100th Anniversary of the dedication of the choir vestry at St Michael’s church in Lichfield.

The location of the choir vestry

From the Staffordshire Advertiser January 13th 1923.

St. Michael’s Church. Lichfield. New Vestry erected at a cost of £1,200

On Sunday evening the large and commodious vestry which has recently been erected at the south east corner of St. Michael’s Church, Lichfield, to replace the small and inadequate room utilized by the clergy and choir in the past, was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Stafford (Rev. High Bright) in the presence of a large congregation.

At the morning service the Rector (Rev. Percival Howard) took advantage of the opportunity to refer to the important improvement which the vestry has made to the church, and in the course of an appropriate address outlined the course of the restoration of the church in the years 1842 and 1890 ……….

There follows a very lengthy description of all the alterations made between 1842 and 1892, before finally returning to the matter in hand.

…….. Since then no structural alterations had taken place until last year, when the Parochial Church Council decided to put in hand the building if a new vestry. This work has now been completed under the direction of Messrs. Bateman and Bateman, Architects, by Messrs. R. Bridgeman and Sons, and in place of the old and inadequate vestry, a large and commodious room has been created, which the Rector thought they would all agree was a handsome addition to the church, and in perfect keeping with the rest of the architecture. To prevent the smoke and fumes entering the church, considerable alteration has also been made to the flue. The whole of this work, which had cost £1,200, has been carried out without an appeal thanks to the generosity of their forefathers, who had left an endowment for the benefit of their church.

Following the dedication on the evening, the Archdeacon preached from the text “Seek ye My face! My heart said unto me, Thee, they face Lord, will I seek (27th psalm, 8th verse)

The congregation included the Mayor (Councilor J. H. Bridgeman), the Sheriff (Mr W. E. Pead), the Town Clerk (Mr W. Brockson) and a number of other leading citizens.

It is tempting to think that the alterations to the flue were to remove the smoke and fumes generated by the clergy and choir, but these were probably something to do with the boiler house beneath the vestry! And for all the praise heaped on the design, the roof has leaked continually over the last 100 years.

Of the people mentioned, the mayor, J.H Bridgeman was the son of Robert Bridgman, who was an earlier mayor and the founder of the Ecclesiastical Architects Robert Bridgman and Sons. The firm had many local commissions including the east front of the cathedral. Both Robert and John are buried in the churchyard. Mr Pead, the Sheriff wrote a lengthy war diary describing the war in Lichfield, that was published and is available on Google Books. The Rector at the time, was Percival Howard (Rector 1913-1946), who served as an army chaplain in the Great War, and reports of his leaving presentation suggest he was highly regarded in the parish. There is a memorial to him in the chancel.

But after a hundred-year life, changes are in the air. The new parish rooms are intended to be connected to the church through the choir vestry, so that part of the church will see major changes in the next few years. But a hundred years for £1200 still represents pretty good value for money.

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