St Mary Redcliffe Church is one of the most beautiful churches in England. Not just my opinion, Elizabeth I famously dubbed it "the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in all of England". It is a church with attitude, spire towering above all around it; it surely should have been a cathedral.
It isn't just another Bristol church for me, it is the parish church for one branch of my family. My grandparents, Ethel and Philip, married there on 30 August 1922. Exactly 30 years later their daughter, my aunt Betty, followed them down the aisle. Neither couple could compete with Prince William and Kate Middleton in the fame and glamour stakes, but the latest royal wedding won't outdo the Browns and Joneses for a grand backdrop.
I was lucky enough to see St Mary Redcliffe on a good many days of my childhood. My grandmother lived in nearby Somerset Street and we would often walk either past or through the church grounds on our little outings to Queen's Square or Redcliffe Hill (where you could get orange juice in little glass bottles, drunk with a straw - nothing has ever tasted better). The church yard had the best thing ever - a section of tram track embedded in the earth, ripped up and flung there during the Blitz. I don't know if it is still there, but it held a morbid fascination for little me.
When I was older my bus to school took me past the church on the way to the Centre - I always thought it was sad that the church, so beautful, was surrounded by ugliness - the busy A4 (?) on one side, the redeveloped Redcliffe Hill on the other. It put me in mind of a beautiful lady stranded on a rock in the middle of a mire, trying to keep her skirts out of the muck.
Is it the best church in England - don't take my word for it (or even Elizabeth I's!) - judge for yourself - http://www.stmaryredcliffe.co.uk/.
The Yanpolski Family's Voyage on August 3, 1916
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