Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sir Alfred Herbert and St Barbara's Church, Earlsdon

Sir Alfred was considerably involved with helping the inspirational vicar, the Rev Claud Russell, with the building of a new church at Earlsdon, Coventry in 1929-1931. and the Lady Chapel at the church is dedicated to the memory of his second wife, Florence. A later vicar of St Barbara's, Canon Cooke, married his granddaughter June Hollick to Capt Milo Vapenik at Stoneleigh in 1941 and Claude Russell and another local vicar, the Rev AP Wales, remained good family friends for many years.

The history of the church can be found on the church's website here .

The original consecration of the church was reported in The Coventry Standard of 3rd October 1931 thus:

"St Barbara's Earlsdon - Consecration by the Bishop of Coventry - Tribute to Vigorous Leadership - Canon CAH Russell"

On Saturday afternoon, with dignified ceremonial, and in the presence of a large and representative congregation, the Bishop of Coventry (Dr Mervyn Haigh) consecrated the first portion of the new permanent church of St Barbara, situated on the corner of Rochester Road and Beechwood Avenue, Earlsdon. The consecration of the church marks the culmination of a strenuous ten years leadership by the present Vicar, CAH Russell, backed by a no less eager and enthusiastic congregation. It was a happy thought for the Bishop to choose the occasion to make an announcement that he proposed to confer upon Mr Russell an honorary canonry in the Cathedral.

The first sods for preparing the site of the new church were cut on Sept 29th, 1929, the foundation stone was laid by Sir Alfred Herbert on September 28th 1930, and the pillars of the western porch, which is to be given by Freemasons to whom the Vicar is chaplin, were set up at an imposing Masonic service this year. Services were transferred from the old church in Palmerston Road to the new church on Sunday.

The New Church

The new Church has been built by Messrs Harris of Coventry, from the designs of Messrs Austin and Paley of Lancaster and Mr HT Jackson, architiect has acted as Clerk of the Works. It is built in a modernised version of the Mediaeval style and consists of a nave with side aisles, a chancel terminating in an apse, an organ chamber and vestries on the north side, and a porch and a Lady Chapel on the south side. The north aisle and the west front are of a temporary nature, and when funds permit the nave will be extended another bay and a half, the north aisle will be rebuilt, and the permanent west front with the Masonic porch erected. The present accomodation is for 416 people. The design is of the 14th and 15th Centuries, the aisle and clerestorey windows being square-headed and treceried, and those of the apse pointed with the exception of the east window which is circular and is filled with stained glass. The exterior material used is strong and durable Staffordshire brick with internal facings of sand stocks made locally.

St Barbara's is claimed to be the first Church of England church in which the use of reconstructed stone has been permitted. It is a prefect imitation of natural stone and is more durable and less porous. The interior of the chancel, apse and Lady Chapel, and of the nave piers and arches, are of this stone. The rooks are of Columbian pine and the lighting is concealed in the roof timbers. The ancient pulpit, dated 1661, is of a type known as the wine glass, and has been given by Mr J Rochelle Thomas in memory of Jane Rochelle Thomas. The chancel is paved with terrazzo and the sanctuary of the Lady Chapel with marble. The choir stalls have been made from seats removed from the Cathedral.

The Lady Chapel, which is the gem of the building, is divided from the chancel by three arches, in which are elaborately carved oak screens. The chapel forms a memorial to Lady Herbert and the cost of its sumptuous decorations has been borne by Sir Alfred Herbert. It is divided from the nave by a carved oak screen. The three side windows and the eastern rose window contain stained glass. The walls are oak panelled with carved figures of saints on either side of the altar. The roof is of hammer-beam construction and the hammer-beams are carved to represent angels with outstretched wings. The chapel contains a stone with an inscription in memory of Lady Herbert.

The gifts received for the furnishing of the church are too numerous to mention. Sir Alfred Herbert and Mr and Mrs H Mander have given the choir vestry, and Alderman J.I. Bates (a generous contributor to the building fund), has given 50 chairs. [Alderman Bates also contributed to the building of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and a gallery there is named in his honour]. The approximate cost of the building, excluding furnishing and Sir Alfred Herbert's gifts, is £16,000, of which £4000 remains to be raised.

The Service

The congregation filled the new Church long before the ceremony was timed to commence. A procession of clergy entered and took their places in the chancel. They included the following: The Revs Canon Conder (Leamington), Canon TW Downing (Knowle), CVB Robinson and AM Pryde (St Mark's, Coventry), HC James (St Thomas's), GW Clitheroe (Holy Trinity), LEW Bosley (Radford), GHK Pedley and DA Foster (the Cathedral), PA Morson (St Mary Magdalene), and EW Bryan (Whitnash). Among the congregation were the Mayor of Coventry (Ald Batchelor), Sir Alfred Herbert, Mrs Pepper and the Misses Pepper (relatives of the late Lady Herbert). Mr and Mrs Harold Blyth (Leamington), Mr and Mrs J Rochelle Thomas and Miss Rochelle Thomas, Col and Mrs WF Wyley, Ald J.I Bates, Conncillors OM Flynn, TE Friswell,and J Holt, Mrs GA Dickins (Warwick), Mrs AHM Russell, Mrs CAH Russell, Miss M Russell, Miss Evelyn Russell, Mr and Mrs Paley (Lancaster), Mrs WH Herbert and Miss Herbert, (Leicester), Mrs Alfred Herbert, Mr HT Jackson (Clerk of Works), Mr EJ Corbett (Chairman of the Building Committee), Mr JW Lee and Mr WH Spencer.

Punctually and three o'clock the Bishop was heard knocking at the west door demanding admittance. Within was the Vicar (the Rev CAH Russell), with the churchwardens (Mr R Head and Mr H Clements), and the choir. The door of the Church was opened and the Vicar petitioned the Bishop to consecrate the Church. The Bishop having expressed his readiness to do so, the Vicar delivered the key of the church to the Bishop, and after a prayer at the Church door, the procession passed to the sanctuary singing Psalm 122. "I was glad when they said unto me'. The Vicar was accompanied by the Archdeacon of Warwick, Ven H St B Holland (who took the place of the Archdeacon of Coventry), the Provost of the Cathedral ( the Very Rev CE Morton), Mr Walter Browett, (Diocesan Registrar), Mr PS Nichols (Chapter Clerk), and the Bishop's Chaplains (the Revs AK Swallow and R Jones).

After more prayers, the Bishop and his procession visited the appointed places including the font, the praying desk, the lectern, the Chancel steps, the pulpit and the two altars where the Archdeacon read appropriate passages of
Scripture, and the Bishop offered prayer. Then, seated in a chair with a table before him, the Bishop ordered the sentence of consecration to be read by the Diocesan Registrar. This having been done, the Bishop signed it and ordered it to be enrolled and preserved in the miniments of the Diocesan Registry.

The Bishop pronounced the sentence of consecration, setting apart the Church in the name of St Barbara, and then proceeded to the entrance of the Chancel, where he traced the consecration cross on a pillar. During the singing of the hymn 'City of God', a mason carved the cross in the stone. The Bishop then addressed the congregation, and during the singing of the hymn 'O Worship the King', a collection was taken for the building fund. Prayers and the Benediction offered by the Bishop concluded an impressive service. Mr E Alcott (choirmaster and organist) officiated at the organ and the service was sung in a reverent and dignified manner.

[The Coventry Standard then prints the whole of the Bishop's sermon]

After the service the visiting clergy were entertained to tea in the Parish Room.

The ceremony of consecration was concluded on Sunday morning when the Bishop was celebrant at at an early celebration. Special services were held during the day, the Provost preaching in the morning and the Archdeacon of Coventry (Dr JW Hunkin) in the evening.

The Coventry Standard Friday and Saturday October 2 & 3. 1931
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