Kings Norton - St Joseph and St Helen

Station Road, Kings Norton, Birmingham B30

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A late Gothic Revival church built in 1933, to designs by G. B. Cox. The interior has high-quality original and later fittings and furnishings, also designed by Cox.

The population of the Kings Norton area increased with the growth of industry after the canal and railways arrived in the nineteenth century. A Catholic mission was founded in 1902 and a school, dedicated to St Joseph, was opened in 1907, doubling up as a place of worship. In 1911 a presbytery was built. In the same year, Kings Norton, originally a village in Worcestershire, was incorporated into the City of Birmingham.

The parish was originally dedicated to St Joseph, but after the present church was built in 1933, it was also dedicated to St Helen, in recognition of the generosity of Mrs Ellen Ryan Francis, who paid for it (and who had also given Harvington Hall to the diocese ten years earlier). The architect was G. B. Cox of Birmingham.

The Grant family gave £5,000 for lavish new sanctuary fittings in the 1950s; these were also designed by Major G. B. Cox, of Harrison & Cox. The contractors for this work were R. L. Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham, the mosaics were by the Manchester firm of Ludwig Oppenheimer and the Birmingham Guild supplied the altar furnishings. The Grant family’s gift is recorded on an inscribed plaque in the narthex. 

The church is in Gothic Revival style, with Decorated tracery to the windows. It has a conventional plan form with west narthex, six-bay aisleless nave, two-bay sanctuary and projections to north and south, the former for a chapel and the latter for sacristy and a confessional. The building is faced in red brick laid in English garden wall bond, with stone dressings, and the roof is clay tiled with coped verges and a stone bellcote marking the sanctuary. Rainwater goods are plastic downpipes, steel box gutters and cast iron hoppers. The west front has a central doorway within a moulded stone architrave, statue of St Joseph in a niche and a large five-light pointed arched window above. Gabled projections north and south of the narthex contain a side porch to the north and the baptistery to the south. The nave has pointed windows with two-light tracery. The east end is blind, the sanctuary being lit by similar pointed windows from the side.

 

The interior is entered from the narthex at the west end; this has a marble floor and has been widened to take in the west end of the nave, from which it is separated by a glazed Gothic oak screen. The former baptistery to the south is now a piety shop, with a sexfoil circular window and ironwork gates decorated with quatrefoils. The spacious and lofty nave has an exposed roof with arch-braced trusses and side walls articulated by a pointed blind arcade with stone arches, suggesting that expansion into aisles was planned for; walls are plastered. The floor is woodblock. The west gallery over the narthex has a Gothic oak panelled front, and a pipe organ. A fine rood hangs from the sanctuary arch. The sanctuary, which has a pointed vaulted timber ceiling, was refitted in the late 1950s, to designs by architect G. B. Cox of Harrison & Cox and paid for by the Grant family. The good-quality fittings include marble altar (now separated from its reredos, cut down slightly and brought forward), floor and steps, a stone ambo, and the Gothic cusped arched reredos with a mosaic of the Virgin and Child flanked by St Joseph, St Helen and kneeling angels, by Ludwig Oppenheimer of Manchester. The apsed side chapel has a plainer altar, and other fittings include a square stone font (relocated), carved wood Stations of the Cross and oak nave pews. The west window contains good-quality stained glass in the late nineteenth century tradition.  

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: G. B. Cox

Original Date: 1933

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed