A new history of All Saints

July 31 2018

Just published is a book tracing the history of the Bristol church once dubbed ‘the Anglo-Catholic cathedral of the South West’ and celebrating the 150th anniversary of its consecration this year.

All Saints for All People, the commemorative history of All Saints Church in Pembroke Road, Clifton is the latest book by local author John Hudson, who has researched and written more than 30 books of social and local history and biography. 

The story it relates is as colourful as its pages, as this is a church with a vivid story to tell. It came to Clifton as an outpost of the Victorian Anglo-Catholic High Church revival at a time when the suburb was staunchly Protestant, and from its consecration in 1868 it fought an often bitter battle against those who wished to see it fail. 

Instead, it thrived, with its policy of free seats for all contrasting with most of its neighbouring parishes, where paid-for pews for the better-off were very much the order of the day.

For the first four decades of the last century it became a High Church focal point for much of Bristol and beyond, with the big Gothic nave often filled to its 800-seat capacity. All that changed in the Nazi's second great blitz on Bristol during the night of December 2, 1940 when it was destroyed in a firestorm.

Subsequently services were held for many years in the adjacent church hall in Alma Vale Road. It was more than a quarter of a century before the church was rebuilt but on July 1, 1967 the first service was held in the new building which had a strikingly different look.

“For a start,” says John Hudson, “other Anglo-Catholic churches had sprung up to take the pressure off this single building. And secondly, the pattern of worship in Europe was changing, so that in modern churches congregations no longer sat separately from the altar but gathered around it. 

“As anyone who has ever passed All Saints well knows, the architect Robert Potter took this brief to heart, while at the same time incorporating the parts of the original building that could be saved.”

The church today is perhaps best known for its striking windows designed by John Piper, but with this summer's anniversary celebrations more people than ever are discovering how memorable the building is in many other ways. 

All Saints for All People, is published by the Redcliffe Press of Bristol, priced at £12.50, available in local bookshops, libraries and at the Parish Office at All Saints Church in Pembroke Road.