"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

Friday, 19 January 2018

Birmingham Cathedral

"The church that became a cathedral in the town that became a city"

I recently paid a brief visit to Birmingham Cathedral which is located in Birmingham City Centre.

St Philip's was originally built as a parish church in the ornate Baroque style and was completed in 1709. The architect was Thomas Archer from Umberslade Hall, near Tanworth-in-Arden. As Birmingham developed into an important industrial city the church was given cathedral status in 1905 when Charles Gore became the first Bishop.

There were two 19th century alterations at St Philip's when a gallery was inserted, the chancel extended and stained glass windows were added. Today it is a Grade 1 Listed Building.

Important Baroque details include the dome, volutes (scrolls), the giant pilasters, door surrounds and oval "Bulls-eye" windows, rusticated stonework and balustrade with decorative urns.

Statue of Bishop Gore

Although the churchyard was closed for burials 150 years ago it still contains around 60,000 burials.

The South West Porch still contains the original early 18th century staircase, balustrade and panelling.

The stained glass windows were all designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris and Co. Burne-Jones was born in nearby Bennett's Hill and was baptised in the church. His imagery was inspired by medieval art although he used his images in a different way using simplified shapes enhanced by bright colours - reds, pinks and blues in particular.

The Last Judgement,in memory of Bishop Bowlby, was installed in 1897.

A few of the memorials.

This stone plaque set in the floor commemorates Dr William Small who worshipped at the St Philips and was buried there in 1775. He was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham and spent some years in Virginia where he taught Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.

Bishop Gore's crozier - a crozier is the staff of office of a Bishop and is often in the design of a shepherd's crook to represent the role of a Bishop as a shepherd of Christ's people. He was bishop between 1905 and 1911 and was co-founder of the Christian Socialism Movement and a campaigner for social reform.

The organ was made by Thomas Schwarbrick of Warwick. The case is original although its workings have been renovated several times.

The three East windows were also all designed by Edward Burne-Jones

The Ascension (1885) depicts Christ wearing red robes in Heaven surrounded by angels. His disciples below are praying and looking towards Heaven.

The Crucifixion (1887/8) - Jesus Christ looks down on his mother Mary. Mary and St John with their hands clasped look upwards. Mary Magdalene weeps at the base of the cross. The cross is surrounded by soldiers with lances and flags.

The Nativity and Annunciation (1887/8) Joseph and three angels pay homage to the Virgin and child. At the top of the window 3 shepherds look upwards at the angelic host - the arc of the latter is replicated by the cave roof and forest.

Divine Beauty is a new project to restore and celebrate the stained glass windows - they are 130 years old and their condition is deteriorating and careful restoration is now required.

The font was designed by John Poole in 1982.

Several notable people have been linked with St Philip's. For example,

Matthew Boulton, industrialist and co-founder of the famous Lunar Society was baptised here in 1766.
( I am sure I have exchanged a number of comments in the past about the Lunar Society - if you read this Rosie - I think it may have been with you??)

James Keir, a glass manufacturer, chemist and another Lunar Society member was married in the church in 1770.

The printer John Baskerville, designer of the Baskerville typeface, was at one time a church warden.

Artist Moses Houghton, Gunmaker William Westley-Richards and architect H Yeoville Thomason (designer of Birmingham Council House) all have memorials in the cathedral.

Doctor Edmund Hector also has a memorial - he was a friend of Dr Samuel Johnson, and lived near the church.

As always time for the visit was limited and when I got home and read the guide books I realised I had missed some interesting features in the cathedral, churchyard and nearby. Hopefully, I will return one day and have another look around.

Photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix Bridge Camera FZ 330. I am still learning the best settings for the camera but overall I am very pleased with it.

Reference : A Guide to Birmingham Cathedral
Edward Burne-Jones Pre-Rapahelite Glass in Birmingham by Alastair Carew-Cox and William Waters


Linda from Alabama said...

I was drawn to your blog today due to the fact I am from Birmingham,Alabama,USA. I really enjoyed the lovely pictures and the information.

Margaret Adamson said...

WOW! That Cathedral is fabulous adn the stin glass windows are outstanding. thanks or sharing. Have a lovely weekend.

Ragged Robin said...

Linda from Alabama - Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. So interesting you live in a place called Birmingham in the USA.

Margaret Adamson - Thank you - so pleased you liked the windows. Have a lovely weekend too.

Rosie said...

How wonderful! I've never been in Birmingham Cathedral so I've enjoyed all your photos and information. Yes, it was me and comments about The Lunar Society:) The only church I've been inside in Birmingham is St Martin's which is between the Bullring and the Markets as you walk down to the Back To Backs. The Burne Jones windows are so colourful and I like the modern font and those elongated figures, plus the blue of the seats and carpets which look wonderful in the light interior:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thank you. There are still many places fairly locally that I would like to visit. I thought it was you re: The Lunar Society. I think I had a book on my now vanished Wish List!! Amazing when you go and visit places the links you see between Birmingham and Lichfield for example.

I've not been to St Martin's or even the Back to Backs (at least not inside the latter)! There is a Roman Catholic cathedral too - St Chad's?

The Burne-Jones windows were really stunning and I think the elongated figures may possible represent the Three Wise Men and Shepherds?? But I couldn't find any information.

Deborah RusticPumpkin said...

Birmingham Cathedral is so unusual, and I suppose it's because it is more modern than what I think of as a cathedral, and is more like the large parish church of it's origins. Of course, what sets it apart, for me, is the stained glass. I think it is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

Ragged Robin said...

Deborah RusticPumpkin - Thank you. It is the first time have visited a more "modern" cathedral apart from Coventry but that was about 40 years ago!! (another place I must go back to!). Yes, the stained glass is incredible :)

Sarah Head said...

I used to spend many happy Friday lunchtimes in the Cathedral for their free concerts when I was working in Temple Row. It never feels like a proper Cathedral and is more reminiscent of a Methodist church with the balcony pews. Many decades ago I conducted the Regional Health Authority Carol Service which was a wonderful event and my only claim to fame as a choir conductor. You missed the memorial to victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings which is right outside the Cathedral entrance and a service of commemoration is held every year. St Martins is the original Medieval parish church with another Burne-Jones window, taken down the night before the bombers hit Birmingham during World War 2. Very easy to get to from Moor Street station.

Ragged Robin said...

Sarah Head - Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I would imagine the concerts at lunchtime were really really good. It is a good area to work in - I used to work in Great Charles Street and spent many hours at the museum at lunchtime.

The carol concerts sound good too. Yes, I realised afterwards when reading the guide I had missed the memorial to victims of the Pub Bombings - sadly I only had an hour to explore.

Thanks so much for the information re: St Martins - must admit I didn't realise it was medieval - will have to try and visit. So glad they removed the window in time! I bought an interesting book on Burne-Jones' glass in Birmingham which mentions other local churches with his work. I've been to St Margaret's Ward End but must try and visit the Acocks Green church as well as St Martins.

Kevin and Seri said...

Good work as always :-) Caroline.

And Happy New Year, albeit belatedly...

Ragged Robin said...

Kevin and Seri - Thank you :) Happy New Year to you both too.

Caroline Gill said...

Another superb post, RR! I was particularly interested to read about Bishop Gore as we had a secondary school with that name in my area when I lived in Swansea... but I see they were different bishops. The angel stained glass photos are stunning: I wonder if they have been used for Christmas cards...

Thank you for your kind comment on my wildflower poetry post. On the subject of flowers, I checked the garden yesterday for snowdrops: just one tiny bit of white showing through the outer casing of a bud so far. But I'm quite pleased in a way as we are due to go to Anglesey Abbey (NT, Cambridge) next month with a friend where the snowdrops are famed for their abundance and variety. It suggests to me that there should still be some to see by then.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill Thanks so much Caroline. The stained glass for me was a real highlight - so beautiful. Interesting question as to whether they have been used for Christmas cards.

Here the few garden snowdrops I have are only showing leaves at the moment although the wild primroses have been in flower since before Christmas! When I go and see snowdrops locally at churchyards and NT properties they never seem to be at their best until towards the end of February. I've heard how good snowdrops are at Anglesey Abbey and did check the distance - its about one hour and three quarters from here. Hope you enjoy them when you go :)

Pete Duxon said...

ooh thanks for that ! I have never been there.

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Thanks. Can't believe I have visited one that you haven't been to!!!!!