Built in the late 1700s, Church of St Thomas the Martyr is a grand late-Georgian building located in the heart of Bristol. Its columned arches, high ceilings and intricate gold detailing make this church one of the most beautiful places to visit in the city. Thanks to its gorgeous interior and breathtaking neo-classical architecture, the church has earned a well-deserved spot on the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II listed building.
From surviving the Bristol Blitz during the Second World War to undergoing several reconstructions, Church of St Thomas the Martyr has been through a lot over the past few centuries. If you’re hoping to brush up on your Bristol knowledge, make your way to the Redcliffe district—an area of the city home to ancient landmarks and indie eateries. The nearest railyway station is Bristol Temple Meads and bus and coach terminus is within 1 mile.
Facts, Curiosities and Interesting Things about Church of St Thomas the Martyr
1. A church that spans centuries
Church of St Thomas the Martyr was designed by local architect James Allen, who incorporated parts of a 15th-century church that used to stand on the spot where the current church lives. The west tower we see today was built at some time in the 15th century and the west gallery overlooking the nave was built in the early 1700s.
2. No longer a martyr
When Henry VIII ordered the Anglican break from Catholic worship, it meant that Thomas Beckett could no longer be considered a saint. Given that the church was named after the religious figure, they found themselves in a bit of a pickle. All mentions of the word ‘martyr’ had to be totally erased from the church’s archives and signs but, by 1538, the church had taken back its original name.
3. Surviving WW2
Like almost every other British city, Bristol was heavily impacted during World War Two. The city was almost left in total ruins by the Nazi Luftwaffe during a time known now as the ‘Bristol Blitz.’ Between 1940-1941, almost 90,000 buildings were damaged or completely destroyed by the bombings in the city. Nevertheless, Church of St Thomas the Martyr was able to survive the raids almost completely unscathed (talk about divine intervention).
4. Post-war slump
Although the church survived the war, it slowly fell out of use shortly after 1945. By 1982, the church was officially declared redundant and left to fend for itself. Nowadays, after taking the church under its wings, the Churches Conservation Trust funds the maintenance of the building, allowing locals to worship here on Sundays.
What can you do at Church of St Thomas the Martyr?
Always full of surprises, Church of St Thomas the Martyr has its own unofficial art exhibition located inside. In 1906, esteemed German artist Fritz von Kamptz was commissioned to paint four paintings of the church. These magnificent works of art are put on full display towards the south aisle of the building, giving visitors the chance to see how much (or how little) the church has changed over the last century.
St Thomas’ Church is also available for hire and can accommodate a wide variety of events, including product launches, weddings, concerts, fashion shoots, “champing” (church camping), film and video locations, and more. The good public transport links and nearby car parking make visiting or hiring this beautiful church easier.
Church of St Thomas the Martyr previously hosted the magical Candlelight series. These concerts pay homage to popular contemporary icons and classical music legends inside some of Bristol’s most incredible venues. With enchanting tributes to Whitney Houston, Hans Zimmer, Coldplay and more, these concerts celebrate a wide range of artists and genres to be enjoyed by all.