Published on October 28th, 2014 | by Bill Dargue0
New patron for the Castle Bromwich Bell Restoration Project
The ‘secret’ of the timber-framed church of Castle Bromwich encased in 18th-century brick in the must be the best known secret in Birmingham! To recap: During the 15th century a large timber-framed church was added to the small Norman chapel. This was encased in brick in 1731, making it unique among English churches.
As part of the project to restore Castle Bromwich church bells, bellringer and local historian Bill Dargue has investigated some of the people involved with the church over the past 950 years.
No records survive from the Middle Ages and the wooden church has never been accurately dated. However, it may have been a project of Sir Walter Devereux. He was born of a Herefordshire family whose ancestor fought at Hastings with William the Conqueror. Good marriages were important for the gentry and at age 13 Walter was married to 7-year-old Anne Ferrers, sole heiress of the Staffordshire barony of Ferrers which brought with it various titles and estates, including the manor of Castle Bromwich.
The location of Sir Walter’s manor house is unknown. The site may lie beneath the Chelmsley Collector Road or under Castle Bromwich Hall. The new lord wanted to make his mark and building a substantial church was a statement that there was ‘a new man in town!’
Evidence of the medieval belfry survives in the present church roof Sir Walter Devereux wanted his new church to be heard as well as seen.
These were the days of the Wars of the Roses. As a Yorkist, Walter took up arms in support of Richard III. And it was alongside King Richard that Walter was cut down at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
His son made his peace with Henry VII and Castle Bromwich passed down the family, coming to Sir Edward, as a wedding gift from his father on his marriage to Catherine Arden of Park Hall. Edward Devereux was MP for Tamworth and High Sheriff of Warwickshire. He too wanted his presence felt and built a new Castle Bromwich Hall in 1599. Created 1st Baronet Devereux of Castle Bromwich by King James I, he now lies buried in a magnificent tomb in Aston church.
The 200-year Devereux association with Castle Bromwich ended in 1657 when the hall was sold to Orlando Bridgeman, whose descendant Rt Hon Richard Bridgeman, 7th Earl of Bradford is lord of the manor to this day.
However, the title of Baronet Devereux of Castle Bromwich continued and has been inherited by successive members of the family down to the present holder, Viscount Hereford, the Rt Hon Robin Devereux. He is the 16th to hold the title and recently accepted an invitation with Lord Bradford to be a patron of the Castle Bromwich Bell Restoration Project.
For more information of the bellringers’ efforts to raise £100,000 to keep the bells ringing in Castle Bromwich, go to cbbells.webs.com.