Holy Trinity Parish Church

Church Street, Bradford on Avon


Holy Trinity Parish Church, Bradford on Avon.

Holy Trinity Church was the minster or mother church of the large ancient parish of Bradford, with outlying chapels at Atworth, Barley (in South Wraxall), Cumberwell, Holt, Limpley Stoke, South Wraxall and Winsley, with Westwood added later.

It was probably founded in the Saxon Period, perhaps in the early 8th century, when St Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, was reputed to have founded a monastery here. Most of what survives today is basically of the 12th century in the Norman period, seen in the fabric and romanesque-style round-headed windows, many of them now blocked. This building would have been large for its time, reflecting the importance of the estate to Shaftesbury Abbey, consisting of the present nave and chancel, except for an early 14th century eastern extension by one bay. There may have been a west tower, of which the stair turret may remain although restored, but the present tower mostly dates from the 15th century. A north aisle was added in the 15th century, as was a chapel on the south side.

In 1853 the architect George Gilbert Scott, in a report on the condition of the church, found that the south wall was very bad, the chancel arch had spread and part of the galleries was unsafe. Major work was carried out in 1864 by the Bath architect John Elkington Gill (1821–1874) of the firm of Manners & Gill to “restore” the internal appearance to suit Victorian taste. This resulted in stripping out many Georgian features, including the box pews, galleries, wooden pulpit and plaster ceiling, giving seating for 637, with two pews each reserved for Kingston House (The Hall) and Chantry House. The piers of the north aisle were altered and given carved inscribed ribbons and the whole unstable south wall of the nave was rebuilt, retaining Norman windows. The mansard nave roof that was covered with lead sheet was replaced by one of single-pitch and covered with stone tiles. The organ was also moved at this time; the present one, in the north aisle was made in 1926 by Henry Willis in Liverpool.

Another major alteration to the interior, to cater to another change in taste, was carried out in 2016 by local architects Chedburn Dudley, sweeping away of the 150-year-old wooden pews. At the same time the organ was restored and was slightly repositioned on its return in 2017, new heating has been installed, damp-proofing carried out and a kitchen and toilet built. Some of the cost has been met by selling a painting by 16th century Flemish artist Quentin Metsys that had been given to the church in 1940.

The work has disturbed the rest of several old Bradfordians in the church and churchyard, including a 6-foot Saxon, contradicting the commonly-held misbelief that people of that time were all short! The fact that the 12th century wall was found to cross Saxon graves suggests that the theory that the present building lies over the site of the original Saxon church may be correct.

See also:

  • Rosemary Carr 1998. Storied Urns: Monuments in Holy Trinity Church, Bradford-on-Avon.
  • Nikolas Pevsner 1963. Buildings of England: Wiltshire. Revised by Bridget Cherry 1975 & Julian Orbach 2021.
  • Anne Willis 2001. Heard but not seen: a history of the bells of Holy Trinity, Bradford on Avon.