Church of St. Marys

Origins of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Part 1

Brunel’s Suspension Bridge was opened in1864 when there was just one cottage in Leigh Woods. The Leigh Woods Land Company acquired the land between Rownham Hill and Nightingale Valley where plots were sold at a minimum cost of 650( approx. 65,000 now). Several attempts were made by the residents to build their own Church as travel to Long Ashton Parish Church on foot or by horse drawn carriage in all weathers was not easy. Rownham Hill was less well surfaced than now and short cuts through Ashton Court would not have been tolerated with the Smyth’s in residence.

In 1890 a meeting was called in John Harvey’s house called  ‘Glenside’ ( site of Telford House flats today) as Arthur Gregory Way, who lived in ‘Woodleigh’ offered to give 1000 providing  the Church could proceed without delay. This condition was accepted by the 9 gentlemen and 10 ladies present. Way’s cousin, Sir Greville Smyth, gave permission for part of All Saints Church parish to become Leigh Woods parish and that is why, to this day, Leigh Woods remains part of the civil parish of Long Ashton.

Church of St. Mary

Photo showing the Lych-gate, which is the War Memorial. The cross is in memory of Edward Burrow Hill , who cycled to Temple Meads Station where he collapsed and died  at the age of 37.


Nine men, resident in Leigh Woods, with business acumen and money formed a committee in November 1890. (Equal rights for women had a way to go!.) The members also included Thomas Davy ( tobacco), Edward Burrow Hill (shipbuilding) and Edward Swann (solicitor and banker), who gained the support of the Bishop of Bath & Wells. By the end of the month enough funds had been pledged and land given by the Leigh Woods Company to proceed to plans. It was also recorded that they were not only building to the glory of God but that a Church built locally would increase the value of their property.

By 1891 John Medland FRIBA , who was an assistant to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was appointed architect. Instructions were that ‘the church should be of a rustic and picturesque character of stone or red brick with a tile roof, small spire, rustic porch and in keeping with the surroundings, as contrasted from the formal architecture of a city church’. There should be ‘a bell of good tone, ornamental tiled flooring, heating  apparatus, an organ chamber, clergy and choir stalls, gas pipes, a lightening conductor and a weather cock’. His plans were later altered as he wildly under priced the project…………….


To read full article click here: Church of St. Mary the Virgin

With grateful thanks to Dr. Michael Marston who made all his historical research available


St Marys History 1
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