Sea Mills Methodist Church

The History of the church – by Jean Doddrell

The following piece was written by Jean for her booklet about the history of Sea Mills

This Church was designed by George Oatley who was also the architect for St Edyth’s Church and Bristol University. 

It is a simple building that was inspired by a Roman-British forum-basilica in Caerwent. It reflects Sea Mills’ link with the Romans. 

It was built on land bought by the council in 1928 and it was officially opened on 23 September 1931, 87 years ago, by a Mrs Letcher. 

The idea to found a Church here in Sea Mills was that of the Redland Methodist Circuit and in particular Mr Bodey from the firm E.S.A. Robinsons who made paper bags. 

Both Tony and Ruth Berridge met and worked for E.S.A. Robinsons and Tony in particular remembers Mr Bodey and Mr King. 

On the Foundation Stone at the front of the church you can see their initials. 

If anyone knows who the other initials are, please get in touch. 

C.R.H.B. – Mr Bodey
W.B.H. – ?
S.O.S. – ?
C.O.H. – ?
K.W.P. – ? 
R.I.P. – ?
I.S.H. – ?
M.E.K. – Mr King (Ruth and Tony Berridge worked with his son) 
N.R.S. – ? 

Ruth and Tony Berridge remember a large Sunday School and a full Church on Sundays. There were also social activities. Young Wives had many outings and good fellowship. 

As time passed (like many Churches) members grew older and few new people. So it was decided in about 2004 that the premises should be sold to the Methodist Housing Association. The Church was made smaller and flats were built attached to the Church. For a few years Sea Mills folk joined to worship at Shirehampton Methodist Church. 

Rear of church, showing the foundations of the flats during building in 2006, and the rear of Sir George Oatley’s original design

In September 2007 the Church was ready for use and there was a Service of Rededication. The Minister was Rev. Debbie Godfrey and the Superintendent Rev. Peter Grimwood. The new Meeting Room, garden and patio area were used by Brownies, Gardening Club, A.A., Bridge Club, and by Church members for meetings and social occasions. 

In October 2006 there were 28 members. Of these I know 11 who are still alive in 2018. Rev. Debbie Godfrey, Rev. Jacky Quarmby and Rev. Anita Hart worked hard as our Ministers. 

However the Church still did not grow, despite some good Family Services with the Brownies. 

Myself with the Minister Rev. Roy Howard gave a few Christmas Concerts for Charity and old folk from Abona Court enjoyed a visit from Santa. 

Our Senior Steward Mrs Ruth Berridge worked endlessly with love and devotion helped by Jean Bullock and Lis Davies the Treasurer. 

For the last 4 years I and Brian Bussell have been organists. The premises are still used by our Brownie Pack, Gardening Club and other organisations. In 2011 Rev. David Alderman led a Service for the 80th Anniversary. In 2016 the Chairman of the District Rev. Jonathan Pye led the 85th Anniversary Service. 

Still, money and numbers declined, many members being now in their 90s. Discussions began about the future. 

One option was to join permanently on alternate Sundays with Shirehampton. This was rejected. So on March 11th 2018 the last Service was held in Sea Mills Methodist Church. 

Sea Mills Methodist Church – by Joan Jones

This piece was written the year after the 70th anniversary of the Methodist Church which would date it as 2002 as the church was completed in 1931 and officially opened on 23rd September that year. Thank you to Joan’s daughter Janice for permission to use this article.

Last year, we at Sea Mills Methodist Church celebrated our 70th Anniversary, which sounds a lifetime ago, and indeed what a lot of changes have come about during those seventy years.

I myself have been a regular member there for just over half this time, but these have been very happy years, first in the Young Wives when we had a thriving weekly meeting and creche for our children, and now those of us who remain struggle around less actively perhaps, as we endeavour to keep our Church and Meetings alive.

The Dancing Group was one of the oldest and very well attended meetings over its 30 year life with the sequence dancing and foot tapping music bringing back memories of the popular Joyce Grenfell monologue “Stately as a Galleon as we sail across the floor” which we should have used as our motto!

The Lunch Club also continues to be very popular and provides a happy social gathering as well as a splendid and very reasonably priced three course meal for our older citizens. This too has been running for nearly 30, years.

Perhaps the largest twice monthly meeting held on our premises, is the Pensioners Club which has been running for over fifty years with attendances averaging 80 plus and is greatly enjoyed by the older members of our local community and provides entertainment and outings throughout the year.

The Seasonal activities at Christmas, Easter and Harvest, plus the Bazaars and Fayres have always been great favourites amongst our members and supported by the local community, with many celebrations such as Carols by Candlelight, Harvest Supper and Concerts always webomed.

The Annual Church Outing which takes nearly 60 of us out in a coach for a day is a great favourite and almost resembles the old type Sunday School Outing as we go back to our second childhood!

All in all, we have been and continue to be, in perhaps a lesser degree, an active Church with many happy memories to look back upon and as we stand in our Church Porch and gaze out across the green, we are aware of the Cross which lays in front of us made up of the Shirehampton Road as its horizontal and the vertical down St. Edyths Road with the Methodist Church at its head and St. Edyths Church at its base – this is NOT a coincidence, but a plan designed for the estate when first built, by one of Bristol’s greatest Philanthropists and Architects —many of whom living here, I am sure, have never even heard of – namely that of Sir. George Oatley.

View from the front door of the Methodist church, across the Square to St Edyth’s Church

I wonder how many people who walk around our streets locally, are aware of the great honour and gratitude we owe to this Bristol Architect who has designed so much in our city, including St. Edyths Church and the Methodist Church, as far back as 1926.

Even as we walk up Park Street and hear the bell of ‘Great George’ as it is called, booming out from its lofty University Tower, very few of us are aware that this is in the memory of Sir. George Oatley (born in 1863 – he died at the age of 87 having continued to work until 2 weeks before his death when he had insisted on being hauled up the spire of St.Mary Redcliffe Church in a wicker basket, to examine a portion of its structure needing repair!) He was the designer and Architect of so much in our City, such as the Wills University Tower and Physics Building, Wills Halls of Residence, the Homeopathic Hospital, St.Monica’s Homes, Bedminster Police Station and all favouring the Tudor and Gothic style of building of which he was so fond, to name but a few of his buildings. So we should indeed by proud to know he designed our local Churches too. He was a great Christian man and set aside nine-tenths of his wealth for the poor and needy families in the City and carried out a number of improvements and repairs to many churches including the New Room and Clifton Down Chapel. 

Sadly, like so many of our Churches in this present day, Sea Mills Methodist Church has been facing many problems – but then we all have our highs and lows at times, but nevertheless we always win through our adversities and like the Phoenix who rises from the ashes, we will remain the lantern of Sea Mills Square and continue to go from strength to strength and radiate its light and warmth from this Centre of Christianity where the flame will never be extinguished, so may we continue to live on. 

The church occasionally opens for funeral services and a service was held on 9th June 2019 to mark the 100th year of the Sea Mills Garden Suburb. It is still home to the local Brownie and Rainbow packs as well as the Sea Mills Garden Club. The church have been a great supporter of the Sea Mills 100 project and several of our events have taken place in their venue. We hope there will be many more.

5 Replies to “Sea Mills Methodist Church”

  1. Oh my parents went there for many years.
    Maurice Dean .

    And they had moved to Alsager in Cheshire when my parents moved with them as they were getting older. .
    My parents then moved to Alsager in Cheshire
    They then went to Wesley Place. A very long while ago.

  2. Hi, I attended sunday school in the fifties. My mother was the chuch caretaker during the time of rev Rippon, I think ! But I remember lighting the coke stoves at the age of 10 in both the small and large huts/rooms. As I was there I also used to hang around the youth club although too young. My favoutite task as unpaid caretaker assistant was using a bulky polishing machine to clean and polish the wooden tiles in the church, great fun. I lived in Blaise Walk and have very fond memories of Sea Mills. Surrounded by woods, golf course and river bank was a great experience as a 5 -18 yr old. During this covid crises have taking up more daily walk around Bristol, but my favouite, parking at ‘Park Gates’ near the Iron Bridge and walking to Kingsweston Hill. And, boring my wife of my exploits here and at the quaries and around Sea Mills. It left a lasting memory on me which I’m thankful for.

  3. My sister Suzanne and I (Carolyn) attended Sunday school, youth club and church at Sea Mills Methodist for many years in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I left Bristol in 1971 but got married in the church in 1975 and both of my kids were christened there in 1978 and 1981. My mum Dorothy Parfitt was also organist there for a few years. Many fond memories.

  4. My wife and I were married there on 2nd August 1997. We must have been among the last to tie the knot there. I worshipped there from 1986 to 2001. From 1992 until about 2000 Andy Wyatt, Sandra Wyatt plus me and others ran a Boys Brigade Company – the 12th Bristol there. At that point it moved to St Edyth’s and ended a couple of years later due to a shortage of adult volunteers to help with the leadership.

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