Building » Bristol (Downend) – St Augustine of Canterbury

Bristol (Downend) – St Augustine of Canterbury

Boscombe Crescent, Downend, Bristol BS16

A large suburban church built at the time of the Second Vatican Council, on a traditional longitudinal plan but from the outset with a forward altar. The design and construction are modern, while also referencing traditional Gothic and basilican forms. The church is a local landmark.

During the first half of the twentieth century, Catholics in the Downend area of Bristol attended Mass in Kingswood or Fishponds, but the development of the Rolls Housing Estate after the Second World War increased the pressure for a separate church and school. A large site of nearly four acres in Boscombe Crescent was purchased in 1961 and designs for new buildings put in hand. The church was built to seat 320 and cost £35,000; the architects were Ivor Day & O’Brien of Bristol. The foundation stone was laid on 25 April 1964 and the church was opened by Bishop Rudderham on 29 August (says Harding) or 5 September (Catholic Building Review) 1965. It was built at the end of the Second Vatican Council, and was designed from the outset with a forward altar to allow the priest to say Mass facing the congregation. A presbytery was added soon afterwards and a primary school opened in 1970. The church was consecrated on 27 May 1975.


The church is a modern design with references to historical Gothic and basilican church architecture. It is of concrete portal frame construction, with external walls clad in brown brick laid in stretcher bond, dressings of artificial stone and roof coverings of artificial slates. The plan of the church consists of a wide aisleless nave with a northwest tower and a short sanctuary. Beyond the sanctuary lie the sacristies, with a small flat-roofed parish hall to one side. The building is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces south. The main (liturgical) west front to the street incorporates a full-width artificial stone loggia with a continuous arcade of nine openings with triangular heads.  Above the loggia the gabled front is plain except for a single round window with a stone cross formed in the glazing. The loggia extends beyond the church to the right by three bays and to the left by a canopied entrance porch. Immediately behind the porch rises the short square northwest tower, which is faced with artificial stone and has a copper-clad spire. The nave side walls each have four windows with triangular heads. The sanctuary has a single window to each side.

The interior is a single large space with mainly rendered walls. The concrete beams and timber rafters of the roof are exposed. At the (liturgical) west end is a full-width gallery, set over a vestibule which is expressed externally as the glazed loggia. The blind end wall of the sanctuary is faced in artificial stone laid in irregular courses. On the wall is a carved wooden crucifix, with a suspended canopy in front of this over the forward altar. The fittings are generally simple and probably mostly original. Some of the windows have stained and engraved glass by Solaglass Caldermac (Buildings of England).

Heritage Details

Architect: Ivor Day & O'Brien

Original Date: 1965

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed