THE PRESENT CHURCH
The foundation stone of the new Georgian church was laid between 1 pm and 2 pm on Monday, 30th October 1786, by Alderman Isaac Baugh, a merchant engaged in the Africa trade, deputizing for the Mayor, who was ill. The architects were the Bristolians Thomas and William Paty, father and son. Since the whole church was hemmed in by shops, only the upper part of the tower and its lower west face, needed architectural trim. It has four storeys, the third with an Ionic order and the fourth beautifully varied from this and with Corinthian capitals; then comes a plain parapet and four opulent urns at the corners, and the graceful spire stands on an over-tall panelled octagonal pedestal. This transition is the only defect of a fine design; the rather mediaevalizing spire does not grow harmoniously from the tower. Ultimately, the ancestor of this and many other classical steeples is Gibbs's St Martin-in-the-Fields, London; Paty's interpretation is a lovely landmark of about 160 feet at the highest point of the walled city. Henry Williams's disastrous remodelling of the west portal in 1882-1883, with fussy "Florentine" details, misrepresents Paty's clear design.
The interior at once receives us into an area of light, elegance and space in spite of Henry Williams's mauling, the luminous glass, the pale stone and painted plaster, and the gilding, make this a bright church. The distant inspiration is again St Martin-in-the-Fields, but the nearer prototype is Charles Evans's church of 1785 at Great Badminton, where Paty may have worked on the decoration. No structural division is built between nave and chancel, and the four bays on to North and South aisles are supported by tall and exceptionally slim shafts topped with capitals of acanthus leaves but without volutes, a natural and beautiful (but rare) development from the Corinthian.
The East wall once contained a charming altar-piece, with columns and pilasters with imaginative capitals of deal painted white and gilded, which was consigned to the crypt in the 1882-1883 "restoration": the altar piece would have contained the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, painted on deal. These painted boards have not survived. The stone mason F. Bell then supplied the ugly stonework of the East windows and a cumbrous Italianate reredos, which a good architect, C.W.F. Dening toned down in 1911. Luckily, the original altar piece survived more or less intact, and in 1928 it was replaced one bay to the West as a rood-screen; it is the policy of the church to restore it to the east end.
The Victorian, marble pulpit from the “restoration” was also replaced a number of years ago with the original Oak Pulpit together with its gilded carvings and white and gold cherub heads, although it sits in the marble base of the earlier pulpit