Monuments in Christ Church with St Ewen, Bristol

The tall spire of Christ Church with St Ewen, Bristol.

Conspicuous by its central position in Bristol at the end of Corn Street, Broad Street, and the curve where High Street joins Wine Street, and fine and notable spire, bearing a golden dragon weathervane, Christ Church with St Ewen was put up in the 1780s (completed 1791) by William Paty, an interesting architect who was also a stonemason, and one of whose relatives carved a monument within the church. It replaced one of three ancient churches in the vicinity, and was consolidated with St Ewen, which stood nearby, at the same time. Southey wrote that ‘A wordly-minded man effected, by dint of begging and impudence, a union between the two parishes of Christ Church and St Ewen, for no other conceivable reason than that he might be rector of both’. At least one of the monuments in the Church was brought from St Ewen, and several other earlier monuments in the church must have come from the Norman predecessor Christ Church. I have seen reference to early monuments to Dr Standfast, Rector of Christ Church for 51 years, and Chaplain in Ordinary to King Charles II, and also a certain Thomas Taylor, d.1654, a master of the Company of Bakers, but if these still exist they are not seemingly on public display.

The decor, white and gilt above, rich wood below, and the organ.

The church has a bright interior, with much white paint and gilding and rather Catholicy décor. Of this, we may note the altar, with crucifixion and two sculptures of saints in niches, heads in windows above and below, half-angels in spandrels at the top, and more minor sculptural adornment, all these presumably contemporary with the church, and plausibly carved by one or other of the Paty family. A painted St Michael sculpture, rather too sweet, is noted on a panel as being designed by a former priest, and dated from 1918 or thereabouts, just about as late as such figures were produced in this style, which feels more familiar over a generation previously in the 1870s. We may note a rather grand organ, the balcony of which bears carved figures, decorations and cherub heads in wood, along with free-standing trumpeting angels given individually, a brass panel notes, with the dated ones from 1902-7. A brass eagle lectern is of the type familiar from mid-Victorian times.

The ornate, carved door frame facing Corn Street.

Outside, we have already noted the dragon weathervane (see picture at bottom of page), and the octagonal spire sits on a square tower bearing corner pots. The main exterior sculptural decoration, though, is confined to the impressive doorframe, where the Romanesque arch is heavily carved with oak leaves in a repeating pattern, most satisfying to the eye, paralleled by tall panels with conventional pots and ornament in low relief in a light, Louis IV style, intended, no doubt, to reduce any sense of ponderousness to the portico. It is surmounted by an entablature frieze of stylised flowers, and a curved pediment bearing more low relief carving and a portrait head of Christ with a halo in a roundel.

We now note the small selection of monuments in the church, mostly in the porch. They consist of about a score of panels, from the second half of the 18th Century and first half of the 19th Century, with three plain 20th century examples. The oldest monument which I saw has a sculptured female figure upon it, and several of the monuments are signed by the masons or sculptors who produced them. In date order then:

Finally, the pictures of the monuments inside the church are included here with kind permission of the church authorities; the website of Christ Church with St Ewen is at http://www.christchurchcitybristol.org/index1.html.

The dragon weathervane.

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Sculpture in Corn Street, Bristol // Just along Corn Street, a sculpturally decorated bank

St Stephen's Church // Ruins of St Peter's Church, Castle Park // Ruins of Temple Church, off Victoria Street // Statues along Broad Quay, Bristol

Sculpture in England // Sculpture pages // Introduction to church monuments

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