Ancient Monuments

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Temple Church

A Scheduled Monument in Central, Bristol

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Latitude: 51.4521 / 51°27'7"N

Longitude: -2.5867 / 2°35'11"W

OS Eastings: 359330.802867

OS Northings: 172732.629723

OS Grid: ST593727

Mapcode National: GBR C9L.Y9

Mapcode Global: VH88N.3RWP

Entry Name: Temple Church

Scheduled Date: 6 August 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015872

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28841

County: Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: St Mary Redcliffe with Temple, Bristol and St John the Baptist, Bedminster

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument includes the buried remains of a 12th century oval church over
which is built the 14th century church remains, which are visible today.
The church lies in Bristol city centre in a churchyard which is now a
public amenity space.
The earlier church, built by the Knights Templar, was circular in form,
typical of churches of this order and based on the form of the Dome of the
Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Nothing shows at
ground level of the original, circular, church, but its form influenced
the development of the later church. Its foundations were excavated, and its
plan is now marked out inside the later church. The 14th century church
includes an 18th century porch, a nave with a 5-bay hall, an aisled chancel of
three bays, a sanctuary and a tower. The tower, adjacent to the porch at the
west end of the church was finished in 1460. It is 34.75m high and leans
almost 1.5m out of true.
The Templars' church was built on land outside the city of Bristol, granted to
the order by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, between 1120 and 1147. It appears
that the Bristol Temple became the administrative centre for the order in
south west England. Archaeological evidence suggests that the church was
altered in the early 13th century. In c.1300 the chancel was rebuilt and
extended and given a square end. A chapel was built on its north side and
dedicated to St Katherine; this is known as the Weavers' Chapel because in
1299 it was granted to the Company of Weavers in Bristol, just before the
suppression of the Templars in 1312. In 1313 the church, known as Holy Cross,
was transferred to the Knights Hospitallers. In the early 14th century more
chapels were built, and documents indicate that by 1392 there was a separate
Lady chapel, apparently built onto the south side of the nave, projecting into
the cemetery. From 1396 wills refer to the chapel of St. Nicholas which is
recognised as the main chapel south of the chancel, balancing St Katherine's
on the north. The present nave dates from the last quarter of the 14th
century, and it must have been at this time that the circular nave was
demolished. The rebuilding of the nave appears to have been complete by the
end of the 14th century, and the tower was begun in 1441. In 1540 the
Hospitallers were suppressed by Henry VIII, and Holy Cross survived as a
parish church. Four years later it was purchased from the Crown by the City.
The Lady chapel was demolished in the 16th century. The church was refitted in
the 18th century, and restorations took place in 1872, 1907 and 1911. In
1940 the church was badly damaged by bombing, and in 1958 the ruins were taken
into state care.
Excluded from the scheduling are notice boards, wooden doors, modern
protective structures and modern brickwork.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and
containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for
Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on
Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated
into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in
its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and
are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides
accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the
priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes
provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional
altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west
end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon
and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish
churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south
or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation
were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were
rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of
the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little
fabric of the first church being still easily visible.
Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the
density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed
settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest
clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of
1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New
churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to
around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches
have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for
their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later
population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour
and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are
identified to be nationally important.

The 14th century parish church in Bristol known as Temple Church or Holy Cross
lies above a circlar church built by the Templars in the 12th century. It is
considered to have been the administrative centre for the Templars for south
west England. Elements of the circular church and the later church will
survive below ground. They will contain archaeological information and
environmental evidence relating to the churches and the landscape in which
they were constructed. The earlier church is one of only 12 circular churches
known in England, and is thought to be one of the largest and earliest of the
group. The Weavers' chapel in the later church represents the first indication
of a link between the Church and the merchants of Bristol. Temple Church is
well documented; it was one of the great churches of Bristol, and for a long
time was the second largest and finest church after St Mary Redcliffe.

Source: Historic England

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