Heritage Day, 14th September 2019, was a wonderful opportunity for the Group to show what it was made of! We were kindly invited by Holy Trinity Parish Church to take part in their Open Day "Celebrating People Power". This enabled us to put on a display in the Trinity Centre of past research, reflecting the presence of people living around the Parish Church over the years. It also gave us the chance to sell some of our publications.
In the church itself, we took over the Vesey Chapel with illustrations gathered over many years recalling the life of Bishop Vesey, a man who held unsurpassed power in the town during his lifetime. In addition, here we were also able to show the fruits of more recent research into the numerous memorials that crop up everywhere in the building. It is fascinating to see that the people commemorated led some extraordinary lives. No wonder this group project is showing no sign of ending!
Yet another aspect of the history of the Parish Church is the notorious "Box Pew Rumpus" that took place in the 1760s. In Sutton Coldfield at that time, if you owned a house then you also owned the pew that went with it. If you sold your house, you gave up that pew.
We were able to gather the facts behind the event, making use of the archives in Sutton Library and, with the help of modern technology, could reproduce many excellent photos for people to see. Here is what caused the rumpus:-
In 1758, the pews were in a bad state of repair and it was the Warden & Society (i.e. the Corporation's) responsibility to provide replacements, which they did. But it would appear that they may not have been replaced exactly like for like. Although the Corporation felt they had done their utmost to make sure everyone was happy, there were still some extremely disgruntled parishioners who wrote to the Bishop of Lichfield demanding that they be given a better deal. After years of wrangling, they lost their argument and it seems therefore to be a case of "people power not winning the day"!
A plan drawn up by William Hirons in 1762 showing the allocation by the Corporation to those residents and a transcription of the list was prepared for the exhibition, invoking a lot of interest. Both of these will appear on our website Research section in due course.
Photographs curtesy Eileen Donohoe and Janet Jordan