Temple Church, Bristol

Temple Church (grid reference ST5972) is a ruined church building in central Bristol, England, which was founded in the mid 12th century by Robert of Gloucester and the Knights Templar.

Temple Church served as the site for the famous exorcism of George Lukins conducted by Methodist and Anglican clergymen. The house of worship was bombed in World War II and largely destroyed. It is a listed building now owned by English Heritage.

Early history

It is known as the Temple church because it was built on the site of the oval church of the Knights Templar, suppressed in 1312. Either just before or just after this suppression the church was rebuilt on a rectangular plan and served as a parish church. The site has been excavated and the oval outline of the former Templars' church is laid out in the turf.

It was also known as Holy Cross Church, and included the Guild Chapel of the Bristol Weavers. Cloth weaving was the staple industry of Bristol in the late Middle Ages, and its centre was in Temple parish.

The tower, which rises to 114 feet (35 m), was built in two parts, the first in 1390. Construction was halted when the tower started to lean to the west, but by 1460 the city was satisfied that the tower was stable and the final section, including a belfry was added. The lean is popularly attributed to the foundations of the tower being built on top of wool-sacks but is most likely due to the soft alluvial clay underneath being compressed.

World War II bombing

It was bombed on 24/25 November 1940 during the Bristol Blitz, leaving it as an empty shell. The damage was severe and although the arcades still stood they were very unsafe and have since been removed. The wrought-iron parclose screens to the side chapels did survive and are today in the Lord Mayor's Chapel. The sword rest by W. Edney is now preserved but broken up into sections and re-erected in other churches. The 15th century candelabrum, with its central statue of the Virgin Mary also survived, a little dented albeit, and now hangs in the Berkeley Chapel of Bristol Cathedral.

Listed status

It was the first English parish church to be taken into ownership by the then Ministry of Works , and is today in the care of English Heritage. It is a grade II* listed building. The archway and gates, which date from the mid 19th century and made from Portland stone and wrought iron in a Gothic Revival style, are themselves grade II listed.

It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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