Standing on the Green in Redland is a small C18 chapel. The surroundings still evoke a rural feel, although the city of Bristol has now spread and engulfed the former mansion (now a school) and built on most of the estate. It is now the parish church for Redland and as such is not always large enough for services I was heartened to hear when I visited on the 5th June 2000.
The chapel was built as a private chapel for John Cossins who had purchased the estate of Redland Court for his retirement in 1732, having made his money as a grocer in London. He rebuilt the house in 1735 but as his health failed he was unable to get to his parish church at Westbury-on-Trym two miles away (3.5km). The architect of the house was John Strahan who died in 1735, and another architect supervised the building of the chapel, William Halfpenny. It opened on 5th October 1743, and the final furnishings and decorations were in place by 1747. It was served still from Westbury, and did not become a parish church in its own right until 1943.
The church is approached from the west along an avenue of plane trees. Beyond the gates four Ionic pilasters "support" a pediment with a small lunette window, and behind this rises an octagonal cupola on a square plinth.
Walking through the miniature entrance vestibule into the nave, your eyes are drawn to the sanctuary. Here under a coffered ceiling with winged cherub heads is a blank lunette window now painted flanked by angels on top of the curved entablature which gives the illusion of an apse whereas the sanctuary is actually square-ended. Below the entablature is fine panelling and an altarpiece painting of the preparation of Christ's body for the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. this is an C18 copy of a picture which used to hang at Houghton Hall in Norfolk by Annibale Caracci, before passing to the Russian Royal Collection where it has since been destroyed by fire. (This beautiful ensemble is often spoilt by a left-down projection screen used for services but was kindly retracted for me to take the above picture!). Sadly some of the exquisite carved panels in this reredos by Thomas Paty, of birds and foliage, bell-ropes etc, were stolen in a recent break-in, a case of stealing to order perhaps as these irreplaceable C18 woodwork panels have been well-illustrated in books including Pevsner's North Somerset and Bristol volume. The Communion Table is an astonishing gilded eagle supporting a marble top.
Turning back to look at the west end, the lower two openings flanking the entrance were made in the C19, one of the few alterations to the church structurally (the other being a new vestry at the south east) to the original building, done to create a few more seats in this small church. Above is a gallery, possibly where the Cossins family would sit for services. The walls of the tower contain two small busts by Michael Rysbrack, of John Cossins (d1759) and his wife Martha (d1762). These were originally kept at the house until Martha's death. John's bust is shown close-up below left, he has longer hair than his wife!
The small entrance vestibule has become a repository for many memorials. Here also are two more near-identical busts by Rysbrack, thought to depict Martha's brothers John and William Innys, one of which is shown above. I found the memorial to Sophia Parry, an epitaph written on a curtain held up by two standing putti, the most charming and this is shown above (centre).
The pulpit is also the work of Paty, although the Victorians reduced it from a three-decker in the centre of the south side of the nave to the single plinth at the side of the sanctuary arch. The wall panelling of the nave has winged cherub heads, a charming touch. The font, of 1755 is also by Paty.
Unfortunately the casual visitor will find that the churchyard gates, as well as the church itself, are usually locked. However the church office is at the hall across the green, which is used for the family service as the church is now too small. Genuine visitors should contact the church office on 0117 946 4690 or by Email to make an appointment to view, especially if you are coming from some distance as locked doors are always a crashing disappointment. (Info updated March 2015)
Back to Bristol churches Index