St. Alban the Martyr

Founding Fathers

James Pollock The Reverend James Pollock 1834 – 1895

Thomas Pollock The Reverend Thomas Pollock 1836 – 1896

The Pollock brothers were born and educated on the Isle of Man. Their parents, Major Samuel Pollock, a hero of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), part of the Napoleonic Wars, and his first wife, Katherine were both from Ireland.

Both brothers studied at Trinity College Dublin before returning to Britain for ordination. The Pollocks were followers of the influential Oxford Movement of the Church of England, which believed in bringing the Gospel to poor areas of large cities, who were often crowded into districts where there were no schools, no churches, little sanitation and much disease.

Particularly important in this mission work was the Catholic tradition. Beauty in decoration, vestments, flowers and music were allied to dignity and reverence in the administration of the sacraments. When to these were added inspired preaching and teaching, hearts and minds were won by the appeal to the senses as well as to the head. The Church, and all that went on in it, provided a dramatic contrast to pinched and often ugly home surroundings.

Equally important was the devotion and self-sacrifice of the priests, curates and women in religious orders living among and sharing some of the deprivations of their flock. They provided the necessary bridge between the well-to-do and the poor, between the educated and the illiterate; often, too, giving their own personal wealth to ensure the success of the work.

The Revd James Pollock had been invited by Dr Oldknow, the well-known Tractarian vicar of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, to start a Mission among the newcomers in this part of his parish.

Their Oxford Movement sympathies can be seen when they scrapped the traditional 'pew-rents' which kept the poor from the richer members of the congregation. All sittings were free and the congregation swelled in number until some had to be turned away for lack of space.

James Pollock was licensed and given the living of the District of St Alban the Martyr in 1871. In the same year the Bishop of Worcester also licensed Thomas Pollock as curate. Thomas came to help his brother at the opening of the Mission on Holy Cross Day (September 14th) 1865. He stayed on.

James Pollock served at St Alban's until his death in 1895. Thomas Pollock took up his brother's position up to his own death in 1896. The brothers gave their lives and their substance to the work. From the outset they were joined by Sister Emma, a member of the Guild of S Alban and daughter of 'Squire' Simcox of Harborne. This trio of devoted workers was assisted from time to time by other priests and deacons prepared to work voluntarily for the cause.

Waterhouse, R., St. Alban's History 1880-84. In St. Alban's Festival, Birmingham, October 4th-14th 1984: Festival Brochure Birmingham: S. Alban's Festival Committee, 1984.

Continue to read about The Early Years of the Parish