St Mary Redcliffe

St Mary Redcliffe

St Mary Radcliffe is an Anglican parish church in Bristol, UK: it is currently Bristol’s tallest building at 89m high, and believed by many to be the biggest parish church in England.

History of St Mary Redcliffe

The first church on the site is believed to be almost as old as the port of Bristol itself, built in Saxon times. Seafarers would pray for blessings there before a voyage, and go there to give thanks on their safe return. It became a key site in early Bristol, and received donations from wealthy Bristol merchants who paid for building work, decoration, and masses to be sung for their souls.
The oldest existing parts of the current church date to the early 12th century, although the majority of it is late 13th / 14th century Gothic. Patrons, such as the five times Mayor of Bristol William I Canynges, helped fund construction and decoration, including ornate interiors and stained glass windows.
In 1446 the spire was struck by lightning, causing major damage (both to the spire and the church’s interior, which bore the brunt of the fall). It took over 400 years for the spire to be repaired.

St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School was founded in 1571 and still operates today, albeit next to the church rather than in a chapel on its grounds.

The interior was completely refitted in Baroque style during the Queen Anne period: much of the original decoration had been destroyed during the Reformation and later the English Civil War.
The spire was eventually reconstructed in 1872, following a long fundraising campaign which garnered £40,000from the community. Subsequent repairs were needed in the 1930s due to environmental pollution (St Mary Redcliffe lies in the heart of the city, next to a major roundabout).
The church survived the Bristol Blitz relatively intact: the only damage was a rail from the tramway being blown from nearby into the churchyard. Today, a plaque commemorates the spot.

St Mary Redcliffe today

The church is normally open for private prayer and visitors every day of the week. Look out for the remnants of Gothic architecture (particularly the layout, nave and carvings over the doorways) as well as the redesigns inside. There are occasional art installations inside the building which are worth looking out for.

Getting to St Mary Redcliffe

The church is approximately a 10 minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads station (twice hourly connections to London, extensive connections with the South West, Wales and the Midlands) and a 5 minute walk from the Harbourside and 15 minute walk from the city centre.

It lies between the A370 and A4044, and whilst it is easily accessible by car, parking in Bristol City Centre remains somewhat scarce. Several bus routes stop outside on Redcliffe Way.

St Mary Redcliffe Boys' and Temple Colston Girls' School History

This is the place to leave and share any memories you have of the schools during the 40s, 50s and 60s. For example..

- Events that happened at the school?
- Teachers names and their subjects taught
- Teachers who stood out and helped you acheive results
- Teachers who didn't?
- Punishments and rewards
- Classroom facilities (good or bad)
- Names of your "best friends", classmates
- Famous visitors while you were attending
- Osmiroid or Parker pen?
- Stories and anecdotes

I have provided seperate pages for the two Schools through the decades. [+] after page name means there are comments to read.

Just select the page relevant to the school and dates you attended, then enter your comments, thoughts and memories by clicking on the "post a comment" link provided. You don't need to sign in to leave a comment, just use your name (URL is optional) or the "anonymous" option.

I look forward with interest to reading more about the schools.

If you have any pictures of, or relevant to, the schools that could be used in this project please email them, with any background info you have, to me at radical_solutions(at)hotmail(dot)com

Dave Powell (attended 1965 - 1970 Francombe House)

St. Mary Redcliffe

The parish church of St Mary Redcliffe is one of the most iconic places of worship in Bristol. On a visit to Bristol in 1574 Queen Elizabeth I is reported to have described it as 'The fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England'.

It was built on the site of an earlier church sometime in the 1100s and became an important place of worship for sailors leaving and returning to the port. Much of the building that can be visited today was funded by wealthy merchants and built between 1292 and 1370, though the interior was not completed until the 1400s.

Disaster struck in 1446 when lightning destroyed the original spire of St Mary Redcliffe and much of the church's interior. The Reformation and Civil War also damaged the church's fine interior.

In 1848 a group called the Canynges Society formed to try to restore the church's former medieval splendour. The spire was restored in 1872 by architect George Godwin and based on information obtained from master mason John Norton, as recorded by William Worcester in 1448.

The Canynges Society re-formed in 1927 and is still active today raising money to support the upkeep of the church and its churchyard.

Margaret Penn: wife of Admiral Sir William Penn and mother of the Quaker, William Penn

15 Saturday Sep 2012

In 1643, aged 22, (Admiral Sir) William Penn (1621-1670) was appointed as a Captain in the Royal Navy. In the same year he married Margaret Van der Schure (Jasper). At the end of this blog entry there is a short pdf slideshow relating to the life of Margaret Penn.

Margaret van der Schure has been described as a ‘gay widow’. Her father might well have been John Baptist Jasper, a merchant of the Strand, London who became a “prolific purchaser of confiscated royal goods“. He “may have been a leading London Merchant “ (so his affairs could have been complimentary to the Penn family’s own mercantile interests – see previous blog entry on Giles Penn). Perhaps the two families had on-going business/trading connections?

In 1642, (Admiral Sir) William Penn was on leave in London so it may have been then that he met Margaret. They married in 1643 at St Martin-within-Ludgate, 40 Ludgate Hill, London and close to Margaret’s family home in the Strand.. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate was destroyed by the Great Fire of London of 1666 and was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. There is reported to be a display by the door which commemorates Admiral Sir William Penn.

Their marriage is recorded thus: “1643. June 6 th . Williame Penne and Margaret van der Schuren, by Dr Dyke, Lecturer…witness Mr Roach, churchwarden then”

The marriage is also record in the City of London Guildhall perhaps this second certificate was needed for Penn to claim the compensation for Margaret’s loss of Irish estates: “1643. June 6. William Penne and Margaret van der Schuren by Mr Dyke, Lecturer.”

The use of Mr Dyke, a Lecturer (a holder of a stipend for preaching) to officiate the marriage shows the couple’s Puritan dissatisfaction with beneficed clergy.

After their marriage they lived in “Tower Gardens and the navy quarters where they were only able to afford two rooms”. When (Admiral Sir) William Penn was promoted in 1644, he and Margaret moved to a house that belonged to Charles II:

“…built with brick linings backward and adjoining to the east side of a former tenement, consisting of one hall, a parlour and a kitchen…with divided cellar underneath same and, above stairs, in first storey two fair chambers and on second storey two more and two garrets over the same with a yard before the same, now in possession of William Penn.”

It was in this house that the Quaker, William Penn (1644 -1718), was born on 14 th October, 1644. With his father frequently absent at sea for long periods of time, It was Margaret who was to have the greater influence on the emotional and religious development of her son.

Margaret and her husband were, no doubt, a plain, Purtian couple, and, when they were married, lived in moderate circumstances in lodgings near the Tower of London. The diarist, Samuel Pepys, who had a close association with the family over a number of years, wrote of their beginnings with information he obtained from a Mrs Turner:

“She [Mrs Turner] says that he was a pityfull [fellow] when she first knew them his lady was one of the sourest, dirty women, that ever she saw that they took two chambers, one over the othr, for themselves and child in Tower Hill that for many years together they eat more meals at her house than at their own that she brought my lady who was then a dirty slattern with her stockings hanging about her heels so that afterwards the people of the whole Hill did say that Mrs Turner made Mrs Pen a gentlewoman.”

Although plainly dressed the Penn newly weds still had a capacity for high spirits. (Admiral) Penn is described by Pepys as one whose pranks included “drinking the susceptible into a stupor, singing bawdt songs and supping at midnight off bread-and-butter on the roof” Pepys found Penn “a very merry fellow” with a wife with a similar approach to life. Pepys also described Margaret’s pranks as including “flinging Pepys on a bed at a party and heaping female guests upon him”.

Pepys describes his first meeting with Margaret Penn in August, 1664:

“At noon dined at home and after dinner my wife and I to Sir W Pen’s to see his lady, the first time, wo was well looked, fat short old Dutch woman, but one that hath been heretofore pretty handsome, and is now very discreet and I beleive hath more wit than her husband. Here we stayed talking a good while and very well please I was with the old woman at first visit.” At a later date Pepys says that Margaret is “mighty homely and looks old.”

10 years after their marriage (Admiral Sir) William Penn petitioned for restitution of wife’s estates in ‘County Clare, Rneanna and Jasper’s Bridge’. He appealed to Oliver Cromwell, who acted and passed an order in Council on 1 st September, 1654:

“On consideration of the petition of General William Penn one of the admirals at se Ordered, by his Highness and the council, that as a mark of favour to him and in consideration of his sufferings in an estate of his wife’s in Ireland, lands in Ireland yet undisposed of be set forth to him and his heirs of three hundred pounds per annum value, as the same worth in the year 1640 and that, for empowering the Lord-Deputy and council to set forth the same accordingly, an ordinance be brought in.”

Cromwell himself also addressed a letter to the Lord-Deputy and council in Ireland on 4 th December:

“Gentlemen, Ourselves and council having thought fit, in consideration of the great losses sustained by General Penn and his wife by the rebellion in Ireland, and as remuneration of his good and faithful services performed to the Commonwealth to order that lands to the value of £300 per year, in Ireland as they were let in the year 1640, to be settled on General Penn and his heirs and for such as he is now engaged in further service for the commonwealth in the present expedition by sea, and cannot himself look after the settling of the said estate, it is our will and pleasure, that lands of the said value be speedily surveyed and set forth in such place where there is a castle or convenient house for habitation upon them and near to some town or garrison, for the security and encouragement of such as he shall engage to plant and manure the same, and if it be, such lands as are already planted … We do earnestly and specially recommend the premises to your care, and remain, your loving friend, [Signed] Oliver Cromwell”

The castle that was awarded was Macroom, near the town of Cork. Margaret Penn often went to Ireland and lived there for long periods of time on one or other of the family’s estates. Post the 1661 Act of Settlement in Ireland it was Margaret Penn, in her husband’s absence, who dealt with the legal transference of Macroom Castle to the Earl of Clancarty and the Penn appropriation of the estates of Shanagarry in East Cork & Konakilty in West Cork and the appointment of the Admiral as governor and captain of the castle and fort of Kinsale.

When the Great Plague hit London in 1665 the Admiral was working for the British Naval Board, Margaret and the family remained in London until September in which month they moved to safer lodgings in Woolwich.

On the 11 th January, 1666 Pepys wrote:

“All of us by invitation to Sir W Penn’s and much company, among others the Lieutenant of the Tower and Dr Whistler and his [prospective] son-in-law Lower, servant to Mrs Margaret Penn”. Anthony Lowther later married William & Margaret’s daughter, also named Margaret and referred to in the family as ‘Peg’. (This couple will be the subject of a future blog posting)

The Penns acquired a country house at Walthamstow (now in London, E17) as did their close family friend and Bristolian, Sir William Batten (d. 1667), a surveyor of the Navy. They both often entertained Samuel Pepys there, probably in Marsh Street (now High Street) where Margaret Penn was rated as living. Another theory suggests that they lived in Clay Street (now Forest Road).

When the Admiral resigned from the Navy Board in 1669 he gave up his house in Navy Gardens. London. The family went to live in the countryside at Wanstead (now part of North East London) and it was there that Margaret’s husband died on 16 th September, 1670. His will stated:

“And first I doe will and devise unto my deare Wife Dame Margaret Penn to be paid unto her immediately after my decease the Summe of three hundred pounds sterling together with all my jewels other than what I shall hereinafter devise … the use during her life of one full moiety of all my plate … and all Coaches and Coach-horses or Coach-mares.”

Margaret accompanied the Admiral’s cortege from Wanstead to Bristol for his burial in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol.

Margaret’s son, Richard , who had been left one hundred and twenty pounds a year until he was twenty-one, and then four thousand pounds, by the Admiral, survived his father by only three years. He died on 9th April, 1673, and buried at Walthamstow.

Margaret Penn died, twelve years after her husband’s death, in 1682.

Click on the following title to download a pdf slide show on Margaret Penn – Wife of Admiral Sir William Penn

The 'dark history' of Bristol's Redcliffe Caves

They are a big tourist attraction - but what exactly happened there hundreds of years ago?

Around Phoenix Wharf, beside the Ostrich Inn, there are three openings built into the red, sandstone cliffs which give Redcliffe its name - each guarded by a metal gate.

Peering through to the darkness beyond it may be difficult to realise just what an important piece of Bristol history is hidden away and out of sight.

These are the Redcliffe Caves, a series of tunnels which to this day are shrouded in rumour and mystery.

Despite the name, the Redcliffe Caves are actually mines, as the entire system was carved by hand with the purpose of accessing the fine sand within the cliffs that was perfect for making glass.

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It’s not known exactly when mining began here but it was likely sometime during the later Middle Ages when Bristol was making a name for itself in the manufacturing of glassware.

From the 17th and into the early 19th century the network of tunnels was expanded greatly as glass products from Bristol became a vitally important commodity to the Atlantic triangular slave trade, where they would be exchanged for captured slaves in west Africa, who would in turn be bartered for tobacco and sugar which would be brought back to England.

Rumours persist that around this time the Redcliffe Caves were used to keep slaves chained to walls but there’s very little evidence to support this.

However, it is believed slaves may have been held in the basement of houses on nearby Guinea Street.

It has also been claimed that French prisoners of war were imprisoned here, which probably did happen.

The weird and wonderful of Bristol

Other rumours include that a secret passage from the vaults of St Mary Redcliffe church leads into the complex, and also that they are haunted by the ghosts of either slaves, or sailors - or both.

Perhaps the biggest and most surprising mystery about the Redcliffe Caves is that we don’t really have any idea how far they actually go on for.

Strange as it may seem, only a fraction of the mined tunnels has actually been mapped out, as during World War II a large bomb detonated in Redcliffe, causing a massive cave-in which permanently blocked what is thought to be the majority of the complex.

With no records or maps known to survive of the caves, it is astonishing to think that there may be a vast web of tunnels weaving beneath the streets of Redcliffe, trapped away - possibly permanently in the darkness.

Weird Bristol

Since early 2017, Bristol-based author Charlie Revelle-Smith has curated the @WeirdBristol feeds on Twitter and Instagram, in which he documents the secret, hidden and lesser-known history of Bristol.

His latest book Weird Bristol: The Ultimate Guide to a City’s Secrets is available in paperback and ebook from Amazon.

Our top What&aposs On stories

For the latest shopping, food and drink and lifestyle stories from in and around Bristol, check back on Bristol Live&aposs What&aposs On homepage.


Are you interested in history.
Do you like walking.

If so, why not join us for the traditional St Mary Redcliffe Pipe Walk, which takes place this coming Saturday from 9:30am until 12:30pm.

This historical walk celebrates the medieval gift of a pipe water to Redcliffe by the de Berkeley family.

All are very welcome to join us for this piece of living history.

Read further historical information below and click on the event link below for details of times etc.

Celebrating the gift of water.

Every year the Priest, Churchwardens and people of St Mary Redcliffe walk the route of an ancient conduit given to the parish by Lord Robert de Berkeley in 1190 and give thanks for the gift of fresh water. The historic event asserts the church’s right of way along the 2,514 metre (2,750 yard) route of an 824-year-old pipeline linking it with an ancient fresh water spring in the Knowle area of Bristol.

The conduit dates back to 1190 when Robert de Berkeley, Lord of the Manor of Bedminster, granted the right to lay a pipe from the Ruge Well at the top of Knowle Hill through south Bristol to the churchyard of St Mary Redcliffe.

The Pipe Walk route covers just under two miles from the spring near St Barnabas Church in Daventry Road through Lower Knowle and Bedminster to Redcliffe Hill. It takes in Victoria Park where first-time Pipe Walkers traditionally are ‘bumped’ on one of several old stone markers indicating the route. Also in the park is a labyrinth constructed by Wessex Water in 1984 at the point where the pipe is crossed by a twentieth-century foul water interceptor.

Elsewhere the pipe runs through allotments and private gardens. Throughout the walk periodic stops are made for manhole inspections.

Originally made of lead but replaced with cast iron by the Victorians, the pipe was broken as a result of bomb damage during the Second World War.

The pipe ends just inside the church gate on Redcliffe Hill where a Latin inscription commemorates Lord Robert de Berkeley’s philanthropy

The clock chime can be heard striking the quarter chimes on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th bells of the ring of 12 with the hours being struck on the largest 50cwt (12th) tenor bell. The clock chime strikes the "Cambridge Chimes", commonly known as the "Westminster Chimes", every quarter of an hour daily from 7 a.m. to 11pm. [38] The chimes are disabled outside of these hours. If the bells are in the 'up' position, the chimes are also disabled (normally during the day on Sundays). The clock was fully converted to electric operation during the 1960s. It is now driven by a Smith's of Derby synchronous motor. The old pendulum, gravity escapement and weights, etc., were removed when the clock was automated. What remains of the clock movement and electrified chiming barrel is housed in a large enclosure in the ringing room. The clock face is approximately 3 m in diameter and is on the northern elevation. [38]

The ring of 12 bells is augmented with two additional semitone bells. A sharp treble bell cast by John Taylor & Co in 1969 is the smallest bell in the tower and a "flat 6th" cast by John Taylor & Co in 1951 and allow different diatonic scales to be rung. All the bells have been tuned on a lathe the tenor bell was tuned in 1903 and strikes the note of B (492 Hz). [38] The St Mary Redcliffe Guild of Change Ringers was founded in 1948. [39]

The bells are hung in a cast iron and steel H-frame by John Taylor & Co dating from the major overhaul of 1903. [35] A number of small modifications have taken place when each additional bell was added. The 50cwt tenor bell is the largest bell in a parish church to be hung for full-circle English-Style change ringing and the 7th-largest bell in the world, only surpassed by Liverpool Anglican Cathedral 11th (55cwt), Wells Cathedral tenor (56cwt), York Minster tenor (59cwt), St Paul's Cathedral tenor, London (61cwt), Exeter Cathedral tenor (72cwt) and Liverpool Cathedral tenor (82cwt). [36] A new 8th bell was cast by John Taylor & Co in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee replacing the 1768 Bilbie bell a non-swinging bell with an internal hammer fitted for use as a service bell chimed from within the body of the church. [35] [37]

The tower contains a total of 15 bells, one bell dating from as early as 1622 cast by Purdue and two cast by Thomas I Bilbie of the Bilbie family from Chew Stoke in 1763, [33] the remainder were cast by John Taylor & Co at various dates, 1903 (9 bells), 1951 (1 bell), 1969 (1 bell) and 2012 (1 bell). The larger Bilbie (10th) bell along with the 1622 Purdue (11th) bell are included in the 50cwt ring of 12 bells. [34]

St Mary Redcliffe

Redcliffe was originally a suburb of Bristol outside of the old city boundary and incorporated into Bristol in 1373. There was a church there from the early 12th century but its main structure is ‘decorated’ and ‘perpendicular’ in style built 1320-80. Although it grew to be a very large fine building is was and always has been a parish church.

The church has a large yard but in the mid 1800’s compensation was paid when a railway tunnel was built underneath the churchyard. With this money, land was purchased and a new cemetery for parishioners was established by the A4 Bath Road, opposite Arnos Vale Cemetery.

There are many tombs and memorials in the church. A brass plate in front of the high altar shows a lawyer and his wife with this inscription:

“Here lies the body of that venerable man John Brook, sergeant-at-law of that most illustrious prince of happy memory, Henry VII, and Justice of Assize for the same king in western parts of England, and Chief Steward of the honourable house and monastery of the Blessed Mary of Glastonbury, in the county of Somerset, which John died on 25th day of the month of December, in the year of our Lord 1522. And near him rests Joanna his wife, one of the daughters and heirs of Richard Amerike, on whose souls may God have mercy. Amen”

Quoted in St Mary Redcliffe, an Architectural History by Michael Quinton Smith, published by Redcliffe 1995

Quick Facts on St. Mary Redcliffe

Site Information
Names:St. Mary Redcliffe
Categories:churches England's Thousand Best Churches: Five Stars
Dedication: Virgin Mary
Dates:12th C, 15th C
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.448297° N, 2.589523° W
Address:12 Colston Parade
Bristol, England
Phone:01179/291 487
Hours:Winter 9am-5:30pm
Summer 8am-8pm
Lodging:View hotels near St. Mary Redcliffe
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Bristol, St Mary, Redcliffe

Bristol, St Mary, Redcliffe. ‘The most famous, absolute and goodliest parish church in England’, declared Queen Elizabeth I. The church, of cathedralesque proportions, stone-vaulted throughout, is a monument to the piety of the inhabitants of Redcliffe, a wealthy suburb of Bristol. Its foundation goes back certainly to 1158 and possibly earlier, but the building that stands today is Gothic. The transepts and nave, completed by c.1376, are attributed to William Canynges the Elder, merchant, six times mayor and MP for the city. The east end was rebuilt by William Canynges the Younger, his grandson, also mayor and MP, who, after his wife's death, took holy orders and became dean of the college at Westbury-on-Trym. In the south transept are two effigies of William, one as a merchant with his wife, the other as a priest. At some time between c.1200 and c.1320 the church became the focus of a popular cult of the Virgin, which centred round an image housed in the north porch. This explains the curious double form of the porch. The inner porch of c.1200 housed the image: the outer porch of c.1320 was built around it to serve as a vestibule to the cult area and to the church as a whole. The spire was part of the original design but completed only in 1872. The young poet Chatterton worshipped in the church and is buried outside.

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Watch the video: The bells at St Mary Redcliffe Church