History of our church

The ancient parish of Westbury-on-Trym

Holy Trinity Church, together with the nearby College of Deans, was home to a collegiate community under the Bishop of Worcester until 1544. Holy Trinity Church is a Grade I listed building, and is of great historic and architectural importance. It is the most significant historic building in Westbury-on-Trym and its tower is a landmark in the middle of the village.

Holy Trinity Church is significant for several reasons. Its ancient worshipping community was of limited means, yet it was given a church of architectural distinctiveness – more than a parish church – that imitates Wells Cathedral in its apsidal plan form. It has a great variety of styles due to the various periods of construction.

There has been a Christian settlement on the banks of the River Trym since the eighth century, pre-dating the settlement of Bristol. The first church was probably from the Saxon period, but it was destroyed, and a new monastic community was established by Oswald, Bishop of Worcester, in 962 AD. In 1093, the church was repaired and re-dedicated by Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester. In 1194, the church became a collegiate church under the direct responsibility of the Bishop of Worcester. In the fifteenth century, Bishop Carpenter transformed the church in the Perpendicular style.

The basic fabric of the church is medieval. The North and South aisles and the nave date from the thirteenth century. Other parts – St. Oswald’s chapel at the east end and the Sanctuary – date from the middle of the fifteenth century. The crypt at the East end is medieval in origin; it is situated below an apse, which is polygonal – an unusual construction that only happened with any frequency in Anglo-Saxon and early Romanesque eras. It is suggested that Holy Trinity Church was built, rebuilt or adapted in the late eleventh century and was given an apse and crypt imitating other grander monastic buildings in the then diocese of Worcester.

Externally, the polygonal apse is the most elaborately decorated part of the fifteenth-century rebuilding. Buttresses, with moulded bases and pinnacles, stand on its corners. Behind the pinnacle is a pilaster, which is broken up by a string course, and there are gargoyles where the pilasters cross the roof parapet.

In the South aisle, evidence of thirteenth-century construction can be seen in the three sedilia (seats built into the wall), a piscina (sink) and three Early English lancet windows east of the South porch. The South porch entrance also dates from this time. Works undertaken during the fifteenth century included the tower, western extensions to the nave aisles to join the tower, a Lady chapel, enlargement of the east end and the raising of a clerestory. There was some reordering in Victorian times, when changes were made to the upper part of the tower, including a spirelet, and to the crypt.

The completed repairs to the East end of the church affect the parts of the church that are of particular historic and architectural significance.

Several guides to the history of the church and its stained glass have been published. Please see the Publications page for more details.