Building » Bristol (Filton) – St Teresa

Bristol (Filton) – St Teresa

Gloucester Road North, Filton, Bristol, BS34

A late (1960) traditional basilican design, of high townscape quality and with an atmospheric interior retaining good quality and distinctive original furnishings.

A site in Gloucester Road North, outside the city boundary, was acquired in 1926, for £600 and a presbytery and small temporary church built in 1927. The church was dedicated to St Teresa of Lisieux, who had been canonised in 1925. The building survives today as a community hall. A stained glass roundel from the church is now at St Anthony, Henbury (q.v.).

In December 1940 the church and presbytery were twice damaged in air raids. Post-war expansion to the north of the city made the need for a larger church ever more pressing, a need only partly assuaged by the building of a daughter church at Southmead in 1955 (q.v.). The present church was built by Fr (Canon) Denis Lucey, and construction required the acquisition of adjoining land to the south. The designs, for a large church in basilican style, were prepared by O’Brien, Morris & McCullough of Bristol, and brought to completion by the successor practice of Ivor Day & O’Brien. The builder was Henry Willcock & Co. The church was designed to seat a minimum of 380 and the originally estimated cost was £50,000. The church was dedicated by Bishop Rudderham on 26 June 1960. 

A new parish centre was opened in 1975 (architects: Ivor Day & O’Brien, Bristol, approximate cost £72,000). A major event in the history of the parish came in September 2009, when the relics of St Teresa were brought to the church and venerated, as part of their UK tour. In 2010 new oak entrance doors were fitted, marking the church’s fiftieth anniversary. 


The church was built in 1959-60 in an Italian basilican style. The walls are faced in creamy flint (‘soapy’, say Verey and Brooks) brick laid in Flemish bond, with reconstructed Doulting stone dressings to the windows, doors and bell tower. The roofs are clad with reddish-brown Roman pantiles. Rainwater goods are of copper, square in section. On plan the church consists of an aisled nave with apsidal sanctuary and flanking chapels. At the west end is a narthex with baptistery to the south (now a repository) and square tower to the north. Sacristies give off the south side of the sanctuary and confessionals off the north aisle. The drop in the land from west to east allows for the formation of a community room under the sanctuary (not inspected).

The main elevation towards Gloucester Road North presents a triple-arched porch with sunken forecourt, recalling the atrium of a Roman basilica. Above this, the bluff façade is relieved by a circular window with cruciform mullions and toothed brickwork detail at the eaves. At the northwest corner the squat, square tower is raised on a reconstituted stone plinth; its belfry stage is also faced in stone, with triple arches on each face and a pyramidal roof. On the north side, shallow gabled projections in alternate bays house the confessionals; between these, small triple-arched windows light the aisle. The clerestory consists of one arched window per bay. On the south side, the former baptistery projects at the west end, with eaves and a pitched tile roof, while to the east the pitched roof of the sacristies is placed behind a parapet. The canted east end of the church is windowless, except for triple-arched openings on each face lighting the crypt/community room.

Within the arcaded porch, oak entrance doors incorporating narrow glass strips (2010) are flanked by triple-arched windows lighting the narthex. The narthex has a flat plastered ceiling, with a large and mainly glazed arch to the south offering a view into the former baptistery, with its high circular window and sunken floor still bearing the imprint of the original position of the font. Access to this is area, now used as a repository, is gained via metal gates at the west end of the south aisle. On the north side of the narthex a doorway leads to the stair up to the gallery and tower.  The narthex is separated from the main body of the church by glazed screens and hardwood doors incorporating ironwork. The holy water stoups are unusual, of stained hardwood timber and in the form of classical torches.

The interior walls are faced, like the outside walls, in creamy flint brick. The six-bay nave arcade consists of a series of short sturdy cast stone circular piers with cushion capitals. The clerestory lights are in deep splayed reveals, and above this is a simple collar purlin and timber boarded roof. An organ gallery is placed over the narthex. The narrow aisles are for circulation rather than seating, with diagonal struts springing from the rear side of the nave columns to support their lean-to timber roofs. The circulation areas in the nave and aisles have a linoleum floor of distinctive pattern, echoing the patterns of Cosmatesque paving. The original nave seating survives, dark stained oak benches with gently curved tops to the ends and linenfold detailing to the back of the back row. The chief focus is the sanctuary, framed by a wide arch and apse with coffered hemispherical vault. The sanctuary steps are of white marble, but the sanctuary is otherwise carpeted. The original marble high altar appears to survive in situ, with fluted frontal incorporating gilded fish monogram; this is supplemented by a forward altar faced in polished hardwood. The communion rails have been removed in a post-Vatican II reordering and the square timber font is now placed in front of the sanctuary. On either side of the sanctuary, screens with paired marble columns and recessed gold mosaic ‘caps’ give onto the side chapels. These also retain their original marble altars (Lady Chapel to the north and Sacred Heart to the south), again with fluted frontals and gilded monograms, now shrines with statues placed upon them. A further shrine, to St Teresa, is placed at the west end of the north aisle. The windows have clear mottled glass incorporating coloured borders and motifs, mostly original, but the round window at the west end commemorates the millennium. A statue of the Risen Christ, made in plaster by two parishioners, flanked by two stained glass (cabinet) windows by Harry Clark, depicting Christ the King and Mary the Queen and mentioned by Harding and Verey/Brooks are no longer in evidence.

Heritage Details

Architect: O’Brien, Morris & McCullough/Ivor Day & O’Brien

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed