SS Philip and Jacob

Known as 'Pip and Jay' the church dedication is to St Philip and St Jacob (really James, says Arrowsmiiths Dictionary of Bristol - 1906). The parish boundary once extended well beyond Bristol as far as the village of Hanham.

The gravestone in the churchyard were cleared and some used to form paths.

The following article was first published in B&AFHS Journal 133 in September 2008

My Parish - St Philip & Jacob, Bristol

By Andrew Plaster

St Philip & Jacob is one of Bristol’s original city parishes. It includes the Old Market area of the city, and had its out-parish beyond the city’s original boundary extending over what are now (and some were) the Bristol suburbs of Baptist Mills, Barton Hill, Lawrence Hill, Newtown, Russell Town, St Jude’s, St Philip’s Marsh, The Dings and western half of Easton.  Its boundaries stretched from the Castle Wall in the city on the west to the border with the parish of St George in the east. On the north it followed the course of the river Frome and the southern boundary being the river Avon.

Just outside the city walls stood St Philip & Jacob Church. Part of it, including the lower part of the tower, is Early English in style from around the 13th century, the rest being Perpendicular. The church may once have belonged to a Benedictine priory lying beyond it. This church was actually the parish church of a wide district extending outside the borough and included the rural parish of St. George until 1756, when it became a separate parish.

The growing population in the 19th century led to the provision of ten new churches built across the out-parish: Holy Trinity, Clarence Road (1834); St Luke, Barton Hill (1843); St Simon, Baptist Mills (1844); St Jude’s, (1849); Emmanuel, The Dings (1862); St Silas, St Philip’s Marsh (1866); St. Gabriel, Upper Easton (1870); St Lawrence, Lawrence Hill (1883); Christ Church, Russell Town (1886) and All Hallows, Easton (1901). Greenbank Cemetery was an extensive burial place for the whole parish. The Burial Board commenced in 1868 and the cemetery was laid out and consecrated in 1871.

Old Market was the ancient entrance to the city from the east. Its name indicates that it was a market place and the street ran westwards to the boundaries of the old castle and continued by the name of Castle Street to the heart of the city.  By 1766 the traffic increased so much that they had to pull down Lawford’s Gate to make it even wider. The gate was built around 1373 when Bristol received its Royal Charter and acquired lands to the east formerly in Gloucestershire. The market had disappeared by the 19th century, but the street remained vital and lively with many shops, inns, pubs and eating-houses as well as a music hall. Most of the buildings standing in Old Market today are still the old 16th century buildings; it is just that a lot of them were given new frontages. Four well known pubs were identified: no.23 The Punch Bowl was built in 1750; The Old Market Tavern was originally two houses; The Long Bar, formerly known as The Three Horseshoes still has the original sixteenth century sign; and Stag & Hound was originally the Pie Powder Court.  Old Market and the nearby streets were home and workplace for dozens of different trades people and artisans. Old Market Street was described ‘an attractive kind of Outer High Street’; and it still has Stevens Almshouses of 1679, Kingsley Hall (with Tuscan columns and dating from 1706) and Barstaple Almshouses (once Trinity Hospital).

Eastwards from Old Market Street runs the present A420 road comprising West Street, Clarence Road and Lawrence Hill which were a part of ancient “London Waye”.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, West Street saw the building of traditional timber-framed houses and shops. This reflected the increase in population and the drift of building expansion eastwards. These early Tudor and Stuart structures were largely replaced by a range of 18th and 19th century properties, many of which remain today.  Tightly packed of houses were built for working class people in an area to the north, called St Jude’s.

Clarence Road is a relatively short sketch of the road linking Lawrence Hill and Easton Road with West Street, and was named in the 1830s after the Duke of Clarence. The development of Newtown to the south was instrumental in creating the road’s vibrant blend of shops, which served the growing community. By 1900, West Street, Clarence Road and Lawrence Hill were a key part of Bristol’s eastern urban shopping line: the ‘golden miles’ of shops stretching from Castle Street in the city to St George.

Lawrence Hill takes its name from a leper hospital, built around 1200 and dedicated to St Lawrence, and it was always a major thoroughfare as the route to Kingswood. It received the benefit of a railway station when the Bristol & South Wales Union Railway (which later formed part of the Great Western Railway) opened its line to New Passage in 1863 with ferries across the Severn. This was Bristol’s first suburban service, filling a gap quite ignored by the other railway opened earlier.

The Dings is an area south of Old Market towards the Feeder Canal. The name is thought to have come from the fields on which tightly packed houses were built for factory workers in the 19th century. The Avon & Gloucestershire Railway opened in 1835 from Coalpit Heath to Cuckold’s Pill, soon more prosaically named Avonside Wharf, principally for coal traffic. In 1844, this line had absorbed the Bristol & Birmingham Railway, and eventually formed part of the Midland Railway. Its goods depot was developed in 1858-66 on a former coal yard. The depot included a large shed by Humphries of Derby, which echoed the St. Pancras (London) idea of cellarage underneath the station for the storage of ale. In contrast was the tiny timber built one platform St Philips station, which opened in 1870.  According to an article in the Bristol Mercury in 1883, older people could remember when the spaces occupied by the Midland Railway Station and its associated sidings, the Batch, Kingsland Road and the thoroughfare to the ‘Barley Fields’ and the Marsh were “covered with green fields and blooming orchards, with lanes edged with hawthorns and meadows dotted with cottages embowered with honeysuckles.”  As factories were erected, the fields were turned into market gardens; houses such as those in The Dings were built for workers. Many of these were only two-roomed – one up, one down – but a few larger dwellings were also built. Houses in Oxford Street appear to have had four rooms, although these would only have been about 7 or 8 feet square. Water was provided by communal cast-iron pumps. Conditions would have been particularly squalid in the courts and alleys, but families able to afford the extra rent and live in a street fared much better. The houses in Oxford Street had gardens about forty feet longs, and cotemporary accounts tell that much such gardens were bright with flowers. The houses in the area were removed in the slum-clearance scheme of the 1930s.

St Philip’s Marsh is an area in the south of The Dings and Barton Hill, and was once called Kingsmarsh. When the Feeder Canal was built, it created an island bounded by the canal and the river Avon, and this is what most people know as the Marsh in those days. Industries in the area – leather, manure, soap, glue, coal and the like – surely made this a less than desirable place of residences; however the housing comprising late Victorian terraces was a definite improvement on the older courtyard slums behind the gas works.

Barton Hill is the name given to the sloping ground that leads down to the marsh at the southern end of the old Hundred of Barton Regis. The area to the south of Lawrence Hill was first mentioned in the Domesday Book when it was inhabited by only a few dozen people. In the medieval times, several large houses were built here for wealthy Bristol merchants and Barton Hill remained a rural retreat until the early 19th century when its peacefulness was disturbed by the sound of navvies digging the Feeder Canal. The building of the canal triggered of the development of Barton Hill. The biggest of which was the Great Western Cotton Works. Cotton was not a local industry, so lot of people were brought down from Lancashire. At its height the factory employed up to 2000 people, many of them women (and, in its earlier days, young girls), though working conditions are said to have been poor. New houses sprang to serve the factory workers, starting with Phoenix, Factory and Great Western Streets. Later streets, such as Bush, Aiken and Maze Streets, bore the slightly more original idea of being named after the directors. To serve the community St Luke church was built in 1843, its cellars initially used as a school, and in 1865, Barton Hill House, which until the 1830s had stood sedately above a tranquil hamlet, became the vicarage. The over-reliance on the cotton factory was shown in the 1860s when the American Civil War led to a period of closure, and many children died presumably of malnutrition. Mercifully, other industries sprang up offering employment for men. These included the St Vincent’s iron works of John Lysaght established in 1869, and Barrow Road engine depot, which opened in 1873. Russell Town, named after a Prime Minster served three times in the 19th century, is a small area between Lawrence Hill and Barton Hill. By the early 20th century these streets, especially the cramped houses off Phoenix Street were in poor condition though most survived until mass re-development in the 1950s.

Easton – the name means east farmstead or village. The Eyston family once owned land and property here so there is slight possibility the name is derived from them although the geographical position is the most likely.   By the end of 19th century, it became a densely populated suburb. Lower Easton is in the parish of St George, and its St Marks church was built in 1845.  Stapleton Road was itself a substantial shopping street and many local inhabitants must have worked here. Easton was one of several 19th century pits sunk in the 1830s to a depth of almost 2000 feet. Boys dragged the coal, dug out by men, in baskets along galleries near the bottom of the shaft. Where height allowed, horses were used. The animals spent most of their lives in the pit; drinking water came from an underground spring and sleeping on sawdust from the colliery sawmill. This kept their coats in good condition.  Easton had been the subject of a government enquiry in 1841, led by Elijah WARING, into the working conditions of ten and eleven year old boys. After 80 years of production the Easton colliery closed in 1911. There were better opportunities at the Bristol Wagon Works, originally founded in the city in 1851 by two Quakers, John FOWLER (inventor of the steam plough) and Albert FRY. The company moved to a 12-acre site near Lawrence Hill in 1866, where it built railway carriages and wagons, road vehicles and (although FOWLER was no longer involved in the company) farm implements. The majority of its railway output went abroad, but products for use in this country included steam rail-motors for which power units were supplied by the Avonside Engine Works (off Barton Road in The Dings), a firm that had specialised in industrial and narrow gauge tank engines since taking over part of the old Avonside Ironworks in 1882.  In 1923 the Bristol Wagon Works became part of Cammell Laird Co Ltd and was closed down; the premises were sold to the Bristol Tramways & Carriage Co. This is now Lawrence Hill Bus Depot.

Baptist Mills was an area in the north of Easton. In 1702, it became the first commercially successful brass works in Britain was established there. Two important Quaker industrialists emerged from there – Abraham DARBY and William CHAMPION, a leading figure in the local brass industry. About 1708 DARBY left and moved to Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, where he is best known for founding the brass and iron works.  The Bristol Brass and Wire Company (as it became known) came increasingly under the control of Nehemiah CHAMPION III, it went from strength to strength. By 1712 there were 25 furnaces using (per year) some 200 tons of copper and 250 tons of coal (that is 44 horse-loads per week), and producing some 250 to 260 tons of brass per year.  It was here, however, that he made scientific and industrial advances of such importance that the area may claim to be a birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.  Brothers Joseph and James WHITE had bought up Baptist Mills Pottery in 1840, from when until 1891 it provided additional employment for much of the local population.

During the Second World War, Bristol suffered badly from the bombing raids. Some buildings in the parish were blitzed, and one church was a casualty and later demolished - St. Silas, in St Philip’s Marsh.  The bombing and post-war development changed the appearance of most areas and displaced many of their inhabitants.  Most buildings in Newtown and Russell Town were demolished and modern town houses were built.  The Dings and St Philip’s Marsh became mainly industrial areas; very few surviving old buildings.  Most parts of St Jude’s, Barton Hill and Lawrence Hill were bulldozed for construction of high-rise flats and a new ‘Outer Circuit Road’ linking the M32 motorway was built through Lawrence Hill and Easton. Most of the Baptist Mills area now lies buried beneath the M32 motorway.  Baptist Mills and Russell Town are not names commonly used today.  A brutal new ‘Inner Circuit Road’ with roundabout and underpass immediately east of St Philip & Jacob church, has effectively separated Old Market from the city centre. It is difficult to imagine Old Market Street as a once thriving centre. It is certainly still attractive, with some of Bristol’s most handsome commercial buildings, including, just the south the premises of Gardiner Haskins in Broad Plain and Straight Street which was formerly a soap works.

As in so many other cities, the population in the inner city had reduced considerably. Also a decline in church attendance meant that the seven churches became redundant – Holy Trinity (now a community centre), St Simon, Baptist Mills (now a Greek Orthodox church), St Jude’s (now apartments), Emmanual, The Dings (demolished before the war), St Gabriels, Upper Easton (demolished for dual carriageway), St Lawrence, Lawrence Hill (demolished for roundabout), and Christ Church, Russell Town (demolished and a new non-conformist church built on the site).  Today, there are only three working Anglican churches in the whole parish – St Philip & Jacob (now known as Pip n’ Jay) in the city, St Luke’s in Barton Hill, and All Hallows in Easton.

Many Anglican and non-conformists registers are kept at the Bristol Record Office. They also have a list of Bristol City Inhabitants of 1696 (like a census), which was compiled to show liability under the 1694 Act by which Parliament taxed births, marriages, burials, bachelors and childless widowers to provide war revenue.  The earliest extant record for St Philip & Jacob parish register is 1576.

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