ABBEY CHURCH OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- ABBEY CHURCH OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL, ABBEY CHURCH YARD
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- Statutory Address:
- ABBEY CHURCH OF ST PETER AND ST PAUL, ABBEY CHURCH YARD
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 75127 64769
ABBEY CHURCH YARD
Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul
12/06/50 (Formerly Listed as: Abbey Church)
Abbey church, now City church. Largely of 1499-1533 with substantial Victorian restorations. Robert and William Vertue, Master Masons. MATERIALS: Bath limestone ashlar; repairs of c1900 carried out in Clipsham stone. Lead roofs. PLAN: Cruciform, with five-bay nave with aisles, three-bay choir with aisle chapels, narrow two-bay transepts, crossing tower, C20 cloistral range, undercroft (opened as museum in 1994). The Abbey is now completely freestanding, but in medieval period was surrounded by monastic buildings. After the Reformation various houses and shops attached themselves to the church until the last were cleared away during the Manners restoration of 1833. EXTERIOR: Very consistent Perpendicular, remarkable for the extent of glazing. Three-bay chancel, two-bay transepts, five-bay nave with crossing tower. Nave and chancel with single-height aisles with five-light traceried windows, pierced parapet with pinnacles. Upper register of five-light traceried windows, with flying buttresses between. Clasping buttresses terminating with pinnacles to angles. Two-stage tower with octagonal corner turrets terminating in pinnacles. Seven-light east window with four main registers, within straight-headed opening between four-stage piers with pinnacles. West front has central doorway with four centred arch, and spandrels carved with emblems of Passion. Carved oak doors (conserved 2003) were presented by Sir Henry Montague, Bishop Montague's brother, in 1617. Flanked by statues of saints with canopies over, and topped one of Henry VII carved by Sir George Frampton in c1902, battlemented parapet. Frame very large west window with seven lights and three transoms, centre mullions continue to apex. Whole supported by aisles, each with doorway with three centred head, and four light window over. Turrets decorated by ladders with angels climbing to heaven (reference to Bishop King's inspirational dream), and topped by two-panelled stages. Wall above west window has much weathered carving of more angels, and statue of seated Christ at apex (also by Sir George Frampton), pierced parapet with battlements, this last was added by Jackson in 1906. South aisle partly screened by low nine-bay range, War Memorial Cloister (Choir Vestry, and Abbey shop) added by Jackson, 1923-1927, and in form of monastic cloister (on part of site of Norman cloister which was much larger), four centred arches house four light windows with central king mullion, panelled aprons, battlemented parapet. INTERIOR: Interior also very uniform Perpendicular character despite being work of many years and hands. Low arcade with four-shafted piers carrying tall clerestory above four-centred arches. Uninterrupted view to east end. Fan-vaulted ceilings throughout, dating from various periods (see history below). Chantry chapel of Prior Bird to south of Chancel dates from 1515, with intricate fan vaulting. Crypt converted in 1990s to form Abbey Vaults visitor centre. Rere-arch of east window of south Choir aisle incorporates the sole surviving Norman arch. FITTINGS: Reredos of 1875; stained glass mainly by Clayton & Bell, east window of 1873; font of 1710 with 1604 font cover. Numerous monuments (many, until 1833, formerly affixed to piers). Organ and organ loft were designed by T.G. Jackson in 1912 HISTORY: A church existed here by the C8; King Edgar was crowned here in 973 by Dunstan of Canterbury as the first king of all England (see plaque on east end). In 1088 the Bishop of Wells removed his see to Bath, and commenced a new church, which extended considerably further to the east than the present building. The present church occupies the nine-bay nave of its Norman predecessor, which had stretched almost all way to Grand Parade balustrade to east (see tablet affixed at east end). Next to nothing remains of pre-1499 fabric. Bishop Oliver King (d.1504), Chief Secretary to Henry VII, commenced a wholesale rebuilding, resulting in one of the last great Gothic churches. It is also among the most consistently uniform in design. King¿s vision or rebuilding, showing angels ascending to heaven on a ladder, is depicted on the west front along with his rebus of an olive tree and crown. King¿s masons were Robert and William Vertue, Master Masons to the crown. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the Abbey Church was offered to citizens of Bath for 500 marks, but refused; the unfinished church was left gutted and roofless. Given to the citizens of Bath in 1560, it became the parish church in 1572, when repair and reconstruction began. Queen Elizabeth I visited Bath in 1574 and authorized a national collection for seven years, in 1574-1581, for the rebuilding of the Abbey. The east end was repaired first and the north aisle re-roofed; the transepts were completed in 1603, the nave was not roofed (in timber) until the early C17: the west doors of 1617 date from this phase, and sport the arms of Bishop Montague (d.1618). The whole was ready by 1616 when Bishop Montague was translated to Winchester. The exceptionally high concentration of memorial tablets (some 640 in all) from the C17 onwards attests to the church¿s central place in Bath society. Services were held in the east end only, and the nave became a place for promenades and a short-cut, until Wade¿s passage was formed in 1723. Restoration work commenced in 1824-1833 under GP Manners; his interventions have largely disappeared. The major restoration of 1864-1874 was undertaken by Sir George Gilbert Scott: the most important aspects comprised the re-roofing of the nave in stone, the removal of Blore¿s screen of 1835, the removal of the galleries and the removal of the organ to the north transept. The next major restoration campaign was directed in 1895-1901 by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, who restored the west front and installed a new organ; sculpture by Sir George Frampton. Jackson added in 1923-1927 the War Memorial Cloister (Choir Vestry) along the south side of the nave. Further restoration of external fabric was carried out in c1970; the west front was consolidated and cleaned in 1992-1993. In spite of its protracted construction, the Abbey is of huge importance as a major late Medieval great church. The monument-crammed interior is of very considerable note for its historical interest too. SOURCES: John Carter, `Some Account of the Abbey Church of Bath¿ (Society of Antiquaries, 1798); James Storer, `History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church and See of Bath, Somersetshire¿ (1814); John Britton, `History and Antiquities of Bath Abbey Church¿ (1824, rev. ed. By R.E.M. Peach 1878); R.E.M. Peach, `Bath Old and New¿ (1891), 80-96; Nikolaus Pevsner, `The Buildings of England. North Somerset and Bristol¿ (1958), 99-105; Neil Jackson, `Nineteenth Century Bath. Architects and Architecture¿ (1991), 170-181; B. Stace, `Bath Abbey¿ (1991); Robert Bell, `Bath Abbey. Some New Perspectives¿ Bath History VI (1996), 7 ff; David Falconer, `Britain in Old Photographs. Bath Abbey¿ (Stroud 1999).
Listing NGR: ST7512764769
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 21 August 2017.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
War Memorials Online, accessed 21 August 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/115989
War Memorials Register, accessed 21 August 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/7313
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