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St Barnabas

City Road

St Paul's, Bristol

1843 - c1980

At the junction of City Road and Lower Ashley Road, where the Malcolm X Community Centre now stands, stood the parish church of St Barnabas. When I was young, the number 11 bus used to come this way to town and the church used to fascinate me. By then however the church had closed (1955) and the building was used by the adjacent primary school (and this picture above dates from the latter years of the building's life).

For its date - 1843 - it was an architecturally poor building. Consecrated on 12th September 1843, it was unusual having a crypt running the whole length and breadth of the church. It had big lancet windows, was aisleless and cruciform, with shallow apsidal sanctuary. The prettiest feature, the recessed stone spire with little flying buttresses connecting it to the angle pinnacles of the parapet of the tower, was removed in 1970. The church itself came down in 1983 for the new community centre. These red brick walls still seem to make use of the church's foundations - see the lowest part of the walls are still of Bristol Pennant.

The interior also had little to commend it, but attempts were made to disguise the architecture by the use of stencilled decoration on the walls. I do not know if this survived into the latter stages of the building's life, the fashion was to paint this out. There was a west gallery, but the organ was not on it, but perched in the SE angle of the crossing. The best feature was the roof, with pendant bosses.
The crypt, originally intended as a burying ground but receiving only a single burial before the law was changed (1855), came into its own during the air-raids of the second world war as a shelter. In one of the cruel twists of fate, on the night of March 17th 1941, during a heavy raid on the city, a bomb fell through the roof of the church into the crypt. Eighteen people were killed outright, six more died in hospital of their injuries and many more received injuries.

The church had the honour of being the first of Bristol's bomb-damaged churches to reopen. Repairs were made and the church reopened on June 12th 1943.

(If anyone can help with some accurate dates in the recent history of the church please get in touch.)


From Ashley Road


From William Street on the City Road side

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page modified 7th September 2005