Oscott, Old Oscott, Oscott Hill
B44 - Grid reference SP071946
B73 - Grid reference SP098940
Oscote: first record 13th century
Oscott was first recorded as Oscote from Old English Osa's cot which simply means 'Osa's cottage'. The hamlet of Oscott stood in the valley of Oscott Brook at the junction of Old Oscott Lane and Old Oscott Hill. It lay in the north-eastern corner of the Perry Barr division of the ancient parish of Handsworth.
A Roman Catholic mission was set up on the slopes of Oscott Hill in the 17th century probably as a result of the Declaration of Indulgence enacted by James II in 1687. However, after the pro-Stuart uprisings of 1715 and 1745, a series of Penal Laws were passed to counter the threat of Roman Catholic subversion. It was not until the Catholic Relief Act of 1829 that Roman Catholics were largely emancipated. Following this, in 1837 a new 'Oscott' college was built near the junction of College Road and the Chester Road. Thus Oscott became known as Old Oscott to distinguish it from the New Oscott. Old Oscott was dedicated to St Mary, the name, Maryvale being coined after 1846 by John Henry Newman when his Oratorian community moved here.
The Act of Toleration of 1689 allowed Christians other than Anglicans to openly profess their faith. A Roman Catholic Mission to the Midlands was set up by Father Andrew Bromwich on Old Oscott Hill. One of a family of wealthy landowners in the district, he bequeathed his home, Oscott House to pay for a Roman Catholic priest in the area.
At the instigation of Bishop Thomas Hornyhold thie house.s was rebuilt in 1752 as St Mary's Institute, a plain three-storey brick building in Georgian style which still survives and is Grade II* Listed. In 1758 a new chapel was built in neo-classical style; the stone colonnade dates from 1816.
In 1791 Roman Catholic chapels were legalised and schools were permitted. In 1793 a group of local gentry set out to establish an English Catholic school for their sons and for the clergy.
The Oscott buildings had been earmarked as the bishop's residence; however, it was agreed that this should be the home of the new school. One year later St Mary's was formally opened as a college for boys and ecclesiastics. The building was soon extended and the number of boys rose to 35 with further additions being made including the Sacred Heart chapel of 1820 which was designed in gothic style, the stained glass made by Birmingham glassmakers Egintons. Father Thomas Potts, the college president who died in 1819 is buried in a vault beneath the chapel sacristy.
Maryvale Roman Catholic Orphanage opened on Old Oscott Hill in 1851 with a single schoolroom. As Maryvale Industrial School it is known to have received state grants between 1856 and 1862. A new infant school accommodating 85 children which opened in 1895, took some two thirds of its intake from the orphanage. By 1882 the school was being run for over 130 children by the Sisters of Mercy and was receiving annual government grants.
The school building had been altered in 1915, but as the extensive Kingstanding housing estate was built in the 1930s, rapidly growing numbers led to additional classrooms being provided in the adjacent Catholic club. Maryvale RC School became a state aided Roman Catholic school in 1950. Provision for children of secondary age was made on an adjacent site when Cardinal Wiseman RC Secondary School opened 1955.
In 1957 the new Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption replaced Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which had been founded in the 17th century. A stone statue four metres tall representing the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was made by Birmingham-trained Peter Bohn and is set in a central niche on the south wall. The church has a large west brick bell tower with eight bells hung for chiming which are rung using a push-button keypad.
Under Henry Weedall, president 1824-40, the school and college at Old Oscott grew until the buildings could no longer accommodate the number of pupils. Plans for a new college were drawn up by Joseph Potter, the architect of Lichfield Cathedral, along the lines of Wadham College Oxford.
In less than three years the new gothic building was opened on the site of Holdford Farm near the junction of College Road and Chester Road some two miles from the old college. The name, Oscott was transferred to the new site which then became known as New Oscott.
From the 1840s with the effects of the Oxford Movement, Oscott became a home for former Church of England clergy including John Henry Newman. The Roman Catholic convert and gothic architect, Augustus Pugin also taught and worked here. In 1846 Newman and his Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri, the Oratorians moved to Old Oscott and stayed there until 1849. Temporarily at New Oscott, they moved to the new Oratory Church on the Hagley Road in 1852. The first Provincial Synod of the restored Westminster hierarchy took place at New Oscott in 1852 when Newman preached his sermon entitled 'The Second Spring'. The 2nd and 3rd synods were also held here in 1855 and 1859.
Outbreaks of sickness in the 1860s and the opening of the Oratory School at Edgbaston in 1856 under Newman caused a decline in the number of students and St Mary's School closed in 1889, to be opened the following year as the ecclesiastical seminary of the Birmingham Roman Catholic diocese. In 1889 St Mary's amalgamated with the 'Olton' seminary which had been established in 1872 on the Oscott site with 36 students; within two years with students from elsewhere the numbers increased to 86 and in 1897 New Oscott became the central seminary for seven of the Midland dioceses. However, a new policy of concentrating diocesan resources on the central seminary was put in place in 1909 and the college at New Oscott then continued its earlier work as the Birmingham diocesan seminary, though still open to admission to students from other dioceses.
Old Oscott is part of Kingstanding.
Well worth a look - Oscott College.
Potter's original college buildings are in red brick with stone dressings and form the main three-storey facade with a central tower and are in a Tudor style.
A W N Pugin took over the decoration of the plain Georgian-style chapel built in 1837, adding and furnishing it in colourful medieval gothic style and used the college as an early experiment in neo-medieval ecclesiastical furnishing and design. The stalls, pulpit, candlesticks and reredos are by Pugin, as also the stained glass mostly made by Hardman.
There are number of medieval Flemish artefacts including the massive brass lectern collected by Pugin on his continental tour of 1841. Pugin added the apsidal chancel 1861. Much of the medieval collection in the museum was collected by Pugin in the belief that it was only possible to recreate the style with first-hand access to the original.
A burial ground attached to the chapel holds the remains of priests, staff and students who died 1861-1946. A second circular burial ground in the wood beyond has burials from 1880 and a third accessed from Court Lane, which opened c1939, has the reinterred remains from the Catholic Cemetery at Boldmere. Behind the main college block, chapel and museum is a cloister whose windows with those of the refectory are emblazoned with the coats-of-arms of Catholic families. The cloister is flanked on the other side by the infirmary of 1920 which has the original early 19th-century stables and service block behind.
The Weedall Chantry with its four side chapels was added by Pugin's son, Edward Welby Pugin in 1861, but not completed until 1909. Northcote Hall, also designed by Edward Pugin, was added in 1859 and finally completed in 1881 by Peter Paul Pugin, Pugin's youngest. The gothic-style library and common rooms were added in 1927 by G B Cox who later designed the new Roman Catholic parish church at Maryvale. The theological library and especially the museum of medieval church artefacts hold important collections. The walls are hung with 260 oil paintings of religious subjects, mainly the gift of John, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. Its libraries of 30 000 volumes include the Harvington library, dating back to the 18th century, the Marini library bought in Rome in 1839, a valuable collection of early printed books, early books on the English Martyrs, the Kirk collection, manuscripts and pamphlets, and the Forbes collection of Oriental and other memoirs, consisting of sixty folio volumes. Among the art treasures are the collection of 15th-, 16th- and 17th-century embroidery, the silver-gilt monstrance from Antwerp 1547, and the early 16th-century bronze lectern in the chapel from St Peter's Louvain. The Grade II Listed statue of the Virgin Mary on the terrace in front of the tower is a copy by A W N Pugin of the late 15th--century statue in St Chad's cathedral. Many of the buildings here are Grade II Listed; the college building itself is Grade II* Listed.
The district of New Oscott lies north of Oscott College between it and the south-west corner of Sutton Park. The busy shopping centre focuses on the junction of the Chester Road and Kings Road, at the Beggars Bush.
William Dargue 06.04.09
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For 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps of Birmingham go to British History Online.
Map below reproduced from Andrew Rowbottom’s website of Old Ordnance Survey maps Popular Edition, Birmingham 1921.
Click the map to link to that website.