April 14 – Palm Sunday

Bristol Cathedral, Museum and Docklands

Hi from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today was our first day in Bristol so we drove down to the Docklands to have a look and get our bearings. we drove under the Clifton Suspension Bridge which is a real sight to see.

On our way, we drove past St Alban’s church and stopped to find the church micro. We arrived at the church between services on Palm Sunday. The vicar and the staff are very happy for us to visit.  St Alban’s church had a lot of stained glass windows especially the East window which was modern and particularly lovely. It is called “Te Deum” by Arnold W. Robinson. Arnold was a student of Christopher Whall and we could see his influence in the work. The big wooden reredos depicting St Alban, St Mary, St John and St Oswald was designed by Richard Nickson. St Oswald’s chapel has a wonderful reredos made from Beer stone while the window depicts the life of St Oswald, the 7th century King of Northumberland. There were also lovely angel bench ends and poppy heads in the quire.

Beside the church is an older church but when it became too small for the congregation the new church was built. The old church now serves as the parish hall, and home to the Alban Players, a keen local amateur dramatic society. The churches are surrounded by houses but when the mission church was first built there were still some fields around the site. At first, there was a tin church erected in 1891, then the first stone church – the eastern two-thirds of the nave of the old church – was begun by the laying of a foundation stone on 6th February 1892.

We parked the car on Spike Island paying £5 for 5 hours even on a Sunday. I will never complain about the parking costs at home again. LOL. The car park was right beside the Brunel’s SS Great Britain and a great place to start our walk around the Docklands. We walked along looking at the boats and long boats. One of the boats was a floating cafe and others were ferrying people on trips along and across the river. There was even a galleon sailing along with a group of tourists, a very cool sight. There was a steam train running along the wharf and while we were looking for a geocache one of the train conductors came over to talk to us. He showed us where the cache has been but thought it was missing. We certainly were unable to find it.

After crossing the floating bridge and Pero’s Bridge we wandered around Millenium Square where there was a lovely fountain and several artworks including an Energy Tree, a big round shiny ball, sitting and standing statues and also bug and butterfly houses. We walked to the other side of the square and found out first “Nuts Around Bristol” geocache. It is a whole series around Bristol using fake nuts as the cache container. By the end of the day, we had found two others.

Bristol Cathedral was close by so that was our next visit as it closes early on Sunday’s for evensong. It is not a bit cathedral and did not have many stained glass windows but it did have some lovely features. The chancel floor is made of green, grey, white, black and red marble. There were black marble steps with huge fossils and the sanctuary tile work is even more impressive in cream, yellow, red, brown and grey colours. The quire was carved dark wood with modern uncarved misericords. The red tapestry seat covers were embroidered with grapes and crowns and some were designed like misericords with a main design in the middle and two other circles to each side. The stone reredos had five sedilia on each side. Many of the artworks, crosses and other ornamentation were covered for Lent and these will not be removed until Easter Saturday so it is unlikely that we will be able to see them.

There was a modern stained glass by Keith New in red and green which particularly took our attention. Keith was also solely responsible for three green lights in Coventry Cathedral which we have also seen and green has continued to be important in his stained glass, as well as pastel and acrylic paintings. Underneath this window is a tomb with a very realistic stone Bible on top.

The Lady Chapel is wonderful with the tombs of three Abbots, a three-arched reredos with shields and a string course of heads. Everything in the Lady Chapel is highly painted. The stained glass East window is of Mary and Child with four saints on each side and Jesus crucified above. Also in the entrance to the chapel is an unpainted tomb of Bishop Bush who died in 1558 and was the 1st Bishop of Bristol.

Some of the stone characters around the cathedral are thought to have been done by Adam Locke, the master mason of Wells Cathedral.

When we arrived we saw some of the clergy rehearsing a later special service. There was a lady minister sitting in a central chair behind the nave altar. I later saw that the current Bishop of Bristol is Vivienne Faull and realised it was the Bishop that we saw sitting in the Bishops chair. As we left the cathedral a group of dancers were rehearsing in the West End.

We wanted to do the church micro for the cathedral but when we looked it up we found that we needed to reenter the cathedral as all the clues were to be found on the inside. Most of the clues we knew where to look but we were glad to reenter as we had missed the cloister, the chapter house and the garden which the multi took us to. After I worked out the numbers I found that the final was 1.8 km away so we are not sure whether we had the right answers after all.

On our way to St Mary’s church in Redcliffe, we went to Queens Square where we saw a statue of King William III on his horse and another “Nuts about Bristol” geocache. We also passed a Quaker cemetery garden complete with a hermit cave which was first used as a hermit’s habitation in the 14th century when John Sparkes was installed in 1346 by Thomas Lord Berkeley to pray for him and his family. The cave continued to be occupied by successive hermits until the 17th century. The land where the hermit’s cave now stands was acquired by the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers in 1667 and was used as a burial ground until 1923. The gravestones from the former burial ground are now stacked in the hermit’s cave. The earliest recorded memorial is dated 1669 and the latest 1923, with the ages of the dearly departed range from eight months to 99 years.

St Mary’s in Redcliffe is a huge and wonderful church with every window full of brilliant Victorian stained glass windows. There were some metal gilded gates, a wooden ark and a Charles I royal coat of arms. The nave and aisle ceilings are fantastic with gilded bosses. The black wooden pulpit is carved with twelve saints all around it and the quire bench ends and poppyheads are lovely. In the Lady Chapel, all the five windows were by Harry J. Stanmere between 1959 and 1965,  and when you look at the East window from the nave the top of the window in red and yellow shines out about the sanctuary screen which is truly impressive. We really enjoyed visiting this church and collected the numbers for the multi too and walked the short distance to an easy find at the final with great views of the city and the river. The other fascinating thing in the church was the “chaotic pendulum” which depicts the uncertainty of life. This chaotic device is driven by a flow of recycled water, runs continuously and is extremely beautiful. The recycled water slowly flows into the centre of the cross beam which tips to let it out but which way will it tip?

On the way back to the river we found that we were standing beside a red sandstone wall with a cave door in the wall. There was an earthcache there too. There is a system of caves in the sandstone called the Redcliffe Caves which were dug into in the Middle ages to provide sand for glass making and pottery production. There are apparently tours taken through the cave system.

We tried to do a “Nuts About Bristol” cache beside the car park at 11.30 am when we arrived but there were a lady and her children sitting there so we thought we would try again later. Five hours later we returned to the spot and the same lady and children were still sitting there. We were shocked and wondered if they were homeless. We returned to the car and were about to leave when Mike noticed that she had finally left so we rushed over and found the cache straight away, nice and easy. Thank goodness! We like the “Nuts About Bristol” caches and will try to find some more.