see today.

In 1941 a bomb seriously damaged the W end and destroyed nearly all the glass. Philip & Anthony Chatwin repaired the church in 1950-3 and added the parish rooms on the S in 1954-7, and the SW octagon in 1960-1. In 2000-1 APEC re-ordered the interior, and in 2002-3 they cleaned and repaired the exterior, and converted and extended the parish rooms and octagon to form a café and meeting spaces. Looking at the N side from the new Bull Ring, the NW tower dominates the view. Hardwick's grey-brown sandstone, rough faced, with smooth quoinsGlossary Term and details. The Dec style follows evidence discovered during the rebuilding: reticulated W window, petal forms in the belfryGlossary Term. On the N side two arched tomb recesses, restored from mediaeval remains, and the external MILLER PULPITGlossary Term, under a little hood. Open trefoiled parapetGlossary Term. The spireGlossary Term has three tiers of lucarnes alternating between cardinal and diagonal faces, following its predecessor.

J.A. Chatwin's rebuilding is typical of him in its tactful approach to existing work. Grinshill stone, again rough faced, a near match with the tower. Dec windows: reticulated in the transepts and the S aisleGlossary Term W, Geometrical shapes but with petals below in the great W window, a purer Geometrical E window, and a clerestory mixing Geometrical, intersecting and reticulated designs. Spherical triangles reserved for the transeptGlossary Term gables. Wavy parapetGlossary Term on the naveGlossary Term, quatrefoiled on the chancelGlossary Term. Impressive, sharply gabled and pinnacled E end rising above Digbeth. The S side shows exquisite detail typical of Anthony Chatwin: rubbleGlossary Term baseGlossary Term merging into smooth stone above, the hall piers growing out of the rough work, and well placed beasties on the corniceGlossary Term. His octagon now has a cantilevered upper floor in glass and lead claddingGlossary Term by APEC, with a similar gabled S porch to its E.

We enter by the W door, now with a glass inner porch of 2002. J.A. Chatwin's interior is faced in Codsall sandstone, deep rose pink with hints of grey. The arcadeGlossary Term piers are four attached half columns; their arches have two chamfers, the outer with a wave mouldingGlossary Term. They follow the C14 S archGlossary Term of the tower into the naveGlossary Term, with its two heavy plain chamfers. The spandrelsGlossary Term of the N arcadeGlossary Term have a diaperGlossary Term pattern of flowers. CrossingGlossary Term piers more complex, with attached shafts. Rich timber roof alternating hammerbeamsGlossary Term and big archGlossary Term braced trusses, both with angels. The aisleGlossary Term roofs have separate pitches and unexpected bowed trusses where they meet little cross gables. Limestone floor of 2000-1. Mediaeval stonework survives in the ground floor of the tower. W door, the archGlossary Term with two big chamfers, much restored. A narrow passage runs in front of the window above. Typical Chatwin chancelGlossary Term archGlossary Term with shafts on corbels. ChancelGlossary Term arcades with boldly cusped arches. Boarded chancelGlossary Term roof with decorative wooden trusses on paired angel corbels. The chancelGlossary Term projects beyond the aisles, with arcaded SEDILIA. In the re-entrant angles, quarter roundGlossary Term linking passages. The 1954-7 link, down steps, from the S aisleGlossary Term to the cafe was modified by APEC to create a disabled lift: an ingenious spatial effect. Chatwin's chancelGlossary Term fittings include characteristic CHOIRGlossary Term STALLS with scrolled tops to their traceried ends. - REREDOSGlossary Term made by Farmer & Brindley, 1876, in "Scotch red sandstone". Open arcadeGlossary Term with serpentine shafts. Behind it, alabaster reliefs of scenes from the end of Christ's life: from the left, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Expulsion of the Traders from the Temple, the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden and the Betrayal. - Minton TILES, with the arms of Clodeshall and de Birmingham, and borders with the Instruments of the Passion. - Big polygonal PULPITGlossary Term carved by John Roddis with open arches alternating with seated figures under canopies: Christ facing W, flanked by Elijah and Moses to the N and St Peter and St Paul to the S. - Brass eagle LECTERN by Jones & Willis. - Chatwin's PEWS survive, re-stained, in the naveGlossary Term only. - N transeptGlossary Term ORGAN SCREENGlossary Term by George Pace, 1954. - N chapel REREDOSGlossary Term by Pace, 1956, with very attenuated gilded columns in his early post-ComperGlossary Term way. Also by Pace the ALTAR and RAILGlossary Term. - FONTGlossary Term, at the W end, by Jacqueline Gruber Stieger, 2002, three shallow bowls cast in bronze by the lost wax method, with water flowing between them and into a shallow pool below. - NAVEGlossary Term ALTAR and READING DESK by Toby Winteringham, 2000-1. - STAINED GLASS. S transeptGlossary Term, a major work of Burne-Jones, made by Morris & Co., 1876-7. In three tiers: at the top, Our Lord (the Salvator Mundi first designed by Burne-Jones in 1864) flanked by the Evangelists; in the middle Old Testament Prophets; at the bottom, small scenes in panels: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Magi, the Flagellation and the Entombement. In the traceryGlossary Term angels playing instruments. Deeply autumnal colours, the large figures all brown, green and dark red, with blue clouds in the traceryGlossary Term and garments in the lower panels. Graceful, slightly serpentine figures, the aged Moses (middle l.) particularly effective. The Flagellation and Entombment panels were new designs for this window, the former with angled standing figures hinting at Burne-Jones' later style, the latter with an expressive limp dead Christ. Other glass post-warGlossary Term. E and W windows by Hardmans, 1952-4, the latter partly following their original of 1875. N chapel E by H.W. Harvey, 1956, very like his master Harry Stammers with its bold yellow and orange, and angular figures; S aisleGlossary Term westernmost by Laurence Lee, 1980. MONUMENTS. Four medieval effigies, traditionally of members of the de Birmingham family. Between the chancelGlossary Term and N chapel, going E, Sir William c.1325, a cross-legged knight in soft red sandstone; Sir Fulk c.1370, recumbent effigy in grey sandstone. N chapel, N side, Sir John c.1390, alabaster effigy in armour, his feet on a lion, on a panelled GothicGlossary Term tomb chest of 1846 designed by M.H. Bloxam, when all the effigies were 'restored'. Between chancelGlossary Term and S chapel, alabaster effigy of a priest in choirGlossary Term robes, C15. Original tomb chest with angels under canopies, holding shields.



Subsidiary space alongside the body of a building, separated from it by columns, piers or posts. Also (especially Scots) projecting wing of a church, often for special use, e.g. by a guild or by a landed family whose burial place it may contain.


Series of arches supported by piers or columns (compare colonnade). Blind arcade or arcading: the same applied to the wall surface. Wall arcade: in medieval churches, a blind arcade forming a dado below windows. Also a covered shopping street.


Types include: Basket arch or Anse de Panier (French, lit. basket handle): three-centred and depressed, or with a flat centre. Chancel: dividing chancel from nave or crossing in a church. Crossing: spanning piers at a crossing in a church. Depressed or three-centred: with a rounded top, but curving inward more at the sides. Four-centred: with four arcs, the lower two curving inward more than the upper, with a blunt central point; typical of late medieval English architecture. Jack arch: shallow segmental vault springing from beams, used for fireproof floors, bridge decks, etc. Ogee (adjective ogival): a pointed arch with a double reverse curve, especially popular in the 14th century; a nodding ogee curves forward from the wall face at the top. Parabolic: shaped like a chain suspended from two level points, but inverted. Relieving or discharging: incorporated in a wall to relieve superimposed weight. Shouldered: with arcs in each corner and a flat centre or lintel. Skew: spanning responds not diametrically opposed. Stilted: with a vertical section above the impost i.e. the horizontal moulding at the springing. Strainer: inserted in an opening to resist inward pressure. Three-centred: see Depressed, above. Transverse: spanning a main axis (e.g. of a vaulted space). Triumphal arch: influential type of Imperial Roman monument, free-standing, with a square attic or top section and broad sections to either side of the main opening, often with lesser openings or columns. Tudor: with arcs in each corner joining straight lines to the central point. Two-centred: the simplest kind of pointed arch.


Moulded foot of a column or pilaster. An Attic base is the form used on an Ionic column, with two large convex rings joined by a spreading convex moulding.


Chamber or stage in a tower where bells are hung.


The eastern part or end of a church, where the altar is placed; usually set apart for the clergy.


The part of a cathedral, monastic church or collegiate church where services are sung.


External covering or skin applied to a structure, especially a framed building.


Flat-topped ledge with moulded underside, projecting along the top of a building or feature, especially as the highest member of the classical entablature. Also the decorative moulding in the angle between wall and ceiling. An eaves cornice overhangs the edge of a roof.


In a church, the central space at the junction of the nave, chancel and transepts. Crossing arch: an arch spanning piers at a crossing. Crossing tower: a tower above a crossing.


Repetitive surface decoration of lozenges or squares flat or in relief. Achieved in brickwork with bricks of two colours.


Vessel in a church or chapel for baptismal water, usually of stone or lead.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


In a timber roof, horizontal brackets projecting at wall-plate level like an interrupted tie-beam; the inner ends carry hammerposts, vertical timbers which support a purlin (horizontal longitudinal timber) and are braced to a collar-beam above.


Shaped ornamental strip of continuous section, e.g. the classical cavetto, cyma or ovolo.


The body of a church west of the crossing or chancel, often flanked by aisles.


Wall for protection at any sudden drop, e.g. on a bridge, or at the wall-head of a castle where it protects the parapet walk or wall-walk. Also used to conceal a roof.


Upright support in a structure.


Raised and enclosed platform for the preaching of sermons. Three-decker: with reading desk below and clerk’s desk below that. Two-decker: as above, minus the clerks’ desk.


Dressed or otherwise emphasized stones at the angles of a building, or their imitation in brick or other materials.


A horizontal member in panelling or in a timber-framed wall. See also edge rail, plate rail (railways).


Painted and/or sculpted screen behind and above an altar.


(Scots): A rounded bartizan or turret, usually roofless. An angle round is set at a corner.


Masonry whose stones are wholly or partly in a rough state. Coursed: coursed stones with rough faces. Random: uncoursed stones in a random pattern. Snecked: with courses broken by smaller stones (snecks).


In a medieval church, usually set at the entry to the chancel. A parclose screen separates a chapel from the rest of the church. A rood screen was placed below a representation of the Crucifixion (called a rood).


Roughly triangular spaces between an arch and its containing rectangle, or between adjacent arches. Also non-structural panels under the windows, especially on a curtain-walled building.


Tall pyramidal or conical feature crowning a tower or turret. Broach: starting from a square base, then carried into an octagonal section by means of triangular faces. Splayed-foot: variation of the broach form, found in England principally in the south-east, in which the four cardinal faces are splayed out near their bases, to cover the corners, while oblique (or intermediate) faces taper away to a point. Needle spire: thin spire rising from the centre of a tower roof, well inside the parapet.


Openwork pattern of masonry or timber in an opening, especially the upper part of an opening; most common in Gothic architecture. Blind tracery is applied to a solid wall. Plate tracery, the earliest form, introduced c. 1200, has shapes cut through solid masonry. Bar tracery, introduced c. 1250, has patterns are formed by intersecting moulded ribwork continuing upwards from the mullions. Bar tracery types include: curvilinear tracery, with uninterrupted flowing curves, typical of the 14th century (also called flowing tracery); geometrical tracery, typical of c.1250-c.1310, which uses simple forms, especially circles, chiefly foiled; intersecting tracery, used c. 1300, formed by interlocking mullions each branching out in two curved bars of the same radius but different centres; loop tracery (Scots), used c. 1500-45, with large uncusped loop-like forms; panel tracery, with even upright divisions made by a horizontal transom or transoms; reticulated tracery, early 14th century, with net-like patterns of ogee- (double-curved) ended lozenges; Y-tracery, used c. 1300, which branches into a Y-shape.


Transverse portion of a church.