"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Heritage Festival - "A Church within a Church", Green Man and Living History

We went along to the Castle Bromwich Heritage Festival last Saturday which included a Beer Festival at Castle Bromwich Hall Hotel, tours of the Church including a trip up the Bell Tower and Living History displays in the Victorian, Tudor and World War 2 zones at the church, hotel and Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I've wanted to look around St Mary and St Margaret's Church for many years. It has a fascinating history and is a Grade 1 listed building.

A church was first documented on this site in 1165 and it was rebuilt by Sir John Bridgeman II, who lived at Castle Bromwich Hall, in the English Renaissance style between 1721 and 1726.

The stained glass windows date from the Victorian period.

The wrought iron altar rail dates back to 1743 and shows the arms of George II.

The rare "3-decker" pulpit

The font of Italian marble dates back to 1731.

I have called it a church within a church because during the 19th century restoration by the local architect C E Bateman he discovered that the 15th century timber framed church had actually been encased within the 18th century brick church rebuilding. The wooden pillars of the original church were covered in plaster and a huge medieval oak roof was hidden by the 18th century plaster ceiling. Sir John Bridgeman had, uniquely, had his new church constructed around the old one. It is believed to be the only example of an encased church!

Whilst Mr Bateman was surveying the church he noticed that columns in the nave were not in line with the window piers and that arches between columns in the nave had a shallower curve than would be expected for a neo-classical building of this date. One can just imagine his amazement when in 1893 he climbed through a trapdoor situated above the south door of the church and shone his lamp into the roof space to see a large medieval roof rather than the smaller Georgian one he had anticipated. He was the first person to have seen the medieval timbers since 1731.

We then had a tour of the bell tower which was built in 1724.

Everyone was allowed a turn at (very simple!) bell ringing.

As mentioned above encased within the Georgian exterior the timber frame of the medieval church still stands and here in the roof space can be seen evidence of the 15th century bellcote.

Finally, after clambering up 100 spiral steps we were on the tower roof with some wonderful views of Castle Bromwich and surrounding areas. In one of the photos you can see Birmingham City Centre in the far distance.

Lightning conductors are attached at the top to old bell clappers

My parents were married in this church on 6th June 1949 so I was particularly pleased to have chance to look round. I think the last time I was in the church I was about 11 and a bridesmaid to my mother's friend!!

Whilst in the church we had watched a lady operating a spinning wheel as part of the Living History exhibition and we went on to have a look round some of the displays scattered round the church grounds, the area surrounding the Hall and the World War 2 area which was in Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens.

In the church hall was an exhibition of black and white photos showing buildings and inhabitants of Castle Bromwich from last century.

For years I have been fascinated by the Green Man and have quite a few sculptures and carvings scattered round the house and garden. References to the Green Man go back to the second century but his origins are lost in time. He is usually represented as a face surrounded by foliage and many believe he is a symbol of rebirth representing the new cycle of life which commences each Spring. Interestingly, although he would appear to be a pagan Spirit of Nature, stone and wooden carvings are found in many churches, cathedrals and abbeys. The Green Man is also a popular name for inns.

Following the sound of flute music I was thrilled to discover Solihull's very own Green Man

This part of Castle Bromwich is the start (or the end) of Solihull's Green Man Trail

The Green Man drawing was made by children at a local primary school.

More information on Birch Tree Performances of Song and Story can be found here


And for information on Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens please visit


Reference :

Castle Bromwich and Its Church - A Brief History

Wiliam Dargue 2013.


Margaret Adamson said...

What a fascinating post. So many things to see. Gorgeous stain glass windows. the green man is a bit scary! Fantastic exhibition of all things old. Lovely to see the shots of your parents on their wedding day. Oh I could go on and on but just to say thanks for sharing.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks so much Margaret for such a lovely comment - I'm so glad you enjoyed the post :)

Marielle Collins said...

Thank you for sharing this. What beautiful stain glass windows!
But The Green Man did make me laugh! :D

Countryside Tales said...

Great stuff as always- I think you should produce a book on stained glass windows in churches :-)

LOVED the green man- I'm fascinated by them too and have several dotted about the place here.

Loved all the elegant old cars too- a more classy era of car construction I feel!

Ragged Robin said...

Marielle Collins Thanks so much for commenting and welcome :) So glad you liked the stained glass windows. The Green Man was a real character :)

Countryside Tales - Many thanks - glad you enjoyed :)

I love looking for Green Men in churches - son has a book somewhere on the subject which I keep meaning to read :)

Yes, the cars do look classy :)

SeagullSuzie said...

What a great festival, so many things going on at once. How lovely to visit the church where your parents were married.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks :) Yes lots to do at the festival and it was moving to visit the church.

Pete Duxon said...

lovely post Caroline!

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks Pete - glad you liked :)