The early churchyard was enclosed by a stone wall on three of its side, and from an early date there were paths running around the perimeter and across the churchyard.
When the church was built in the early C18th a rectory was built on the corner of Temple Row and St Philip’s place. In 1724 the Blue Coat School on the corner of St Philip’s Place and Colmore Row was built. The area became highly fashionable and a terrace of grand Georgian houses were built on Temple Row where House of Fraser stands to today. Although not originally planned as a square the area around St Philip’s was developed with an eye to enhancing and preserving its attractive qualities.
There are thought to be around 60,000 burials in the churchyard. Only a few people could afford the luxury of a headstone, and most of those that were put up have disappeared with time. In 1858 the burial ground was closed to further burials, conditions were very poor and potentially a threat to public health “offensive to the surrounding neighbourhood, especially in the summer months.” There are about 100 monuments left visible. Very occasionally new ones are added to mark a person or event of significance, most notably there is a memorial all 21 who died in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings and it was erected in 1995.
There are a number of listed monuments in the churchyard; the Unett Monument to soldier who fought at Sebastapol, the large Burnaby obelisk commemorates Colonel Frederick Burnaby who was sent to rescue General Gordon of Khartoum in 1884 and who had once stood to be a Birmingham MP; the Samuel Lines monument to the founder of the Royal Birmingham School of Art and artist in his own right; the bronze statue of Bishop Charles Gore the first Bishop of Birmingham; the Angel Fountain which came from Christchurch, a daughter church of St Philip’s demolished in 1899; The Town Hall memorial which consists of a stone column identical to the ones on the Town Hall. It commemorates the deaths of William Badger and John Heap who died when working in the construction of the Town Hall in 1833, a memorial service is held by the monument in April every year.
The graves reveal the variety of professions that would be expected in a rapidly expanding town of the 18th and 19th centuries including surgeons, lawyers and craftsmen but also, reflecting the particular trades of this city, gun makers, and artists.
During development in 1999 an archaeology watching brief was carried out when the area around St Philip's was restored. The full archaeological report on the excavations carried out in the churchyard from this period can be found here
Visit birminghamcathedral.com to watch 'Communion in the Kitchen' our Holy Communion Service for Holy Week (Palm Sunday) ...Read