One of the key attractions in the church is the addition of painted ceilings in the twentieth century to the chancel, nave, tower, Vesey aisle and Vesey Chapel.
Chancel ceiling (1914)
Charles E Bateman, a local architect, was commissioned to decorate the chancel ceiling, a plain barrel-vaulted roof which he divided into squares with a floral design, but with an additional band of panels depicting angels.
The work on the other ceilings was, unsurprisingly, interrupted by the First World War and its aftermath, and resumed in the 1920s.
The remaining ceilings were decorated alongside a complete redecoration of the church and the re-design of the Vesey Chapel with a new entrance.
Nave ceiling (1929)
Roger Lea writes: “Bateman’s treatment of the nave ceiling was bold and colourful, a series of square panels with a floral motif based on the Tudor Rose, the beams and timbers being gilded and patterned.”
Vesey Chapel ceiling (1929)
“In 1929, Bateman’s masterpiece, the Vesey Chapel roof, was completed, a flat ceiling of even more elaborate designs, divided by friezes of gilded birds and leaves symbolising Sutton Park.” (R Lea).
The panels above the East end window are painted with angels bearing the words of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).
Originally an altar was placed beneath the window. It was removed in 2016.
The painting of the ceiling under the floor of the bell-ringing chamber in the tower was also undertaken in this year.
From 1950 to 2018 this ceiling was blocked to view because the workings of a pipe organ were installed immediately underneath. With re-ordering of the church interior, this ceiling is now open to view again.
A painting on the wall above the entrance to the Vesey Chapel (next to the North gallery) is the only painting on a wall in the church.
It depicts in the centre a shield with the “Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity” held at each side by angels with gold coloured wings. A recent improvement to the lighting here has enabled visitors to see this painting much more clearly from the ground as well as the North gallery. It was probably painted at the same time as the Vesey Chapel work of 1929.
In 1992, students from Sutton College (now Birmingham Metropolitan College, Sutton campus) which is in the parish, were commissioned to create mosaics to fit the panels below the window on the East wall of the Vesey Chapel.
Left to right, these depict Christian symbols as follows:
- The loaves and fish of the famous miracle of Jesus
- The Lamb of God
- The self-wounding pelican. (This is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. This was sometimes used to represent Christ’s giving of himself to save mankind. In fact the pelican appears to be stabbing itself but is actually fully emptying its pouch).
- Three fish in a triangle suggesting the Holy Trinity. (The fish is an early Christian symbol – the letters in the word for fish in Greek – ichthys – spell out ‘Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Saviour’. The fish was a coded way for early Christians to identify themselves to each other).