Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity Church, mid-Victorian
©digital image 2009 Blake Museum PR56 All rights reserved

Holy Trinity Church was located on the area of empty ground near the junction of Taunton Road and the Broadway. All that remains today are the old boundary walls and a handful of neglected tombstones.

In the early 1830s it was noted that the ancient medieval parish church of St. Mary’s was not large enough to service the population of the growing town. One of the churchwardens at the time estimated Bridgwater had a population of around 2000 families, yet the church had a mere 200 seats. The options suggested to remedy this were to either construct a gallery within St Mary’s, or else to build a whole new church. The latter option was chosen, although the project stalled for a number of years as funds could not be put together until 1839. One of the principal patrons of the church building was Ruscombe Poole and his daughter laid the foundation stone. The church was built by Richard Carver, a prolific Somerset architect, who also designed the town hall, the town gaol and the county court in Queen Street. The first vicar was James Wollen, who was son of the Vicar of St Mary’s. Holy Trinity was at first a district church of the parish of St. Mary’s, but in 1856 it was made a separate parish. Initially the church yard consecrated for burials and 79 were interred there, but this was ordered to stop in 1853. Thereafter the congregation had to be buried in the Wembdon Road Cemetery. However as this was the property of St. Mary’s and the vicar of Holy Trinity had to ask for permission to perform services there.

The Interior of the Church before the 1876 restoration. The alterpiece is a copy of Guido Renni’s St John the Baptist, made by a talented local artist called William Baker (1824-1870). What happened to this picture is unknown, as to why a picture of St John’s ended up in Holy Trinity and not St John’s in Eastover.
©digital image 2012 Blake Museum 57D All rights reserved

By 1870 Holy Trinity had fallen on hard times, the congregation had dwindled to about a dozen, the building was in poor state of repairs and the gas was cut off. In 1874 the new vicar, George Trevor set about to reverse this decline and the building was thoroughly restored in 1876, with a capacity of 850 seats. Trevor also managed to accumulate the funds to build a vicarage next door, which stands to this day.

In 1889 Jarman summarises the building of Holy Trinity as such: ‘it is difficult to describe the architecture of Holy Trinity -nondescript is perhaps the most correct term… spacious and comfortably seated building, its acoustic properties are good. In outward appearance it is plain and unpretending.’

Holy Trinity in about 1910

In 1914 the east window of the chancel was rebuilt, and a new stained glass window installed. The Western Daily Press of 2 February 1914 described it thus:

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, BRIDGWATERThe East window of this church has just been fitted with stained glass, which was yesterday dedicatedby the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The window consists of four lights and tracery, and the subject represented is “The Resurrection Morn.” The dominating figure is the Angel Messenger, who, seated at the entrance to the rock-hewn tomb, with arm upraised, is announcing to the Holy Women the joyous Easter message: “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.” The colouring throughout the window, as befits the subject, is soft and subdued in tone. The quiet and carefully blended shades of blue and purple in the robes of the Holy Women the soft tints of the foliage, the neutral tones in the rock work of the tomb, and the grey sky of dawn are all subservient to the rich ruby wings and the pale garments of the Angel. A distant view of the hill of Calvary, with the three crosses outlined thereon, the scattered grave clothes, and the box of precious ointment are amongst the details which add interest and refinement. The window was executed by Messrs Joseph Bell and son, at their studio at 12, College Green, Bristol, under the supervision of Mr P Hartland Thomas, diocesan surveyor for Bath and Wells. The work is undoubtedly a very handsome addition to the church.

The Interior in 1946, showing the 1914 window in the chancel.

The church was closed in 1958, and demolished shortly after. Contrary to the local tale, it was not demolished to make way for the new Broadway bypass, but because the building had fallen into disrepair. The vicarage was sold in 1960 and is currently the HQ of the County Dental service. A new church, the current Holy Trinity, was built in Hamp in 1961.

What happened to the rich stained glass is unknown – hopefully it survives somewhere and was not needlessly destroyed. The font of this church was taken to Holy Trinity in Taunton, where it became a holy water stoup in the porch. As an aside, as Holy Trinity Taunton was also designed by Carver and built a little after (1842) its namesake in Bridgwater, it is perhaps no surprise that certain elements, such as the gallery, roof and shallow chancel closely match.

Jarman’s History of Bridgwater (1889)
Squibbs’ History of Bridgwater (1982)