Today's Building: "A Masterpiece"

The church of Kings Norton is owed to a rich country squire, William Fortrey, and a clashing of the two driving passions in his life. Fortery inherited the Manor House, at the rear of the church, from his mother, a member of the Whalley family, Lords of the Manor since Elizabethan times.

Mr Fortrey was, like many nobles of the 18th century, a victim of a craze for building. But it was this combined with his love and hobby of bell ringing, or campanology, which inspired him to build Kings Norton church, particularly the tower, so grand and elegantly. Willian Fortrey had augmented many other rings before attempting Kings Norton. These include St Margarets, Leicester and many other churches in the East-Leicestershire area. His first major complete building project though was in 1741, when Fortrey rebuilt the church of Gaulby, here he shows his testing ideas for Kings Norton.

The building of Kings Norton church, though, was on a much more ambitious scale than any of Mr Fortrey’s other projects.

The faculty granted for the work stated that the nave and chancel of the old church were ‘so rotten and decayed’ as to be beyond repair and that the foundations on the south side of the building’s steeple had given way. Mr Fortrey proposed to built his new church completely out of his own pocket. He planned to use the finest Norwegian oak and pale Ketton stone from Rutland.

In 1757 this faculty was granted and work began under the eyes of renowned architect John Wing. Wing was a very experienced and highly acclaimed man who displayed his great reputation at Kings Norton. By 1761, all work except the building of the spire was complete, while the spire took another 14 years to finish.

Disaster

Until 1843 the church remained as Fortrey had built it. It was though in this year that the great spire was first struck by lightening. Afterwards a campaign by villages raised £191 to restore the spire to its former glory.

On Monday May 13th 1850, the spire was struck for the second and last time. This time the damage was far worse than before. Falling masonry caused extensive damage to the church roof, structure and the interior. The disaster seriously weakened the tower and severely damaged the bells and frame. AFter a detailed inspection it was decided not to rebuild the huge spire. Kings Norton lost its great spire and now only old pictures can show is its huge dominance.