Gloucestershire Places of Worship

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Lewin's Mead Meeting-House, Bristol
Lewin's Mead Meeting-House,
Lewin's Mead, BS1 2NN,
Bristol, Gloucestershire.

Cemeteries

This Church had a graveyard.

Note: any church within an urban environment may have had its graveyard closed after the Burial Act of 1853. Any new church built after that is unlikely to have had a graveyard at all.

Church History

This Place of Worship was founded in 1693-4, but we understand it was closed by 1986.

It is so refreshing to find that Lewin's Mead Chapel is still standing, when so many chapels in Bristol City Centre have been demolished, either as a consequence of damage during WWII bombing, or for street-widening and redevelopment. It has survived by being converted to offices, and is now (2013) the South West & Midlands headquarters of the Management firm Provelio Limited.

Non-Conformist Chapels and Meeting Houses, Gloucestershire (1986) describes its congregation as originally Presbyterian, existing in Bristol by 1672, in the year John Weeks, ejected from the living of Buckland Newton in Dorset, was licensed as a 'teacher'. Meetings were held in 'a room or rooms in the house of John Lloyd, lying in St James's Back', and continued until December 1681 "when the contents were destroyed and the congregation forced to meet elsewhere" - presumably as a consequence of attacks on dissenters. "A permanent meeting-house was next obtained in 1686 by the conversion of a theatre in Tucker Street, south of Bristol Bridge, but the rapid growth of the society appears to have necessitated the provision of a second place of worship in the north part of the town in 1693-4 [in Lewin's Mead]. The two congregations formed a single society at least until the death of Weeks in 1698, but had divided by the early 18th century when the former is credited with 500, and the latter with 1,600 hearers". The Tucker Street society remained largely orthodox, whereas the Lewin's Mead society supported the contrary position, and by the early 19th century became generally regarded as Unitarian.

By the late 18th century, according to John Latimer, in The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century (1893) "the Presbyterian (Unitarian) chapel in Lewin's Mead" had become too small, and was 'removed' in the spring of 1788. "Some adjoining property, belonging to the Bartholomew Hospital estate, was acquired, and a large chapel in a semi-classical style was opened on the 4th September, 1791. The congregation was then the wealthiest in the city, many of the aldermen and common councillors being members. Owing to the number of suburban families that drove to the chapel in coaches, a mews was built in the chapel yard for sheltering their horses".

The chapel, including stables and coachhouse, was designed by William Blackburn of London, "to which were added in 1818 a lecture-room above the stables and in 1826 two large school-rooms, a committee room, kitchen and a 'small tenement' for the master and mistress of the infant school and the mistress of the girls' day school". "The body of the chapel is a broad rectangle with a projecting pedimented centrepiece to the south having an open semicircular porch with paired Ionic columns and, above it, a large tripartite window with arched head which is repeated centrally at the east and west ends of the building and as a row of three on the north side. The re-entrant corners at the front are occupied by staircase wings which rise in two stages to the level of the springing of the arches of the principal windows".

Inside, according to the NCC booklet, the ceiling is divided into panels and ornamented by six large ceiling roses. Galleries at the east and west ends are approached independently by semi-circular stone staircases, linked to a third gallery on the south side which is occupied by the organ and singers' seats. The galleries have plain fronts with late 19th-century ornament and are supported on cast-iron columns. Fittings include boundary stones, indicating the boundary between parishes of St James and St Michael, and monuments to Lant Carpenter D.D., pastor, 1840, and (2) Mary Carpenter, 1877. There are oil portraits of three former ministers, including Rev. William Richards, 1731-1768, and Rev. William James, 1842-76. Plate includes four two-handled cups and two (formerly six) bottles of dark green Bristol glass which served in place of flagons.

There is a burial ground elsewhere, instigated at the time Brunswick Square was built, when "a large plot of land" was demised to "a body of trustees acting for the congregation of Lewin's Mead Chapel, and converted into a cemetery. The first burial was in October 1768. [John Latimer, ibid.]

It was one of the first places of worship to be registered under the Marriage Act of 1836, as the following notice in The London Gazette of 23rd June 1837 (p.1536) indicates:

NOTICE is hereby given, that a separate building, named Lewin's-mead Meeting-house, situated in the parishes of St. James and St. Michael, within the borough of the city of Bristol, in the district of Bristol being a building certified according to law as a place of religious worship, was, on the 17th day of June 1837, duly registered for solemnizing marriages therein, pursuant to the Act of 6th and 7th William 4, chap. 85. Dated 20th June 1837.

The Meeting House was closed in the early 1980s - the appropriate notice of cancellation, as of 25th April 1986, being published in the Gazette of 8th May 1986 (p.6284).

Denomination

Now or formerly Unitarian.

If more than one congregation has worshipped here, or its congregation has united with others, in most cases this will record its original dedication.

Maps

This Church was located at OS grid reference ST5866973297. You can see this on various mapping systems. Note all links open in a new window:

Reference

  • Places recorded by the Registrar General under the provisions of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 (2010) is available as a "Freedom of Information" document from the website What Do They Know.
Last updated on 18 Jul 2013 at 14:35.

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This Report was created 26 Jul 2017 - 15:40:31 BST from information held in the Gloucestershire section of the Places of Worship Database. This was last updated on 4 Jul 2017 at 10:50.

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