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Bristol Branch
Bristol (St Augustine the Less)

Name or Dedication: St Augustine the Less

Location: Bristol, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference: ST585727

A church on this site was first mentioned in 1240, having been built for the parishioners living around St Augustine's Abbey (now Bristol Cathedral). In 1480 it was described as being "so decayed as to require to be rebuilt", which was duly done. The chancel was lengthened in 1708, and the church heavily restored in 1840 with the removal of the north and south aisle galleries. The 19th Century Sanctus bell may date from this time, although Ellacombe doesn't record it in 1881.

The building was only slightly damaged by air raids in the early years of World War II, but it nevertheless closed in 1938 and was shamefully demolished in 1962. The site then remained vacant for more than 23 years until The Royal Hotel was extended over the churchyard. For a time during the early 1960s the treble and tenor bells lay hidden in heavy undergrowth in the churchyard of St George, Brandon Hill (ST581730), but eventually all three were found new homes.

The Sanctus bell now hangs in the tower of St Augustine of Canterbury, Downend (ST656774), although a recording of a considerably larger bell is used to sound the hour. The treble was transferred to St Augustine, Whitchurch Park (ST603677) which was built in 1971–2 and shared between Anglicans and Methodists. The bell originally hung in a bellcote at the top of an 80 ft tower, but the tower acted as a rain funnel and flooded the church so it was instead put on display inside the church. The top of the tower was taken down in 1985 as it was unsafe, and on 28th November 2007 the rest of the building was closed for the same reason. Although permission to demolish and rebuild the church has been in place since 2004, the plans so far have not come to fruition.

The tenor was relocated to All Saints, Clifton (ST573739), where it was hung dead from concrete beams supporting the spire structure, electrical chiming apparatus being supplied by Mears & Stainbank. It is now the largest, oldest and deepest-toned bell in Clifton. This tower has had a rather chequered history. When the church was built in 1868–72 it was planned to have a tower crowned with a stone spire, but it got no further than the first two stages. Nevertheless, a bell was cast by John Warner & Sons in 1866 and hung for chiming. The tower was finally completed in 1928 to the original design including an octagonal belfry, but with a lead-covered lantern in place of the stone spire, and the bell was replaced with a new one by Gillett & Johnston (2-0-26 in F#). Its diameter was just 22 inches, despite the invitation of a 48-inch bell hole.

The church was gutted by incendiary bombs on the night of 2nd December 1940. Despite promises that it would be rebuilt, its future was in the balance for so long that the surviving structure deteriorated, the belfry in particular. A new church was finally built at right-angles to the previous one in 1967, building beginning before the bombed ruins were cleared. The lowest three stages of the tower were restored with a lead-covered timber flèche replacing the belfry, and although the 1928 bell had survived the inferno it was replaced by the tenor from St Augustine the Less and given to another church in the Bristol Diocese in 1965. The remainder of the upper stages of the tower are now occupied by a vast air conditioning plant.

Bells previously hung for full-circle ringing

The bells of St Augustine the Less, Bristol
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
15-0-13 28½ inBb John Purdue? c.1650
213 cwt 43 inF William Evans 1739

Additional bells

Additional bells at St Augustine the Less, Bristol
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
Sanctus¼ cwt  F#   C19th

Source: All from The Ringing World 4372 (page 140), ChurchCrawler (Phil M. Draper), Wikipedia, the website of All Saints, Clifton, "The Church Bells of Gloucestershire" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1881), Nick Bowden, and Will Willans (who discovered the two bells in St George's churchyard). Note of treble from "Bells & Bellfounding" (X-Y-Z, 1879) which records "two bells only namely the tenor and treble of a ring of four".

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.