Building » Chipping Sodbury – St Lawrence

Chipping Sodbury – St Lawrence

Broad Street, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol BS37

One of the older missions in the diocese, this modest church was improvised in 1838 from a former outbuilding to a seventeenth-century inn (which is now the presbytery). The exterior of the church is vernacular in character, while the interior largely retains its mid-nineteenth-century ecclesiastical character.

From the early eighteenth century, the Paston family maintained a Catholic mission at Horton Court, now a property of the National Trust. This ceased when the estate was sold. In 1838 Mrs Sarah Neve, the Catholic widow of the Anglian vicar of Old Sodbury and a notable benefactor of the Catholic Church, purchased the former Swan Inn fronting the High Street at Chipping Sodbury. The seventeenth-century building became a house for a priest, while a substantial building in the rear yard, probably a former brewhouse and probably dating from the eighteenth century, was converted into a small chapel. The sanctuary was adorned with wainscotting in 1852 and in 1855 a Caen stone font was introduced. The mission was generally served by Benedictines, at first from Ampleforth and later from Douai. Secular clergy took over in 1928. In the early 1950s the gallery in the church was extended and the present stair provided. Later in the 1950s a small outbuilding beyond the church was converted into a parish hall.


The church lies behind the listed presbytery and is a simple rectangular structure built of local rubble stone with a pitched pantiled roof. The building is not orientated; the liturgical east end faces north. Only the west side wall facing the yard is visible. It has three rectangular sash window openings at high level, clearly inserted, with gothic glazing bars to the upper sashes and brick surrounds. At lower level are a simple entrance doorway and a number of blocked former openings. The door leads to a vestibule with stair to a gallery. The church interior is a single space lit by the three windows in the west side. It has plain plastered walls with wainscoting, a west gallery with a panelled timber front and an open king-post roof of nineteenth-century character. There is no structural division between the nave and the sanctuary. The (liturgical) east end is raised by one step and enclosed by a simple timber rail. The sanctuary walls have a taller wainscot with gilded cresting and there is an elaborate timber high altar and reredos with painted panels. In the nave, simple bench seating and square framed Stations of the Cross.

List descriptions

Church and attached sacristy


Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of St Lawrence and attached Sacristy of 1838 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Architectural interest: as a good example of a mission church of 1838 in a rural town, created by successfully converting a former outbuilding;
  • Interior: its early C19 interior, retaining most of its bespoke fixtures and fittings shows good quality craftsmanship;
  • Historic interest: as a relatively early example of a Roman Catholic mission church built by the Diocese of Clifton in a rural area, reflecting the expansion of the Roman Catholic Church in the decade following the 1829 Emancipation Act;
  • Group value: it forms an important group with the adjacent Grade II-listed presbytery.


The Roman Catholic Church of St Lawrence with attached sacristy, was built in 1838 as a mission church from converted outbuildings (comprising a former brew house, stables, and part of the ostler’s accommodation) belonging to the former Swan Inn, dating from the circa C17, and altered and extended in the C18. In the early C19 the Inn had been bought by Sarah Neve, the Roman Catholic wife of the Vicar of Old Sodbury to establish the mission church. The Inn itself, facing Broad Street, became the presbytery (Grade II-listed). The church and presbytery were endowed to the Diocese of Clifton and served by Benedictine monks from Ampleforth and Downside, and later Douai. Since 1928 secular clergy have been appointed at St Lawrence.


A Roman Catholic Church with sacristy built in 1838 from a converted stable, brew house and ostler’s accommodation belonging to a former inn (now the presbytery), originating from the C17, altered and extended in the C18.

MATERIALS: built in stone rubble with a tiled pitched roof with a rendered stack at its S end (heightened in brick) where it abuts the adjacent kitchen wing to the presbytery (probably a later infill), and a further, smaller brick stack to the nave and similarly to the sacristy at its N end. PLAN: an open rectangular nave with the narthex at its S end, and the sanctuary with attached sacristy at its N end.

EXTERIOR: the main elevation facing the courtyard, retaining a vernacular style, is four bays wide. The entrance in the far right-hand bay, has a flat-arched opening with late C20 timber double replacement doors. The three windows to the nave are set in rectangular openings with stone sills and a central keystone, and are surrounded by later brickwork, suggesting they were probably inserted when the building was converted into a church. The elevation shows the remnants of a number of former openings, now blocked up. The sacristy to the far left comprises the far right hand bay of the former ostler’s accommodation, attached to the N end of the church and projecting slightly further forward into the courtyard. The entrance to the sacristy has steps leading to a doorway with a moulded stone ashlar surround, restored in the late C20. Above it to the right is a stone mullion window.

INTERIOR: The narthex has timber raised and fielded panelling with a dog leg stair with stick balusters, square posts and swept handrail leading to the gallery. The nave has raised and fielded panelling with white washed walls and ceiling above, though the remnants of decorative early C19 bands of stencilling in green and gold are visible on the walls. The slightly raised sanctuary at the N end, has taller raised and fielded panelling to the walls with a decoratively moulded frieze with a carved and gilded fleurs-de-lys motif, with at its centre a highly decorative timber altar piece in Gothic style. The reredos contains paintings of the four apostles flanking a gold tabernacle with crucifix above. The reredos is now separated from the altar which has been moved forward, as required by Vatican II. The altar also contains paintings, including that of the lamb of God to the centre, flanked to either side by images of white lilies. The ceiling over the nave, sanctuary and gallery contains an exposed timber king-post roof of seven bays. A door to the left of the sanctuary leads to the sacristy attached to the N, which contains early C19 raised and fielded timber painted panelling to wainscot level throughout with a projecting, fully integrated fireplace.
It is considered that the parish hall, with flat roofed later C20 extension, attached to the N, and the outbuildings opposite the church on the W side of the courtyard are not of special architectural or historic interest and are thus excluded from the listing.



Reasons for Designation: The Presbytery to the Roman Catholic Church of St Lawrence, Broad Street, Chipping Sodbury is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

  • Architectural interest: as an interesting example of a coaching inn, with a prominent street front, dating back to the C17, extended and altered in the C18 and converted in the early C19 when it became the presbytery;
  • Interior: the interior retains a number of important fixtures and fittings, including a large C17 timber winder stair, a rare survival;
  • Historic interest: as an interesting reminder of the development of coach travel in the C17 and C18, and for its interest as a Roman Catholic presbytery serving the Church of St Lawrence since its foundation in the early C19 as one of the first mission churches in the Diocese of Clifton;
  • Group value: it has strong group value with neighbouring listed buildings and the Roman Catholic Church of St Lawrence, which it has served since the early C19.

History: The Presbytery to the Roman Catholic Church of St Lawrence, a former coaching inn known as the Swan Inn, of circa C17 date, was altered and extended in the C18 and further altered in the C19. Harding (1999) suggests that the building was originally constructed as an Elizabethan town house, although no firm evidence is presented. In the early C19 the former inn and its associated outbuildings were bought by Sarah Neve, the Roman Catholic wife of the Vicar of Old Sodbury, to establish an early mission church dedicated to St Lawrence, endowed to the Diocese of Clifton and served by Benedictine monks from Ampleforth and Downside and later Douai. The former stables and brew house were converted to become the church (under consideration for listing separately), whilst the Inn itself, facing Broad Street, became the presbytery. Since 1928 secular clergy have been appointed at St Lawrence.


A former inn dating from the C17, altered and extended in the C18, and converted in the early C19 when it became the Roman Catholic presbytery of the Church of St Lawrence.

MATERIALS: the building is rendered and painted. It has a tiled pitched roof with stacks to the E and W gable ends, set behind gabled front and rear elevations.

PLAN: The building has an L-shaped plan with a carriage arch to its W (originally probably part of the adjacent Squire Public House, listed Grade II), a later kitchen extension (probably a former outbuilding), and an C18 infill extension in its rear NW corner. Attached to the rear is a late C20 conservatory, which is excluded from the listing.

EXTERIOR: the two storey S front plus attic facing Broad Street has three steep gables with ball finials. It has a central entrance with an elaborate panelled door of which the centre panel has a diamond shape with a fanlight above, set in a stone arched door surround. The early C19 windows, two on the ground floor flanking the entrance and three to each of the two floors above (those to the upper floor smaller in size), have diamond shaped lattice bars. To the left is the lower carriage arch (originally part of the Squire Public House, listed Grade II), with a sash window with diamond shape lattice bars as before. The windows date from the early C19 when the building became the presbytery. The rear elevation consists of a two bay wide, three storey gabled rear wing to the left. Attached to this is the lower kitchen wing (a former outbuilding), which has a late C20 conservatory attached to it. To the right is the two storey C18 infill extension, which partially blocks the gabled bay behind it. To the far right is the carriage arch, the roof of which was extended forward to enlarge the room above the arch, and it has a brick external wall. The rear elevation has multi-pane sash windows throughout of varied proportions. The attic on the far left is lit by a three light casement. An earlier, stone mullioned window is set in the small gable behind the slightly lower C18 gabled infill extension.

INTERIOR: At ground floor level is a central hall flanked by the presbytery office and parlour, leading to the rear with cloakroom (in the C18 extension) and a large built-in C17 spiral staircase on the opposite side. Behind the built-in staircase is a utility room and kitchen. The spiral staircase leads to the two floors above which have bedrooms coming off a central hall, that on the first floor with a corridor leading to the room above the carriage arch. The interior has been refurbished extensively in the C20. The interiors of the rooms in the C18 infill extension to the rear have all been stripped. However, the remainder of the building does retain a number of historic fixtures and fittings of note, including panelled doors and deep skirtings throughout. The window in the presbytery office on the ground floor contains a deep, decoratively carved timber window sill, probably dating from the C17, and believed to be a re-used travel – or dowry chest. The parlour and hallway contain horizontal timber wall panelling to wainscot level dating mostly from the C19 but re-using older, probably C17 panelling in parts. Both the office and parlour have C19 fireplaces.
A large winder stair dating from the C17, is accessed from the hallway via a wide opening, which has a finely carved timber double ovolo-moulded four-centred arched surround, suggesting the stair may have earlier origins. The stair is constructed around a very thick and tall post made from one single piece of timber. The threads, becoming narrower towards the top, are carpeted at the bottom, and made of timber at top floor level.
The roof comprises a standard rafter roof with purlins, probably originating from the C17 but with extensive later repairs, and C19 inserted gables.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not known

Original Date: 1900

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II