Page 15, 10th February 1939

10th February 1939
Page 15
Page 15, 10th February 1939 — HISTORY OF PARISH Full of Ancient Treasures

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Organisations: Catholic Church
People: Edward Hodson
Locations: Birmingham


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HISTORY OF PARISH Full of Ancient Treasures

Between 1839 and 1842 Pugh.' designed and completed twelve churches, the first of which was the Catholic Church of St. Augustine at Solihull.

Prior to St. Augustine's, Pugin had been connected with the erection of St. Mary's Chapel at Oscott in 1838, but he only completed the work started by Potter of Lichfield, who " retired in dudgeon " on Pugin's arrival.

There was also a chapel at Whitwick in Leicestershire in 1837, but this was demolished in 1905 to make Way for a larger building, leaving St. • Augustine's undisputed as the oldest existing Pugin church.

REVIVES GOTHIC Before Pugin, Gothic art had been pursued purely as an antiquarian study. Gothic,arehltecturc of the time consisted in lifeless reproductions of medieval masterpieces, which, while conforming mechanically to the laws of the style, failed dismally to reproduce the beauty of the medieval designers.

Pugin, while possessfily, perhaps, no greaser knowledge of the Gothic forms than some of his contemporaries, had the priceless asset of a great sympathy with t h e minds of the medieval designers. He knew the purpose of beauty in church design.

The church as originally built was very austere and simple in design, many of the features suggesting that Pugin bad ideas of improving and enlarging the church when funds would allow it. There was no porch anti the building ended in a bare wall where now stands the chancel arch.

A large bare surface such as this for a background for the altar is so unlike Pugin's later work, and the added chancel fits so perfectly Into the general scheme of the building, that it. appears almost certain that Pugin had in mind just such an extension.

FIRST ALTERATION The first alteration to be made was In 1866 when Fr. Edward Hodson, who was rector from 184e-77, had the sanctuary wall opened to make way for a large stained glass window in the Perpendicular style. '

There is no one now who remembers seeing the window in this position, but it is doubtful if it fitted as well into the general design as it does since its transfer, in 1878, to its present position in the thence].

This chancel was added by removing, completely, the large end wall, thus forming an impressive chancel arch, and re-erecting the wall and window some feet back.

In 1904 the three Early English style lancet windows were removed from the nathex and replaced by a single window, more in keeping with the east window.

It is In the windows, perhaps, that the greatest departures have been made from Pugin's original design. While it Is reasonable to assume that the additions of the chancel, porch and mural decorations came within his general plan, it is doubtful if he ever visualleed the possibility of his severe twelfth. century lancets giving way to the ornate magnificence of the Perpendicular.

In later years the church has been greatly enriched by the addition of stained glass windows designed by members of the Pippet family, who have been connected with St. Augustine's since its ART TREASURES The church also poeseeeers two artistic gems in the FiemIs Ti iptych and the ivory Crucifix.

It is not knount when these treasures worry acquired, but it Ser3i>14 likely that they were given by Pugin, whose habit it was during his continenta/ tours to collect such worlss of religious art for the embellishment of his less wealthy ehurches.

The Triptych was probably painted in the fifteenth century by an artist of the Van der Weyden school, but it has suffered from misguided attempts at restoration prior to its arrival at Solihull.

The large ivory Crucifix, which stands over the tabernacle, is a magnificent specimen of seventeenth-century Italian craftsmanship.

The growth of the parish of Solihull was very slow until the beginning of this century, when, through its close proximity to Birmingham, it began to extend as a residential district, and progress during the last thirty years has been rapid.

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