Hi from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic
Today we headed off to find some more church micros and the first place on my list was Clifton Cathedral in the Clifton suburb of Bristol.
Clifton Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral built in 1972-1973 with a generous donation by local businessmen and is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. There had been a previous church but with a growing population and an ageing building, they wanted to renovate and improve but this was deemed too expensive so this cathedral was built on a different site. It is constructed from reinforced concrete clad with panels of Aberdeen granite
The entrance doors are impressive and include the Coat of Arms of the Bristol City and County but even more amazing were the huge coloured glass windows which run right down the left side of the cathedral. They were made by Henry Haig from 8,000 pieces of glass gathered from many locations throughout Europe, set in epoxy resin. The window on the left is ‘Jubilation’ and expresses walking on a beach where earth, sea and sky meet and intermingle in the beauty of the natural world. The longer ‘Pentecost’ window expresses the recreation of mankind with the coming of the spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Both are breathtaking pieces of artwork and dominate the cathedral.
The main seating area accommodates 1,000 people arranged around three sides of the hexagonal shaped Sanctuary area so that no person is more than 15 metres from the altar. The font in the baptistery is carved in Portland stone and Spanglebed Purbeck by Simon Verity and stands in a pool of water. The font is in full view of the congregation too so that everyone can take part in the ceremony. The cathedral or Bishop’s chair stands in the sanctuary as does the lectern. The lectern was designed by architect Ronald Weeks and made by artist William Mitchell. It is made of plywood and covered in fibreglass. William Mitchell also made the fourteen low relief sculptures in concrete ‘stations of the cross’ located around the walls. Working from his sketches, William had just 60 minutes to complete each panel as the composition material of Portland sand, cement and resin set very quickly.
The Clifton Cathedral is truly beautiful and we were quite inspired by our visit there. I bet the acoustics are good as the ceilings are multi-level. Finding the cache was easier than finding the entrance to the cathedral as we seemed to walk nearly all the way around it before we found the way in.
Nearby was All Saints church in Clifton which was originally built in 1868 – 1872 by George Edmund Street. However, on 2 December 1940, an incendiary bomb set fire to the building, destroying the chancel and nave of the church and it was not rebuilt until the 1960s. The altar itself is free standing and is set under a ciborium or canopy which is highly unusual in our experience. Behind the font is a series of stained glass windows made from fibreglass and designed by John Piper.
At Buckingham Chapel, Trinity Church in Henleaze and St Peters church in Henleaze we found two out of the three church micros but none of the churches were open.
In Westbury-on-Trym we found a three-hour car park which was very handy. We were confused over the numbers for the methodist church cache and our first try didn’t make any sense. We redid the numbers and went for a roundabout walk to find the cache easily. This church was also closed which was a pity as it sounds like it sounds as if it had an artwork named ‘Stardust’ by the artist, Simon Thomas which would have been nice to see. It is especially interesting to note his art uses mathematics as its inspiration.
At Holy Trinity Church, Westbury-on-Trym we finally found another church which was actually open. It is quite a big church whose construction was started in the early 13th-century. There has been a church on the site since AD 711 when King Offa founded the minster and was a Benedictine Abbey in the 10th-century. There was a young guy playing the organ when we arrived. The church had a wonderful selection of stained glass from Victorian through to modern. One of my favourites was that of St Francis of Assisi who has been a favourite saint of mine since I was a little girl. A modern window which depicts ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ was also especially beautiful. It was put in in 2017 to celebrate the 1300th anniversary.
The Painswick stone reredos behind the altar is a 19th-century depiction of the Last Supper by John Norton. Also a large 19th-century pulpit with marble shafts and various wall monuments.
There is a canopied, Purbeck marble cadaver tomb of Bishop John Carpenter who died in 1476. A cadaver tomb is one which has an effigy on top which depicts the person entombed but beneath is the figure of a rotting corpse wrapped only in a shroud. Cadaver tombs began to be used in the 14th-century after the Black Death swept through Europe killing over a third of the population. The cadaver sculpture could act as a memento mori, a reminder of death, and subverted the popular fashion for effigies to depict an idealised image of the deceased. In medieval Europe, where belief in Heaven, Hell and the afterlife was powerful, the cadaver tomb would serve as a sobering reminder to those viewing it that everyone must die.
The next church we went to was St Mary’s in Henbury. The first church on the site probably dates to around AD 691–92, when King Æthelred of Mercia made a grant of land to Oftfor, Bishop of Worcester. Unfortunately, the church was closed but the churchyard contains a memorial to Scipio Africanus, a slave, in a grave with elaborately painted headstone and footstone, dated 1720. He was the servant of Charles William Howard, 7th Earl of Suffolk, who in 1715 married Arabella Morse and lived in the “Great House” in Henbury, Bristol. It is not known how he was acquired as a slave, but he died there aged eighteen. His master and mistress would die two years later. He is remembered because of the elaborate grave, consisting of painted headstone and footstone. We did the church micro here but then we tried the multi related to this slave. Somehow we must have got two of the numbers wrong so we couldn’t find the cache. We did walk through the tunnel from the churchyard under the Vicarage Gardens which took us to a Blaise Castle Park. The tunnel seems to be dated from around 1835. The churchyard also contains an obelisk with a stone ankh, marking the grave of the Egyptologist Amelia Edwards, and the grave of Philip Napier Miles, the philanthropic last “squire” of King’s Weston, who died in 1935.
St Edyth’s Church in Sea Mills dates from 1920 and was dedicated in honour of Lady Edyth Lennard, the wife of the Lord of the Manor who gave the land for the building of the church. St Edyth’s church was built to the designs of Sir George Oatley. A gentleman was working in the garden but he was happy to let us into the church. There was an impressive East window and a fabulous window about the life of St Columba. Two of the windows in the church were made by the artist, Arnold Wathen Robinson and when I looked up the artist’s other work he had made a three-light window depicting Christ and the children’ in the now decommissioned Chalmers Presbyterian Church in Timaru, New Zealand. What a small world.
Our last church of the day was St Mary Magdalene in Stoke Bishop. At the rear of the church is Mariners Path. This path lies on the route of a Roman road that once ran from Abona (Sea Mills) to Aqua Sulis (Bath). The route of this road can be followed along this path from Sea Mills, through Stoke Bishop and across Clifton Down. It took us ages to find the memorial we need for the multi but when we finally found it, we did our sums and went to find the cache. Sadly it wasn’t there and then we realised that the cache hadn’t been found in a year. As a result of our log, the CO replaced the container so maybe if we are ever back in the area we will be able to visit again. Maybe we will be lucky and the church will be open as it features apse windows by Clayton & Bell and the nave west window by O’Connor. Also some early work by Sir Ninian Comper with his trademark gilded figures.
After a brief visit home to feed Raffy, Darcy and Rio we drove back to Westbury-on-Trym to the Grupo Lounge where we attended a geocaching event. There we met some old friends – trolleygranny, spanners, and higster, who we have met at other events and at the Megas we have been too. We also met some other geocachers and had a lovely evening chatting and eating. As we had been to this suburb of Bristol earlier in the day we knew exactly how to get there and where to park.
The perfect ending to a lovely day. Hopefully, we will get to meet again one day.