Rectors of Holy Trinity

Rectors board in South porch, prior to 2016 re-ordering

One of the most useful historical records in Holy Trinity is the list of Rectors from 1250 to the present.

This board used to be in the South porch until the new entrance was created from the West side, and it is now in place, beautifully restored, to the right of the entrance as people come in to the church.

We are not clear when the board was first erected or where the information came from relating to early names listed there.  Many sources give Gregory Harold as the first incumbent in 1305, but the board starts with Simon de Daventry in 1250 and then a lengthy gap before Richard de Bello in 1294 who re-appears just three years after Gregory Harold in 1308.

Rectors of Sutton Coldfield, 2018

Fourteenth century

Former Parish Archivist, Margaret Gardner, reflected on the period of the Black Death and how it might have affected Sutton Coldfield.  She notes that for the period 1345 to 1361 there were five Rectors in post. The Black Death itself is dated as arriving in 1348.  Combined with the effects of famine following ruined harvests, the plague claimed huge numbers of lives and the clergy were overstretched looking after parishioners and administering Last Rites.  At this point some dioceses had lost  half of their monks and clergy.  It is difficult to establish how Sutton was affected, and it seems to have been quite sparsely populated at that time.

Changes under Henry VIII

Interesting information has come to light about the Rector from 1504-16, one John Taylor, LLD, (c1480-1534) who was born in Barton-under-Needwood in Staffordshire.

The eldest of triplet boys, he and his brothers were presented to the King as something of an attraction, after the King had been hunting nearby.  He was apparently so taken with these three boys that he afforded them royal patronage and promised to pay for their education.

All three were indeed educated to the level of Doctor and secured preferment.

Historian Roger Lea writes:

“1533 was the year when King Henry VIII declared himself head of the church in England instead of the Pope, and England became a protestant country. The effect on the parish church was slight at first, as the new religion gradually took root – for example the Rector of Sutton, Ralph Wendon, appointed by the Crown in 1527, remained as Rector until 1563, peacefully implementing the changes demanded by successive monarchs and Archbishops. Puritanism gained ground after 1600, and idolatrous images and other relics of the Roman Catholic past were removed, with the exception of Bishop Vesey’s monument. The conduct of services in English and the widespread availability of the Bible in English had been an incentive to people to learn to read, and the whitewashed walls of the church bore the words of the Lord’s Prayer , the ten commandments and other texts in place of the wall paintings, images of saints, and stained glass of the middle ages.” The image showing variations in religious persuasion from 1500-1740 is from Norman Evans Investigation of the church, page 140.

Variations in religious persuasion

Troublesome priests

John Burges, Rector of Sutton from 1617 – 1635, was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison for an overly Puritan sermon given before King James I, and his successor Anthony Burgess was famous for his sermons – he preached to Parliament in the 1640s and was a chaplain in Cromwell’s New Model Army.

On October 20th 1714 the rabble-rousing Jacobite Henry Sacheverell preached from the pulpit to a congregation including two hundred Birmingham partisans, nearly causing a riot.The Rev. R.B.Riland, Rector in 1772, wrote “two sermons have been preached every Lord’s day in this church ever since I have been incumbent thereof”. The Rev. F. Blick was his curate, and continued as curate when John Riland became Rector in 1790. Mr. Blick preached a sermon (from the present pulpit) in 1791 which infuriated the Rector – the sermon seemed to imply that men should be guided by their consciences as well as by the scriptures, and could be interpreted as being aimed at particular gentlemen.

The sermon was published and sold over 1600 copies, but in spite of widespread support Mr. Blick had to resign. His replacement, Rev. Joseph Mendham, preached another fiery sermon from the pulpit on Sunday 27 February 1820 on the occasion of the death of King George III. This was published – after six pages, Mendham turns to the qualities of George III as a defender of the protestant religion, and the remaining seven pages are a diatribe against Catholics and against any relaxation of the restrictions under which Catholics suffered: ‘We owe it…to the true fortitude of our late Sovereign that the subjects and zealots of a foreign, a corrupt, an arrogant, and a sanguinary church, have not become part of the legislation of a protestant country’. ” (source: Roger Lea)

William Watson, the Rector from 1662 – 1689 who immediately preceded John Riland I, was, like him presented to the living by the then patron, John Shilton (II).

Watson was born in Evesham in 1613 and went to Lincoln College Oxford where he gained his MA. A descendant of this Rector called in to Holy Trinity in June 2018 and furnished further information as follows:

“My direct ancestor, always referred to as Doctor William Watson*, the Rector, was buried at Sutton Coldfield on 5th May 1689.”

*The Church of England Database gives him as M.A. but no mention of a Doctorate.  [This concurs with Holy Trinity’s Rectors’ Board].

Further information is here.

There is no record in the church of this Rector’s burial but it is highly likely that he was buried in the church.  Maybe any memorial has disappeared or was not commissioned.  It is not known why Watson was given the living particularly, when he was from Worcestershire, although 1662 was just after the restoration of the monarchy (1660) and Sutton had been a Puritan stronghold, so this may have influenced a decision at this point.

Eighteenth century

The beginning of the famous 300 years of a family living, documented by the Revd William Kirkpatrick Riland Bedford in the nineteenth century, coincides with the start of the eighteenth century (although the 300 years was actually only 200 as far as one can ascertain).

In 1706 John Riland (who had been Rector since 1689) acquired the advowson or patronage, also known as the ‘living’. This enabled the patronage to remain in his family, and for each Rector to appoint his successor.  The Rilands were known in the nineteenth century as the Riland Bedfords.

The line developed as follows:

1720 – death of John Riland (1). Succeeded by his son Richard Riland.

1757 – death of Richard.  His son Richard Bisse Riland the new incumbent.

1790 – death of Richard Bisse Riland.  Succeeded by his brother, a second John Riland.

Richard Bisse Riland, Rector 1757-90

Nineteenth century

The Riland Bedford timeline continues through this century as follows:

1822 – death of John Riland (II).  The grandson of Richard Bisse Riland (son of Lydia, nee Riland) now took his place as Rector – the Revd William Riland Bedford.

1843 – William died suddenly and his son was too young to succeed to the living.  He was succeeded by his cousin, Dr Richard Williamson (son of Phoebe nee Riland and also a grandson of Richard Bisse Riland).

1850 – Richard Williamson, who had also been headmaster of Westminster School, took the living at Pershore in Worcestershire.  He was followed by The Revd William Kirkpatrick Riland Bedford, son of William Riland Bedford, who was now old enough to succeed to the living.

1865 – Dr Williamson died.  Sarah Holbeche commissioned a window to his memory (in the Vesey Chapel)

1892 – William Kirkpatrick retired after 42 years as Rector, and his eldest son, William Campbell Riland Bedford succeeded him.

William Campbell Riland Bedford is the last of this line.  His tenure takes us into the twentieth century and the end of the Riland Bedford dynasty!

John Riland (II)
William Kirkpatrick Riland Bedford
Canon W C Riland Bedford. From Roger Lea, scenes from Sutton past

Twentieth century

The opening years of the century saw the retirement of the last of the Riland-Bedford line of Rectors, Revd William Campbell Riland Bedford.  With his retirement in 1909 came the move of the patronage (also called the advowson or living) to the recently created Diocese of Birmingham, formed in 1905.

Rector CW Barnard photo by Speight.

The first appointment by the Bishop of Birmingham, was Revd Charles W Barnard. Charles Barnard (1856-1928) was not only the new Rector of Holy Trinity in a new diocese of Birmingham. Following a formidable dynasty of Rectors, his incumbency also ran through the period of the first world war with its profound effects on attitudes to church and society. Before that he must have enjoyed the celebrations that took place to celebrate the coronation of George V in 1911.

A splendid commemorative booklet outlines the many activities taking place, with bell-ringing from midnight heralding the start of proceedings on Thurs 22nd June and then at points throughout the day! A service was held at the church at 10.30 at which the Rector preached the sermon, and a procession paraded to and from this consisting of military bands and members of public bodies. It is poignant to think that this presumably joyous occasion preceded what would become our annual sombre service of Remembrance and parade at Holy Trinity following not one but two world wars.

He also oversaw the initial work to paint the church ceilings resulting in the decoration of the chancel ceiling. The remainder of the work was delayed by the outbreak of war and, as with other areas of parish life, would not be completed or resumed until the 1920s.

It is not often that we see the human face of the Rectors. Sometimes this comes across in newspaper cuttings or magazine articles, but we have none of the latter in relation to Barnard. However, with the stationing of the WAAC in Sutton Park during the war, a number of people moved to the area for war work. One was a young nurse called Mela Brown Constable from Badsey in Worcestershire. She stayed at the hostel on Manor Hill and wrote throughout the war to her fiancé, Cyril Sladden. While she was only in Sutton for a relatively short time, she attended the church and mentioned Barnard as follows:

Nov 21st 1917 – I am getting to know quite a lot of people at Sutton even outside the camp. The Rector, Canon Barnard, has called, and has introduced me to several very nice people, who have called too so I’m quite in the swim, eh what?!

There is also a good biography of Charles Barnard on the Badsey Society website here. Charles retired in 1926 to Leamington Spa where he died in August 1928. The biography mentions the death of his wife Agnes in 1913 and the fact that he was buried with her in the cemetery in Rectory Road in 1928.

Canon William Lyon, the successor to William Barnard from 1926 to 1931, subsequently became Archdeacon of Loughborough.  Nationally, his service saw the floods and the General Strike of 1926 and a solar eclipse in 1927.

In the parish he was innovative in bringing back the parish magazine which had ceased publication with the outbreak of World War One. Volume 1, number 1 was in July 1926 and the magazine continues to this day under the name “Trinity”.  The launch was hugely successful – 900 copies were sold of that first issue.

Lyon also oversaw the building of St Chad’s in 1927.  Holy Trinity itself underwent a total re-decoration and the formation of the Vesey Chapel in 1929, which is very much as we still see it today.

Canon WJ lyon

George Harvey followed Canon Lyon serving the church through the second world war.

This period included the Jubilee celebrations for George V of 1935 and the creation of the Vesey Gardens in 1939.

George Harvey

John Boggon became Rector in 1945.  During his tenure the organ of 1901 was replaced by the 1950 organ built into the tower and a window dedicated to Bishop Barnes was installed in the South Chapel in 1956.

He also gave a window in memory of his wife Mary Boggon in 1965, which is also in the South Chapel.

John Boggon

With the tenure of Canon Alaric Rose ( 1966-1984) we come to the period of living memory for many of our congregation still worshipping at the church.  Alaric was much-loved as the tributes to him from churchwardens who served under him testify.

He had celebrated 50 years in the ministry  shortly before his retirement and the inner doors to the South porch (the main entrance to the church at this time) were given in recognition of this.  Sadly his death followed soon after his retirement in 1985.

An interesting anecdote is that his wife, Mary, was not only the daughter of a clergyman, but her four older brothers were also priests.

This picture from the Church Times in 1980 shows the brothers with Alaric at the celebration of  the 70th birthday of the oldest (Alaric is on the far right).

A further picture from the local paper marks the retirement of Alaric.  Pictured on the left are the Ven. John Cooper (then Archdeacon of Aston) and his wife Gill.

John  subsequently served, by his choice,  as a curate at Holy Trinity (1993-6) prior to retirement, working with us at the end of Canon Longman’s tenure and the interregnum that followed.

At the point when Alaric retired, his son, John, was Vicar of St Peter’s Maney.

Canon Ted Longman (Rector from 1984-1996) initiated discussions on both the re-ordering of the interior of the church and the construction of a new church hall.

The latter came to fruition in the splendid Trinity Centre, completed in 1996, which we still enjoy today.  The image was in the local paper when Ted was appointed (right).  He is also pictured in 2016 (far right).

Ted was succeeded by the 50th Rector – the Revd Dan Connolly (1996-1998) who was the last Rector to live in the large house next to the church on Coleshill Street on the far side of Trinity Hill.

Ted Longman, 1984
Ted and Rose Longman

Twenty-first century

There followed a lengthy interregnum before the appointment of Revd James Langstaff as Rector in 2000.  The date conveniently takes us into the new century with a new Rector at the helm – the induction was on 18th February.

James had been Bishop’s Chaplain to Rt Revd Mark Santer, Bishop of Birmingham, and had also taken some services during the period of interregnum.  He was warmly welcomed, but sadly for Holy Trinity, his talents which led to his popularity and successful introduction of a number of positive changes at the church were recognised elsewhere and he was appointed Suffragan Bishop of Lynn in 2004.  Since then he has been consecrated Bishop of Rochester.  James is one of only two Rectors from the church to have gone on to be a Bishop.

Our current Rector, Revd W. John Routh, joined us in 2006. For his first four years he also remained priest-in-charge of St Chad’s Church, Sutton Coldfield, where he had previously been Vicar for six years. John has had oversight of the process and completion of the re-ordering of Holy Trinity Church, the planning for which began during James Langstaff’s time.

James Langstaff
John Routh