Wednesbury

This beautiful church is St. Bartholomew’s in my home town of Wednesbury.

Here is some information about this glorious church:

St. Bartholomew’s Church

There was certainly a church at Wednesbury by the early thirteenth century because it is recorded in the Plea Rolls of King John for 1210-1211, that Master William, a royal chaplain had been appointed to the church at Wednesbury.

The present St. Bartholomew’s Church dates from the late 15th or early 16th century and contains a pulpit carrying the date 1611.  

  At the west end of the nave is a table tomb with recumbent effigies of Richard Parkes who died in 1618, and his wife. It has been greatly restored and rebuilt, and stands on the site of an earlier 13th century stone built church. Remains of the earlier church were found during restoration work in 1885 and consisted of a three light window contained in a round-headed arch. The three lights date back to the 13th century but the arch itself could be earlier. The ancient window is to be found at the west end of the north aisle. It is next to the doorway which gives access to the choir vestry. This has a pointed segmental arch and is said to be from the same date as the window. 

In 1757 the tower was restored and the top 16 feet were rebuilt. At the same time the ball and weathercock were replaced. Restoration work continued in 1764 and 1765 when the nave roof was repaired and a ceiling added to the nave. Unfortunately during the work, part of the parapet on the northern side collapsed onto the roof and both fell onto the pews beneath, causing serious damage. As luck would have it the pews were empty at the time. Only an hour earlier they had been occupied during a funeral service.  

As the parapet on the south side was found to be in an extremely poor condition, the decision was taken to rebuild both parapets and also to add a ceiling above the north aisle. As the restoration was now much larger and so more expensive than previously envisaged, neighbouring parishes were invited to make collections towards the cost of the work. In 1775 part of the south transept was enclosed and a wall added to form a vestry, and in 1818 the body of the church was coated with Parker’s cement.  

Nine years later the church was enlarged by the addition of the north transept and an extended nave. The pews were also replaced and a new font was presented by the Rev. Isaac Clarkson in 1827. 

Restoration work continued in 1855 when the upper part of the spire was completely rebuilt and the 8 bells were recast. Two new bells were also added, along with a new clock and weathercock. The cost of the repairs was raised by subscription and amounted to nearly £1,200.

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In 1878 the spire was raised by 10 feet, and in 1885 the internal galleries were removed and the floor lowered to its original level. Further restoration work took place in 1902 and 1903 when the transepts were restored. In 1913 the Chapel of Ascension was added to the south transept.

The church contains 15 late 19th or early 20th century windows containing stained glass by Charles Eamer Kempe and is also known for its unique fighting cock lectern. On 2nd March, 1950 the building was Grade 2 listed.  

Now, there are some people who believe that St Bart’s was built on a pagan temple: Wednesbury is an ancient place that was believed to be important to anglo-saxon people and also perhaps Vikings. The name Woden clearly has significance in the name of Wednesbury. Michael and Jane reported seeing someone similar to a Viking in a helmet without the horns you would associate with such warriors, near to St Bartholomew’s Church on the hill. The hounds of Wednesbury? I think we all know by now that the name Wednesbury derives from the God ‘Woden’ the Saxon god of war, the term BURY being the Anglo-Saxon BURGH or BYRIG, signifying an earthworks and hence a fortified town.  So yes, most of us have heard this before but have you ever 'really’ thought what this might mean? So I wanted to know, and found this: Of the thousands of name places in Britain less than ten have the name of Woden compounded with it.  All these places have a similar erection dedicated to Woden and all on a hill. There is (apparently) widespread evidence of the worship of Woden and Thunor in Wednesbury? But where in Wednesbury? Jacob Grimm in his Mythology notes a number of “Woden Hills” and the town of Wednesbury may have a similar origin.  The pagan town of Wodnes-Byri (C.E.586-652) existed as a local habitation and a name, long before the Christian religion had penetrated that then vast mid-England woodland. It is the belief that Wednesbury Hill was crowned with a Temple of Woden and that a Parish Church, Saint Bartholomew now occupies the site of this Pagan Temple. Hounds were traditional tied in with Woden in Teutonic Mythology. There was a story around the old Wednesbury colliers, that they habitually heard a pack of hounds in the air as they went to the mines.  This was recorded by Plot in C.E.1686.  And as the late Vicar of St Bartholomew, the Rev. John Lyons, once wrote: “On the lofty hill, raised above all the surrounding country, rest our Parish Church, the glory, the ornament and the beauty of the town.  It stands as a beacon visible for many miles around it, its spire pointing towards the heavens, thus teaching, by mute but significant sign, where our thoughts and final hopes should tend. This hill, with its spire crowned Church, was not always the teacher of heavenly things.  There was a time when Woden, the fierce and sanguinary idol of the Danes and Norwegians, stained this hill with the blood of human beings offered in sacrifice to him.  This Woden is supposed to be the same as Odin, on whom our poet Gray has composed a wild and beautiful ode, entitled The Descent of Odin.  “This devil worship passed away as the light of Christianity arose and spread on our island; but the foundations of the material building were not yet to be laid."  Human sacrifices on Church Hill? And a creepy, yet fascinating poem about the legend of Wednesbury: STONE & FIRE The Legend of Wednesbury Hill by Rig Svenson Stone and fire, flint and steel Blooded land of Wadnesberrie Hill Saint Bartholomew crowning glory Built by Christians to hide a secret story Of a legendary ruler King Penda A true son of Mercia with a Wodenic agenda A pagan prince of these marshlands United the heathens under one clan To rid Middle England of Christian Kings He raised and trained an army of athelings The battle slain of old Valhalla calls For men of valour, for men with balls Or Woden as the English know him It is still the same god, frick I am going To tell of Penda’s Wodenic shrine Bloody war gods since the beginning of time In a reddening tide of ancient measure Blood sacrifice being Odin’s treasure From gallows tree, the green mighty oaks Hark the mystery of the stone uncloaks To view a pagan shrine in the midst of a feld Today you know it as Wednesfield The Dog and Partridge today lies on the site Where men were killed in sacrificial rite Woden Stone; listen to its eerie sound Of rustling runes still underground Light spectres and ghosts come out at night Making the bravest of men take to flight For what has been, was it history? Or just another Dark Age mystery? Does Gabriel’s hounds bay in the night Giving the locals there a terrible fright Bright shinning lights turn night into day The hills alive so some may say Robed bearded priest with blade foreboding Appear to sacrifice victims again to Odin Wednesfeld shrine moved to the top of a hill Where a church now stands in Wadnesburrie Great Oaks trees grew there so lush and so high Whilst bodies hung of them and touching the sky
See Also: During the Anglo-Saxon period there are believed to have been two battles fought in Wednesbury, one in A.D. 592 and one in 715. According to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle there was "a great slaughter” in 592 and “Ceawlin was driven out”. Ceawlin was a king of Wessex and the second Bretwalda, or overlord of all Britain. The second battle, in 715, was fought between Mercia (of which Wednesbury was part) and the kingdom of Wessex. Both sides allegedly claimed to have one the battle, although it is belived that the victory inclined to Wessex There are also stories about a woman named Ethelfleda, who fortified Wednesbury: Wednesbury was later fortified by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great and known as the Lady of Mercia. Ethelfleda erected five fortifications to defend against the Danes at Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford and Warwick, with Wednesbury in the centre of the other four. Wednesbury’s fort would have been an extension of an older fortification and made of a stone foundation with a wooden stockade above. Earthwork ramparts and water filled ditches would probably have added to its strength. There is now a plaque on the gardens between Ethelfleda Terrace and St. Bartholomew’s stating that the stone used in the gardens there made in the 1950’s used stone from the graaf, or fighting platform, of the old fort. Exploration of the gardens reveals several dressed stones, which appear to be those reffered to on the plaque. Ethelfleda is mentioned by King Alfred’s biographer Asser, who calls her the first-born child of Alfred and Ealhswith and a sister to Edward, Æthelgifu, Ælfthryth and Æthelweard. By the time he wrote, roughly about the year 890, she was already married to Æthelred, then ealdorman of Mercia.
I love my hometown :)
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February 20th - Wednesbury has a life-size, fake windmill, and not many people know about it. I have no information on the edifice, or its origins, other that in sits in a garden near the top of Church Hill in the centre of town, is only about a decade old and exists as a kind of modern folly as far as I can tell. I investigated it today - I spotted it a good few years ago, but I had to go to Great Bridge today and had time to spare, so thought I’d go hunting. More on the main blog in the next few days.

You can’t actually get close to it - it’s in the garden of a remarkably ornate, somewhat architecturally eccentric house, and is only really visible in winter when there are no leaves on the trees. I’m told the owners don’t welcome enquiries, and the property is shut behind very tall, secure gates. Anybody have any more information? 

Heart shaped pin cushion by Black Country Museums on Flickr.

Heart shaped pin cushion


‘This pin cushion was made by a soldier from the Lancashire Fusillers to send to his sweetheart back home. It is dated around 1914-1918’.
Black Country Museums.

Made with Flickr