A number of historians have written about Holy Trinity over many centuries. This section charts the stories of those whose lives and writing are best known to us. However, if there are omissions we would be pleased to know about them to add them in.
Church guide and history books
Part of the work of the “Heritage at the heart” project at Holy Trinity Church (2017-19) involved sourcing and referencing the many different accounts of the church’s history over several centuries.
This process uncovered a series of printed guides to the church, ranging from pamphlets to the most substantial publication prior to the new 2018 guide, the guide book of 1987 (revised 1995). For the record, these are as follows:
Do you know your parish church? 4pp post 1929. line drawings. [Possibly 1945 to accompany an appeal by the new Rector John Boggon, printed in the same style and entitled “Will you do somethnig for your parish church?]
The story of Sutton Coldfield parish church 28pp (including advertisements) post 1939. 4 b/w photographs by James Speight.
The story of Sutton Coldfield Parish Church 4pp 1957. “the year of the World Scout Jubilee Jamboree” 4 b/w phtographs by Kirkman (3) and TG Williams
Notes on the windows and Library 4pp 1965. [presumably to commemorate the refurbishment and designation of the South Chapel as the Library].
Holy Trinity Parish Church Sutton Coldfield: illustrated guide 20pp c 1970s. Cover design by Margaret Farrell. Plan drawn by Michael Rawlins. 5 b/w photographs by Reilly and Constantine.
Evans, Norman Granville and Gardner, Margaret Holy Trinity Sutton Coldfield. 28pp full colour 1987. [reprinted with additional material and new foreword and image, and additional information about the Trinity Centre on p 25; 1996]
Thebridge, Stella Holy Trinity Parish Church, Sutton Coldfield: a guide for visitors. 32pp incl fold out church plan, full colour 2018. Printed by Bluflame [Editorial collaboration: Kristina Routh]
The latest book was produced as part of the heritage project to update on the re-ordering changes of 2016 and conceived principally as a tour guide, with a full history of the church being separately published in 2020.
William Dugdale (1605-86)
Dugdale’s Antiquities of Warwickshire of 1656 is one of the best-known histories of the county and includes information about Holy Trinity especially the monuments and memorials. There is also a strong link to heraldry and genealogy of the families of the county, as Dugdale was himself a herald. A second edition of the work in 1730, edited by Revd William Thomas of Exhall, increased its reach and added to the already extensive illustrations. Follow this link for more information on both books – Dugdale Antiquities – history of the work
Agnes Bracken (1800-77)
The Bracken family are noted among the parishioners, but Agnes needs further mention here for her place as a historian of the area.
Agnes was born in Erdington in 1800 and baptised at Aston Parish Church. She came to Sutton with her widowed mother and sisters in 1820.
They lived at Vesey House, High Street, and worshipped at Holy Trinity. Richard Holbeche recalled her in his memoir of 1893:
“A woman first, authoress, artist, antiquarian, philanthropist, of the strongest individuality, with the softest heart, such was Agnes Bracken, and I speak of her with respect and affection.”
She was active on the “Ladies Committee” which, while having no political status, was influential with Sutton Coldfield’s male Warden and Society.
Her History of the forest and chase of Sutton Coldfield of 1860 was the first designated history of the area.
She died in 1877 and was buried at Holy Trinity, though sadly there is no extant memorial to her in or outside the church.
A blue plaque was erected in 1996.
An excellent and thorough account of Agnes’s life with some of her drawings is available as follows:
Agnes Bracken of Sutton Coldfield (and her family): a compilation of research material by Janet Jordan (Member of the Sutton Coldfield Local History Research Group). With Roy Woodward-Clarke and Diane Woodward-Clarke
Sarah Holbeche (1803-82)
Sarah was one of six sisters of Vincent Holbeche and her diary was actually started towards the end of her life, with her writing about a much earlier period based on family history. She then continued the diary to the end of her life.
She and her sisters all lived in a house in High Street, up the road from their brother and his family in Coleshill Street – to read more about the Holbeches, see our page on parishioners.
Sarah also gave the stained glass window in the Vesey Chapel to commemorate Revd Dr Richard Williamson – to read more about the Holbeche window, see our page on stained glass.
Helen Holbeche (b. 1821)
Helen was one of the youngest of the 15 siblings (Sarah was the oldest), but she wrote a memoir in 1884 of life “three score years ago”. Janet Jordan also provides a transcript of this here.
Richard Holbeche (1850 – 1914)
Vincent’s son Richard followed his aunt Sarah’s example and also wrote a diary in later life.
He was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, and on his return to Sutton from service in India felt compelled to record his memories. His writing in 1893 covers the 1850s and two of its 26 pages refer to the church. It is very helpful in adding to stories about the parishioners of the time as well as the look of the church.
Janet Jordan of the Local History Research Group has written a transcript of Holbeche’s manuscript and this is available by visiting their website.
There is also an extract of the diary with the references to Holy Trinity – Transcription of Richard Holbeche’s diary
Sutton Coldfield Local History Research Group
The recording of the history of our town owes much to the members of this group, established in the 1970s.
Holy Trinity is grateful to many members of the group who have made particular study of aspects of Holy Trinity Church and these include Norman Evans (see separate entry below) and Roger Lea, who has been a much valued history adviser to the Holy Trinity heritage project and member of the Steering Group.
In addition Marian Baxter and Janet Jordan have proved extremely helpful at sourcing material (their own and that of others) and helping to verify facts.
Visit the group’s website.
Norman G Evans
Norman Evans wrote the most extensive history of the church to date which he completed in 1987. He was a member of the Sutton Coldfield Local History Research Group and wrote on an number of local history topics.
His guide was never published, but the typescript was copied and bound so that a number of copies were available and remain extant to this day. His work which includes numerous drawings and plans of his own remains the major source on the church history to date.
Margaret was a parishioner from the 1960s until shortly before her death in 2014. Her husband, Clive, was churchwarden for many years, and she was designated Parish Archivist for some twenty years from the 1980s, doing a good deal of her own research to extend knowledge about the church history as well as writing the church guide book of 1987, basing it on Norman Evans’ Investigation and working with him prior to publication to ensure details were correct.
She contributed articles about different aspects of the church’s history regularly to the monthly parish magazine and in 2000 a booklet bringing some of these together was produced for the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the church. The booklet is entitled “Around the church” and a few hard copies are still available in church.
Andrew M MacFarlane
Andrew has written extensively about the church and wrote a useful summary chapter in Roger Lea’s “Scenes of Sutton’s Past” (Westwood Press, 1989) headed Holy Trinity Parish Church Sutton Coldfield – pages 55-66.
He also wrote a pamphlet in 1978 entitled “The Moat House and its owners” which is an extremely useful source on Sir William Wilson and others linked to this house (and the church!). It is on the Lichfield Road not far from Holy Trinity and was used in recent times by Birmingham City Council as a Teachers’ Centre.
Roger deserves an entry in his own right as the major writer in Sutton Coldfield of the moment. He is Chairman of the Local History Group and to date has written nearly 500 “History spot” articles in the Sutton Coldfield Observer, offering fascinating insights on a wide range of aspects of the Town’s history. He was an adviser on historical matters to the “Heritage at the heart” project at Holy Trinity Church (2017-19) and has written the foreword to the new church history (to be published summer 2020).