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The church of All Saints Clifton was founded by a group of laymen , who were disquieted that, in the 1860s, there was far too little accomodation for worshippers in Clifton, and hardly any room at all for poorer people. The existing churches, under trust patronage, reserved most of their pews for those who paid a rental. So in 1862 a committee was formed with the objective of providing a large church in which all the sittings should be free and unappropriated. The architect George Edmund Street was invited to prepare plans for a church which would seat 800 people. The chancel of this church was consecrated on June 8. 1868, with a temporary, brick nave attached. Progress was so rapid and support so enthusiastic that the permanent nave was built in 1872.

The interior of the old church, looking towards the chancel (photograph taken 1907-1915)

Under the first vicar, Richard William Randall, the church became noteworthy in the restoration of ceremonial and the resuscitation of ancient Catholic Usages. From the very beginning there was a daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist, with two celebrations on Sunday. From a very early date, the principal service on Sunday morning was a Choral Eucharist, presented with all the dignity and solemnity that was possible, but always with regard to the regulations of the Church of England, and the desires of the Diocesan Bishop. Within a few years of the founding of the parish, a choir school was started, and continued until financial pressures forced its closure in 1962. For the first century of its existence, it was possible to offer daily choral services and full cathedral music on Sundays.

The chancel (photograph taken 1907-1915)

In 1909 a Narthex was added to the liturgical west end of the church (actually to the north). It was designed by G.F. Bodley and built as a memorial to the first Vicar and others. In 1928 there was added to the tower not the spire which Street had intended for it, but a Flemish, lead-covered lantern (rather like a pepper pot) which was designed by F. C. Eden. At the same time, the Sacristy was built.

The chancel (photograph taken 1907-1915)

The building stood until the night of December 2nd 1940, when incendiary bombs set fire to the building, utterly destroying the fabric of the chancel and the roof of the nave, seriously damaging the masonry. The sacristy and narthex were relatively undamaged. W.H Randoll Blacking was appointed architect for the reconstruction, and he prepared plans for a rebuilding, using the old walls but slightly adapting the layout. Many years of discussion and indecision followed and Randoll Blacking died.

In the 1960s the decision was finally taken to rebuild the church, and Robert Potter was appointed as architect. He thought it impossible to use the old walls, and produced a new conception, incorporating the sound remains of the old church, the narthex, lower stages of the tower and the sacristy . In some senses it was fortunate that the delay in rebuilding had occurred, particularly because the understanding of the Eucharistic Liturgy and its presentation required a setting somewhat different to that of Street. In the present building consecrated on July 1st, 1967, there is no chancel separating the congregation from the sanctuary, so that the whole people of God gather round the altar.

The interior

The tower of the old building now serves as the porch, and leads to the Atrium, a glazed cloister which serves several purposes, connecting porch with church and sacristy; providing a processional way and a concourse where people can gather and converse after services without destroying the essential quiet of the church itself. Various utilities open off it. The three small windows on the western wall contain glass salvaged from the old church, depicting St. Mildred, Laetitia and St. Anthony of Padua.

If you turn to the left as you come in from the porch you find yourself in the nave of the church. This has been turned through 90 degrees from the line of the nave of the original church so that the altar is to the east. The first impression is of light and colour, the whole scheme of glazing having been carried out in fibre glass by John Piper.

The High Altar, memorial to Canon M.P.Gillson (Vicar, 1911 - 1939), is made of polished Portland stone, from Worth Matravers in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. It stands beneath a ciborium designed by Randoll Blacking and erected in the temporary church in 1952, as a memorial to Henry James Cridland, for many years a sidesman and server.

The altar ornaments came from the old church and were repaired and re-silvered as a memorial to one who gave his life in World War 2. To the right of the altar is the piscina, lined with Broughton Moor Slate and engraved by John Skelton. The pulpit, like all the new woodwork in the church is made of clear ash, and is a memorial to Mr. F. C. Lazenby (Churchwarden, 1920-1943) To the left of the altar is the tabernacle, housing the Blessed Sacrament, made of silver set with lapis lazuli, designed by F. C. Eden. Further to the left, in the alcove behind the organ is a calvary also designed by Eden, rescued from the burning church in 1940 by boys from Clifton College

The organ was designed to fit in with and enhance the appearance of the church, by Messrs. J. Walker of Ruislip. It is a compact, three-manual and pedal instrument of 39 speaking stops, designed on 18th century principles, with tracker action to the manuals, open foot voicing of the pipes, low wind pressure and slider chests.

To the left of the organ is a Gothic archway, the original 'west' door of Street's church, leading to the Chapel of St. Richard of Chichester, originally the narthex porch. The three windows on the north wall are original, and at the centre can be seen a likeness of Vicar Randall with Street's original church above his head. The other eight figures are likenesses of the great men of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, and each preached at All Saints during Randall's incumbency. The east window is by Christopher Webb, a pupil of Comper, and depicts our Lord in glory, surrounded by saints. The chapel is independently heated, seats up to thirty people and is used for some weekday services .

All Saints Parish Church, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2HY.
Tel: +44 117 9741355
Email for parish office:
Vicar: Fr Kim Taplin
Tel: +44 117 3179467