Priest was the first trained in England
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