St Martin’s in the Bull Ring : Defiant Gothic … and what we learned there

St Martin's clock

“Defiant City Centre Gothic” writes Simon Jenkins in church crawler‘s ‘bible‘ of St Martin’s church in Birmingham city centre.

“It once towered over the old Bull Ring market place, dramatically clinging to a hillside. Today the site is desperate, squeezed between what survives of the market and an inhuman whirl of urban roads and concrete blocks. Rescue is planned, but the cost of rectifying the horrors of the 1960s and 1970s will be huge. For the moment, St Martin’s is a beacon in a wilderness.” [England’s Thousand Best Churches]

Square in c1950

Looking towards St Martin’s Church with the Bull Ring Market in the foreground (c1950)

St Martin's 1

It is now almost impossible to take a photograph of St Martin’s

We found that St Martin’s (the only Birmingham church listed by Jenkins) was literally a few minutes walk from our Back-to-Back ‘experience’. So it became the excursion on the final morning of our stay before checking out at 10 and catching our trains before 11.

Although the opening time is 10am we noticed a cafe and office attached to the church and a figure moving about. The very kind receptionist understood our ‘plight’ and allowed us to go inside and take a look at the Pugin-influenced building, rebuilt on the site of an older church, in 1873-75 by J.A.Chatwin who had worked with A.W.N.Pugin.

There’s a hammerbeam roof, a modern font, Decorated arches, 14th century alabaster effigies and a beautiful, early Burne-Jones stained glass window.

Burne-Jones Window

Burne-Jones  Window [source]


The Modern Baptismal Font Cast in Bronze by Jacqueline Gruber Stieger in 2002.

Our helpful guide also told us two other facts. The first was that the church has a rare outdoor pulpit and the second, nothing to do with ecclesiastical facts at all, was how to make an ‘infinity scarf’ (another term, new to me, for a snood or cowl) by the ‘arm-knitting method‘!

Outdoor pulpit

Outdoor Pulpit and reflection of Selfridges.

Arm Knitting Demonstration

New St Reflections

Birmingham New Street Station Reflections as we leave


2 comments on “St Martin’s in the Bull Ring : Defiant Gothic … and what we learned there

  1. sherry says:

    have you tried arm knitting yet? It has potential for a huge tangle, I think.

  2. No! And won’t for some time, sherry! Yesterday I fell and fractured my right wrist!

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