HORFIELD PARISH CHURCH
Although no documentary evidence of the foundation of the church appears to be in existence, there is some evidence that there could well have been a place of Christian worship at Horfield from a very early date. Until the building of the school in 1838 (for which authority to enclose part of the common was granted) the churchyard was completely circular in form. This, together with the many springs still in evidence, suggests that the site was originally a pre-Christian place of worship. Moreover, it is adjacent to an exceedingly ancient track-way leading from Bristol towards the crossing of the Severn at Aust, part of which is currently in use as a short cut between Wellington Hill and Kellaway avenue past the east end of the church. This track can be followed on foot back to Zetland Road and from there over Kingsdown to the old city. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this track was the route followed by St. Augustine to the conference with the Celtic bishops at Aust in 603 AD. As Augustine was ordered by Pope Gregory to establish places of Christian worship on pagan sites, so that converts could continue to worship at a place to which they were accustomed, it is possible that the foundation of the church in Horfield dates from this time. As St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury had been Prior of St Andrew’s monastery in Rome, he encouraged all churches established in his time of office to be dedicated to St. Andrew. Until 1847, the church in Horfield was dedicated to St. Andrew. It was the custom of St. Augustine, as archbishop, to consecrate any newly founded churches, which he passed on his travels. It is known that Augustine would have passed Horfield church in 603 when travelling from the Benedictine abbey, now Bristol cathedral, on his way to Aust, south of the River Severn, to meet the Celtic bishops; it is logical to assume that the church of St. Andrew, formerly on a site of pagan worship, was consecrated by St. Augustine at that time.
Horfield appears in the Domesday Book as 'Horfelle in Langlei Hundred, the property of the King in Horfelle VII hides'. The book was compiled principally to record the extent, value and ownership of the lands, therefore the omission of a direct reference to an actual church building by no means precludes its existence. The Anglo-Saxon church would have been constructed of timber – tree trunks sawn in half, lengthways, would have formed the “pillars” of the nave and the spaces, in between, would have been of wattle and daub construction; the roof being of thatch.
The Manor of Horfield formed part of the estate given to Robert Fitz-Harding by Henry I (1100-1135) and when Robert established his new Monastery of St. Augustine in 1140 it formed part of the endowment, together with the advowson (the right to appoint the Incumbent) which clearly points to there already being a well-established church in existence by this date. No doubt the Abbot of St. Augustine shortly re-built the church in the Early English style (1175-1275 approx.) as an updated sketch, probably early 19th century, shows a small building comprising a nave, chancel and south porch attached to the later tower, with double lancet east windows typical of this period. Unfortunately, nothing remains of this church except the capital of a pillar now displayed in the church.
The present church dates from 1831, when The Revd. Henry Richards (who succeeded the Revd. Samuel Seyer in 1828) found that the old building was much too small to accommodate the increasing number of parishioners and after raising some £500 by subscription he contracted with 'Masons, Carpenters and Plasterers' to undertake the enlargement. The unknown architect engaged found upon commencement of the work that the whole of the fabric, with the exception of the tower, was in such a dilapidated state that it was necessary to completely demolish and rebuild the roof, nave and chancel. The tower is 15th century and it is interesting to see the date 1612 cared into the south west buttress, proving that this practice is nothing new!
The new church consisted of nave, chancel and transepts, with galleries in both transepts and across the west end extending into the tower. The former south porch was not replaced, an entrance being formed through the tower. Unfortunately, no faculty was obtained to carry out the work. This no doubt came to light when the Sees of Bristol and Gloucester were united in 1835 and a petition to rectify the oversight was hurriedly presented to Bishop Monk on the 14th December 1836. The total length of the new nave and chancel was 61 feet 5 inches with a width of 16 feet 3 inches, these being the dimension of the mediaeval church, the transepts projecting 12 feet from the nave with a width of 16 feet.
Further building developments in the parish, which was very much larger than it is today, together with the decision to build an army barracks in Horfield led to the question of further enlargement. This time a faculty was sought. It was granted on 17th October 1846. Building commenced the following year under the supervision of the architect William Butterfield, who was becoming known locally through his work at Highbury Chapel (now St. Mary's) Cotham and at Coalpit Heath. First the galleries were removed, and the chancel extended. Services were held in the new chancel whilst the north and south aisles were formed by extending the transepts back as far as the tower. The nave was 48 feet long and the chancel 24 feet 6 inches with an overall width of 40 feet. 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 end was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
In 1893 the church was considerably enlarged by removing the chancel and rebuilding it on a larger scale eastwards of a high central lantern tower, together with a Lady Chapel and short transepts. The south transept was completed with an eastern door and porch in 1921 and the north transept was constructed to include a sacristy with organ chamber over it in 1929. This constituted the church as we see it today, with the exception of the removal of the chancel screen, the repositioning of the font to the south transept and the formation of St. Edmund's chapel. The Stations of the Cross were originally in St. Edmund's church.
The organ, built in 1885 by Palmer of Kings Square, Bristol, was originally situated in the north chancel aisle. In 1927, it was moved to a purpose-built chamber above the new Sacristy with a detached console in the choir. It remained in this state until 1973, when Percy Daniel of Clevedon electrified the action and carried out numerous tonal modifications. At some stage, a fine tuba stop was removed. By 1994, the organ was in desperate need of a major overhaul and, following the receipt of a generous legacy, this work was very ably carried out by E. A. Cawston; weaknesses in the action were addressed and several new stops added, including a number of mutations and a Great Trumpet. In 2015, a new solid-state action was installed by Nicholson’s of Worcester, and the opportunity was taken to revoice the Trumpet (now playable on both the Swell and Great), to add a sub-octave coupler on the Swell and to stabilise the winding system. The result is a fine and versatile instrument, ideally suited to the needs of the church.
The earliest church registers, dating back to 1543, have been deposited at the Bristol Records Office where they can be viewed on request.
Horfield's belfry is the smallest in Bristol, being only nine feet square and is almost unique in having five bells. The four largest bells, dated 1773, were cast by Bilbie of Chew Stoke. The treble was cast by Rudhall of Gloucester in 1807. In 1982 the bells were recast and re-hung on oak wheels in a new metal frame. The original 4th was broken in 1997 and was replaced the following year by a similar bell which originally hung at South Petherton in Somerset.
The earliest Communion Plate is a paten of 1844 and a chalice of 1847. The chalice is decorated with small pearls. Most of the silverware was donated in the 1930s. Many of the vestments are mid to late 20th century. There is a low Mass set of black vestments - comprising of a chasuble, stole, maniple, burse and veil – in excellent condition along with another low Mass set in oyster silk damask. Both these sets are an excellent example of the work of the Warham Guild from the 1920s.
Some monuments have been preserved from the old Church and have been placed on the walls of the nave and chancel aisle. They include some to the Shadwell family, who were 'Lords Farmer' of the Manor and one of interest, just behind the organ console, is to George Armstrong, who fell into the River Frome near the drawbridge and was drowned in 1799. The font is original and could be contemporary with the tower. The eagle lectern, a gift from the Revd. Fanshaw Bingham (Rector 1878-1899 and author of a useful history of the parish) was stolen in June 2002. The stained glass in the aisle was given by the Richards family in memory of their deceased children, whilst the East window is a memorial to the wife of one of the Rectors, The Revd. Clement Hutchinson. This window is especially interesting in that along with a portrayal of the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of Christ, right at the top is an image of a priest wearing a white chasuble elevating the consecrated host at an eastward facing altar upon which are lit candles. Below are two angels honouring the Blessed Sacrament with thuribles emitting clouds of incense. This window dates from 1908, only two years after the repeal of the controversial Public Worship Regulation Act (1874), which had legally banned all the practices illustrated in the east window. Indeed, Bishop Edward King of Lincoln had been charged in a consistory court under the terms of the act for such practices in 1888. Fr. Tooth and Fr. Mackonockie had been imprisoned for the same practices around the same time. For Horfield Church to be bold enough to enshrine practices of the Ritualist Movement at this period of church history only two years after the repeal of the act says something about the confidence it had in embracing worship in the Anglo-Catholic style.
In the Lady Chapel the east window is dedicated to Archibald Walters, known as 'The Boy Hero', who died from exposure in a field in the parish in 1874.
The dedication of the church is to 'The Holy Trinity with St. Andrew'. A further dedication to St. Edmund was added to commemorate the redundant daughter church on Gloucester Road (1905-1978). Built in 1860, this was originally one of the parish schools. It has since been demolished. Holy Trinity was not the original dedication - a Bristol will of 1502 refers to 'The Church of St. Andrew in Horfelle' and this was also the dedication of the churches of Cromhall, Ashleworth and probably Alveston, all of which formed part of Fitz-Harding's original endowment. The See of Bristol was formed in 1542 when the Abbey Church of St. Augustine became the Cathedral - dedicated to 'The Most Holy and Undivided Trinity'. As the Manor of Horfield now formed part of the endowment of the new Diocese, it could be that the same re-dedication was given to the Parish.
There is no record of how the church was served by clergy prior to the foundation of the Abbey, but from then until the Reformation it was doubtless served by priests appointed by the Abbot. From various sources it appears that Horfield was somehow annexed as a curacy of Almondsbury and it was not until 1813 that the first permanent Incumbent was appointed. This was the Revd. Samuel Seyer, known for his History of Bristol, who served as perpetual curate. He was responsible for the building of the Georgian Parsonage, completed in 1825, although he himself never resided there. Horfield was not created a Rectory until 18th June, 1867, when The Revd. H. H. Hardy became the first Rector.
Horfield was at the forefront of the Oxford Movement in the area, as is clearly evidenced by press reports in the local newspapers of the opening of the new chancel in February 1847. All the key figures of the movement, such as the Revds. Eland, Woodford and Prevost took part in the service and on the following Sunday the preacher was The Revd Dr. Edward Bouverie Pusey. Dr Pusey was a leading theologian of the “Oxford Movement” – a group of Anglican priests and theologians, based in Oxford University, who were troubled by the lack of spiritual energy in the Church of England in the 1830s. They wrote a series of tracts advocating a renewed sacramental life in the Anglican church, believing the Anglican church to be a reformed catholic church in England, not a protestant church of the European reformation. They were, also, known as the Tractarians. The second wave of the Oxford Movement is known as the Ritualist phase, when the former mediaeval ceremonial was restored to the liturgy of the Anglican Church, especially at the celebrating of the Holy Eucharist, or the Mass.
Dr Pusey was a good family friend of the rector of Horfield, Revd Henry Richards. Their daughters, Lucy and Helena, were in school together in Clifton. Both girls pledged that they would join a newly founded order of Anglican nuns – the Society of All Saints, in London, where Maria Rossetti (sister of the poet Christina) was a nun. Sadly, this was not to be as both daughters died of consumption in 1852 with a month of one another. In 1844, when Revd John Henry Newman, another Tractarian, joined the Roman Catholic Church, Pusey, as his former colleague, was banned from preaching in certain Anglican churches, including All Saints, Clifton. Being a loyal friend of the Richards family, he was always welcome to preach in Holy Trinity Horfield, which he did most Christmases. The actual pulpit from which he preached was erected in St. Edmund's, but unfortunately the Jacobean woodwork literally crumbled to pieces when the church fixtures were dismantled. Pusey donated a fine stone altar on a carved oak frame to the church; the altar is in the Lady Chapel today.
The Chartist leader and social reformer, John Frost, lies buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, in Horfield, Bristol. He was buried in 1877, by The Revd Henry Hardy, the Rector of Horfield and the immediate successor to The Revd Henry Richards, who had re-built the church in 1847 and pioneered many forms of social outreach to support the poor and neglected in the parish. Frost, agitated for electoral reform in the 1830s; the Chartist movement, of which Frost was the leader, demanded that the right to vote be not dependant on owning land and property, but be a human right. Frost was prepared to give his own life for the cause; subsequently, sentenced to execution as a traitor, for allegedly leading a protest in Newport, but whose sentence was changed to transportation. He returned to England in 1856.
His wife, Mary and daughter, Anne, had developed connections with the newly re-built parish church of Holy Trinity, Horfield, Bristol, which had embraced the Anglo-Catholic traditions of the Oxford Movement, under the rector, Henry Richards with support from The Revd. Dr. Edward Pusey,
When, he died in 1877, John Frost was buried with his wife, Mary and son, Henry in the family plot in the churchyard of Holy Trinity.
Holy Trinity is, today, a church in the inclusive Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England. Its charism in mission, is to offer welcome, hospitality and support to all in need, especially those who have no voice and are readily marginalised. Having John Frost buried in our churchyard is an inspiration to serve such people in our own time; such inspiration gave rise to The Holy Trinity Welcome Project.
Revd. Canon David McGladdery, SCP.
Rector of Horfield, 2022.