St Mary the Virgin, Henbury, Bristol

St Mary the Virgin, Henbury
St Mary the Virgin, Henbury

St Mary the Virgin is a Church of England parish church in Henbury, Bristol. Construction of the present building took place in the 13th century with later restoration work carried out in the 19th century by the Gothic revival architects Thomas Rickman and George Edward Street. The church has been designated as a Grade II Listed Building.

The extensive graveyard contains the grave of the slave, Scipio Africanus, itself Grade II listed. The headstone and footstone are shown here.

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The interior of the church has been so heavily ‘improved’ that little remains to be seen apart from one simple cross and some initials, all found on pillars that had once been plastered but have now been stripped back to the stone. In other places, the walls have been re-plastered and no marks can be seen on them.

The bell tower, however, provided a much richer hunting ground. The stones of the tower wall have been repeatedly lime-washed and no marks are apparent, but the underside of the treads of the stone staircase hold some surprises. The first mark to be encountered is a pentagram in a hand-drawn circle, then further up the stairs, perhaps the crowning glory of the tower can be found: a complex pattern of five interlocking compass-drawn daisy wheels, showing five distinct points, but only the middle one has six complete petals. The daisy wheels do not extend below the upright edge of the tread.

daisy wheels (multiple)
daisy wheels (multiple)

Continuing up the tower, a small, hand-drawn daisy wheel can be found on the underside of the steps opposite the door to the Ringing Room. Above this, beyond a locked door, lie the steps that lead to the top of the tower and the room housing the bells. On the steps oppose the door is a perfect Marian M, so darkly patinated as to be indistinguishable in colour from the stone in which it is carved.

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The church is normally kept locked. For access enquire at the Parish Office, located close to the church, which is open Monday – Thursday 9am – 12 noon.

Grateful thanks are due to Jacqui Maydew and Simon Tomlinson for their kind assistance with access to this beautiful church.

St Mary’s Church
Church Lane
BS10 7QF

Report by Linda Wilson