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St Andrew-the-Less, Dowry Square



This is the original site of Dowry Chapel, erected in 1744 as a chapel-of-ease to St Andrew in Clifton. The chapel was never consecrated but was built to serve the growing number of visitors taking the tepid waters of the Spa.

Matthew's Directory of 1793/4 has the following entry:-

Dowry Square Chapel, for the use of the Nobility and Gentry resorting to and residing at the Hotwells, was built and is supported by their voluntary subscriptions. This is a plain building, has within it columns of freestone which support the roof, a pulpit, and benches for the audience. In the season the congregation here is by far the most genteel and brilliant in the whole Town.

Fashions however change, and the chapel was eventually closed, demolished and replaced by a new building.

Plans were drawn up by the architect J.C.Neale to fit on the available space between the Georgian buildings of the square and the church was built in 1872-73. It was to become a parish church in 1881. It was High Victorian in style, in architecture colliding with the regularity and uniformity of its neighbours. the tower stood at the SW angle over the porch, and Neale ingeniously created a lofty building with four bayed arcades, a clerestory, transverse-gabled aisles and transeptal bays at the east and the west ends. In plan it was like the letter I. Pevsner, writing in 1958 (North Somerset and Bristol, Buildings of England), says that the church

"is an unforgiveable crime against the architecture of Dowry Square and chapel Row. Of no value either in its own Gothic forms. The spire is particularly nasty."

The interior, short and lofty, must have been difficult to photograph accurately. Thin circular pillars carry large French Gothic foliated capitals and heavy two-stepped arches. There was no east window, instead a two-light blank traceried recess was created above a row of ornate blank arcading.

Under the reorganisation of the Hotwells parishes in 1938 which also saw the closure of St Peter, Clifton Wood, the parish was united to that of Holy Trinity Hotwells. St Peter closed immediately but St Andrew-the-Less was permitted to remain open as long as the current vicar was in place. It closed in April 1940. The First World War memorials from both churches were moved to Holy Trinity.

Hotwells parish church fell victim to incendiary bombs on the evening of 3rd January. Repairs were then made to the empty St Andrew-the-Less and the church was reopened for services. Despite this, the parish was given permission to rebuild Holy Trinity, and St Andrew-the-Less finally closed again on 25th May 1958. It lingered on until 1963 when it was finally demolished.

Its replacement, a 1960s concrete and glass flats complex is equally out of place in Dowry Square, or rather what is now left of the square as an equally intrusive large three-lane one-way road comes in off the Cumberland Basin road complex, and is the main artery into the city centre from the west.

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page updated 22nd September 2001