Take a journey round our much-loved Grade 1 listed Georgian church, built with money from the people of Stourbridge, for the people of Stourbridge. In 1726 John Biggs, a clothier, left £300 towards the building of a church in Stourbridge. The rest of the money was raised by public subscription.
The Eighteenth Century
The building was smaller than it is today — there was no stained glass, apse, vestry or porches and the entrances were the inner doors of the present porches. The original Tuscan columns on high pedestals were made, it is believed, from trees on the original site. Beneath the columns were tall box pews, giving the congregation a chance to sleep through long sermons!
When you look up, you see the crowning glory of the church — the barrel ceiling, made of plaster and richly decorated with moulded panels and cornices. In its centre is the Holy Ghost plaque, an almost identical copy of one in St Peter’s, Vere Street, London. Perhaps they were produced from the same mould?
The original Eucharistic silver, now safely stored off-site, was the gift of Thomas Hill and John Cook. When the tower was built there were originally eight bells.
The Nineteenth Century
The century saw many changes to the church — in 1826 the installation of the first stained glass window, The Incredulity of St. Thomas. Originally placed above the altar, it now forms the West window, below the tower. Three windows around the alter, a gift from Charles Collis, now depict the Nativity, the Annunciation and the Ascension.
The drawing, donated to us from the USA, shows the tower and the original flat front of the church — new doors were added later.
The box pews were replaced (the originals were recycled), oak choir stalls and screens were added. Gas lighting was installed, suspended from the acanthus boss on the ceiling. The chandelier was later sold for £12 when the church converted to electricity.
A clock was added to the Tower, the money being raised by subscription (the story goes that part of the town did not contribute, hence only 3 faces having a clock!) In 1870 entrances on the East side of the church, either side of the altar, were closed and the present ones opened.
The Twentieth Century
Behind the altar is the reredos, made and installed by James Powell and Sons (aka Whitefriars Glass) at a cost of £239. At the steps to the chancel is the early twentieth century free-standing ‘skeleton’ pulpit, manoeuvred by lowering the built-in wheels.
Past the altar of reconciliation is the first of five Bromsgrove Guild windows made by Henry Payne. A complete circuit of the church is required to see them all and notice some of their quirky details — the bells in George Pagett’s memorial and the fallen doll in the one of Christ and the children. As you pass, you’ll see the War Memorials in the Tower. Two individual ones, made by James Powell and Sons with an oak board recording the names and regiments of those who fell in the First World War.
Finally, you will reach the Lady Chapel. Installed in 1963 and replacing an older side chapel, it was designed by John Homery Folkes, a Stourbridge architect, and executed by Robert Pancheri, a member of the modern Bromsgrove Guild of artists and craftsmen.
The Twenty-first Century?
In 2026 St Thomas’ will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its inception. We have a grand plan, aptly titled “Project 300”, to reinvent the use for our building. We will retain all the original features but will adapt the church to become a multi-function building with a new hospitality area, new lighting and sound systems and updated heating. The organ will be improved and the church redecorated.
We intend to stage concerts and exhibitions, supporting local organisations, commercial and charity enterprises, groups and individuals. We know we need to raise substantial funds to realise our vision — we’ve made a start and will apply for grant funding through all channels open to us. But we will need support from individuals and organisations and politely ask that you donate to help achieve our vision. To do this, please visit our giving page.
We hope you have enjoyed this brief journey through time and through St Thomas’ Church. If you would like to read more about our historic building, we have a very detailed and fully illustrated guide to its history and features. We would be grateful for a donation of £5.00+postage to cover the cost of its production. Contact the parish office if you would like a copy.
You are welcome to pop in any time – we aim to keep the church open to visitors on most days for you to experience our unique history first-hand. The parish office can advise the best time to plan your visit.