Sunday, March 1, 2020


En passant

It was a case of ‘park and run’. I’d left the Resident Wise Woman at the top of Park Street, Bristol, and driven further down in search of somewhere to leave the car. On the agenda were coffee and an exhibition, so I didn’t linger long. But near my parking space was this imposing building, atop a rise of forty-odd steps. ’So that’s where it is,’ I thought: St George’s, Bristol (aka St George’s, Brandon Hill), the church by Sir Robert Smirke made redundant in 1984 and set to be turned into offices when the BBC pointed out that, with its excellent acoustics, it would make a good concert hall. I’d heard numerous broadcasts from the building but somehow had missed seeing it before.

It’s dominated at the entrance front by the large and very plain Doric portico, the columns of which turn out to be based on those of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, which, like St George’s, was designed to be seen from the bottom of a slope. Above the portico, Smirke set a round tower, again rather plain, as is the interior, apparently. It’s an austere building, grand in the early-19th century Greek revival manner that was fashionable in 1821, when St George’s was designed. The banners outside advertise cultural events, so presumably its success as such a venue continues. I was glad I’d stumbled across it and seen it in winter when the trees are bare – although perhaps a few leaves soften the building’s hard edges. I resolve to return for a longer look.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

When you go back, you might linger - and share some of the other buildings in that immediate area. Very bold even looking for parking - a powerful case there for using public transport.Also worth popping along to Clifton Triangle and commenting on that crumbling monstrosity, the defunct Catholic pro-cathedral!

Unknown said...

Good heavens! Nobody has made a comment!!
Being as local as you are (in Stroud) to Bristol, I found this 'remade' building through having a need for good music, and finding that a vast number of fine musicians have been performing here for many years - often with a commentator from the BBC Third Programme sitting in the gallery - have thoroughly approved of the recent intention to improve and extend it. This programme should whet your appetite, if not that of the RWW.
By the way, I have in earlier years found parking places not in Great George Street, but higher up Park Street, in Charlotte Street, where there is an entrance to the auditorium more suitable for physically handicapped people.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joseph: When I go back I must indeed linger. There is much interesting Georgian architecture around there, and some examples of Bristol Byzantine, and other things. As for public transport, it's a valid thought. Getting from where I live to Brandon Hill on pubic transport would take about 2 hours 45 minutes, which is well over twice what it takes by car; from here to Gloucester (juyst 17 miles) is getting on for two hours, almost four times the equivalent car journey – and all this depends on rural busdes running on time, which they often don't. Park and Ride could be a good compromise, though.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Unknown: Thank you. The music would certainly attract me. I've listened to quite a few concerts broadcast from here, without quite realising exactly where the church actually is.