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Historic England Research Records

Bristol Cathedral

Hob Uid: 1007295
Location :
City of Bristol
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : ST5830072600
Summary : Bristol Cathedral originated as an Augustinian abbey and was founded in 1140 by Robert Fitzharding. Henry II granted a charter to Bristol in 1155 and his name appears alongside Fitzharding as joint founder on the later abbey gatehouse. Due to the fact that Henry II only came to the throne in 1154 it is unlikely that he had any direct involvement in its foundation.The medieval elements of the cathedral were constructed using Dundry and Felton pale yellow limestone ashlar, although the Elder Lady Chapel is made of rubble with ashlar dressings; some other early buildings use red Brandon Hill Grit. Later additions were built using Bath Stone. Surviving from the 12th century is the Chapter House, although most of the extant cathedral dates to later periods. The Elder Lady Chapel dates to approximately 1220, built under Abbot David. In 1298 Abbot Knowle began innovative work, adding an aisled choir and the eastern Lady Chapel, as well as the Berkeley Chapel and its antechapel, south of the choir aisle. The north transept has Norman lower walls but was not completed until the late 15th century, the south transept was remodelled in the early 14th, century and the east walk of the cloister dates to the late 15th century.During the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the nave was demolished, houses were built over the site, and in 1542 the remaining portions of the building became the cathedral. It was not until 1866 that Canon J. P. Norris launched a campaign to raise funds for an ambitious new nave - supposedly prompted by the discovery earlier in the 19th century of the original 15th century nave foundations. The nave was eventually finished in 1877, with the west tower completed some ten years later. On 12 March 1994, the first 32 female priests in the Church of England were ordained in Bristol Cathedral. Their 10th anniversary was also celebrated in the cathedral in 2004.
More information : ST 583726 The Abbey of St Augustine was founded by Robert Fitzharding in 1142 and consecrated in 1148. It was extensively remodelled by Abbot Knowle (1306-1332), was raised to the dignity of a mitred abbey during the government of his successor, John Snow, and surrendered to the King's commissioners in 1539.

When Bristol was made a city with its own bishop in 1542, St Augustine's became the cathedral. Little now remains of Norman work, and what gives Bristol Cathedral its unique importance is the building begun by Knowle in 1298 and completed c.1330. The transepts and crossing tower date from c.1470-1515; the nave and west tower were only finally completed in the 19th century. In the south transepts is a late Anglo-Saxon sculpture, c.1050, depicting the Harrowing of Hell. Cathedral Church, Chapter House, Cathedral School and Old Deanery Grade A. (1-6)

Full description of the Anglo-Saxon sculpture. It is a slab or sculpture, and probably depicts the harrowing of hell. First half of the 11th century. (7)

Bristol Cathedral originated as an Augustinian abbey founded in 1140 by Robert Fitzharding. Henry II granted a charter to Bristol in 1155 and his name appears alongside Fitzharding as joint founder on the later abbey gatehouse. Given that Henry II only rose to the throne in 1154 however it is unlikely that he had any direct involvement in its foundation.

The medieval elements of the cathedral were constructed using Dundry and Felton pale yellow limestone ashlar although the Elder Lady Chapel is rubble with ashlar dressings, and some other early buildings use red Brandon Hill Grit. Later additions were built using Bath Stone.

Remaining from the 12th century is the Chapter House, although most of the cathedral as it is dates to later periods. The Elder Lady Chapel dates to approximately 1220, built under Abbot David. In 1298 Abbot Knowle began innovative work, adding an aisled choir and the eastern Lady Chapel as well as the Berkeley Chapel and its antechapel, south of the choir aisle. The north transept has Norman lower walls but was not completed until the late 15th century, the south transept was remodelled in the early 14th century and the east walk of the cloister dates to the late 15th century. The Abbey Gatehouse dates to the mid 12th century, confirmed by a dendrochronological investigation in 2003.

During the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the nave was demolished and houses built over the top the site and following this, in 1542, the remaining portions of the building became the cathedral. It was not until 1866 that Canon J. P. Norris launched a campaign to raise funds for an ambitious new nave - supposedly prompted by the discovery earlier in the 19th century of the original 15th century nave foundations. G.E. Street is said to have based architectural designs around this, and so it is thought that the nave follows much of the original abbey church plan. The nave was eventually finished in 1877, with the west tower completed some ten years later.

The stained glass in the windows of the Lady Chapel are largely a result of Joseph Bell's 19th century restoration of the 14th century glass. Although there are some 16th century fragments within the north transept and Berkeley Chapel windows, as well as 17th century enamelled glass in the north choir aisle, most of the stained glass in the rest of the cathedral is of mid 19th century date. The earliest monuments are simple 13th century stone coffin lids, but subsequent to 14th century remodelling there was more space for other monuments and thus many more were erected. As a result, the monuments within the cathedral span largely from the 15th to 19th centuries.

Interior fittings include a high altar stone reredos by J. L. Pearson dating to 1899, richly carved organ cases from the late 17th century and another stone screen by J. L. Pearson of 1904 with three ogee arches with panels and statues. The Berkeley Chapel contains a very rare candelabrum from the mid 15th century and Newton Chapel benefits from a 15th century timber screen.

Alongside normal service the cathedral is open for tours, and in 2004 was granted permission to construct a new visitor centre. The road running from Park Street west in front of the cathedral was removed in the early 1990s and the landscape in front of the cathedral is currently a public park space. (8-10)

Additional references. (11-17)

On 12 March 1994, the first 32 female priests in the Church of England were ordained in Bristol Cathedral. (18)

This webpage lists the names of all of the first 32 women to be ordained as priests in the Church of England. The first woman to be ordained was Angela Berners-Wilson. The 10th anniversary of their ordination was celebrated in 2004, by which time one had passed away and 14 retired. (19)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : The Buildings of England
Source details : North Somerset and Bristol, 1958
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : The city and County of Bristol 1967
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Source Number : 11
Source : Rescue news : the newspaper of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust
Source details : 'Archaeology in Bristol - an update', by Bob Jones
Page(s) : 3
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Vol(s) : 56, 1992
Source Number : 12
Source : Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society
Source details : 'An assessment on the site of the Minster House at Bristol Cathedral', by Eric Boore
Page(s) : 129-35
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 110, 1992
Source Number : 13
Source : Rescue news : the newspaper of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust
Source details : 'Bristol Cathedral - excavations in 1991-92', by Eric Boore
Page(s) : 06-Jul
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 57, 1992
Source Number : 15
Source : The Harrowing of Hell relief in Bristol Cathedral
Source details :
Page(s) : 101-6
Figs. :
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Vol(s) : 94
Source Number : 16
Source : The Minster House - Bristol cathedral
Source details :
Page(s) : 43-8
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Vol(s) : 9
Source Number : 17
Source : The stained glass of Bristol Cathedral [16th to 20th centuries]
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Source Number : 18
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Stevens, P. (2004). BBC News - Women priests: the first ten years [accessed 23-DEC-2010]
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Source Number : 19
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : Wikipedia. (2010). List of the first 32 women ordained as Church of England priests [accessed 23-DEC-2010]
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Bristol Past and Present 3 (Nicholls and Taylor)
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Source Number : 4
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 38-43
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Vol(s) : 20, 1863
Source Number : 5
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : DOE(HHR) City of Bristol 1977
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Source Number : 6
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
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Vol(s) : 1977
Source Number : 7
Source : Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture: Vol VII. South-West England
Source details :
Page(s) : 145-6
Figs. :
Plates : 198
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Bristol
Source details :
Page(s) : 50-62
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Source Number : 9
Source : Bristol Cathedral: History and Architecture
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Source Number : 10
Source : Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from the Abbey Gatehouse, Bristol
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1140
Monument End Date : 1140
Monument Start Date : 1140
Monument Type : Abbey, Augustinian Monastery
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1160
Monument End Date : 1160
Monument Start Date : 1160
Monument Type : Chapter House
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered 1300-1480
Monument End Date : 1480
Monument Start Date : 1300
Monument Type : Abbey, Augustinian Monastery
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Nave demolished 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1539
Monument Type : Abbey, Augustinian Monastery
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Cathedral from 1542
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1542
Monument Type : Cathedral
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Victorian
Display Date : Nave built 1866-1888
Monument End Date : 1868
Monument Start Date : 1866
Monument Type : Cathedral
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Victorian
Display Date : Towers built 1888
Monument End Date : 1888
Monument Start Date : 1888
Monument Type : Cathedral
Evidence : Extant Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 379305
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 57 SE 196
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1007297
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007298
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007299
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007300
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007301
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007303
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007663
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007667
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1007668
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL NAVE
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1869-01-01
End Date : 1869-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL CHOIR
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1895-01-01
End Date : 1895-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1960-01-01
End Date : 1960-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1979-01-01
End Date : 1979-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1985-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ST AUGUSTINE'S ABBEY, LESSER CLOISTER
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DEANERY ROAD
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, EAST LADY CHAPEL, CATHEDRAL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SITE OF MINSTER HOUSE, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MINSTER HOUSE, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 1 ST GEORGES ROAD
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COLLEGE GREEN, DEANERY ROAD
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CATHEDRAL WEST FRONT
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NORMAN GATEWAY, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MINSTER HOUSE, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1993-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CANON'S MARSH
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, INVESTIGATION BY RCHME/EH ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-11-14
End Date : 1995-11-14
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT COLLEGE SQUARE
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COLLEGE SQUARE (ADJACENT TO)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COLLEGE SQUARE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL (CLOISTERS/UNDERCROFT)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CANONS MARSH, HARBOURSIDE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FORTUNE BUILDING, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRISTOL CATHEDRAL CLOISTER
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31