25 June 2023

A search in the rain
for the Comberford
estates and legacy at
Wednesbury Manor

The site of Wednesbury Manor at Manor House Road, between Harcourt Road and Beaumont Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023; click on ohotographs for full-screen views)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Wednesbury a few days ago for the first time in more than half a century. I had been in the West Midlands market town back in 1970, visiting Saint Bartholomew’s Church and searching for the site of Wednesbury Manor, which had belonged to the Comberford family in the 16th and 17th centuries.

When I first visited Wednesbury, it was long before the days of digital photographs, Google Map searches and the amassing of local and family history resources on websites.

I had walked around Wednesbury over half a century ago, searching for any signs of the long-disappeared manor house and any indications that the Beaumont and Comberford families had an important presence in the town.

But all I had was a few jottings, hand-sketched maps and pencilled notes. I needed to return to Wednesbury to take photographs and to make my findings available to others who share my interest in the history and legacy of the Comberford and Comerford families.

The site of Wednesbury Manor at Manor House Road … two houses and an electricity sub-station (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Little or nothing remains today to mark the site of the original manor house at Wednesbury. In William Comberford’s time, the manor house lay about 300 metres north-east of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, by Manor House Road, close to today’s primary school and Beaumont Road.

When I first visited Wednesbury in 1970, the site of the original manor house was pointed out to me as a short stretch on the south side of Manor House Road, between the corners of Harcourt Road and Beaumont Road.

I returned to Wednesbury last week to see Saint Bartholomew’s Church, and to search again for the site of the manor house, once held by the Beaumont and Comberford families. Unusually heavy rains that afternoon did not help my search and did not provide for good photographs.

Manor House Road is part of the B4200 linking Wednesbury and Darlston. Carefully measuring the distances from the church and using historical accounts and images of the old manor house, I am now satisfied that the manor house stood on the south side of Manor House Road, between its junctions with Harcourt Road and Beaumont Road. On the site, to the east of a local Catholic school, stand Nos 98 and 100 Manor House, with an electricity substation between them.

There are no reminders of this former manor house to be seen today, apart from the names of Manor House Road, Harcourt Road and Beaumont Road, remembering the names of two families who intermarried with the Comberford family, and in the names of a small number of shops on the opposite side of the street, such as the Manor Fish Bar.

Comberford Drive is a 30-minute walk further east, close to the site of the forge once operated by the Comberford family over 400 years ago.

Wednesbury Manor … the remains of the manor house seen in an old postcard in 1892

Wednesbury Manor House once stood on a site about a quarter of a mile north-east of Saint Bartholomew’s Church. The Beaumont family, who claimed French royal ancestry, inherited Wednesbury through the marriage of Joan Heronville and Sir Henry Beaumont, while the Heronville family had acquired the estate a generation earlier through the marriage of Henry Heronville and Joan Leventhorpe.

The heraldic family trees on the ceiling of the Long Gallery in the Moat House, the Comberford family’s townhouse on Lichfield Street in Tamworth, illustrate the importance William Comberford and his family attached to their descent from the Beaumont family, and how they had inherited their estates in Wednesbury. It was a boast he was eager to impress on the future Charles I when he was their guest in 1619.

The Comberford family acquired the Wednesbury estates when Humphrey Comberford (ca 1496/1498-1555) married Dorothy Beaumont. Humphrey was educated at Saint John’s College, Cambridge (BA 1525, MA 1528), with two of his brothers, Henry Comberford and Richard Comberford. He was the Master of the Guild of Saint Mary and Saint John the Baptist in Lichfield in 1530, and succeeded to his father’s Comberford estates in 1532.

Dorothy Beaumont was one of three daughters and co-heiresses, and her other two sisters had married brothers from the Babington family. By buying out the interests of the Babington family, the Comberfords arrested the possibility that the estates would be divided, and placed themselves in a position to exploit the new-found wealth in coal mining in south Staffordshire.

When Humphrey and Dorothy married, they also strengthened the links between the Comberford family and many of the prominent Catholic families in south Staffordshire. These links, and the safe passage of Catholic priests during the reign of Elizabeth I, were facilitated, in part, by the fact that the Moat House in Tamworth and the Comberford manor in Wednesbury were linked directly by the River Tame.

Beaumont Road, north of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, marks the west boundary of the site of Wednesbury Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Humphrey Comberford seems to have been happy to leave much of the management of the interests in Wednesbury Manor he had acquire by marriage in the capable hands of a younger brother, John Comberford.

Humphrey and John were brothers of both Richard Comberford of Bradley, Bursar of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and sometimes confused with Richard Comerford, ancestor of the Comerfords of Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford; and of Canon Henry Comberford (1499-1586), Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral.

John Comberford lived in Wednesbury, and in 1543-1544, as John Cumberforthbe, gentleman, he was Treasurer of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was then Thomas Cranmer, or Treasurer of Canterbury Palace. He married Emma or Anne Beawlott or Bellet in 1549.

John Comberford died on 25 April 1559, a day after making his will, and he was buried in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury. Shaw and Bagnall say the figures on the tomb on the chancel floor included a man in armour, a woman in the dress of the time, and their son and four daughters. The inscription on his tomb read: ‘Of your charyte pray for the soule of Ihon Comberfort, Gentlylman, and Em hys wyffe, the which Ihon departed the XXV day Aperyl in the yere of oure God MDCIX of whose soule God have mercy.’

The tomb was missing for many years, until it was found once again in the apse during renovations in 1890. However, a search 80 years later in 1970 with the Revd CJW Ward failed to find it once more. The arms of John and Emma Comberford (the Comberford cross with five red roses, impaling the Beawlott arms) were once illustrated in the painted glass windows in Saint Bartholomew’s that were smashed during the Cromwellian era.

Humphrey Comberford died three years earlier on 23 December 1555, probably in Northamptonshire, where his large estates were centred on the Comberford Manor in Watford. Humphrey’s will was proved on 7 November 1556. He was probably buried with his wife Dorothy in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury, where the impaled arms of Comberford and Beaumont were once part of the painted glass windows.

Humphrey Comberford’s widow Dorothy (Beaumont) died in 1565, and Wednesbury became part of the Comberford estates inherited by her eldest son, Thomas Comberford (1530-1597). Until 1564, one-third of the Manor of Wednesbury was in the hands of Sir Thomas Babington, and one-third in the hands of his brother Anthony Babington. However, in 1565 Thomas Comberford secured full possession of the whole of the Manor of Wednesbury, with its dependent estates and lands in Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

Those estates and lands included the manors of Wednesbury and Tynmore, 120 acres of land, 40 acres of wood, 10 acres of land, and 10 acres of meadow in Wirksworth and Kirk Ireton, near Matlock in Derbyshire; £10 rent in Wednesbury, Waltswoode, Finchpath and Tibinton; and a fifth-part of the Manor of Egginton in Derbyshire, half-way between Burton-upon-Trent and Derby.

A modern artistic impression of Wednesbury Manor … a painting by D Clarke now in the Sandwell Museums

Thomas Comberford’s relationships with his tenants in Wednesbury were never very happy, and there was a series of lawsuits with Thomas Parkes, the most powerful of his tenants in Wednesbury and a prosperous iron founder.

Thomas Comberford’s eldest son, William Comberford (1551-1625) of Comberford and Wednesbury, used his wealth from the Comberford family estates in Wednesbury to advance his family’s political, economic and social power in South Staffordshire.

From 1597 on, William Whorwood was William Comberford’s partner in working an iron-making smithy at Wednesbury. William leased the smithy at Wednesbury to his son-in-law, William Coleman of Cannock, in 1606, including his ‘forge with finery and chafery.’ William Comberford was trying to expand his iron-working business and to establish himself as a supplier of charcoal and as an ironmaster. In 1606, he was planning to build new water mills at or near Wednesbury Bridge.

William emphasised his descent from the Beaumont family and through them kinship with French, Scottish and English royalty in his decoration of the long gallery in the Moat House in Tamworth. It was an opulent display to mark a prominent place during the visit by James I and his son Prince Charles to Tamworth in August 1619.

The Comberfords had risen in social standing from the ranks of the local farming families to claiming a place among the gentry. If they ever entertained any hopes of receiving a title, these never materialised. But when the prince succeeded to the throne as Charles I, the monarch built on these claims to his own benefit, using William Comberford to raise loans and troops for the royalist cause during the English Civil War.

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury … on a hill above the site of Wednesbury Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

William Comberford was appointed High Sheriff of Staffordshire at the end of 1622. In 1623, he donated the sixth of the eight musical bells in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury, which is inscribed: ‘William Comberford, Lord of Wedgbury [sic], gave this bell, 1623.’ On the seventh is, ‘Sancta Bartholomew, ora pro nobis’ and on the tenor is inscribed: ‘I will sound and resound to thee, O Lord, to call thy people to hear thy word.’

William Comberford died in 1625. In his will, he asked to be buried in the north end of the parish church of Tamworth, where he said his father and mother were buried. He left £20 for the poor of Wednesbury and £20 for the poor of Tamworth, the income from both sums to be used to buy bread on Good Friday. A tablet in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, recording the charities of Wednesbury Parish, noted: ‘William Comberford, esq and lord of this manor, gave the use of twenty pounds by will, to be bestowed for every Good Friday on the poor, in bread, anno 1626.’

Ede points out, the ‘story of Wednesbury manor between the deaths of William Comberford senior in 1625 and its acquisition, between 1657 and 1663, by the Sheldon family, is confused and in part uncertain.’

When William Comberford, died in 1625, his grandson William Comberford was his heir at law and aged 32. William succeeded to the Comberford family estates, but did not take possession of them as the bulk of the estates, including the Moat House in Lichfield Street, Tamworth, and the Manor of Wednesbury, had been leased in trust by his grandfather William Comberford to his uncle William Comberford. William was entitled only to the reserved rents on the Comberford estates, but he appears never to have received even these from his uncle, for by 1648 these were in arrears by 23 years.

According to the local historian William Hackwood, who lived at Comberford Cottage in Bridge Street, Wednesbury, Colonel William Comberford probably sold Wednesbury Manor in 1642 to raise money for the Royalist cause.

John Comberford (ca 1597-ca 1666), of Handsworth, Staffordshire, was aged about 28 when his grandfather William Comberford died in 1625. He married Mary Singleton of Broughton Tower, Lancashire, and they had no children. He was named by his brother William as one of the executors of his will. He inherited Wednesbury after the death of William Comberford in 1653 and after settling ‘all my lands in Wednesbury’ on trustees, he appears to have paid off all the outstanding debts on the estate and sold it around 1656 to his distant cousin, John Shelton of West Bromwich.

John Comberford’s will is dated 1657, but he was still living in 1664, when he was a party to leasing Comberford and Wigginton Manor. He died within the following two years, and his will was proved in 1666.

John Shelton of West Bromwich was a Cromwellian and strict Presbyterian. He had already bought property in the Wednesbury area from John Comberford of Handsworth, and he was Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1672. By then, the fortunes of the Comberford family had declined, partly through the misfortunes of the English Civil War, and the family links with Wednesbury had come to an end.

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Wednesbury, in 1827 (Hackwood, facing p. 22)

Wednesbury Hall was sold in 1710 by Shelton’s son, John Shelton, to John Hoo of Bradley, serjeant-at-law, and it then passed to his brother, Thomas Hoo, to Thomas Hoo’s son, John Hoo, who died at the old house in Wednesbury in 1740, and to John Hoo’s sons, John Hoo (1718-1746) and Thomas Hoo, High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1772 and who died in 1794.

Wednesbury Hall was used as a farmhouse, but it deteriorated when it was the home of the Hoo family in the early 18th century. The top storey of the old manor house was removed about 1755, and it was soon reduced to ‘a common farm[house],’ so that Shaw in 1779, in his History and Antiquities of Staffordshire, says the manor house at Wednesbury ‘has nothing remarkable about it, now being converted into a common farm.’

When Thomas Hoo, Lord of the Manors of Great Barr and Wednesbury, died a bachelor and intestate in 1791, the manors passed through the female line to his second cousin, Mary Whitby, wife of Edward Whitby. She was the only daughter of the Revd John Dolman, Rector of Aldridge, and grand-daughter of William Beady and Margaret Hoo daughter of John Hoo of Bradley, and to her first cousin once removed, Elizabeth Maria Foley Hodgetts, wife of the Hon Edward Foley (1747-1808), daughter of John Hodgetts (d. 1783) and grand-daughter of John Hodgetts of Shutt End, Kingswinford, and his wife, Mary Hoo.

These two women were ‘the present ladies of the manor’ at the end of the 18th century. Wednesbury then passed to Sir Joseph Scott (1752-1828), when he married Margaret Whitby, the only daughter of Edward and Mary Whitby and one of the two Hoo heiresses.

A local vicar, the Revd John Wylde, contested this succession and produced a will dated 1777 naming himself as the chief beneficiary. When the case was heard at Stafford Assizes in 1792, a papermaker proved beyond doubt that the will produced by Wylde was a fake and was on paper made after Thomas Hoo’s death.

Sir Joseph Scott inherited Wednesbury Hall and was made a baronet in 1806. He was still in possession of Wednesbury Hall in 1820, and died on 17 June 1828. His son, Sir Edward Dolman Scott (1793-1851), was MP for Lichfield.

The extent of Wednesbury Manor imposed and the present street plan of Wednesbury

The coal-mining interests of the Comberford and Parkes families passed in the 17th century to the daughters of Richard Parkes of Old Park. In 1727, Sarah married Sampson Lloyd, a leading Quaker whose descendants gave their name to Lloyds Bank. Sarah’s sister married Thomas Pemberton, whose descendants also married into the Lloyd family.

By 1834, Wednesbury Hall was in the possession of Sir Horace St Paul (1775-1840), a baronet and a count of the Holy Roman Empire, and the house was described as ‘a venerable brick mansion.’ Wednesbury Hall was inherited by his son, Sir Horace St Paul (1812-1891) in 1840. However, by the time Bagnall published his History of Wednesbury in 1854, the manor house had been converted into a farmhouse, ‘retaining nothing of its former magnificence.’

Wednesbury Manor House remained a farmhouse until the late 19th century. FW Hackwood, who saw the house in its later years, described it in his book Wednesbury Ancient and Modern: ‘small red bricks, heavy sandstone mullioned windows, very plain but somewhat high. Its open entrance porch had a seat on each side.’

Wednesbury Hall was later known as Mason’s Hall, and the manor house was in slum conditions by the mid-19th century. It was only the size of a cottage when it was photographed in 1894, and it was completely demolished at the beginning of the 20th century.

The archaeologist Paul Belford in a paper has described archaeological excavations in 2004-2008 at Wednesbury Forge, north-east of Wednesbury and in the Tame Valley, and how they encountered extensive remains of timber and masonry structures and other features. The historical and archaeological evidence revealed a sophisticated ironworking complex in existence by ca 1600, and this was continually adapted and redeveloped until the site closed in 2005.

Comberford Drive in Wednesbury is close to the site of the former forge, once owned by the Comberford family. It is almost two miles east of the site of the former Manor House and Saint Bartholomew’s Church, squeezed between the banks of the River Tame and the sidings of the railway line and the busy M6. The nearest landmark is Bescot Stadium, the home ground of Walsall Football Club and Aston Villa Women.

Comberford Drive in Wednesbury is close to the site of the former forge, once owned by the Comberford family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (28) 25 June 2023

Part of the Edward Burne-Jones East Window in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Third Sunday after Trinity (25 June 2023). Yesterday, on the Feast of the Birthday of Saint John the Baptist (24 June 2023), I marked 22 years since I was ordained priest on 24 June 2001, and today is the anniversary of the day I was ordained deacon 23 years ago (25 June 2000).

Later this morning, I hope to be in Saint George’s Church, Wolverton, as the Revd Francesca Vernon presides at the Eucharist for the first time following her ordination as priest yesterday. It is good to be reminded at another priest’s celebration of my own life-long commitments at ordination.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, was described by John Betjeman as the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London:

At the annual reunion of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) last year, we were invited to a celebration of the Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, followed by lunch and a short presentations by USPG staff.

Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, is right at the heart of London. The former Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, described Holy Trinity Church in Chelsea as the ‘Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’, referring to treasures and glass by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and many others.

Holy Trinity Sloane Square is in the Catholic tradition in the Church of England, and says on its website and materials ‘The world will be saved by beauty’, a quotation from The Fool by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Holy Trinity is one of the few churches in these islands that can be regarded as what the Germans describe as a gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. Behind the magnificent red brick and stone fa├žade, reminiscent of collegiate architecture of the late 16th and early 17th century, is truly a jewel-box of the best stained glass, sculpture and highly wrought metalwork created by many of the finest artists and craftsmen of the late 19th century.

The first church on the site was a Gothic building from 1828-1830, designed by James Savage and built in brick with stone dressings. The west front, towards the street, had an entrance flanked by octagonal turrets topped with spires.

It was originally intended as chapel of ease to the new parish church of Saint Luke, but was given its own parish, sometimes known as Upper Chelsea, in 1831. It could seat 1,450 in 1838 and 1,600 in 1881.

George Henry Cadogan (1840-1915), 5th Earl Cadogan, and his wife, the former Lady Beatrix Craven, decided to replace the earlier church building which was part of their London estate. The old church was closed and demolished in 1888, and a temporary iron church with seating for 800 was provided in Symons Street while the new church was built.

The Cadogans chose John Dando Sedding (1838-1891) as the architect. He was one of the prime movers in the Arts and Crafts Movement, which was inspired at an early stage by AWN Pugin and John Ruskin.

At the Liverpool Art Congress in 1888, in a roll-call of the great architects and designers of his day, Sedding declared, ‘We should have had no Morris, no Burges, no Shaw, no Webb, no Bodley, no Rossetti, no Crane, but for Pugin.’

While he was still in his teens, Sedding was influenced by Ruskin and his Stones of Venice (1853). He trained as an architect in the offices of GE Street (1824-1881), the prolific and influential church architect. Other key figures in the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, Philip Webb and Norman Shaw, had also trained in Street’s offices.

Holy Trinity Church was built in 1888-1890 on the south-east side of Sloane Street and was paid for by Lord Cadogan.

Sedding’s church was not the longest church in London, but it was the widest, exceeding Saint Paul’s Cathedral by 23 cm (9 inches). The internal fittings were the work of leading sculptors and designers of the day, including FW Pomeroy, HH Armstead, Onslow Ford and Hamo Thornycroft. Sedding died in 1891, and his memorial is on the north wall in the Lady Chapel.

Sedding died two years after Lady Cadogan laid the foundation stone of the church. His chief assistant, Henry Wilson (1864-1934), took charge of the project to complete the interior decoration of the church to Sedding’s original design.

The main structure is as Sedding designed it, but the street railings and much of the interior fittings and decoration were inspired or designed by Wilson, including the font, the Lady Chapel, the Byzantine-inspired metal screen and the bronze angels that flank the entrance to the Memorial Chapel. However, Sedding’s original conception was never fully completed.

The first thing that impresses visitors is the wealth of stained glass, particularly the great Pre-Raphaelite East Window by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and William Morris (1834-1896), the largest window ever made by William Morris & Company.

Burne-Jones first contemplated a window with ‘thousands of bright little figures.’ This idea became 48 Prophets, Apostles and Saints in three columns of four rows that make up the bottom half of the window.

There are impressive windows in the north and south aisles, three by Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921) and two by Christopher Whall (1849-1924), and by James Powell and Sons in the Memorial Chapel.

The large west window, which Morris and Burne-Jones planned to complete before moving onto the east window, but this never happened. Its plain glass was destroyed during World War II, although all the other windows survived or were repaired.

The range of sculptures includes FW Pomeroy’s bronze angels and sculptured reliefs. There are works of other major sculptors too, including Onslow Ford, Frank Boucher, HH Armstead, Harry Bates and John Tweed, who carved the marble reredos in 1901.

A wealth of different marbles is employed, especially on the pulpit and in the Lady Chapel, while the bowl of the Font is made of one piece of Mexican Onyx.

The processional cross is a reproduction of the 12th century Celtic Cross of Cong.

The Sedding Altar Frontal, originally intended for use in Advent and Lent, was designed by Sedding and embroidered by his wife Rose.

Sedding believed that nature was the source of all true art. He always sought to find his inspiration in hedgerows and cottage gardens, especially those in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. He also had a deep love of mediaeval embroidery, a passion he shared with his wife.

The emblems in the panel of the frontal alternate between symbols of Christ’s passion, and human images of holy devotion: Prophets and Saints.

Above the display case with the frontal are busts of William Morris and John Ruskin.

The churchmanship when the new church opened might be described as eclectically high, as the liturgy seems to have been drawn from a number of sources and traditions.

The church soon attracted the attention of Bohemian artists and poets some of whom clustered loosely round Oscar Wilde, who was arrested nearby in the Cadogan Hotel on Sloane Street. Many notable figures have been parishioners, including the Liberal politicians WE Gladstone and Sir Charles Dilke. Dilke lived on Sloane Street; his promising political career was destroyed by a well-publicised divorce case in the 1880s.

The interior was whitened by the third architect of Holy Trinity, FC Eden, in the 1920s, lightening the character and feel of the building considerably. The south chapel was remodelled to become the Memorial Chapel with Eden’s crucifix painted by Egerton Cooper, and the panelling inscribed with the names of parishioners who died in World War I. The War Memorial is in Sloane Square and on Remembrance Sunday clergy, choir and congregation process from the church to Sloane Square.

The church was very popular in the 1920s with a very extensive clergy team under the rector, the Revd Christopher Cheshire (1924-1945). For a time, the liturgist and hymn writer Percy Dearmer, who collaborated closely with Ralph Vaughan Williams, was associated the church.

During World War II, the church was hit by several incendiary bombs, one at least bursting in the nave, causing considerable damage.

It took several decades of work to carry out post-war repairs and the church was closed except for Sunday matins. There was pressure to demolish rather than restore the building, and it was saved only by a vigorous campaign mounted by the Victorian Society and Sir John Betjeman who wrote in verse:

Bishop, archdeacon, rector, wardens, mayor
Guardians of Chelsea’s noblest house of prayer.
You your church’s vastness deplore
‘Should we not sell and give it to the poor?’
Recall, despite your practical suggestion
Which the disciple was who asked that question.

Betjeman said the central North Wall window by Sir William Blake-Richmond, with the theme of Youth and its sacrifice and joys, was ‘symbolising the hope that this great city may rise to the value of beauty, setting aside money and society as chief aims of life.’ Needless to say, Betjeman’s ‘noblest house of prayer’ was saved.

After a long period of less symbolic worship, notably when the Revd Alfred Basil Carver was Rector (1945-1980) and the shorter incumbencies of the Revd Phillip Roberts (1980-1987) and the Revd Keith Yates (1987–1997), the church has returned to a liberal Catholic style of worship and liturgy.

The church now has a thriving congregation built when Bishop Michael Eric Marshall, former Bishop of Woolwich, was Rector (1997-2007). The connection with the world of the fine arts continued under the Revd Rob Gillion was Rector (2008-2014). He later became Bishop of Riverina in western New South Wales.

Holy Trinity has enjoyed a reputation for church music since its early days. John Sedding, also an organist, provided an unusually large chamber for the noted four-manual Walker organ. Notable organists have included Edwin Lemare (1892-1895), Sir Walter Alcock (1895-1902), John Ireland (sub organist, 1896-1904), and HL Balfour (1902-1942).

The organ was badly damaged in World War II, but was repaired in 1947 and partially rebuilt in 1967. Harrison & Harrison completed a rebuild in 2012, using the surviving Walker pipework and matching new material. The organ has 71 speaking stops and about 4,200 pipes, and remains one of the principal organs in London.

Today, the church sees itself as a ‘Shrine and Sanctuary’ for Sloane Square, and, for example, also provides chaplaincies to neighbouring places such as Harrods and the Royal Court Theatre. The parish of Saint Saviour, Upper Chelsea, was added to Holy Trinity in 2011.

Canon Nicholas Wheeler is the Rector of Holy Trinity and Saint Saviour. He returned to London from Brazil where he worked with USPG in the Parish of Christ the King in Rio de Janeiro and as a canon of the Cathedral of the Redeemer. His work in Cidade de Deus, one of the most disadvantaged communities in Rio, inspired the 2002 film, City of God. Before going to Brazil with USPG, he spent 21 years in the Diocese of London, where his posts included Team Rector at Old Saint Pancras.

The Sung Eucharist is celebrated in Holy Trinity Church every Sunday at 11 a.m.

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Matthew 10: 24-39 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 24 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

The great East Window by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris is the largest window ever made by William Morris & Company (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Freeing people from the Traps of Human Trafficking.’ This theme is introduced this morning:

‘The Church in North India’s diocese of Durgapur launched its Anti-Human Trafficking Programme with support in 2011. The programme’s main objective is to spread awareness about human trafficking and show local people how they can protect themselves and others from getting trapped.

‘The programme conducts awareness campaigns and rescue missions and built a network with local government and law officials. It organises prevention workshops and camps where experts in trafficking-related issues explain the various ways human traffickers work and the reasons victims get pulled in. One of the main reasons is poverty; other factors include corruption, civil unrest, and a lack of access to education or jobs.

‘The programme also has a focus on gender equality. It highlights child marriage, which can often lead to the trafficking of girls and young women, and it collaborates with women’s self-help groups to make people aware of the various livelihood programmes and schemes offered by the government.’

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 June 2023, the Third Sunday after Trinity) invites us to pray:

Heavenly Father,
we pray for all people who have been tricked or coerced into slavery;
suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
We know that nothing is hidden from You,
and we cry out to You for justice, freedom and mercy.

The Sedding Altar Frontal and busts of William Morris and John Ruskin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)


Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Holy Trinity sees itself as a ‘Shrine and Sanctuary’ for Sloane Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)