Temple Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015872

Date first listed: 06-Aug-1997


Ordnance survey map of Temple Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Bristol (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: ST 59332 72733


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 28841

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing