Our story 1: Beginnings

Part of the foundation stone on the front wall of the building

Part of the foundation stone on the front wall of the building.
John Belliss was a director of the company Belliss and Morcom, which had a factory in Birmingham; we think he was the son or grandson of the founder, G. E. Belliss

Christ Church has its origins in the massive expansion of housing in the Selly Park area at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was recognised that the occupants of the long rows of terraced houses built along and around Pershore Road would need a different kind of ministry from those living in the detached houses around St. Stephen's Parish Church on Selly Hill.

An article in St. Stephen's Parish magazine written in 1979 describes the Church Hall (as it was originally called) in this way:

"It was born in 1928, a living place, with a worshipping group of people. Built as a Mission Church, combining the useful building with a place of worship - a forerunner of the modern Church Centre. It lived and grew until at some time (about 20 years ago!) it died, or maybe more accurately, it was put to sleep. The building was still there but no worshipping people - plenty of youthful activity but no opportunity for the local community to join together and praise God."

In fact it seems that regular Sunday services had been discontinued by the Second World War. The "youthful activity", by contrast, flourished throughout the decades. A Sunday School and midweek activities drew hundreds of children and young people from Selly Park and further afield in Stirchley. Things didn't always go smoothly, and St. Stephen's PCC had some vigorous debates about how to handle misbehaviour. Nonetheless the Church Hall made a positive contribution to the lives of many children and their families.

Who was Olive Clipstone?

One of the side rooms in the hall bore the name of a long-standing member of St. Stephen's who died over 30 years ago. Olive Clipstone moved to Birmingham with her husband, a former coal miner, from Nottinghamshire in the Depression years of the 1930's. It is said that one day she heard God telling her to go to St. Stephen's, even though this church was very different from her High Church background. She obeyed the call, and developed a deep commitment to the church - in particular, giving long and faithful service as Superintendent of the Sunday School that met in the Church Hall.

In later years Olive Clipstone sometimes remarked that the ideal place to die was in church, and her wish was fulfilled when she passed away during an evening service. She served the community at St. Stephen's and the Church Hall until, quite literally, the day she died.

The Scout Hut

The brick-built Scout Hut was constructed next to the Church Hall in 1948, replacing a wooden hut. It was built largely by the Scouts themselves, with help from parents. They started by taking a bricklaying course, and practised their skills by building the wall which ran across the front of the site before moving on to construct the Hut. The work was supervised by the Scoutmaster, Neville Chadwick, who was also the organist at St. Stephen's Church.

The School Annexe

The postwar years were difficult ones for Selly Park School, which at that time had Junior and Infant departments. The school had earlier absorbed St. Stephen's Church School (which stood on a site where Darris Road was later built) and found itself short of space. The Church Hall was offered for use as an annexe of the school, and continued to serve in this rôle until the end of 1954. The following year, all the pupils - including some present members of our congregation - moved to the newly-built Moor Green Junior and Infant Schools.

The "front land"

A historical legacy of this period is the ownership of the open patch of grass outside the gates in front of the old Hall and Scout Hut. Before the Second World War the City Council drew up plans to widen Pershore Road, and compulsorily purchased the land from the church. The widening scheme was never implemented, but the Council retained the land, and various attempts to buy it back came to nothing because the parties could not agree a price. The need to acquire the land for the Building Project forced the issue, and a deal was concluded early in 2006.

(2) The Church Centre, 1977-1979