Sarah Holbeche was born in 1802 at Ivy House, now no. 20 High Street, Sutton Coldfield. Then, Sarah recalled, in 1804 “My father and mother with their one child moved to what is now Mrs. Sadler’s House (now 36 High Street) where Mary, Vincent, Thomas, Elizabeth, Francis, Jane, Aemilian, Martin and John were born.” Her father, Thomas Holbeche rented 36 High Street from Mr. Guest; Mr. Guest sold the house “over my father’s head” in 1817, leaving the Holbeches homeless. The Rector of Sutton came to the rescue, offering to sell the house he owned in Sutton - now 1,3 and 5 Coleshill Street - “My father bought it in 1817, it was the property of our old Rector Rev John Riland who offered it to my father, sympathising with him. £1700 the purchase money.”

Sarah went on “It had recently been papered and painted and prepared for the reception of Lady Middletown.” A carriage house at the back was converted into a nursery, and Sarah described lofts, offices, stables, barns and a forge. After Thomas Holbeche’s death Sarah’s brother Vincent occupied the house and offices, taking over his father’s legal practice, and his son Richard, who was born there, later described the property.

“The house has been wittily described as a rabbit warren - the various rooms led into each other in a most perplexing way - there was no passage in the entire building. To the south there was a rough stone continuation used as offices with old mullioned windows boarded up ages ago and beyond a large tythe barn with a granary and an enormous loft.”

The reference to the barn as a tithe barn, and the earlier purchase of the property from the Rector, gave rise to the belief that it had once been the Rectory of Sutton Coldfield (the building of a new rectory in Rectory Park in 1701 is well documented). The Victorian Rector and historian of our town, W.K.Riland Bedford, himself believed this, writing “The Rectory house itself was in the main street, close to the Church.” Recent research has thrown doubt on this, however, as it can be shown that the property was purchased, probably in 1757, for the widow of the Rector Richard Riland, whose son Richard Bisse Riland became Rector that year. The previous owner of 1,3 and 5 Coleshill Street was Thomas Woodhouse, Warden of Sutton in 1752; the 1742 Rental refers to the property as “The Swan”, so it may have been an inn at one time.

John Snape’s 1764 sketch
1, 3, and 5 Coleshill Street c.1890, showing extra chimneys and decorative urns above the cornice. (photos courtesy of Sutton Reference Library)