St Mary Redcliffe Church Bristol: Guided Tour

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Discover over 800 years of history with a guided tour of one of England's finest churches - a masterpiece of gothic architecture.

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  • Investigate our hidden spaces, normally closed to the public
  • Discover our medieval graffiti
  • See our medieval artwork and monuments
  • Enjoy our magnificent stained glass
  • Hear about our famous associations with royalty, merchants, artists and poets


St Mary Redcliffe was constructed between the 12th and 19th centuries and is widely regarded as one of England's finest churches. In 1574, Queen Elizabeth I called it: 'The fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England.' The tour will start in one of the most significant parts of the church, the unique hexagonal North Porch. dating from the C12-C13th the porch was once the main chapel of the church and contained a shrine to the Virgin Mary. You will then proceed to the outside of the building to view the exquisite and mysterious stone carvings on the porch exterior. From here you will have a great opportunity to view the famous tower and spire of the church. Once inside the main building, you will discover St Mary Redcliffe's historical connections with the sea: John Cabot's C15th century whalebone represents Cabot's 1497 voyage of discovery to North America on his famous ship, The Matthew - a model of which can be seen above the main entrance to the church. You will then visit In St John's Chapel where you can experience the great richness of medieval art and design, by viewing the church's remaining medieval stained glass, dating from the C14th. Standing at the west end of the church, take in the magnificent view towards the chancel and altar, the superb vaulted ceiling with over 1200 individual roof bosses (decoratively carved groin stones) and marvel at the soaring pillars that constitute one of the finest examples of English perpendicular Gothic architecture. The tour will then visit the North Transept, where lies a mysterious effigy of an early medieval knight. This figure has always been associated with Robert de Berkeley who gave a water supply to the church in 1190, but we don't really know who it represents. This enigmatic figure is probably older than the church building itself! From here you will visit the C14th Lady Chapel, with its superb gothic screen and beautiful stained glass windows, designed by the artist Harry Stammers in the early 1960s. Redcliffe's medieval merchant princes were some of the wealthiest people in England. In the South Transept you will discover the polychrome stone altar tomb of William Canynges II (c. 1399–1474) and his wife Joan. Canynges was an MP and Mayor of Bristol who is credited with rebuilding the church in the C15th after the spire, which was hit by lightning, collapsed and destroyed part of the nave. As you make your way around the church, your guide will draw your attention to our rich and extensive collection of artwork, carvings, effigies and monuments. You will also see examples of medieval graffiti and merchants marks that have adorned our walls for 800 yeas, but which are only now being discovered. Lastly you will visit one of our hidden spaces, located high above the North Porch: the Chatterton Room is so-called because of its association with Bristol's boy poet Thomas Chatterton (1752 - 1770), widely recognised as the father of English Romantic Literature.


Ticket for a 90 minute guided walking tour of the church, including access to hidden spaces normally closed to the public. The tour includes information about the medieval history and architecture of the church, details of the church's development through time, maritime associations, historical artefacts and famous associations.

Important Information

  • This tour will include a visit to the Chatterton Room, which is only accessible via a flight of stairs (a 75 step spiral staircase) and is therefore not accessible for those who are unable to climb the staircase. Most of the tour, however, will take place in the main body of the church, which is accessible via the south entrance and on a level. We welcome bookings from those who are unable to visit the Chatterton Room, but would like to join us for the main part of the tour.

Easy cancellation

Cancel up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund


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