Beautiful stain(ed) on the high street

As work starts on the £4 million restoration work to the 150 year old Grade II listed St Barnabas Church in Erdington a beautiful vision of what the new stained glass East Window will look like has been revealed in a planning application, 2011/01140/PA. The proposed window is a beautiful design that follows in the footsteps of other outstanding Birmingham stained glass such as the outstanding Burne-Jones Stained Glass windows in St Philips Cathedral.

The design has been commissioned by internationally renowned Stained Glass Artist Pippa Blackall, currently tutor and artist in residence at the Stained Glass Museum in Ely,

Reverend Freda Evans notes in the Design and Access Statement – East Window for the planning application:

It was felt that the title ‘Journeying and Resurrection’ represented our situation and experience, as well as our theological belief. Furthermore, it linked particularly well with the reredos relief of the Last Supper which has survived the fire. The design has been overwhelmingly supported by all the congregation who are uplifted, excited and cannot wait for the building to finish after so many years of waiting.

The restoration comes three years after the church was gutted in an arson attack which took 70 firefighters to tackle in 2007 and will see a reborn church reopen around June 2012. The church’s bell tower, ringing room, clock, oldest stain glass window and lectern survived while the rest of the church was totally destroyed.

The project will be overseen by Lichfield-based firm Linford-Bridgeman with plans for a new extension and entrance added along with a sweeping steel roof. There will be a large glass window blocking the view of Erdington High Street although this has proved too innovative for some being deemed a 'carbuncle' attached to the gothic building.

Images of what the finished church will look like are shown below from the planning application, 2009/05470/PA.

The Church was built between 1822-23 in a plain Gothic Style which was later considered ‘Church Commissioners’ Gothic’; he foundation stone for the new chapel was laid on 11th June 1822. The chapel as it was originally built was intended to seat a congregation of 700. It was designed by Thomas Rickman (1776-1841), a key proponent of late Georgian medieval revivalist architecture and was only his second commission in Birmingham having arrived in 1820. St. Barnabas’ was consecrated as a chapel of ease for the parish church of Aston on 23rd July 1824 and the first infant baptism was conducted the same day. On the 6th April 1858 St. Barnabas became a parish church in its own right covering the district of Erdington. The church was altered in 1883 with a chancel and transepts, in Decorated Gothic style, added by Birmingham architect Julius Alfred Chatwin (1830-1907).

Even after the damage the fire inflicted it is an important historical building.

“…Rickman was a scholar of the Gothic style and the first to describe and identify the three periods of Gothic building: Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. With his assistant Henry Hutchinson, Rickman designed three churches for the Church Commissioners in Birmingham, two in the Classical style (St Thomas’s, Holloway Head and St Peter’s, Dale end) and one, St Barnabas in the decorated Gothic style. All have suffered either substantial bomb damage during the war or fire damage. In addition, St George’s, Tower Street (Gothic), not a Commissioners’ church, was demolished in the 1960s. The misfortunes suffered by Rickman’s ecclesiastical work within the city mean that perhaps more than usual value has to be placed upon their fabric.”
Dr Sarah Lewis – English Heritage


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