St John the Baptist


Although living within sight of St Martin's-in-the-Bull Ring, Deritenders were expected to worship at their own parish church at Aston 3 miles away. They were granted the right to build their own chapel in 1380.

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Above: William Westley’s map of Birmingham 1731. This is the first map of Birmingham and is oriented with West at the top. Image courtesy of the Mapseeker website - - use permitted for non-commercial purposes.

The church is shown on the 1890 Ordnance Survey map on British History Online -


You might be interested in - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y Deritend -


In the Manor of Birmingham, but in the Parish of Aston

Deritend lies east of the River Rea and was from Anglo-Saxon times always part of the parish of Aston, although it was part of the manor of Birmingham. At some early time in the history of Birmingham, the manorial lord must have staked his claim to both sides of the river bank.


Although it was just a ten-minute walk to St Martin's-in-the-Bull Ring, the parish church of Birmingham, Deritenders had to travel three miles to their own parish church at Aston. 


While it would have been acceptable to attend normal services and to have children baptised at St Martin's, parishioners were certainly expected to attend their own church on high days and holy days and to be married and buried there, as there was a fee payable to the parish priest. 


In a busy trading and industrial area immediately adjacent to Birmingham, there were a number of wealthy people who would have wanted to exert power and influence over their own local affairs, which they could do neither in Birmingham nor Aston. 


Deritend Chapel

The people of Deritend were granted the right to their own chapel of ease in 1380, and the right to elect a priest and manage their own affairs the following year. It may be that Sir John de Birmingham, the lord of Birmingham manor gave the land on which the build the chapel. 


View of Deritend Chapel in the 14th century from R K Dent 'Old & New Birmingham' 1880. This is probably based on a very small image of the chapel in a panoramic view of Birmingham in Dugdale's 'Antiquities of Warwickshire' 1656.


William Dugdale writing in 1656 in his Antiquities of Warwickshire set out the details of the deal by which the vicar of Aston would not lose any financial entitlements:


Inhabitants here and in Bordsley, on the other part; by the consent of Robert de Stretton then Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, the said Inhabitants of these two Hamlets , partly in respect of the danger by flouds , especially in Winter-time, and their great distance from the said Mother-Church of Aston; and partIy that their Children might not want Baptism, in case of necessity, there should be a Font in the said Chapell, and that they might have libertie to find at their own proper costs, a fitting Priest to celebrate divine Service therein, as also for Churching, of women.


Provided that the same Inhabitants should repaire to the said Mother-Church of Aston, on Easter-day, Christmasse-day, All-Hallown-day, and the days of the Dedication of the said Church, scil. [scil. = Latin scilicet = namely] S. Peter & S. Paul, hapning next after the Feasts of the Nativity of S. John Baptist, and Purification of the blessed Virgin; then and there to render and pay to God and the said Parish Church, all their Tithes, great and small, with Oblations , in such sort as they had antientIy used, and were of right to do to the same Church, Which Priest serving in this Chapell, was by the before specified Agreement in case the Vicar of Aston for the time being, or his Parochiall Priest could not attend it, to visit the sicke of these two Hamlets , and to administer unto than, as also to confesse and absolve them, so as they should shrive themselves once a yeare to the said Vicar of Aston, or his Parochiall Priest, as of right they ought.


Image from Toronto University Weceslaus Hollar Collection - This image was published in William Dugdale 1656 Antiquities of Warwickshire.


The 14th-century building is shown in views of Birmingham as a small rectangular building with a steeply-pitched roof. There was a two-light east window, and a small square bell-turret with a pyramidal roof and weather-vane at the west end. 


the church can have held less than a hundred worshippers, but this was presumably adequate as the population of Deritend would have been counted in tens at this time, and there was little provision for seating in the church.  


By the 16th century the chapel seems to have become, in effect the chantry chapel of the Deritend Guild. Two priests here were paid £5 a year by the guild, one of them as a schoolmaster. Certainly the the endowment of the chapel was regarded as a chantry in 1547 under Edward VI’s act of suppression of the chantries and two years later all the property of 'the late chantry or guild of Deritend' was sold by the Crown. The chapel itself survived seemingly supported by private donors: Humphrey Lowe of Coventry in 1677, for instance, who endowed the chapel with land in Rowley Regis for the maintenance of a chaplain.


Although the guild had gone, the inhabitants of Deritend continued to elect their own chaplain until 1890, when a parish was formed out of Aston and patronage was to the bishop, the Vicar of Aston, and three trustees.


18th-Century Rebuilding

Image from William Hutton 1783 An History of Birmingham
Image from William Hutton 1783 An History of Birmingham


In 1735 St John's was rebuilt in neo-classical style. It is likely that the previous building was completely demolished. The new church was desinged in a neo-classical style and was a rectangular brick building with tall round-headed windows and a two-stage tower surmounted by a balustrade with urns at the angles. There may have opriginally been up to 700 sittings. Between 1881 and 1891 the building was restored and had 800 sittings. Perhaps (more) galleries had been installed. 


Image from R K Dent 1880 Old & New Birmingham
Image from R K Dent 1880 Old & New Birmingham

With changes in the area of demography and land use, the church was out of use by 1939. At that date the parish was united with that of St Basil, Deritend, forming a new benefice of St John and St Basil. It may be that the church was in a poor state of repair by this time and that St Basil's, being the newer building, was seen as more suitable. 


Demolition was delayed by the outbreak of war, and the building was damaged by German bombs in 1940.


St John's was later used as a storage facility and demolished in 1947. The Bull Ring Trading Estate now stands on the site. 


The Bells

There were 8 bells cast in 1776 by Robert Wells of Aldbourne, Wiltshire. Hutton described them as 'eight of the most musical bells' . However, by c1910, 'The bells, a tuneless peal of eight, … have been silent for some five years, chiefly because, with so many modern peals in the vicinity, they were not considered to be worth ringing.'


After the church closed in 1939 the bells were recast by Taylor's of Loughborough and installed in 1958 at Bishop Latimer Memorial Church in Handsworth. The church architect said the tower was not safe for bells to be rung and they last sounded there in 1965. In 1971 the bells were rehung at Perry Barr Church replacing an earlier Taylor ring.


John Rogers, Martyr

A famous son of Deritend who worshipped at St John's was John Rogers. The son of a local lorimer, born c1500, he attended the Guild School, the Old Crown and went on to Cambridge University. Here he became a priest working with William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale translating the Bible into English. For his protestant views he was burnt at the stake at Smithfield on 4 February 1555, the first protestant martyr under Queen Mary.


On the wall of the Meeting Room of Aston church is the bust of John Rogers clothed in Victorian style. Paid for by public subscription in 1883, it was moved from its original home at St John's when the church closed.


John Rogers. Image from Wikipedia -
John Rogers. Image from Wikipedia -


Acknowledgement - See British History Online - Victoria County History of Warwick Volume 7 The City of Birmingham ed. W B Stevens 1964 -


See Church Bells of Warwickshire by Mike Chester -

William Dargue 20.04.2011