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Bristol Branch
Bedminster (St John the Baptist)

Name or Dedication: St John the Baptist

Location: Bedminster, Somerset

Grid Reference: ST585714

The earliest records of a church on this site date from 1003. It was the mother church to both St Mary the Virgin, Redcliffe and St Thomas the Martyr in Bristol, the former being a mere chapel-of-ease to it until 1852. It was burnt down in September 1645 by the order of Prince Rupert during the Civil War and not rebuilt until 1663, parts of the destroyed church probably being incorporated into the new building. Bells are first mentioned in Matthew's Directory of 1793–4 which states "it has two bells, on the largest of which the hour is struck". The clock had at least one dial on the east wall of the tower, above the roof of the nave.

In 1854 the church was demolished in favour of a much larger one by John Norton, the last service being held on 25th June. This new church, consecrated on 30th October 1855, had a taller tower and a bellcote above the chancel arch for a Sanctus bell, but plans for a spire were never realised. At least one of the two bells recorded in 1793–4 was transferred to the new church, this being recorded again by Ellacombe in 1874 as 9½ cwt (37 in) and cast by Thomas Bilbie in 1729, before it was recast in 1907. Ellacombe doesn't mention a Sanctus bell but he does remark "One bell formerly more" which might refer to a Sanctus being provided and later removed, although this would have had to have taken place within the short space of twenty years. It is more likely that he is referring to the loss of the second bell prior to the church being rebuilt.

The church was burnt out once more by incendiary bombs on 24th November 1940. Most of the building in fact survived, but it remained a ruin until finally demolished in 1967, the rubble simply being buried in the churchyard. The site remains as a public park, all tombs and headstones having been removed, but there is no sign of the church that once stood there.

Incredibly, the bell was still in the tower 27 years after that fateful November night. It was then recast by John Taylor & Co. in 1970 to become an extra treble for the ring of twelve at St Mary the Virgin, Redcliffe.

Bells previously hung for full-circle ringing

The bells of St John the Baptist, Bedminster
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
17-2-08 36¼ in  Llewellins & James 1907

Source: Bell data from John Taylor & Co. with thanks to Revd David L. Cawley and Nick Bowden. Further information from "Church Bells of Somerset" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1874), ChurchCrawler (Phil M. Draper) and the website of St Mary the Virgin, Redcliffe.

Where the exact weight of a bell is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.