Bristol church St Nicholas’s to reopen after 65 years with a brief to reach young

22 January 2018

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A large altar triptych by William Hogarth, Sealing the Tomb, originally commissioned for St Mary Redcliffe in 1755, inside St Nicolas, Bristol

A large altar triptych by William Hogarth, Sealing the Tomb, originally commissioned for St Mary Redcliffe in 1755, inside St Nicolas, Bristol

A CHURCH in the centre of Bristol, closed for 65 years, is to be reopened, with £3.8 million spent over six years on refurbishment and funding its work in the city.

St Nicholas’s was closed after it was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. It was leased to Bristol City Council and rebuilt as a museum, before housing council offices.

It is due to reopen as a church in the autumn.The aim is to reach young people (60 per cent of the city’s population are aged between 15 and 29), and those who do not currently go to church in the city. As a “resourcing church”, it will also work with other churches and organisations on social-action projects, the diocese of Bristol said.

The Church Commissioners have provided a strategic development fund grant of £1.5 million towards the costs over the first four years (News, 14 December, 2017). This is the second grant to the diocese: last year, it received £950,000 to create three “Mission Area” resource churches in suburban, outer-estate, and rural areas: Malmesbury Abbey, St Mary’s Magdalene, Stoke Bishop, and a church in the parish of Yate (News, 20 January, 2017).

St Nicholas’s will be led by the Revd Toby Flint, an Assistant Curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, who leads the church’s Alpha programme. This week, he said that he and his wife, Gill, were “really excited about our move to Bristol, getting to know the city and working out how we can join in with all that is already going on”.

“As Bristol becomes younger and more diverse, we want to make an impact on the city,” the Bishop of Swindon, Dr Lee Rayfield, said this week. “We are excited about how St Nicholas’s will grow the Church and bring about social transformation.”

There are several C of E churches within a mile of St Nicholas’s, including St Philip and St Jacob, and St Paul’s, Southville, which are both Evangelical.

A central feature of the church is a large altar triptych by William Hogarth, Sealing the Tomb, originally commissioned for St Mary Redcliffe in 1755. It was Hogarth’s only commission from the Church of England. During the Victorian era, his work was deemed unsuitable for the Church, and after attempts to sell it failed, it was rolled up and stored in the basement of the city’s art academy, before being placed at St Nicholas’s. It has been agreed that it will remain on view to the public at the church on allotted days.

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