St Matthew's Church Walsall
Thank you for taking an interest in St Matthew's in the article in your issue of 3 January. It is unfortunate that Mr Workman chose to visit at a time when the church was not open and it was pouring with rain, which accounts for a rather depressing and unwelcoming impression of Walsall's splendid Borough Church. This is far from the truth!
It is regrettable that, owing to theft and vandalism, we are unable these days to keep the church doors open at all times, as Mr Workman pointed out. However times when the church is open are published on the notice board and so is contact information for anyone who would like to arrange a visit at another time, so there is every reason for the public to feel they can get access to their church when they wish. A great deal of further information is available on our website www.stmatthewswalsall.co.uk. From this you will see that we are a lively and vibrant community of all ages and backgrounds, with all sorts of exciting events and activities going on.
There certainly was a significant makeover of the church in the 1820s as stated in the article. However it would be misleading to view this as a total rebuild. The main alterations were the replacement of stone pillars with latest Black Country technology cast iron, the introduction of balconies to increase seating capacity, and the external sheathing of the building in white Bath stone. Among other ancient features of great interest, we still have in situ a 12th century crypt, a 14th century chancel, some exquisite medieval wood carving, a 15th century font and many 18th century memorials as well as the figure of Sir Roger Hillary which you have mentioned.
I am particularly concerned to correct any discouraging impressions your readers may have picked up because this is our 800th anniversary year. We are very much aiming to welcome the people of the Black Country to St Matthew's during the year. To this end we will be putting on various exciting events to mark the anniversary. We would like everyone to feel they can come along and enjoy a really worthwhile time with us. Watch this space!
I hope you might be willing consider a follow up article giving a more upbeat impression of St Matthew's. Believe me there are some spectacular things to photograph on the inside of the church! Do feel free to get in touch if you would like to do this.
Best wishes etc...