Keynsham - St Dunstan

Bristol Road, Keynsham, Bristol BS31

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A plain modern Romanesque design of the interwar years, with Art Deco touches, by Roberts & Willman of Taunton. Furnishings of note including recent Byzantine-style murals by Marcelo Lavallen.  

Until the building of the present church Catholics living in the Keynsham area had to travel to Bath or Knowle to attend Mass. The land for the present church on Bristol Road was acquired thanks to a legacy from Edwin Morrall (Harding says Marshall), cousin of a monk of Downside. The church was built in just seven months; the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Lee on 16 March 1935 and the first Mass was said on 20 October in the same year. The architects were Roberts & Willman of Taunton, the builders Thomas Weeks & Son of Ashton Gate, Bristol. The church was dedicated to St Dunstan, who had been Abbot of Glastonbury before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury; both buildings are shown behind the carved figure of the saint over the main entrance. A stone-built house of seventeenth-century date next door at 20 Bristol Road (substantial, but known as Mulberry Cottage) became the priest’s house. A set of eighteenth-century Dutch Stations of the Cross were presented by Bishop Lee (the gift of Mr and Mrs Batten) and statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart were presented by Mrs J. Corrigan and family.

A parish hall was built in 1967, necessitating the felling of a great mulberry tree. The garden became a car park, and in 1971 a new presbytery was built. An application to demolish the listed Mulberry Cottage was refused, and it was sold in 1983; it is now a private house. In the church, the sanctuary was reordered in 1979 and a window to Canon Reidy, first parish priest (retired 1973 after thirty seven years), was installed at the west end.

More recently, in 2009, the rather stark 1979 treatment of the sanctuary wall has given way to fine Byzantinesque murals. The altar has been re-centred in the sanctuary and a larger ambo and new tabernacle added. The eighteenth-century Stations of the Cross have been placed in store and replaced with bronze castings. The parish hall was renovated and improved in 2010. 

St Dunstan’s is orientated roughly north-south, but this description assumes conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar was to the east. The church is built of brown brick, laid in Flemish bond, in a simple modern Romanesque style, with some detailing of Art Deco character. Reconstituted stone is used sparingly for the dressings and the roof is clad with clay pantiles. The windows, rainwater goods and eaves soffits have been renewed in uPVC. The church has a narthex with gallery over, but otherwise consists of a single, aisleless space, with no structural division between the nave and the sanctuary. The utilitarian character of the present east wall suggests that it was designed to allow for later enlargement in this direction.

The main entrance has an arch of three orders, containing a high-relief stone carving of St Dunstan in the tympanum, with Canterbury Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey in low relief. Above this are a circular window and a cross on the raised parapet of the gable. The flank walls are deeply modelled, with broad pilaster bay divisions, and tall, recessed rectangular windows; the east end is plain, with single-storey, flat-roofed sacristies etc. giving off on either side.

The narthex has recessed stone holy water stoups in brick surrounds and some oak panelling around the stair to the gallery, all nicely detailed. The main space of the church has plastered walls over a brick dado and a curved shallow central vault with flat soffits at the sides. At the west end, the raised gallery has a solid timber front. An octagonal stone font is placed centrally in front of this. The nave floor is of woodblock, the oak pews original and of Art Deco character. At the east end the sanctuary is carpeted, with plain stone furnishings (altar, ambo, tabernacle stand) belonging to the latest reordering. Dominating the sanctuary is the mural on the east wall, Christ in Majesty in a mandorla with the symbols of the Evangelists, over a frieze of the Tree of Life, by Marcelo Lavallen, 2009. Other furnishings of note include two polychrome statues of St Dunstan and Our Lady of Glastonbury (2007), of Mannerist character, by a Polish artist, who also made the processional cross and possibly the painted panels on the gallery front. Stone statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady by Boulton of Cheltenham, given in 1935, are now placed outside the church. Stained glass includes the round west window, a semi-abstract design by Mark Angus, to the memory of Canon Reidy (1980) and glass in the side windows, of more conventional design, by John Yeoman (Harding). The Stations of the Cross replace those now in store and are bronze castings from Italy.

Diocese: Clifton

Architect: Roberts & Willman

Original Date: 1935

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed