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Author Topic: Dropping in on the neighbours  (Read 1528 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Dropping in on the neighbours
« on: May 22, 2020, 04:10:57 PM »
The spire of Aston parish church is a real Villa Park landmark. It was there long before Aston Villa arrived at the Lower Grounds and it has become almost like an old friend to me over the sixty-five years since I first visited Villa Park, pointing to Heaven between the Witton Lane stand and the Holte End and suggesting that there might possibly be more important matters than the Villa getting three points. So I would miss it if it weren’t there.

Several years ago the vicar protested loudly over the introduction of Sunday football and I had some sympathy. I am not religious but I have always liked to treat Sunday as a day of rest. Of course, his protest was the equivalent of urinating into the breeze, with the forces of corporate greed on the march. The Premier League has had things very much its own way for the last twenty-eight years, with turnover increasing almost exponentially and Sunday football becoming a fixture, so perhaps this pandemic is the Lord’s way of throwing a spanner in the works of the greed machine.

I must have walked past Aston parish church hundreds of times over the years without giving a thought to going inside. One day in December I walked up from Aston station and almost went straight past once again. However, I had loads of time to spare so, on a whim, I decided to go in. I had a quick look round and at first I thought it looked much like many other churches. It is larger than average, though, and has a comfortable feel to it. At that point I was approached by a friendly gentleman who asked me if I would like to join a group to whom he was about to give a guided tour.

I was very glad that I accepted his kind offer because he was very knowledgeable and pointed out a number of interesting features. One that particularly caught my eye was the beautiful memorial to the two teenagers who were tragically shot on Birchfield Road in Aston in 2002, Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis (no relation to Doug). The lovely mosaic was designed by Paul Williamson, a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, and is made up of tiles personalised by Letisha and Charlene’s families and local people. This striking artwork was moved to the church in October last year. It had previously stood in a peace garden in Hockley, but when the garden closed it was moved to the church for safe keeping.

I was also surprised to find that there is a connection between Aston parish church and William Shakespeare. His mother’s family, the Ardens, were big local land owners from the 14th to 17th centuries. Their residence Park Hall was in Castle Bromwich, which at that time was in the parish of Aston, and the family has left three memorial tombs in the church along with a stained glass window. Not only that but Shakespeare’s great-grandparents are buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard. It is a pity Shakespeare lived so long ago because I am sure he would have supported the Villa. 

There were a number of fans looking round the church that day and several were Southampton supporters. Ah well, I thought, this will be the most memorable part of their day out as they will be heading off to the south coast later with their tails between their legs. It didn’t quite work out like that, of course. We desperately needed to beat our relegation rivals but conspicuously failed and since that day I have been convinced that Villa are on the way down. Come on you Villa boys, please prove me wrong over the remaining ten games (if and when they are played).

Quite probably the vicar and congregation of the church of Saints Peter and Paul sigh and bemoan the fact that they have an occasionally very noisy, overbearing and irreligious neighbour down the road. As if that isn’t bad news enough for them, I saw from their website that they have had to cope with damage to the church roof caused by thieves stealing roofing materials while they are trying to raise funds for restoration projects.

Aston Villa is a distinctive club with an interesting history and I think we are fortunate in having distinctive neighbours with interesting histories of their own. Aston Hall is a splendid seventeenth century Grade 1 listed Jacobean mansion which was owned by the Holte family up to 1817 and in 1864 became the first historic country house to pass into municipal ownership. Aston parish church has its own story to tell too, as I discovered back in December.

Richard Keeling

Offline LeeB

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2020, 07:40:43 PM »
Thanks Dave, as I grew up and live in Castle Bromwich and went to Park Hall School I found that snippet about Shakey's family home of particular interest.


Offline ChicagoLion

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2020, 08:31:22 PM »
Nice work.

Offline JD

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2020, 09:28:55 PM »
Great article and very interesting.

Offline alanclare

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2020, 08:08:03 AM »
The size of the church reflects the relative importance of Aston in the surrounding area.

“Until the 19th century Aston was an extensive parish comprising a number of townships. The Domesday Book mentions a priest here in 1086, though the church may have been an Anglo-Saxon minster long before that. Except for the tower, the church was rebuilt by J A Chatwin between 1879 and 1890.”

The extensive rebuild would have included the spire, so not that long before the Villa moved to the Lower Ground in 1897.

Offline PeterWithe

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2020, 09:30:20 AM »
Thanks Dave, as I grew up and live in Castle Bromwich and went to Park Hall School I found that snippet about Shakey's family home of particular interest.



Same here, clears up why Arden Hall is named.

I dont think the connection was ever taught despite my going to all 3 schools in the area.

Offline dave shelley

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2020, 10:37:46 AM »
My one and only visit there was when a mate got married, it must have been late sixties.  Sadly I can't remember anything about the inside of the church but what I do remember is that the Villa were away to Cardiff that day and guess what?  They lost...again!

Offline Pete3206

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2020, 11:43:55 AM »
Good stuff, thanks for that. That church is a great landmark.

Offline wally58

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2020, 02:42:33 PM »
There are still a lot of Shakespeares who support the Villa, myself included.

Offline ChicagoLion

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2020, 02:47:08 PM »
There are still a lot of Shakespeares who support the Villa, myself included.
By name or nature? if the latter count me in.

Offline wally58

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2020, 02:57:39 PM »
Name

Offline ChicagoLion

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2020, 09:25:43 PM »

Offline villa `cross the mersey

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2020, 10:45:03 PM »
"Saints in a church" - who would of thought it?

Offline exigo

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2020, 09:00:16 AM »
Did my family tree a few years back, and there's a whole line of my dad's family who were hatched, matched and dispatched in that church. Made my connection to the club feel all the greater walking past it every other Saturday.

Offline simon ward 50

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Re: Dropping in on the neighbours
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2020, 12:07:06 PM »
A former vicar of Aston Parish Church is now the Archdeacon of Bradford! Like me he is a former ST holder but unlike me I don't think he posts on here!

 


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