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Church of St Nicholas, Solihull

Description: Church of St Nicholas

Grade: II
Date Listed: 5 December 1949
English Heritage Building ID: 218248

OS Grid Reference: SP1622682763
OS Grid Coordinates: 416226, 282763
Latitude/Longitude: 52.4426, -1.7627

Location: Birmingham B92 9EJ

Locality: Solihull
County: Solihull
Country: England
Postcode: B92 9EJ

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Listing Text


Church of Saint Nicholas
SP 18 SE 9/72 5.12.49.

John Standbridge of Warwick designed the building of 1780-1. Extensively altered in 1979, with a new nave to the south (not of special interest).

MATERIALS: Ashlar limestone, slate roofs.

PLAN: Three-bay nave, west tower, shallow apsidal chancel. Attached to the south side is a big new nave of 1979, with entrance, vestries and meeting rooms at the south-west.

EXTERIOR: St Nicholas is hidden in dense woodland. The short west tower of three stages has small louvred bell openings and an embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles. The main faces of the diagonal buttresses have recessed panels with trefoil ends. Above the arched west door is a small two-light window. In the north-west return between the tower and nave is a small vestry added later. The north side of the nave has embattled parapets and three big windows with simple Y-tracery. A continuous string-course serves as hood-mould to all three. Of similar design is the east end, with a shallow three-sided apse and interlaced tracery. The addition of 1979 is very big, and swamps the old church from the south and east. It is rendered, with flat parapets and unsympathetic rectangular windows.

INTERIOR: The tower base serves as a small lobby; the plaster rib-vault (1781) has an armorial shield in the centre. The nave roof has shallow arched trusses crossing scissor-fashion at the ridge, and pierced arcading filling the lozenge at top centre. The roof is either dated to 1781 or a 19th century renewal. The 18th century nave has white plastered walls and a four-centred arch giving onto the small sanctuary. The window openings and chancel arch have freestone dressings with Gothic detailing, such as attached shafts in the jambs, well-observed for the date. In the sanctuary, stone shafts continue up between the triple windows to form springers for a plaster rib-vault with pretty cusping. The vaulting bays have shields with painted armorials. The south wall of the nave was largely removed in 1979 to give access to the new nave, with two plain square piers forming a triple opening in a starkly modern idiom. The responds at the east and west ends are formed from the 18th century window jambs. The nave of 1979 had a higher floor level, intended to avoid cutting through the original box pews, but they were found to be rotten and were removed; the seating now consists of modern chairs. Steps at the east and west ends give access from the old to the new church, which has pale brick walls with windows set high up, and a boarded ceiling.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The sanctuary has Gothic panelled wainscot with a carved frieze at sill level. This and the reserved but pretty Gothic altar rail are probably of 1781. An organ gallery at the west end of the nave rests on two slim shafted columns; its front has blind Gothic arcading. The nave seating and some wall panelling are in light oak, 1979. In the sanctuary are a pair of mid-19th century painted boards with Commandments and Creed. Monuments: Isaac Spooner, 1816, a big Gothic monument signed Seaborne of Birmingham; an outer cusped arch, the tablet within it framed by an ogee arch with paired sub-arches. Left of the chancel arch, Gothick monuments to Abraham Spooner d. 1788 and his wife Anne (d. 1783), builders of the church. Both have Neoclassical urns on Gothic tabernacles. On the north nave wall, a Gothic tablet to Abraham Spooner Lillingston, d. 1836, signed by Wilkes of Birmingham. Also by Wilkes, a tablet to Jane, Dowager Countess of Rosse, d. 1837. Several good minor tablets in the same manner. The east window is by Cox, Sons Buckley & Co., London, c. 1891-7. In the clear-glazed north nave windows are set four roundels of Continental enamelled glass from the old St Nicholas, three (Faith, Hope and Charity) apparently 18th century, the other (Last Supper) dated 1532. They were collected here c.1937-9.

HISTORY: The church sits in wooded parkland north of Solihull, originally part of the manor of Elmdon. The estate was bought in 1760 by Abraham Spooner (c.1690-1788), a Birmingham banker. He began building the Neoclassical Elmdon Hall in 1780; it was completed in 1795 by his son Isaac (1736-1816). The medieval parish church, being "weak and dilapidated", was rebuilt for Abraham Spooner in 1781 on the old site, effectively becoming Elmdon Hall's estate church. After long decline, the hall was demolished in 1956 and its grounds became a public park. John Standbridge's earliest known designs were for Charlecote House, from 1765, and he was noted as 'an architect of skill' in Warwick by 1777. He was still listed as a surveyor in Birmingham in 1805-7. His designs for Moseley Hall, Worcs., were in a Neoclassical style reminiscent of the Wyatts.

Colvin, H., Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840 (1995), 914.
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660-1851.
Pevsner. N and Wedgwood, W., Buildings of England, Warwickshire (1966), 288.
Victoria County Histories, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4: Hemlingford Hundred (1947), 67-69
Lichfield Joint Record Office, Faculty to rebuild (1780), B/C/5/1780/423-6; signed plan and elevation.

The Church of St Nicholas is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* By John Standbridge of Warwick, 1781, the Gothic detail well-observed for the date.
* A small estate church to Elmdon Hall, with low tower, galleried nave and a pretty plaster-vaulted sanctuary
* Some original fittings including panelling, communion rail, and good Late Georgian tablets to the Spooner family

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.