Location within Bristol
|Town or city||Bristol|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Thomas Rickman and Henry Hutchinson|
The Trinity Centre, formerly the Holy Trinity Church, in Lawrence Hill, Bristol is designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building. The building is protected by a covenant, which states that it is to only be used for community, arts, youth and education services. This covenant has influenced much of the building's recent use as an arts and community venue.
Holy Trinity Church
The church was built between 1829 and 1832 by Thomas Rickman and Henry Hutchinson, two architects from Birmingham, who also designed the piers, perimeter walls and railings which are also listed.
It has two octagonal bell towers with open turrets on the west face of the building. The towers sit on either side of the main entrance and the west window. During a period when the building sat empty, the bells were taken and either sold for scrap or to another church. The towers now sit empty and are occupied only by bats and pigeons.
The original bells and fittings were replaced with new ones in April 1927. The work was carried out by local firm Llewellins & James Ltd of Castle Green. It cost £47 10s for bells and labour although an additional £3 10s was incurred when the workmen realised that they had to remove the floor of the towers to get the new bells in.
The Holy Trinity Church had 2,200 seats with 1,500 of these being free. The free seating had the word ‘free’ printed on the side and would have been located towards the rear of the church and up in the galleries. Free seating was for the population who could not afford to pay the ‘rent’ for a seat near the front. The closer you sat to the altar the holier you were deemed to be – therefore the richer you were the holier you were. The underside of the original galleries can still be seen today over the bar area.
Spoils of War
The Napoleonic War against France, which had raged for 12 years ended in 1815, with the defeat of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. With victory came money for Britain and her allies.
In 1818, £1,000,000 was given by Parliament to build new churches across the country. In 1824, a further £500,000 was given to continue with the mass build. The acts became known as the 'Million' and 'Half Million' Acts. Churches built as a result of these acts became known as 'Million', 'Half Million', or Waterloo churches.
Design and build
£6,000 was given to the out parish of St Philip's with a further £2,200 raised by the laymen. This and other sources brought the total cost of the build to £9,020 19s. 4d.
The church took 26 months of hard work to build. The foundation stone was laid on 22 September 1829, by the Lord Mayor John Cave. The consecration of the completed church took place by the Bishop of Bristol on 17 February 1832.
Due to the relatively small size of Trinity's graveyard, when graves were dug, they were dug deep and coffins were stacked on top of each other to maximise the use of space.
In the 19th Century there was no provision for street lighting or for constables to patrol after dark. Hand-in-hand with this went crime. Attempts to curb crime by making the death penalty a mandatory sentence for even the smallest capital felony had little perceived impact. Local authorities felt the way to address the problem was to engage the spiralling population in Christian worship, and the Holy Trinity Church was built.
On 24 April 1869, policeman PC Richard Hill 273 was stabbed to death by 19-year old local labourer William Pullin.
Thousands of people turned up to his funeral at Trinity, lining the streets all the way from the church to the burial at Arnos Vale. Pullin would have hanged had it not been for the intervention of more than 7,000 individuals petitioning for mercy on his behalf, on the grounds that he was a young man of good nature who had come to this terrible act due to circumstance.
A marble memorial tablet that once resided in the Holy Trinity Church can now be found in the foyer of Old Market's Trinity Road police station, which reads: In memory of Richard Hill, police constable of this city, who was murdered whilst in the execution of his duty in Gloucester Lane, 24 April 1869, aged 31 years, and was interred in Arnos Vale Cemetery. This tablet was erected as a mark of esteem by his brother officers and inhabitants of the city. A brave man: PC Richard Hill was not forgotten.
The Holy Trinity Church of St Philip & St Jacob finally closed due to dwindling congregations and lack of money. The building sat empty for a decade, spiralling ever further into disrepair, due to vandalism and looting.
Discontent amongst black and minority ethnic young people escalated due to unemployment and increasing clashes with the police. Local leaders looking to ease tensions agreed for Trinity to be deconsecrated and given to the public, for use as a community centre, with a focus on activities for young people.
The building was transferred to the African-Caribbean Community Association (also known as the Bristol Caribbean Community Enterprise Group) with a 50-year lease, under the management of Mr Roy de Freitas. The group carried out extensive repairs and alternations to the building, including the installation of a second floor. On 1 July 1978, the same day as St Paul's Festival, now called Carnival, Trinity Community Centre was opened to the public.
The Trinity Centre's early years as a community centre and music venue were set against a backdrop of rising local tensions, culminating in the St. Pauls riot.
During the early part of this decade, the centre provided a much needed outlet for local youth culture, hosting nights of dub and reggae from the likes of Jah Shaka and Quaker City, and playing host to some of the biggest domestic and international music stars of the time, notably from the punk and new wave genres, such as U2, Crass, The Cramps, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division and New Order alongside local favourites such as The Stingrays and Disorder.
As a music venue, Trinity was a melting pot for the different styles popular at the time, from reggae through ska to punk. From this came a post-punk scene which blended many of these influences. Trinity saw regular performances from local acts such as Mark Stewart and The Pop Group, who through their collaborations with artists and producers from the reggae scene, as well as artists such as On-U Sound System and Gary Clail laid the foundations for the later Trip Hop genre, and the Bristol Sound.
In 1984 the African-Caribbean Community Association went into insolvency due to financial mismanagement, with large bank and Inland Revenue debts. Allegations were rife Mr de Freitas had embezzled funds and fled to Jamaica, though it eventually transpired that he was in fact living with his sister in Clevedon, having sold his own house to invest in a cafe for the centre, which he had hoped would help to pay off Trinity's debts.
The 50-year lease that had been granted to the community was prematurely terminated and by default the building was transferred to the local council.
After a spell of sitting empty, the building was put out to tender by Bristol City Council and was taken on by the New Trinity Community Association in 1991. The new tenants and a dedicated team of volunteers began an extensive round of development and renovations, which included the installation of the sprung wooden floor downstairs, and new railings.
The Centre reopened in 1992, and under this new management Trinity again gained international fame as an important landmark in the globally exported Bristol Sound, prominent during this era, playing host to local acts such as Roni Size, Smith & Mighty and Portishead.
As well as the successful music nights there were also daytime community activities. From bingo madness to a boxing club the two levels provided a much needed space for everyone to use.
Shifting funds away from community centres towards Millennium Projects coupled with a series of financial problems, echoing those which led to the demise of the previous group, Trinity was forced to close once again in 2000.
In 2001, Trinity Community Arts formed to reopen the Trinity Centre. Funding was received through the Bristol Objective 2 Action Plan – a strategic development fund across the City, designed to address social, economic and environmental decline and disadvantage – to improve access within the building and make it fit for use by the community. Since reopening in 2004, it has become a prominent arts venue within Bristol.
The Centre is continuing in its tradition as a Bristol community hub and music venue, as well as providing recording and broadcast studios, and training around media arts and technology, run almost entirely upon free, open source software.
In 2011 the team at the Trinity Centre began an application to the Big Lottery Reaching Community Fund of £460,000 for building renovations that would improve accessibility, range of possible activities and quality for users within the building. This application was completed and accepted in 2012 and included renovation of the upstairs hall ( Fyfe Hall ), a more accessible reception area and the creation of a community common room that will allow residents to access the Internet, hold meetings and run workshops within their community. Building work started in 2013 and are due to be completed in 2014.
In 2014 Trinity Community Arts gained a licence to perform civil ceremonies and now can hold weddings under the Civil Partnership Act of 2004. The last wedding ceremony held at the centre prior to this was on the 20th of March 1976, two weeks before its closure at the Holy Trinity Church on the 6th of April 1976.
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