Shadows and silhouettes – the grave art of St Michaels churchyard, Brierley Hill


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

W. H. Davies

It was a beautiful evening. Arriving early at St Michael’s for a Community First meeting gave me an opportunity to admire the shadows, silhouettes, symmetries and artistic brilliance contained in the churchyard.

There’s almost nothing on grave artists in general on that source of infinite knowledge, Google. It seems to me that the work of the stone masons was something exceptional as these pictures illustrate.









Brierley Hill Festival of Christmas Trees 2013 – photos

Seriously.  You have to go and see it.

Brierley Hill Festival of Christmas Trees got underway today (Saturday 7th December), and it runs until next Sunday (15th December).

It was a privilege to be asked to open the Festival and to turn on the lights.  Humbling too.

At least 28 individuals, organisations and local businesses contributed a tree – a fantastic number for a festival which is in its first year.  It is heartwarming when our local community comes together like this in Brierley Hill and it makes me very proud to live in the town.

Although you’ll spot from the pictures that I’m not the greatest of photographers, you can click on any image to see a Flickr slideshow of the trees.  In truth to get the impact you have to go and see for yourself.

They came in all shapes and sizes, a wide range of materials and lots of different themes.  But all were contributed with a generosity of spirit which is one of the great strengths of our town.

The contributors to this year’s festival were (in no particular order):

Bob and Maggie Titmus; Early Years Nursery, Adelaide Street; Brierley Hill Primary School Art Club; Brierley Hill Keep Fit Group; Brierley Hill Market Traders; Churches Together In Brierley Hill; Unit 67 Ltd, Developers; 3rd Brierley Hill Beavers; 3rd Brierley Hill Cubs; St Michael’s Flower Arrangers; Estrella Dance Academy; West Midland Chair Covers; Freeman’s Family Australia; St John’s Brockmoor, Messy Church; The Withers; Brierley Hill Civic Society; St John’s Brockmoor ‘Open the Book’; ‘Lest we forget’; Ann Bishop; The 3 C’s Group, Hawbush Memorial Tree; Stourbridge Flower Club; Christmas Cards to Each Other; Insight for Carers; Beryl Fisher; Noel Simpson; Brierley Hill Children’s Centre – ‘Sure Start’

Well done to all involved.  Next year will be even better!


Travels with Pevsner: “As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any flats”

PevsnerNot sure what to make of Brierley Hill’s entries in Pevsner’s ‘The Buildings of England’.  The Staffordshire volume (1974), the last of 46, covers the Brierley Hill area.  Two comments caused me to raise my eyebrows.

In the foreword, Pevsner acknowledges the help of Edward Hubbard who had planned the routes for Pevsner to take when he surveyed buildings throughout Staffordshire…”taking in his stride such obstacles as the Black Country and the Potteries”.  An obstacle!!! how dare he!  Still an interesting outsider’s view illustrating how our sub-region is perceived.

In the Brierley Hill section of the work six local buildings have merited inclusion.

The first of these is St Michael’s church.  The entry (p80) reads:

ST MICHAEL, Church Street. 1765. Brick. The w tower resorted and largely rebuilt in 1900.  The top is hardly facsimile. Side of four bays with the two middle ones projecting and pedimented.  Two tiers of windows, arched below and small and segment-arched about. Brick quoins. The chancel more ornate inside.  it must belong to the restoration of 1873-88. The church faces ten new high blocks of flats. As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any. (My emphasis)

What on earth did he mean by that? “As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any”?

There’s no explanation and Pevsner went to his grave in 1983 so I suppose that the remark will be forever unexplained.  How odd though.

For the record the other entries (also p80) are:

CHRISTCHURCH, High Street, Quarry Bank. By Thomas Smith, 1845-6. A Commissioners’ church. Yellow brick, lancet Gothic transepts, chancel of 1900. Thin hammerbeam roof.

ST JOHN, High Street, Brockmoor. by Thomas Smith, 1844-5. Also a Commissioners’ church. Neo-Norman, of plum and yellow brick. Bellcote; no tower. Transecpts and a short chancel.

(ST JOHN, Dudley Wood. 1931 by Sir Charles Nicholson. GR)

ST MARY (R.C.), High Street, E of the parish church. 1872-3 by E.W. Pugin. Brick, nave and chancel in one; no tower. Windows to the (rituals) s with plate tracery. A typical asymmetrical, busy E.W.P. front, and inside typical of E.W.P. capitals.

and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly:

CIVIC BUILDINGS, Bank Street. Of brick, large and not symmetrical. by J.P. Moore, early fifties to 1962.

Pensnett also has an entry, again a church:

ST MARK, High Street. 1846-9 by J.M. Derick. A large, serious, decidedly High Victorian building.  it cost £6,700. Small ashlar, with a transept and an unfortunately incomplete s tower.  Mainly lancet windows. Round piers, high nave with clerestory, high chancel. – STAINED GLASS. The E window probably of c.1850.



Nikolaus Pevsner – Wikipedia

E. W. Pugin

Church Commissioners – Wikipedia

List of commissioners churches in the English Midlands – Wikipedia

Brierley Hill Team – covering local churches






First ever Brierley Hill Festival of Christmas Trees


The first ever Christmas Tree festival is taking part in Brierley Hill from Saturday 7th – Sunday 15th December 2013.

St Michael’s Church are asking individuals and organisations to loan them a Christmas tree (2’-6’) decorated to reflect their activity.  Novelty and humour – in keeping with the setting – are very much welcomed.

Trees can be installed on Wednesday 4th December (10am-4pm) or Thursday 5th December (noon-7pm).

The festival week.

Further details and an entry form can be found here: