Bristol Cathedral

This building was originally St Augustine’s Abbey, one of a ring of churches that ran round the northern edge of the old city. It was converted to a cathedral by Henry VIII together with Gloucester, Oxford, Chester, Peterborough and Westminster, though little survives of the original. It was being rebuilt at the time, so until the 19th century it lacked a proper nave, so when used for concerts was too small.

Pevsner praises it especially the chapter house, and the Lady Chapel of early 13th century  to the north facing College Green which was the fist part to be built and has some fascinating carvings. The Berkeley chapel to the south and the rest of the church followed.   GE Street built the nave from 1868 but died before it was completed.

The Bishops Palace was destroyed in the Bristol riots of 1832 when the Bishop’s heavily pregnant wife was ordered out. She died as a result of the stress and her husband followed soon after. They left 10 children.

Bristol Cathedral School is near the remains of the cloister which has memorials to people who died elsewhere or who were from abroad.

These foliate heads in the Lady Chapel fascinate me as they fit with my theory that they were inspired by unburied plague victims with ivy growing out of or around the heads. I have been told the design is much older, but these seem to fit. Rather than a face peeping out of greenery, I think it’s the greenery growing out of the remains. What do you think?

Here’s the Berkeley tomb, with another strange foliate head


Here’s another detail, of two female heads separated by a ledge beneath Our Lady. Not weird at all.

Two fonts, one in the Lady Chapel, the other in the crossing, neither of which seem to be used. There is a font with large cover behind the Vaughan monument, which makes me wonder if baptisms are held here.

Tomb to a knight and to a bishop

The Chapter House of 1150-70 with its wonderful carving, possibly the first use of Purbeck marble.

This is the oldest object here. The Harrowing of Hell from c.1050


The church interior and choir screen

The north crossing is called poet’s corner, so has a mixture of eminent locals, such as Mary Carpenter who wrote the first children’s act, the witty cleric Sydney Smith, journalist John Latimer, born Newcastle, Captain John Sanderson who died off the coast of Africa, on abolition patrol, and nearby the huge memorial to John Palmer, manager of the Theatre Royal. When he was dying locals spread straw on the cobbles of King Street to reduce the noise.

The MAriner’s Chapel has a bust to local born Poet Laureate Robert Southey,  Richard Haklyut collector and encourager of Atlantic Exploration, whose knowledge helped save lives. A society survives to his memory. And a former planter from Jamaica.

Out in the cloisters is a memorial to the city’s hero John Weeks, publican of the Bush Inn opposite the Exchange on Corn Street, who played the role of Mungo in The Padlock, the most successful abolition play, artist Edward Bird RA, and Elizabeth Draper, wife of General Sir William Draper, who inspired Sterne’s Eliza.

At the west end is the memorial to Ada Vacchell charity founder, and two 17th century tombs, to Lady and Sir John Young and their children though his effigy is missing, and the Vaughan monument.

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