Horfield Parish Church

History of our church - Overview

HPC SepiaThe history of Horfield Parish Church almost certainly goes back well over 1000 years. Its circular churchyard, on top of a hill, suggests pagan origins; and it is quite possible that St Augustine, or one of his followers, had a church built on the site, thus baptising what was already seen as a holy place.

The church was rebuilt, probably in the early 13th century, in the Early English style: nothing remains of this except for the fragment of a pillar (or possibly a font) which remains on display in the present church. The present West tower was added to this in the 15th century: the date 1612 is carved into its south-west buttress, proving that this practice is nothing new! It is possible that the font may also date from this time.

In 1831 the church was in poor repair, and much too small for the increasing number of parishioners. So the Revd Henry Richards, then parish priest, completely demolished the roof, nave, and chancel, and replaced it with a new building comprising nave, chancel, and transepts, with galleries in both transepts and across the west end extending into the tower. The new nave and chancel had the same measurements as the medieval church (61 feet 5 inches x 16 ft 3in). The transepts projected 12 feet from the nave, with a width of 16 ft. Unfortunately, no faculty was obtained for this work: this came to light in 1836, when a petition to rectify the oversight was hurriedly presented to Bishop Monk.

Soon after this, there were further building developments, including a new army barracks in the parish, so that the church had to be further enlarged. This time a faculty was duly sought, and granted on 17th October 1846. Building began the following year under the supervision of the architect William Butterfield.

The galleries were removed and the chancel extended; services were held in the new chancel, while north and south aisles were formed by extending the transepts back as far as the tower: the nave was now 48 ft long, in addition to a chancel of 24 ft 6 in. The overall width was 40 ft. The completed church was consecrated on 22nd December 1847: a white marble slab with a black cross marks the site of the 1847 altar.

The choir vestry at the west was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

In 1893, under the rector Fanshawe Bingham, the church was considerably enlarged by removing the chancel and rebuilding it on a larger scale eastwards of a new central lantern tower, together with a lady chapel (originally St Andrew’s chapel) and short transepts. The south transept was completed in 1913, and the north transept, sacristy, and organ chamber, in 1927. This constituted the church as we see it today, except for the removal of the chancel screen, and the moving of the font to the south transept.

Unfortunately all the plans and accounts related to both rebuildings have completely disappeared. Many of the monuments from the earlier church have been preserved and are now on the walls of the nave and chancel aisle.

The organ was originally built by Palmer of King Square, Bristol, in 1885: it was last rebuilt in 1994, with a new trumpet stop on the Great Organ, and additions to the Swell and Pedal departments. It is now a fine instrument suitable for both church services and recitals.

The belfry is the smallest in Bristol, being only 9 ft square, and is almost unique in having five bells. The four largest are dated 1773 and were cast by Bilbie of Chew Stoke, and the treble was cast by Rudhall of Gloucester in 1817. In 1982 the bells were refurbished and re-hung on oak wheels in a new metal frame.

The church was originally dedicated to St Andrew, but was rededicated to the Holy Trinity at an unknown date before the 19th century. To this dedication was added that of St Edmund in 1978, when the mission church of that name in the Gloucester Road was closed down. Flats are being built on its site in 2007. There is now a Chapel of St Edmund in the north aisle of the parish church.

Up to the time of the Reformation, the church was probably served by priests appointed by St Augustine’s Abbey. It then appears to have been annexed as a curacy of Almondsbury, and only in 1813 was the first permanent incumbent appointed. This was the Revd Samuel Sayer, known for his history of Bristol: he was also responsible for the building of the Georgian parsonage, completed in 1825. Horfield became a Rectory in 1867; the benefice was suspended in 2002.

The stained glass in the aisles was given by the Richards family in memory of their deceased children, while the east window is a memorial to the wife of one of the rectors, the Revd Clement Hutchinson. In the Lady Chapel, the east window is dedicated to Archibald Walters, the "boy hero”, who died of exposure to save a friend in a field in the parish in 1874.

The church was the first in Bristol to be associated with the Oxford Movement. When the new chancel was opened in 1847, many of the key figures of the movement were present: on the following Sunday the preacher was Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey. To this day it remains firmly established in the developing Catholic tradition of the Church of England.

For more details please see the side menu to the left. We aim to put as much of our Parish Archive online as possible. Part 2 (1898 - 1941) and Part 3 (1941-2007) will follow shortly.

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