Spring Hill College

Spring Hill Comes To Moseley

Moseley School was not the first occupant of Spring Hill College

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This is the history of who commissioned Spring Hill College and how it eventually came to be built.

By 1840 it had already become clear that the Manor House in Spring Hill, Hockley, was not really suitable for use as a theological college and the trustees started to look around for a site upon which they could construct a new, purpose built, college. They settled upon roughly twenty acres of what was once Greet Common in quiet Worcestershire countryside and bounded to the west by Wake Green Road, to the east by Springfield Road and to the north by an unnamed field path later to be called College Road, Trustees believed it would provide an ideal setting for the grand new establishment which the trust board envisaged. Farmer Charles Wyatt was persuaded to sell them the land for £4,000., half of which was contributed by the Mansfield/Glover family. The trust found itself in dire financial straits by 1842 and the idea of a magnificent new college at Moseley was shelved. The trust was not to be revived until 1851, by which time George and Elizabeth Mansfield were both dead and Sarah Glover was in poor health. Possibly as a result of the controversy surrounding it at that time, the family appears to have stopped supporting the college in 1942, when their annual contribution of £530 to its running costs was discontinued. Sarah Glover died in 1853, just as the trust found itself with enough money to revive its grand scheme and the meeting which decided to go ahead with the project took place on the evening of her funeral. Thus no member of the Mansfield/Glover family played any direct part in Moseley’s history and, apart from the £2000 given towards the land purchase, there is little evidence of any financial contribution after that date.

The job of building the new college fell to a committee apparently led by Henry Manton. A Birmingham alderman who became Mayor of Birmingham 1961, he was a leading member of the trust board yet, despite the major part which he appears to have played in Moseley’s development, history seems to have forgotten him. Twenty five architects submitted plans for Spring Hill College, Moseley. All were constrained by a building budget of £10,000.

Manson and his colleagues believed that no one could deliver for less than £15,000, so all were asked to scale down their plans, this time to a figure of £11,000. Six of the revised designs were deemed suitable and then submitted to interested builders, with the question, “Which of these can you build for around £11,000? George Myers and Co, builders of Barry’s Houses of Parliament, adopted the design of another London firm, James and Brown, which they claimed to be able to build for the required sum. So was the final design of Springfield College chosen arbitrarily by its builder. Joseph James’s original design had been for a four winged building with a central courtyard but the fourth wing, which would have provided further student accommodation, was deleted to reduce cost, with the provision that it should be capable of reinstatement at a later date, should funds become available. It appears that the trust may have been accused of unfairness of its choice of architect, as James seems to have been the nephew of the trust’s current Education Board chairman, Rev. John Angell James, commemorated, we believe, in the original school house of that name. James was supposed to have laid the foundation stone for the building but was unwell on the appointed date, so the ceremony never took place Building began early in 1854 with the hope that the new college would be occupied by September, 1855 but the project seems to have been dogged by problems. At one point, after the roof had been installed but before windows could be fitted, a major storm caused serious flooding and the project was abandoned for weeks, to allow the rooms in the west range to dry out. As with today’s building projects, costs were rising all the time and long delays didn’t help. In the end the new Spring Hill College was not completed until September 1856, at a cost of either £18,000 or £20,000, depending upon whether you believe the title deeds or the Spring Hill College annual general meeting minutes. The first occupants moved in on 7 November 1856 but the formal opening did not take place until 23 June 1857.Among the subjects taught as part of Spring Hill’s six year course where Hebrew, Greek, Latin and, of course, theology. Students were not permitted to begin their religious studies until a thorough grasp of Hebrew could be demonstrated, since Hebrew was considered necessary in order to properly study the Old Testament. At that time Nonconformist students were prohibited from attending either Oxford or Cambridge universities by the Test and Corporation Acts, which required that all entrants must swear allegiance to the Anglican Church but that was soon to change. By 1866 Spring Hill College was ready not only for another relocation but also a change of name and Moseley was vacated in favour of Mansfield College, Oxford, though this is was by no means a universally popular move, requiring major changes to the trust’s constitution and the intervention of the Charity Commissioners. Spring Hill College trust exists to this day but has not convened a meeting for many years.