Christ Church

with St Ewen



The churches of All Saints, St Ewen and Christ Church occupied three of the four corners of the crossroads which was the heart of the medieval city. The view above shows the steeple framed by the arch of the one surviving medieval gate of the city. This stands at the foot of Broad Street under the tower of another church St Johns-on-the-Wall.

The church was first mentioned in 1153 but was probably in existence before then. It was originally dedicated to Holy Trinity, but was already called Christ Church by the C14. The medieval church was longer than the present building, and seems to have had the tower sited towards the NE corner (see above and picture on St Ewen's page). The tower was found to be unsafe and the church badly decayed that it was demolished in 1786 and replaced by the current building which was completed in 1790.

The architect was William Paty, and the church owes much to the design of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, by Gibbs. The steeple is faced with the finest ashlar, but the side of the church is completely plain and rendered. This was because the church was completely surrounded by other property - shops and offices - as shown by the few surviving houses south of the tower in the picture above (left). Today the view is only possible to photograph when the leaves are off the trees!

The church is best loved by Bristolians for its clock over the west door (heavy but attractively ornate work by Henry Williams 1883), where two quarterjacks dating from 1728 strike their bells every fifteen minutes. These can be seen on the about-Bristol page on this church (because I forgot to take a picture of them!). (Currently March 2016 these jacks have been removed for restoration work, although they have been gone for several years).

Inside the church is quite spacious, four bays long, with tall slim piers dividing up the rectangular space into nave and aisles, and directly supporting coffered arches in the four directions which in turn support the saucer vaults. All is not what it seems however. The reredos in the east wall and windows above date from 1882 (F.Bell), altered again in 1911(C.F.W.Denning). The original reredos, once stored in the crypt, was restored to the church in 1925 and now forms the chancel screen. The side windows are largely by Williams 1883. Semi circular altar rails in the sanctuary and an altar table, both 1790.
The organ stands on a small gallery which is an improvement of 1889. The lower frieze of cherub heads in origninal C18 as are the supporting columns. The panels on the front above show from left to right 1.Miriam with a timbrel 2. David playing the harp before Saul 3. The herald angel 4. St Gregory revising sacred music and 5. St Cecilia at the organ with St Urban. The organ case itself predates the rebuilding of the church by some 80 years. The finely carved organ loft of 1889, with C18 cherub frieze below and organ case by Renatus Harris c1709

There was a marble pulpit with figures when I was younger, with a tester above with intricate inlay of 1815. That survives but the pulpit now incorporates the salvaged panels from Paty's original design. On the pier at the south end of the screen hangs an impressive C17 sword rest.

There are two fonts, Christ Church having a slim wooden baluster. However pride of place is given to the C17 font from St Ewen which is placed in an attractive circular baptistry at the north west of the aisle. A door leads from here into a large vestry and passage with kitchen etc. A close-up picture of the font can be found on St Ewen's page. The Christ Church font is in the vestibule outside of the kitchen where visitors rarely see it.

Sadly it is now policy to keep the church is locked during the day, which it never used to be. The church opens for Sunday Services and lunchtimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays - more details with contacts on the parish website

Page updated 30th January 2016

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