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The Priory Church of St James, Bristol (grid reference ST588734), is a Grade I listed building in Horsefair, Whitson Street.
It was founded in 1129 as a Benedictine priory by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of Henry I. The early nave from 1129 survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries because an agreement in 1374 between the Abbot of Tewkesbury and the parishioners stated that the nave would become the parishioners responsibility, and the tower was added around 1374. On 9 January 1540 the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII meant that St James Priory was surrendered to the crown. The priory buildings were demolished, keeping only the nave of the church. In 1543 the land and the right to hold a fair were sold to a London merchant-tailor. In 1604 there was concern that the national attraction of St James' Fair would increase the spread of the plague, so a royal proclamation was issued prohibiting Londoners from attending. The south aisle was widened and rebuilt in 1698. The porch dates from the late 18th century, and the north aisle was rebuilt in 1864.
The traditional account, as told to John Leland, has it that every tenth stone brought from Normandy to build the Castle was set aside to build the Priory.
Before the recent restoration (see below) the building was on the Historic England Buildings at Risk Register and described as being in very bad condition. However, substantial restoration and reordering work was completed in 2011 and as of 2014 St James Priory is not on the Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.
Today, it is an active church within the Catholic Diocese of Clifton, which until 1996 was a Church of England place of worship.
St James Priory Reviews
St James Priory, the oldest surviving building in Bristol (1129) is situated on a very busy road-roundabout network and is an oasis of peace and tranquility. It is a stunningly beautiful Norman... more »
This was a real find. Arrived at Bristol Bus Station, after a few days in Glastonbury with half an hour between bus and onward coach, and set off to find a café which would fill my flask. The first..... more »
A more spiritual peaceful church in the centre of Bristol you will not find.Sit in front of the blessed sacrament and let your mind calm the oldest building in Bristol.You can feel the history.
Great cafe and meeting rooms. Relaxed atmosphere in cafe.
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