Priest was the first trained in Eng­land

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS -

FATHER Fran­cis Mar­tyn was born in Nor­wich in 1782. He was ed­u­cated at Sed­g­ley Park School near Dudley and at Os­cott Col­lege, Birm­ing­ham.

He was or­dained into the catholic priest­hood at Gif­fard House Chapel, Wolver­hamp­ton, by Bishop Mil­ner in 1805. He was the first Ro­man Catholic priest to be wholly trained and or­dained in Eng­land since the Ref­or­ma­tion.

In 1808 he took over the RC Chapel in Har­den, Wal­sall, from Father Be­trand, a French émi­gré priest.

The num­ber of catholics in the area in­creased and so larger ac­com­mo­da­tion was needed in the cen­tre of the town. Father Mar­tyn was able to rent a room in the Green Dragon pub­lic house in the High Street, and this was con­verted into a chapel.

In 1819, the As­sem­bly Room was opened as the Chapel of St Mary.

The num­ber of catholics in the area con­tin­ued to in­crease and in 1823 Bishop Mil­ner, Vicar Apos­tolic of the Mid­land District, Father Mar­tyn and John Ire­land, an ar­chi­tect, were look­ing for a site for a church. There was an area of land to the rear of St Matthew’s Vicarage, which was glebe land, and was com­monly known as the Vicar’s Fields.

In 1825, Father Mar­tyn be­gan build­ing St Mary’s on The Mount in the Gre­cian de­sign of John Ire­land. The site was given by Joseph Cox and his wife, and Joseph Bag­nall, a Wal­sall leather tan­ner and a mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion.

When Father Mar­tyn was first ap­pointed, he was re­spon­si­ble for Bloxwich and Wal­sall, and he also had the catholics of Aldridge, Wed­nes­bury, Dar­las­ton, Wil­len­hall and Stour­bridge to look af­ter; in re­al­ity, most of the Black Coun­try.

Father Mar­tyn died in 1838 and is buried in front of the sanc­tu­ary, where his still lies. His great legacy is the church he built, which is still used to­day.

Michael Doyle, 26 Bernard Street, Wal­sall, WS1 2LE

Father Fran­cis Mar­tyn

The Mount Church to­day

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