St Paul’s Church, Portland Square, Bristol

Circomedia at St Paul’s Church is an inspiring use of a difficult space to convert and has made a real difference to the local community. Residents are invited to participate in Circomedia's outreach activities and the increased footfall resulting from evening performances has reduced crime.

Where: Bristol

Years on register: 1998-2004

 

Need for a sustainable new use

This late-18th-century “wedding cake church” was disused and decaying. Several buildings in the square have been or still are 'at risk' and the area has traditionally suffered from social deprivation and high levels of crime.

St Paul’s Church was put on the very first South West Heritage at Risk Register, having been formally declared redundant 10 years earlier. It was clear that a new, sustainable use would need to be found for the building. Due to the scale of the work needed, it was also clear that repair and conversion costs would need to come from the Heritage Lottery Fund. That in turn determined that the future use for the building would have to provide public value, rather than commercial redevelopment.

Exterior of St Paul's Church, Portland Square, Bristol looking up towards the bell tower and a blue sky.
The rescue of this building by the Churches Conservation Trust has contributed significantly to the regeneration of this area of inner city Bristol © Historic England

How we made a difference

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) agreed to take on the care of the building. Before it could be formally vested in the CCT however, emergency repairs of up to £50,000 needed to be carried out.

We offered a 50% grant towards these emergency repairs to secure the building, buying time for the CCT to obtain an end user and lottery funds of £2.3 million. That end user was Circomedia, a circus skills training centre and performing venue.

Repairs bring wider regeneration

As a circus performance venue St Paul's is used regularly, and spectacularly, making full use of the magnificent vertical spaces. In 2018, Circomedia are leading national celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the invention of circus in London. 

The rescue of this building by the Churches Conservation Trust has made a real difference. Repairing a single redundant church has contributed significantly to the regeneration of this area of inner city Bristol. Residents in a deprived community are invited to participate in Circomedia’s outreach activity, and the increased footfall resulting from evening performances has reduced crime.

See St Paul's entry on the National Heritage List

Blue door and railings at St Paul's church, Portland Square, Bristol.
Performances at St Paul's have increased footfall to Portland Square in the evenings resulting in a fall in crime © Historic England

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses.

See more of our top 20 heritage rescues

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