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Aston Parish Church Restoration and Reordering Project

Aston Parish Church spire as seen from M6

Aston Parish Church’s Importance to the Area

Aston Parish Church on approach to Birmingham The most noticeable thing about your journey into Birmingham on the M6 motorway, is the spire of Aston Parish Church (Saints Peter and Paul) backed, on the hillside, by the stately home of Aston Hall.

There has been a church on the site in all three millennia. The tower is the oldest part of the present structure, dating from 1480. This, and the cathedral-sized Victorian church attached to it, make a clear statement about the one-time wealth of this area – until the Holte estate was divided up and sold off in 1817. The history of this church cannot be separated from the history of Aston and its local people. Now, the building is in need of repair and renovation.


Aston’s importance to Birmingham can be highlighted by the fact that in 1989, at the Birmingham centenary celebrations, Aston Parish Church was one of only two landmark buildings floodlit by the city. Aston is now a conservation area – a green oasis in an urban environment and is a very ancient part of the city.

The history of our church goes way back. Parts of this building date back to the fifteenth century but there was some type of religious involvement at this site even in the first millennium. Of course, the church building came along much later, but this site has always been at the centre of social and cultural events in this area.

Aston has a growing, multicultural population of all ages and one of the most pleasing things about this church is that the congregation reflects that diversity. We are proud of the fact that we have Christians of many cultures who have come to worship at this place. All of these people are cherished by the church and we are justly proud of their involvement in (and commitment to) Christianity.

The Restoration Project

As the 1990s moved on, it became increasingly clear that the Aston Parish Church building was in a poor state of repair. The building methods of our forefathers were able to cast vast stone structures skyward, richly embellished to the glory of God. What they did not see was that the ravages of time and growing pollution would take an awful toll on their work. Crumbled, worn and flaking sandstone, dangerous pinnacles with exposed ironwork, leaking gutters, dry rot, parquet and tiled flooring that has decayed to a hazardous level and inefficient, noisy heaters – all of these things needed to be addressed. If we were to grow as a church, we should also ensure that disabled people are free to move around the building and don’t feel as if they are excluded from fully joining the congregation. This meant that certain areas of the church structure need to be adjusted for disabled access.

The Project Aim is simple and wide-reaching: “To repair and reorder Aston Parish Church, a building of historical and religious importance, for the benefit of the local community of Aston and the wider community of Birmingham and the West Midlands”.

Objectives:

  1. Firstly, the building itself needs to rescued from damage by the elements, which means repairing the external fabric to ensure safety and water-tightness
  2. Secondly, we need to reorder the interior to make the building:
    1. Safe
    2. Accessible
    3. More flexible in its use
    4. More financially sustainable
  3. To release the church’s glory by cleaning it, enhancing the interior lighting and highlighting its relationship with the nearby stately home of Aston Hall

Due to the size of the project, it is running in three phases over a number of years.

Pre-Phase (completed 2005)

  • Quinquennial Inspection
  • Spire investigation
  • English Heritage funded repair plan
  • Reordering specification
  • Tendering and selection of main contractor

Phase 1 – Safe and Watertight (completed 2008)

  • Organ roof and dry rot
  • East End stonework and drainage repairs
  • Urgent spire work
  • Replace vestry roof

Phase 2 – Accessible and Usable

Phase 2a (completing Easter 2009)

  • Replace temporary dais with permanent platform incorporating immersion baptistry
  • Ramped access to platform and Erdington Chapel
  • Audio-visual improvements

Phase 2b (awaiting funds)

  • Replace floor
  • Underfloor heating system
  • Flexible seating

Phase 3 – Revealing the Glory (feasibility starting March 2009)

  • Cleaning the monuments
  • Cleaning the stonework
  • Install new lighting scheme
  • Renew paths in churchyard
  • Clear overgrown areas in churchyard
  • Highlight relationship with Aston Hall

Restoration Funding

A project of this scale on a listed building is not only time consuming, but extremely expensive. Some of the money fro the restoration project has come from English Heritage and local firms who take pride in the area. Still more comes from the people of Aston and elsewhere in the form of donations.

The table below gives you an idea of some of the finance of the project (all figures estimates):

Phase Cost Some Funding Sources
Pre-phase &
Phase 1
£160k £72k from English Heritage
£12.5k from CEMEX
£9.5k from Historic Churches Trust
£5k from Garfield Weston Foundation
Phase 2a £186k £50k from Youth Capital Grant
£10k from SITA
£7.5k from WREN
£5k from Awards for All
£3.5k from Diocese of Birmingham
and lots from the congregation, local fundraising and church reserves!
Phase 2b £500k  
Phase 3 Unknown £6k feasibility grant from Aston Pride

If you would like to make a donation to the restoration project, or indeed to any of the projects current and future operated by the Parish of Aston and Nechells, please pay a visit to our donation section.


Recent Works to Aston Parish Church

Workmen lay the new vestry roof

November 2008 saw the replacement of the vestry roof. The replacement roof has been fully insulated and we are already benefiting from a much warmer vestry. At the same time as the vestry roof was being replaced, the opportunity was taken to renovate much of the exterior stonework in the vicinity of the vestry, and also to replace some broken guttering and pipework which had been causing damp problems. We are very grateful to English Heritage and CEMEX for their generous financial support which enabled this work to take place.

Font taking shape

Meanwhile inside the church a new platform has been constructed to replace the “temporary” wooden platform that had been in place for as long as many people can remember. The old platform had become too small, especially for services and events when schools have used it for performances. At the centre of the new platform is a new baptistery which we will be using to baptise people by immersion.

Tiled font in shape of a cross

After a pause to allow the platform to be used for the Christmas services, work began again in January 2009 on completing the font and the stone finish to the platform. After the church’s young people had helped secure a £50,000 grant via Birmingham City Council, work also began on the final part of the platform, which extends it into the south aisle and provides ramped access for wheelchair users.

This phase of work is now finished, and the platform and baptistery are now in use. By no means though will is this the end of the work on Aston Parish Church. The next steps will include:

  • renovation of the meeting room
  • replacing the boiler with a much more modern and efficient unit, which is also more suited to the new underfloor heating system.
  • replacing the rest of the floor, heating and seating in the church
  • planning for a new visitor centre
  • major enhancements to the churchyard