Dorothy was born in 1644. She was the daughter and heir of Thomas Parkes, a dealer in the iron trade who made a fortune in Birmingham during the Civil War. In 1719, now an elderly lady of 75, with no other relatives Dorothy settled lands including Old Chapel Farm (in Smethwick) and land in Halesowen on 13 Trustees who were to ‘build and furnish a neat and convenient chapel’ on part of the Smethwick land within 3 years of her death. She must have decided that it would be worthwhile leaving money to build a chapel for the ‘spiritual and physical’ wellbeing of the people of Smethwick – although at this time there would not have been so many people living here.

Dorothy wanted to have a chapel built because Smethwick was part of the parish of Harborne and people in Smethwick had to make the long and often dangerous journey by foot to Harborne for any church service, marriage or burial. Dorothy left not only the instructions to build the Old Chapel but also a Ministers house, a church school and asked that ‘twelve penny loaves, clothes and bibles were to be provided for the poor and needy of Smethwick and Harborne. Dorothy left £800 in 1727 which was then a considerable sum of money worth something like a half a million pounds today.

The trust which carried out the work Dorothy had left them still exists today and continues it’s work to look after the church which during the late 90′s included ‘improving’ the church hall into a proper community centre which is now the Dorothy Parkes Centre. A separate Board of Trustees has been formed to look after the Centre.

It is quite a history stretching back nearly 300 years and one which has surely benefitted many people in the Smethwick and surrounding areas during it’s time. The legacy Dorothy Parkes has left us is to continue to offer support to groups and the local community by opening the doors of the centre and the church and offering people a place of welcome and opportunity.