Gloucestershire Places of Worship

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St James's Church (St James's Priory), St James, Bristol
St James's Church (St James's Priory),
Whitson Street, BS1 3NZ,
St James, Bristol, Gloucestershire.


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 1129, but we understand it was closed in 1984.

"St James's Church is a fine specimen of the Anglo-Norman style of architecture, erected about the year 1347. Its reputed origin is remarkable, for it is said that in the erection of the castle at Bristol every tenth stone was appropriated to the building of this church. It has recently been repaired and renovated, and a new aisle added, under the superintendence of Messrs. Popes and Bindon, architects, of Bristol. The living is a perpetual curacy, value £551 per annum, in the patronage of J.S. Harford, Esq., and trustees. [Extract from Webster & Co.'s Postal and Commercial Directory of the City of Bristol, and County of Glamorgan, 1865]

In fact it was founded rather earlier than stated above, by Robert Fitzroy, 1st Earl of Gloucester in 1129, originally as a small priory for Benedictine monks, and as a dependent cell of Tewkesbury. He was also responsible for building Bristol Castle, when - as stated above - every tenth stone brought from Normandy for the castle was given towards the construction of this church. Robert was an illegitimate sons of Henry I, who married Mabel, daughter of Robert FitzHamon. He died in 1147 and is buried here.

A separate ecclesiastical parish of St James was formed in 1374, at which time St James became the its parish church; a tower was then added to house the parish bells. One of its pinnacles is higher than the other - apparently a feature commonly found amongst Bristol churches.

The church had gas lighting installed in 1818 - a local newspaper reported that "the elegance of the brasswork added to the judicial arrangement of the beautiful lights".

The usual Victorian rebuilding and refurbishment took place later in the 19th century, and in the 21st century a development and conservation project took place, completed in July 2011. However only the nave now survives of the early church.

The former St James's Fair, originating in medieval times, was held annually in the churchyard until 1837, when the church elders decided that "such goings-on were not suitable". There had been confusion originally about which date it should be held, but in 1738 this was fixed at September 1st. "A great deal of business and trading was carried on, and the streets around were filled with stalls and booths. There were amusements as well...". The last fair was "attended by 30 merchants as well as circuses, actors and peep-shows".

The churchyard was of course closed to burials by 1854, under Lord Palmerston's Act of the previous year, but apparently it was still in use occasionally as a fairground, and later it became a public park. Today however a large department store occupies its site, though the base of the old churchyard cross still remains.

Needless to say, today St James's Church is now a Grade I Listed Building - see the British Listed Buildings website for details. It became redundant, and was closed for Church of England worship in 1984, but in 1993, after renovation and restoration, it was reopened by the Little Brothers of Nazareth as both a Roman Catholic, and monastic church once more. [Other Sources: St James's Priory Church on the About Bristol website, ChurchCrawler website, and The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury, with some Account of the Priory Church of Deerhurst (Massé, 1911)]


Now or formerly Church of England.

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


This Church was located at OS grid reference ST5889673466. You can see this on various mapping systems. Note all links open in a new window:


I have found many websites of use whilst compiling the information for this database. Here are some which deserve mention as being of special interest for St James, Bristol, and perhaps to Local History and Places of Worship as a whole.

The above links were selected and reviewed at the time I prepared the information, but please be aware their content may vary, or disappear entirely. These factors are outside my control.

Information last updated on 10 Jun 2013 at 12:28.

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This Report was created 5 Jul 2022 - 19:19:55 BST from information held in the Gloucestershire section of the Places of Worship Database. This was last updated on 13 Oct 2021 at 14:13.

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