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.


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