Lost Rings

Bristol Branch

Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association

Emmanuel, Clifton

Gloucestershire

ST571740

This church was built in 1865-9 as an Evangelical counterpart to the Anglo-Catholic church of All Saints nearby (ST573739). The 108 ft tower was originally intended to be topped by a tall spire, but this was never built. It held one bell cast in 1865 by S. Hale & Sons of Bristol (to match that at All Saints) which was in 1884 replaced by a fine ring of eight, work being completed on 14th October 1884. They were hung in a two-tier oak frame, with the treble and second in the upper tier at the level of the louvres - consequently the trebles didn't match the other six until the adjacent louvres were blocked up. Despite this, protests from the neighbours resulted in the installation of Seage's "Silent Practice" apparatus which allowed the bells' clappers to be tied, with small wall-mounted bells in the Ringing Room being struck automatically at the appropriate times instead.

The only criticism by the ringers was that the tower rocked considerably more than Taylors' assurances seemed to anticipate. The bells were all cast with canons and had independent crown staples, and an Ellacombe Chiming Apparatus was provided in the ground floor of the tower - this via the north door also served as the main entrance to the church. The bells were all rehung on ball bearings with new pulleys, the canons also being removed from the 7th and 8th bells, by Mears & Stainbank in 1948. The first peal on the bells (5,040 changes of Grandsire Triples) was rung on 3rd August 1913, but the second peal wasn't rung until the 50th anniversary of the first, on 29th June 1963. There were only four subsequent peals, rung in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1971.

When All Saints was gutted by incendiary bombs on the night of 2nd December 1940, Emmanuel immediately offered itself for services. A temporary All Saints was formed beside the ruins and promises were made that rebuilding would be permitted. However, in 1953 this partnership was suspended (although a full round of services was maintained by the clergy) and draft schemes were produced for removing All Saints, making Emmanuel the Anglo-Catholic parish church, and accommodating Emmanuel's parishioners at Christ Church. The response was one of amazement at the broken promises. The case went before the House of Lords where it was fought and won, the new All Saints church being completed in 1967.

Emmanuel was in 1963 made a daughter church of Christ Church (the new parish church, following the destruction of St Andrew on the evening of 24th November 1940), with redundancy imminent. The last quarter peal on the bells was rung for the closing service on 29th June 1973, ten years to the day after the second peal. The church formally became redundant in 1974. It was hoped to convert it into a concert hall for Clifton College, but it was finally purchased by Bristol Old People's Welfare for conversion into flats. The Redundancy Scheme published early in 1976 provided for the demolition of the entire church with the exception of the tower, in which it was proposed to place a chapel. All of the church's fittings apart from the bells were removed, and although some found homes elsewhere, many (including memorials and glass) were eventually destroyed. The fine organ was sold, no doubt for parts.

The church was demolished in 1977. In the end, the idea for a chapel in the tower came to nothing - two more flats were created in the lofty Ringing Room, and the Diocese instructed Arthur Fidler of Bow, London to remove the bells and fittings. They were offered to Christ Church, Clifton who inexplicably turned them down, and as the Bristol ringers were at that time more concerned with saving the ring of eight from St George the Martyr that now hangs in St Barnabas, Warmley, they were eventually sold to Whitechapel who broke them up. Many of the fittings, however, were reused elsewhere. Today, the belfry remains intact, complete with bell-frames. The new block of flats was named "Emmanuel Court", and its roof is said to follow the shape and pitch of that of the church.

The bells of Emmanuel, Clifton
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
15-0-07 26¾ inF John Taylor & Co. 1884
25-1-02 27¾ inE John Taylor & Co. 1884
35-1-18 29½ inD John Taylor & Co. 1884
46-0-18 31 inC John Taylor & Co. 1884
57-0-20 34 inBb John Taylor & Co. 1884
68-1-02 35¼ inA John Taylor & Co. 1884
711-0-21 39¼ inG John Taylor & Co. 1884
815-3-20 44¾ inF John Taylor & Co. 1884

Source: All from The Ringing World 4378 (pages 294-6), ChurchCrawler (Phil M. Draper), "The Church Bells of Gloucestershire" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1881) and Will Willans. The weights given above are as recorded in 1976 and are slightly lighter than those Taylors recorded in 1884, which may be due to them having been weighed with their headstocks in 1884. However, the commonly-held weight of the tenor (16-0-15) is likely to be its weight as cast and complete with the canons that were removed in 1948.


Where a bell's exact weight is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.