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Pipes and pancakes evening at historic 'thankful church'

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 18, 2014

By John Workman

  • The dawn breaks over St Andrew's Church

  • A view of St Andrew's Church, Netherton, from beyond Saltwells Wood

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SHROVE TUESDAY this year is on March 4, and an event that will whet the appetite takes place at 7.30pm at St Andrew's Church, Netherton, when the evening will be devoted to Pipes and Pancakes.

Mrs Isobel Byrne from Dudley has been kind enough to furnish us with some details.

She writes, "The church of St Andrew's, Netherton, is one of the most prominent in the Black Country and can be seen from miles around, standing as it does proudly at 650 feet above sea level. It is a historic building, one of the many 'Thankful churches' that were built at the end of the Napoleonic Wars as a symbol of thanksgiving.

"During these lengthy wars the army, which relied on volunteers, began to run short of men, and a scheme was devised by the government of the day whereby, if a parish lacking a church agreed to send men to fight against the French, once the war had been won a church would be built, especially in areas affected by radicalism and the spread of Methodism.

"It's hard to imagine these days that Netherton was perhaps once a hot-bed of radical intrigue!"

"After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the government kept its word and made available a million pounds (£59.6 million at current values) for the building of the 'Thankful churches'. St Andrew's was allocated £8,000 towards the cost of the build, the foundation stone being laid on St Andrew's Day, 1827.

"The churches had to be built as cheaply as possible, so were largely constructed of brick with facings of stone.

"It is believed the bricks for Netherton Church were all handmade in the surrounding fields, while the stone facings made the short journey from Gornal.

"The church was finished just over two and a half years later and consecrated on July 16, 1830.

"On Shrove Tuesday the church's magnificent organ will be heard by all those who attend the 'Pipes and Pancakes' festival. It has 2,000 pipes and was installed in 1867 after originally being built two years earlier as an exhibition piece by T.H. Harrison, who many consider to be the Rolls-Royce of church organ-builders, one of 39 he made.

"After 30 years faithful service the organ was completely re-built in 1897. Further work was carried out in the 1960s, with another significant rebuild in 1990. In more recent years the under-action of the organ had maintenance work carried out in 2012.

"Everyone at St Andrew's is anticipating a wonderful Shrove Tuesday evening when Halesowen-born Paul Carr, the internationally renowned concert organist who has performed to audiences right across the globe, will be playing.

"Paul will play a varied programme of music, and there will be delicious pancakes served in the interval. Tickets are £7, available from the Old Swan (Ma Pardoes), Halesowen Road, Netherton, and for more details contact 01384 253075."

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