Where is Hill?

To many there is a puzzle ... where is Hill? The Church of St James lies at the heart of an area more commonly known as Mere Green, that is where the shops are and the roads meet.

In fact hardly anything now remains of the ancient village of  Hill. However in post Domesday times the .... Manor of Sutton Coldfield was divided into four 'field systems': Maney, Great Sutton, Little Sutton and Hill.... Hill was important. There is still evidence of pre-Enclosure Strip Farming to be seen in the Parish.

The name Hill Village Road begins to give the game away and in fact centre of Hill was around its junction with Sherifoot Lane and Butlers Lane. All the usual tradesmen of the time were there and the stagecoach from Birmingham to cities in the North passed through on a daily basis.

 

History of St James' Church

St. James' Church is situated north of Sutton Coldfield in Mere Green Road.          
It was built by D.R
Hill in 1834-35 and partially rebuilt by C.E. Bateman in 1906-8.
The older part consists of a nave and west tower constructed of brick, rendered on its outer surface, with lancets and ... thin buttresses. 

The present architect refers to its "meagre construction". The later parts are constructed from red sandstone and consist of the chancel, Lady Chapel, vestries and organ loft, with fine stained glass.
There is level access via a paved path to the south porch,
and a ground floor toilet exists within
the building (though not to disabled specification).

It is a Grade 2 Listed building distinguished by its two distinct parts. In around 1830, when the Hill district of Sutton Coldfield was still part of the parish of Holy Trinity and had a population of about 1000, it was decided that a chapel was needed for the people of this part of the parish. Building was carried out in 1834-35 under architect Daniel Rollinson Hill, and the arms of William IV are displayed on the front of the west gallery. The original St. James comprised of a small chancel, a simple nave with a pitched slate roof, and a west tower with pinnacles. It was of brick construction, rendered and coursed to resemble ashlar, and it also had thin buttresses, string courses, lancets and tower pinnacles in poor quality sandstone. In the course of the 19th Century a single bell was hung in the tower.

In 1853 Hill became a separate parish.  

At the start of the 20th Century, following significant population growth, it was decided to demolish the original church and rebuild in a much grander style: the architect was Charles Edward Bateman. Work was done in 1906-8 with the demolition of the chancel and its rebuilding on a
larger scale. Transepts, crossing, organ loft and vestries were also added, all the new building being in Hollington sandstone ashlar. The rebuilding of the nave and tower was not, however, carried out, and the original building of1834-5 still stands west of the crossing. St. James Church therefore remains as an incomplete building project and records in its fabric the changes in the local population and their aspirations.

There is a fine Arts and Crafts interior to the chancel with a splendid east window and sumptuous reredos and organ surround. The opus work to the altar front is also of note. There is more Arts and Crafts work in the Lady Chapel, which also has an interesting reredos.

At the church's centenary in 1935 extensive work was carried out, with various repairs and in particular the provision of new nave pews in two blocks with a central aisle, in place of the original three blocks with two aisles. The font was moved to a new position in the south west corner of the nave. Then in 1985 the organ was extended with the addition of a third manual. It is now a notable instrument, and the church has good and lively acoustics.

Between 1990 and 1997 extensive restoration and refurbishment took place.  The font was again moved to a position at the east end of the nave. The tower roof was renewed and the nave roof was re-slated. Decayed stonework to the pinnacles, nave windows, and string courses was replaced with Hollington sandstone of good quality. The vestries were re-ordered, as was the gallery, and the west end of the nave and the east wall were restored. The exterior of the nave and tower which had earlier been splaterdash rendered was painted pink in an attempt to make a harmonious link with the red Hollington sandstone of the chancel.  Level access for those with disabilities was provided by making a paved path all around the church and to the south transept entrance. 

There is a large churchyard with many gravestones and memorials in a variety of styles and materials reflecting changing tastes. There are many mature trees in the churchyard, although none are subject to Tree Preservation Orders. In spring the churchyard is notable for its profusion of daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells.

Being, as yet, an incomplete building project St. James' Church has never attained a definitive form, and has undergone many modifications over the years. This continuing process is in itself a major part of the building's historical significance. 

In 2006 the Church Hall was extended and refurbished. The newly named Church Centre is used
by many local organisations, is an important parish resource and a vital part of our outreach into the community.

 

Note.

The orientation of St James' is north/south but for the sake of clarity we refer throughout this description as though the sanctuary end is the east end.