St Paul's Church on Coronation Road was constructed to cater for the spiritual needs of the population explosion as newcomers flocked from the countryside to the parish of Bedminster.
The consecration of the new church by the Bishop of Bath and Wells was marred by civil disturbance. He was unpopular as a known opponent of the Reform Bill (which was aimed at reorganising voting procedures) and when he drove away after the ceremony, stones were thrown at his carriage. Things have changed and we now love our Bishop!
The architect's name is chiselled on the tower of the church. Charles Dyer was the son of a Bristol surgeon and is perhaps best known for his design of the Victoria Rooms in Clifton.
When completed the Church could accommodate over 1700 people. By comparison, the Parish Church could hold only 500 people out of a total population of 10,000!
On the night of Good Friday 1941, St. Paul's, along with many other areas of the city, was hit by enemy bombs. Despite valiant efforts by Firewatchers and Senior Scout members the church building was completely gutted. During the destruction the then vicar, William Kingsley-Martin, was seen to be recovering as many items as he could before the heat intensity beat him back. The following day, being Easter Saturday, eight weddings had been arranged. The Vicar, ever the pragmatist, moved the Marriage Services to St David’s, even though there was some doubt whether that Church was licensed for such services. Apparently the vicar received the licence later that day!
Services in the parish continued at St David’s for the next 17 years. In 1955 Leonard Vivian Payne became Vicar with a clear remit to rebuild the bombed church. Work commenced in 1956 and some two years later and on budget the church was reconsecrated. Both internally and externally it is the building you see today – well almost! During record high winds in January 1990 (just after a service held to celebrate St. Paul’s Day) pinnacles on the tower, having survived the ravages of war, succumbed to nature and crashed through the roof causing extensive damage to the fabric requiring nearly half a million pounds to restore. Whilst much of this sum was covered by insurance some costs were borne by the church.
St Paul's is now a lively, growing congregation; in many ways it has started on a new and exciting stage in its history. The congregation is a mix of ages with young singles, young families and older members as well. Whatever the history of the building, it is this community of people, doing their best to follow Jesus, who are the real church of St Paul's, Bedminster.