Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2HY
Commissioned 1962, completed 1967, to replace earlier church completed 1872.
Robert Potter (of Potter and Hare). Original church designed by George Edmund Street in 1863 and building work was completed in 1872. 1909 narthex by George Frederick Bodley. 1928 sacristy by F.C. Eden.
Modernist rebuilding of Victorian church
Grade II (list no. 1208704)
Older elements are red stone, with limestone and sandstone dressings.
New work is of reinforced concrete, with rubble stone dressings.
Cloister is steel on rubble base and aluminium spire added to the remains of the original tower.
Mass is held Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday. In addition there are Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer sessions and Confessions. The public is welcome to join these services although there is no access for viewing the Church during these services. Please check the website for the latest festivals and events. The exterior of the church can be viewed at all reasonable times from Pembroke Rd and Alma Vale Road.
The design of the original Victorian church of All Saints, Clifton was a good example of George Street’s many fine designs. All Saints was also among the leading churches of the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 1800s. A narthex and sacristy were added in the early 1900s. This building was severely damaged by bombing during WWII, in December 1940. Soon after, the decision was taken to rebuild the church, but there were drawn-out disagreements about how far a new building should remain true to the original.
Robert Potter designed the present building, which was consecrated on 1 July, 1967. His solution was considered very successful. He kept the undamaged remains of the narthex, sacristy and lower part of Street’s tower. With these he blended modern features to create a new church around a steel-framed cloister entered through the tower. The tower stump was topped by a slim wooden spire, covered with aluminium. A new nave was built and filled with rich colour and subdued light from beautiful fibreglass windows by artist John Piper. These are in a modernist design and represent the River of Life and the Tree of Life. Today, All Saints is still a thriving church, with worship in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England.
The entrance through the tower is surrounded by distinctive bands of differently coloured stone. This leads to a light-filled cloister that contains windows on the west wall using glass salvaged from the original building. From here visitors pass into the new nave, with a dramatically sloped concrete roof and Piper’s striking windows. These were built up on the spot from thick layers of fibreglass. Another modern touch is the pale-coloured pews, made from ash. Potter’s overall design reflects modern practices, encouraging the congregation’s participation by moving them closer to the altar.
To the left of the organ is a Gothic-style arch, the ‘west’ door of Street’s Victorian church. This leads to the Chapel of St Richard of Chichester, originally the narthex (porch) and now used for some weekday services. The three windows on this chapel’s north wall are from the original narthex. A dramatic ‘ciborium’ stands over the altar, which is in polished Portland stone. The canopy was designed by Randoll Blacking and erected in the temporary church in 1952.
The front entrance on Pembroke Road is a good place to appreciate the mix of older and modern elements. It is also worth entering the building just to see the glass cloister and the garden (not open) beyond. There is a circular staircase in the nave leading up to a gallery – a perfect viewing point for Piper’s windows.
Photography: ©Frances Gard