Whilst it is possible to find mention of Filton from 1156 onwards, reference to a church here is more obscure. The Diocese of Worcester records appear to suggest a church at Filton, Bristol in 1254. The architectural style of the tower indicates that it was probably built at the end of the thirteenth century. It is possible that the tower was added to an earlier church. By 1844 the medieval church was both in need of repair and considered too small for the growing population of Filton, and so it was rebuilt to the design of John Hicks, with the exception of the tower and a corner of the chancel. Holy Communion was celebrated once each month and the average attendance was 60 from a population of 245. The rebuilding cost £760, of which the parish contributed £200, subscriptions amounted to £221 and the Rector, James Bedford Poulden gave £339.
Sir George White (1854 - 1916) was an entrepreneur, tramway pioneer, stockbroker, industrialist and philanthropist. He introduced the first electric trams to Bristol in 1895 and to London in 1901. He set up a bus depot in Filton which was later used for bus chassis manufacture. He also set up the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company and when city councils were required to take over privately owned tramway companies in 1914, he replaced the manufacture of buses with the manufacture of aeroplanes. Such aircraft as the Bristol Boxkite, Blenheim, Brabazon, Brittania and of course Concorde came from these factories. Manufacture is still carried out today with BAE Systems, Airbus and Rolls-Royce plc being major employers. Many employees lived and live in Filton, giving it a huge expansion in population from less than 80 in 1700, 113 in 1800, 464 in 1900 to nearly 10,000 today.
The main enlargement of the church took place in 1960/61, when the north wall of the 1844 church was taken out to permit the development of a new north facing Altar, Chancel and Nave. The tower was strengthened at this time to carry a ring of six bells and a needle spire erected. The enlarged church as seen today was consecrated on Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - 25th March 1961.
For more information, a book Filton Parish Church, A History and Guide is available.
Two medieval bells were hung in the tower on the Monday after Michaelmas in 1352. It is apparent from the records that by 1681 they had become cracked and were eventually replaced in 1734 by a ring of five bells hung in an oak frame. The bells were rung from the ground floor of the tower until 1938 when it became clear that the bell frame had become unsafe due to insect attack.
During the war from 1939 - 1945 all church bells were under the control of the Home Guard for use only in the event of invasion. From 1945 until 1960, the bells remained mouth downwards and were 'clocked' by means of ropes attached to the clappers.
In 1960 the bells were removed from the tower. That same year they were returned and with a new treble bell to make up a ring of six, rehung in a metal frame. A band of ringers was trained in time to ring the bells for the consecration of the enlarged church in 1961.
For more technical information about the bells, please click here.
THE BELLS TODAY
The bells are rung regularly at Sunday services, and a weekly practice is held on Thursday evenings at 7.30pm.
If you would like to come along you would be most welcome.
For more information, contact the Tower Secretary, Chris Gooding.