St Peter / Balsall Common

History Page

1 Mar 2021 • General news


In November 1951 Fr Ernest Michaux married Susannah Wright and together they moved to set up their first home as a married couple in Balsall Common where Ernest was to be the curate in charge. In doing that they followed in the footsteps of Ernest’s immediate predecessor at St. Peter’s, Rev John Lisney, about whom I will write next month. We will see that Balsall Common was to be the first family home for a number of young priests and their wives.

Ernest Michaux served as curate in charge of St. Peter’s from 1951 to 1953.

Born in South London in 1915 Ernest had obtained a theology degree from King’s College, London. He was ordained in Southwark in 1939 and served as a curate in South London throughout the Second World War. He was first at Holy Trinity, Woolwich and then at St. Michael and All Angels, South Beddington. Both of those were churches which had been founded in the Oxford Movement spirit of ministering to those in the inner cities with worship in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Holy Trinity in particular served the people of “the Dusthole” the poorest and seamiest part of Woolwich.

Until 1946 Ernest Michaux seemed set for a life of ministry in the diocese of Southwark but then there was a marked change in his ministry and life. From 1946 to 1951 he was a priest in Trinidad. He was at the churches of All Saints in Port of Spain and St Paul’s in San Fernando. Both are still going strong and a visitor has described St Paul’s as “a great parish full of hospitable people and beautiful worship” – should we be aiming at getting similar comments to put on our website?

While he was serving in Trinidad Ernest’s life changed in another way. It was there that he met Susannah Wright. She was a nurse from Hampshire who had been working in Trinidad.

Ernest and Susannah returned to England in 1951. They married in November and shortly after their marriage Ernest became the curate responsible for St. Peter’s. It is to be hoped that he and Susannah did not find a winter in Balsall Common too bracing a start to married life after their years in Trinidad. It seems that their life in Trinidad seemed rather exotic to the people of Balsall Common. So we learn that in July 1953 Susannah was talking to Balsall Common WI about Trinidad.

Shortly after his wife’s talk to the WI (but not we hope as a result of it) Ernest left Balsall Common. He served as priest in charge of churches in Shrewsbury and Reading before becoming vicar of St. Matthew’s Etruria in Stoke on Trent in April 1964. St. Matthew’s was another church which had been built in the middle of the Nineteenth Century to provide for the needs of those in the hearts of big cities. Sadly Ernest’s ministry there was a short one because he died of a coronary thrombosis just before Christmas 1966 aged fifty-one.