‘St John’s on the Wall’
This amazing church is one of my favourite places in Bristol. Overlooked by many, it is a hidden jewel in the crown of the city, and I am certain most people simply walk past it without a second thought.
The correct name of the church is Church of St John the Baptist, but it derived its nickname from the fact that it was built onto the city wall in the 14th century. The church is long and rather narrow because it was built into the wall and its width dictated somewhat by it. The church is no longer active and is owned and looked after by the Churches conservation trust.
The archway in the middle under the tower and steeple is the last remaining gateway of the old city wall. The two side passageways were added I think in the 19th century and although they look authentic, were not part of the original church. Each of the side tunnels plays host to some murals that could probably do with a bit of a refresh if I am honest. The stairway on the right of the picture is the entrance to the church.
Once inside, you take a right turn and are immediately faced with a spectacular nave. On my most recent visit I was told that prior to the Reformation these spotless white walls would have been draped in all manner of artwork and furnishings and the place would have been heaving with atmosphere.
Oops – doors, I almost forgot…
From the entrance you can continue up into the tower (if you are lucky and the nice steward/warden lets you), rising up a second staircase, slipping to one side of the organ and climbing a further set of stairs, before entering into the bell tower.
One of the amazing features of this church is that some of the little rooms feel like they are exactly as they were forty or fifty years ago…time has stood still – there is something magical about this rather tatty, well-worn place.
The steward told me that I was welcome to ring some bells if I wanted to, but I bottled it…what if something went wrong?
There was a lovely slim ‘staff only’ door in the bell tower and I was desperate to take a little look, but again I decided I’d just leave it like it was.
At the ‘business end’ of the church there were two further doorways into a little ante-room where I guess the priest would prepare for his services, remember there are no side rooms in this church, everything lines up with the course of the city wall.
Looking down, the tiles are to die for.
Looking back in the other direction you can see the organ gallery and get a different perspective of the nave. Oh yes and there are some more doors…
Finally I’ll round off this post with a little sign in the church which although very pretty might not be entirely accurate on its dates.
And that’s it for another week – don’t expect anything like this many doors every time!
More fabulous doors at: Thursday Doors – Norm 2.0