This year, for the first time, The Church will feature as part of the annual Heritage Open Days.
From 12-5pm on 8 and 15 September, visitors will be treated to a short talk outside The Church about its history. The Church has a cafe which is open to the public. You are welcome to go inside and buy refreshments. There is upstairs cafe seating on a viewing platform. The first date will coincide with the reopening of The Church following renovations but those who are curious and have not seen its current setup as a climbing centre will be able to take a look from the viewing platform in small groups. The talk and exterior tour will be given by Vivian Griffiths. Curious what to expect? Read on for a little introduction by Vivian.
The Church tour
The Church has some important and significant historical associations. As some may know, the ancient medieval Tower and a suprising amount of the church itself was taken down stone by stone in 1878 from its protruding Corn Street site and re-erected in a newly created artisan district in East Bristol where it came to be known by the name of The Church of St Werbergh’s. This followed a vigorous campaign aimed at the then City Council not to simply demolish the ancient building and clear the site for a bank. The Society For the Protection of Ancient Buildings had just been founded, and this was the first of many such protests to preserve ancient buildings. The Church of St Werbergh’s was the parish church of the area for 100 years before it was converted into a climbing centre in the early 1990s.
Among the protest committee was a young and active curate Hardwyke Rawnsley who had been working with disadvantaged families. He had been delighted with the Bristol landscape and it’s heritage so much so that he wrote a book ‘Bristol Sonnets’ which will be available for inspection on the day. This is recognised as Rawnsley’s first conservation campaign and he went on as the newly ordained Vicar of Wray on Windermere to establish the highly successful Lake District Defence Society to stop unsightly development with encouragement from John Ruskin no less. He was also to become a co-founder of The National Trust in 1895, a major sponsor of The Heritage Open Days.
Visitors will learn more about the Church and Rawnsley. A feature of the visit will be to inspect the exterior stonework of the building which was so carefully rebuilt.