History of St. Mary's, 1932



This reproduced a description of the church published in 1907, and added updates.


S. Mary's Church, Acock's Green





The Church occupies a central position in Acock's Green. It is "set on a hill," and (if we may use the term geologically) "founded upon a rock."


The first building was the outcome of meetings, held during 1864, of some of the principal inhabitants, who were desirous to build a Church for this Hamlet in Yardley Parish. A site was given by the Yardley Charity Trustees, an Endowment of £1,000 provided by Mr. John Field Swinburn; and these were conveyed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Plans were prepared for the new Church by Mr. J. G. Bland, a local Architect; the Foundation Stone was laid on October 13th, 1864; and on October 17th, 1866, a portion of the Nave and the two Aisles were consecrated by Bishop Philpott, of Worcester, the cost being £6,350. A few months later, a District was assigned to the Church by an Order in Council, dated October 26th, 1867, and called "the District Chapelry of S. Mary the Virgin, Acock's Green," the extent of this District being 660 acres and the population then about 1,000 souls. In 1878, the need of further accommodation began to be felt, and the Rev. F. T. Swinburn, who had held the vicarage since its formation, took steps towards the enlargement of the Church; the Nave was completed, and the Transept and Chancel Arches were built, at a cost of £3,136, the additions being dedicated in 1882 by Bishop Philpott.


During 1891-92, the Organ Chamber and Clergy Vestry were built by Mrs. John Field Swinburn, who died before the work she had undertaken was finished, the Architects for this portion being Messrs. J. A. Chatwin and Son, of Birmingham; and two years later the Chancel was erected from designs by the same Architects, the cost being upwards of £3,000, of which the Executors of the late Mr. John Field Swinburn contributed over £1,000. Thus the entire cost of construction has hitherto been over £13,000, exclusive of stained glass, and internal decoration, and furniture.


The length of the nave is 101 feet, and the width, including the Aisles, is 60 feet. The Chancel measures 51 feet in length and 26 feet in breadth. So far as the exterior of the Church is concerned, the North and South Transepts, the Lady Chapel; the Choir Vestry; and the Tower, are still wanting to complete the Building, the " ground plan" of which is "cruciform."


The elevations of this Porch are of 'admirable proportions. Over the entrance is carved the Patron Saint in a bas-relief, representing the subject of the Annunciation-one of the most frequent and most important, as well as one of the most beautiful, in the whole range of Christian Art. The sides of the Porch originally contained open arcades, cloister-like, with seats on either side, but the former were afterwards filled in, to shut out the wind and rain.


Within the Church the East end first claims our attention. The Sanctuary is enclosed on three sides by the East Wall, which is richly encased with alabaster and contains a fine Window, and by similar bays on North and South, each containing a large two-light window, with a recess beneath for Sedilia, Piscina, or Credence.


The East Window is by Messrs. Morris and Co., of Merton Abbey, from designs by Sir E. Burne-Jones. It has five lights with quatrefoils and cinque-foils in the tracery. The central figure is that of our Blessed Lord nailed to the cross, which has blossomed into the tree of life. On His Head is the crown of thorns, and the superscription above is I.N.R.I.-Iesus Nazareuus Rex Judoeorum. A nimbus emblematic of triumph and glory rests above the Saviour's Head, and the serpent lies vanquished below. Beneath the picture is the legend, to be also found on the Reredos in S. Paul's Cathedral, "SIC DEVS DILEXIT MVNDVM." On either side may be seen standing S. John and the Blessed Virgin Mother; the other lights contain the Angels of the Resurrection, bearing scrolls with the legends, "ET SICVT MOYSES EXALTAVIT SERPENTE IN DESERTO, ITA EXALTARI OPORTET FILIV HOMINIS," and "IN HOC COGNOVIMVS CHARITATEM DEI QVONIAM ILLE ANIMA SVAM PRO NOBIS POSVIT." In the tracery are Angelic Beings harping with harps of gold, and beneath are representations of the four mysterious creatures in the vision of Ezekiel, which have been variously interpreted as 'figuring the four Archangels, the four great Prophets, and the four Evangelists.


The inscription on the window is: "To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of the Rev. Frederick Thomas Swinburn, Vicar of Acock's Green, this window was erected by his wife and son, A.D. 1895."


The Reredos, of alabaster, was erected by various donors. The central figure is that of our Blessed Lord, with one hand uplifted in blessing, whilst in the other He holds the Book of Life. He is surrounded by a Glory of adoring angels, some of whom are bearing sacred symbols of the Passion-the Ladder, the Cross, the Hammer, the three Nails, and the Pincers.


The lower portion immediately behind the Altar-piece is richly honeycombed with trefoils throwing its sculpture into relief and adding to the perspective effect. The two sides were separate thankofferings, and contain canopied figures of the four Archangels. The first represents Michael, grasping his lance with both hands, one foot resting on the neck of the Dragon, who, prostrate, writhes up, as it were, and tries to lift his head and turn it against his conqueror. The second figure is that of the Angel Gabriel, so often brought before us in the Hotly Scripture in the character of a Messenger; he is the Angel of the Annunciation, and bears in his hand a 1ily, the emblem of purity. The third figure represents the Archangel Raphael in a pilgrim's dress, with a staff in one hand and a fish in the other, whilst from his belt is suspended a wallet; he is the guardian angel of travellers and the Patron Saint of Medicine; his story may be read in the Book of Tobit. The fourth figure is that of the Archangel Uriel, mentioned in the book of Esdras. As "Regent of the Sun," he bears his emblem in his hands. Smaller figures of angels are carved on the panels of the arcade below and on the pilasters, some kneeling in adoration, some swinging their censers, carry on harmoniously the thought of the ceaseless worship of the heavenly choirs:-


"Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."-(Rev. v. 12.)


The South wing bears the inscription: "Ad Majorem Dei gloriam in gratiam innumerabiliu per annos conjugii xxv., Dei beneficioru Cordley ac Alicia Bradford hanc Reredorsi partem confecere, Prid. Non. Jun. MCMIIJ"; and that on the North side has the following: "To the greater glory of God, and in thankfulness for His mercies, this wing of the Reredos was added by James and Constance Balleine, June, 1903."


The Altar-piece, raised on steps of Devonshire marble, is of exquisite design and workmanship. Two Angels stand within deep niches at either end, carrying on shields symbols of the Passion. The line of arches, with their graceful shafts of coloured marbles, the delicate tracery, the curled crockets, and the light figures of the four Evangelists crowning the tops of the slender columns form a fitting adornment for the Altar. On a tablet inserted in one of the sides is the inscription: "To the greater glory of God, and in loving memory of William George and Susanna Postans, this Altar-piece was erected by Julia Sophia Swinburn and George William Postans Swinburn, their daughter and grand-son, 1898." The whole of the carving in the Sanctuary is the work of Mr. Bridgman, of Lichfield. On one of the shelves forming the Retables are a Resurrection Cross given by the late Dr. Shirley Palmer, and the Altar Candlesticks, which were presented to the Church by a frequent worshipper at S. Mary's.


The Altar is of English oak, the panels being carved with vine branches and ears of corn with intervening arches, quatrefoils, and trefoils, behind which is suspended the frontal for the season. It is 8ft. 6in. long and 3ft. 6in. high, and was the gift of the children of the Church. The super-frontal covering the slab and embroidered with passion flowers was a gift to the Church and the work of an invalid.


The Chancel below the Sanctuary is at present furnished very simply. The stalls for clergy and choir, and an organ case have still to be provided. The floor is of glazed and encaustic tiles. On the south side below the Clerestory the wall is divided into two Arches, opening into the South Chancel Aisle which will one day form part of the Lady Chapel. The carving on the three capitals of these Arches is also by Bridgman, and represents Angels bearing scrolls of music, or carrying various musical instruments; also one of the Angels bears a crown of martyrdom. The reference is plainly to the beautiful 1egend of S. Cecilia, a Roman lady who lived in the third century. She was brought up in the Christian faith, and is said to have suffered martyrdom. She excelled in music; and turned her gift to the glory of God. She played on all manner of instruments, but none sufficed to breathe forth that flood of Harmony with which her whole soul was filled. Therefore she invented the organ, consecrating it to the service of God.



S. Mary's has a clerestoried Nave, with a lofty open roof of wood. Six of the windows in the Clerestory were filled in by the Rev. F. T. Swinburn to commemorate the work of the first officers of the Church. The walls are supported by stone pillars, which divide the Nave into five bays on either side; the western-most bays leading to the North and South Doors. The Pulpit is a solid stone structure, and stands on the North side of the Nave. The Lectern-a brass Eagle-is on the South side. The Faldstool is immediately below the Chancel Steps. These were all gifts to the Church. The Gas Pendants were presented by Mr. Joseph Wilson. The West Wall contains a fine window by Hardman, and a tablet in alabaster, both "in memory of John Field Swinburn, who died Jan. 12th, 1886." The lower portions of the window are meant to commemorate the qualities of him to whom it was put up. On the two left lights we see represented our Lord in the Temple, receiving instruction from the Doctors "about His Father's business"; whilst, on the right hand, is shown, in the Centurion, the kind master and the man of faith, who loved God's people and had built them a synagogue. Just above these main subjects of the window in the Tracery are smaller pictures of two Angel-reapers, and carrying the eye still upward we notice the figure of our Blessed Lord, seated on the seat of judgment, and attended by the Archangels, awarding the crown of righteousness.


The South Aisle contains three traceried triple-light windows and one of two lights. The latter, which is near the font, has stained glass, and represents the Baptism of our Lord by S. John the Baptist, and Christ blessing little children brought to Him. In the tracery above is the Holy Dove descending in Rays of Light, both being emblems of the Holy Spirit. Running along the base is the inscription:-


" In loving memory of Edith Alice Bradford."


The central window in this Aisle was erected by the late Miss Sarah Hodgkins in 1889, "in memory of Henry Jutson, Mary Jutson (her mother), and Joseph and John Hodgkins (her brothers)." It represents in the first light the Prophet Agur, offering his prayer: "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me." (Prov. xxx.) In the centre, the Virtuous Woman, with distaff in hand, buying wool. The legend is from Prov. xxxi.: "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." In the Tracery is represented the same virtuous woman, with a recipient of her charity. In the third light we have a picture of the upright man of Prov. xxviii. 18, and we gather that his life is as eloquent a sermon as his words.


The font, near the South Door, was the gift of Mrs. Henry Jutson, of Malvern House. The Circular Bowl is supported by a central pillar and four outer shafts, and its base stands on a single step; signifying that "there is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism."


A fine Bronze Tablet near the South Door consists of two Angels in relief bearing the inscription: "In loving memory of John Collingwood Onions, J.P., who died Jan. 30th, 1904, aged 63 years."


The North Aisle is similar in construction to the South, and all the windows are filled with stained glass. Commencing at the West end, our Blessed Lord is represented as "the Bread of Life," and "the Vine" - His own symbols of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Church - and in the Tracery are illustrated legends bearing the Old Testament titles of our Lord - "the Rose of Sharon" and "Lily of the Valley." This window was dedicated by the late Thomas Bentley to the Glory of God, and in memory of his wife, Sarah Louisa. On a Bronze Tablet, near the North Door, the inscription records the purpose and the date: "In loving memory of my husband, Ernest L. Hirsch, who died Aug. 19th, 1899, aged 28 years. 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' "


The three consecutive Windows in the Aisle are "Mary Windows," and are intended to depict the Scriptural Narrative of the Blessed Virgin. In the several lights are represented Isaiah's prophecy to Ahaz; the Annunciation; the Visitation; the Nativity; and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin.


The first of these Windows nearest to the Door was "inserted in loving memory of the Rev. Frederick Thomas Swinburn, D.D., by his Parishioners and friends." The second Window is in affectionate memory of Jane Marlow, the loving wife of John Field Swinburn, who was called to rest on May 13th, 1892. The third Window was " inserted by Maria Robinson, in loving memory of William Robinson, her husband, and of their daughter, Florence Violetta."


We thus have in S. Mary the gifts and offerings from many hearts to Him from Whom all good things do come, and sacred memorials of former worshippers, now at rest, by those who hold their memories dear.


The following additional items of interest have been arranged in chronological order:-


1866- The Worcester Diocesan Church Building Society, when granting £200 towards the building of S. Mary's, stipulated that 200 of the sittings should be free. 1867- The first Easter Vestry was held April 22nd.
1868-A site was conveyed for a Parsonage House by the Yardley Charity Commissioners.
1870-The Vicarage was built, the Worcester Diocesan Church Building Society contributing £100.
1873- The first Confirmation was held at S. Mary's by Bishop Philpott.
1874-The Schools were built at a cost of £1,595 on land given by Mr. John Field Swinburn.
1879- The Schools were enlarged, at a cost of £345.
1881-An iron Mission Room was erected in Spring Lane, costing £110.
1882-An ornamental Copper Vane was presented to S. Mary's by Mr. Samuel Taylor.
1885- The Mission Room was enlarged at a cost of £162. A Memorial Tablet in S. Gabriel's commemorates the Mission work of Mr. W. Reeve, who died in 1888.
1890-A silver-gilt Chalice and Paten was presented to the Church by Mrs. F. T. Swinburn.
1800- Death of the Rev. F. T. Swinburn, D.D.
1893- A new Organ built by Nicholson and Co., of Worcester, costing £900.
1894- £200 spent on repairing the Schools.
1905- Received a legacy of £175 from the Executors of the late Mrs. Joseph Watson, for the building of a Church Room.
1905-The Mission Room was removed to Summer Road.
1906-Presentation of a large Chalice and Paten by Mrs. Wheelock, in memory of her mother, Elizabeth Whieldon; and a legacy of £45 received from the Executors of the late Henry Watts for the Building Fund of S. Mary's.

The panels in the Chancel were finished by the addition of four panels, completing the scheme to the chancel rails.
On the North side a panel in memory of the Rev. L. F. Dodd, M.A., Merton Coll., Oxford; died Feb. 8rd, 1913. By his wife in 1914. The second panel was subscribed for by the parishioners in his memory.
On the South side, the first panel is in memory of Julis Sophia, the wife of Dr. Swinburn, the first vicar, and was erected by her son and his wife. The second panel is in memory of Margaret Lunn, the sister of Mrs. A. Cordley Bradford.
In the Chancel. New choir stalls of oak, the screen on the organ side, and the alabaster altar rails in keeping with the reredos, were erected in 1930-1931, in memory of Mrs. A. Cordley Bradford, the wife of Dr. Bradford, at his expense.
On the South side, the oak screen and the tablet in the Chapel were erected to the memory of the fallen in the Great War, 1914-1919.


The place-name of Acock's Green was presumably derived from a former landowner in the parish. A certain Richard Acock, of Yardley, is mentioned in an Indenture of Marriage Settlement, dated A.D. 1604 (30, April 2, James I.); and in the Yardley Parish Register is also recorded the birth and baptism of Alice, daughter of Will Acock, Gent, in the year 1697.


There are two Moated Houses in our Parish - Hyron Hall, an ancient estate, but untraceable under its present name, and Tyseley Farm, called "Tisseleye" in an Indenture dated 1327, i.e., Tissa's lea or ley, A.S., which means a pasture.


constituted a separate Ecclesiastical District Feb. 26th, 1867


List of Incumbents.
1867-1890 Frederick Thomas Swinburn, D.D., Trin. Coll., Dublin.
1890-1907 James Balleine, M.A., Exeter Coll., Oxford.
1907-1913 Rev. L. J. Dodd, M.A., Merton Coll., Oxford.
1913-1919 Rev. P. E. Lord, M.A.
1919-1926 Rev. R. W. D. Stephenson, M.A.
1926-1931 Rev. G. H. Harris, M.A., Oxford.
1931- Rev. P. J. Kelly, M.A., Queen's Coll., Cambridge.