The walk at  www.jquarter.org.uk

2. THE CATHEDRAL SQUARE


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From the top of Cherry Street, cross Temple Row and  and take the path which leads diagonally left alongside the cathedral wall, to the cathedral door (1). On leaving the cathedral, turn right and walk to the top of Church Street (2).

A. Temple Row, St Philip's Cathedral

C. Church Street

(1) St Philip’s Cathedral

St Philip’s Church, as it originally was, was begun in 1711, consecrated in 1715 and completed in 1719. It is of brick construction, with stone facing. Designed by Thomas Archer and now Grade I listed, it is the smallest of the English cathedrals and the only one to be built in the Baroque style. It was part funded by a donation of £600 from the king and by a gift of land from Penelope Phillips, whose family had owned land in the area at least since the time of Queen Elizabeth I. It is no coincidence that the church was dedicated as St Philip’s and it would seem that Ms Phillips was perhaps the kind of lady who wouldn't have slept too well at night if anyone had been left in doubt as to the extent of her generosity.

At the time it was built St Philip’s stood right on the edge of the town. Although the town was poised for a period of explosive growth, up to that point Birmingham had expanded relatively slowly from its Anglo Saxon beginnings down by the Bull Ring, and there was still open country on the far side of Colmore Row.

The cathedral is well worth a visit, not least for the four superb stained glass windows by the pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who was born just round the corner in Bennett's Hill. For a baroque church the interior  is surprisingly restrained, containing little that would have attracted the attention of Cromwell's thought police had it been erected sixty years earlier. The east end is enhanced by an unusual series of free-standing Corinthian columns which were added during extensions in the mid 1880s. The acoustics of the building are excellent, and many concerts are held in it. If you turn left on entering the church, walk half way across the rear aisle and then look to your left, you will see set into the floor a memorial to William Small, the founder of the Lunar Society.

(2) How it looked in 1732

B. The view of the cathedral precinct as it would have looked in 1732 to someone sitting in a tree where the Grand Hotel is today. 1. Colmore Row (then called New Hall Lane).  2. The Bluecoat School (an Anglican charity school).  3. The Rectory.  4. Georgian town houses on the site of the present day Rackham's store.  5. Cherry Street.  6. Georgian town houses where Bank House is now.  7. Aerial view showing the Old Square as it was at that time, with Georgian town houses around a central garden.

This drawing was by William Westley, a carpenter and draughtsman, who designed the houses in the Old Square and Temple Row that are shown in the drawing.

 

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Other sites: Sir Edward Burne-Jones  (1)

 

THE DAY THE TRAFFIC STOPPED

Viewers of the erstwhile soap opera Crossroads had a change from the programme's famously wonky sets in February 1975 when the blessing of the fictional wedding of Meg Richardson (played by Noele Gordon) and Hugh Mortimer (John Bentley) was filmed in the cathedral. City centre traffic ground to a halt as a crowd of  2000 pressed into the churchyard to see what they could of the goings-on.

 

 

© 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 Bob Miles