Roman Catholic Church of St Mary on the Quay


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Church of St Mary on the Quay, Colston Avenue


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Statutory Address:
Church of St Mary on the Quay, Colston Avenue

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Bristol (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A Catholic church of 1839-43 in the Greek Revival style by R.S. Pope.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Catholic church of St Mary on the Quay, Bristol, which dates from 1839-43, by Richard Shackleton Pope, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: an assured and accomplished rendition of the Greek Revival style, of the Order from the Lysicratic monument in Athens; * Historic interest: as the first Catholic church to be built in Bristol following the Emancipation Acts. Additionally, a Roll of Honour to the congregation including the figure of George Archer Shee who is of national note, is an eloquent witness to the tragic impacts of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the First World War; * Interior: the church has a high quality interior including later fittings by G.F. Bentley and G.E. Street.


The church was designed by Richard Shackleton Pope for the Irvingites (the Catholic Apostolic Church) but was purchased before completion in 1843 by the Roman Catholic Church. It is marked on the 1855 Ashmead map of Bristol as St Mary’s Chapel, set back from Under The Bank by the Floating Harbour (the River Frome). It is shown with its portico on the 1874 Ashmead Map, when it is marked St Mary’s Catholic Chapel. The ‘Quay’ in the title refers to its proximity to the harbour and it is thought that there were originally tethering rings for boats fixed to the front wall of the portico. By 1885, a school for boys, associated with St Mary’s School on Trenchard Street, was built along the south flank of the church. Additionally, a wall was built in a similar style attached to the north flank, to restore symmetry to the façade. In the late C19, the northern end of the Floating Harbour was infilled, and Colston Avenue laid out in front of the church.

The altar with dome tabernacle was designed by J.F. Bentley and is of c.1900 date. During the First World War, 67 men of the congregation and former pupils of St Mary’s School lost their lives in the conflict and are commemorated in a Roll of Honour fixed to the Colston Avenue wall. The names include George Archer-Shee, the subject of a notorious High Court trial in 1910 and the inspiration for the famous play The Winslow Boy. He had served as an altar boy at the church, and died at the First Battle of Ypres in 1914.

During the C20 the school became a presbytery, and sometime after the closure of the Church of St George, Brandon Hill (qv) in 1984, its marble font by G.E. Street (1860) was moved to the north transept of St Mary’s. Floodlighting was installed in the year 2000, set in the top of the stylobate.

In the C21 it remains in use as a place of worship; is administered by the Diocese of Clifton, and under the care of the Divine Word Missionaries.


Catholic apostolic chapel, now a Roman Catholic church, of 1839-43 by Richard Shackleton Pope.

MATERIALS: limestone ashlar. The roof has modern coverings. Interior fittings are constructed of timber, stone and marble.

PLAN: cruciform plan with sanctuary at the west end (ritual east).

EXTERIOR: in the Greek Revival style of the Order from the Lysicratic monument in Athens. The church has a hexastyle portico of Greek Corinthian columns on a raised, vermiculated stylobate, with a dentil pediment inscribed on the entablature VIVAT CHRISTUS REX. Above the pediment is a stone cross. The Corinthian columns are deeply fluted. The distyle-in-antis inner porch is reached by two converging flights of steps. The large central doorway has a battered, eared architrave and cornice, and there are plain doorways in the returns with a six-over-six pane timber sash above. Lower, parapeted flanking blocks are set back, and rusticated to the height of large, moulded blank recesses between paired Doric pilasters, with low doorways below. The recess to the right has a fixed statue of the Madonna and Child. The rusticated walls break forward to the street, meeting short continuations of the stylobate. To the centre of the front face of the stylobate is inscribed CHURCH OF ST MARY ON THE QUAY, and there is a bronze First World War Roll of Honour plaque below: A.M.D.G./ 545 MEN OF ST MARY'S SCHOOL AND CONGREGATION/ JOINED UP IN THE GREAT WAR. 67 LOST THEIR LIVES./ ROLL OF HONOUR/ (NAMES)/ MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. The transepts are pedimented. The aisle flanks are of five bays with tall, narrow, square-headed windows with glazing bars.

INTERIOR: the five-bay nave is lit by tall narrow windows with timber margin glazing. The nave has C20 timber pews and moulded doorways below the south windows. The chancel is top-lit with a decorative ceiling with gilded plasterwork and dentil cornicing. At the rear of the chancel is an ornate altar with domed tabernacle by J.F. Bentley. The stepped floor of the chancel is covered in parquet veneer. The galleried (ritual) north transept is arranged as a side chapel with a marble font with timber lid and wrought-ironwork by G.E. Street. The (ritual) south transept is also a side chapel.

The gallery at the ritual west end is supported on two fluted cast-iron Doric columns. There are stone winder stairs to the gallery from both sides, and from the side doors in the portico, and have decorative ironwork gates and grilles. Both gallery doors are within panelled vestibules, with a piscina set in the wall to one side. The five rows of carved timber pews are raked have hinged kneeling rests.

The nave ceiling has a rectangular design with a roundel motif incorporating the fixings for the nave lighting. Above the chancel arch is painted AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Foyle, A, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Bristol, (2004), 103
Gomme, A H, Jenner, M, Little, B D G, Bristol, An Architectural History, (1979), 241
Hankins, K, In My Father's House, (1993), 107
UK National Inventory of War Memorials, accessed 09/01/2015 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 05 Sep 1999
Reference: IOE01/01542/33
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Peter Frederick Rushby. Source Historic England Archive
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