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History

The First Church

 

There was a church on the site by 1066. It was run by a group of clergy called canons, who would have lived in houses around the church.

 

 

The Middle Ages

 

The present church was started in the first part of the 13th century. The basic plan of the church was for a Chancel, Nave and South Aisle. With numerous alterations little remains visible from this period apart from the South porch. This is early English in style.

 

In the 15th century the two porches were added. In 1416 the Trinity Chapel was added to the east of the South Aisle. This was maintained by the Holy Brotherhood of the Trinity. At the east end were placed niches of the saints. One of these was used for the present main pulpit. In the Chancel, Misericords (seats of pity) were added for the priests to take the weight off their legs. One of these represents Bedford Castle. Both Nave and South Aisle were re-roofed in this period.

 

 

The 16th Century

 

The Trinity Chapel contains the Brasses of Sir William Harpur and Dame Alice, his wife. Harpur was Lord Mayor of London in 1562. The Harpur Trust runs three secondary schools and a pre-preparatory school in the town. A number of stained glass windows have been given either by the trust or individual schools.

 

After the reformation the Trinity Chapel was turned into an Archdeacons' Court. Sadly the 17th and 18th Century inventories were burnt to help keep the Court warm!

 

The 17th & 18th Century

 

On May 23rd 1656, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress preached here and on 10th March 1758, John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, preached the Assize Sermon here.

 

 

The 19th Century

 

The building underwent major changes in this century. In 1864 the appointment as Vicar of the Reverend Michael Sadler, brought St Paul's into the Anglo-Catholic/ High Church tradition, where it is today. From 1869, the Clergy were supported by the Sisters of Saint Etheldreda. In 1865 -1868, the tower and spire were completely rebuilt and the two transepts added. In 1879 the Chancel roof was raised and painted and angels introduced. This has recently been restored thanks to the efforts of the Friends of St Paul's.

 

The 20th Century

 

In 1905, G.F. Bodley added the Rood Loft (or screen) which was coloured by F.C. Eden in 1938. He had re-ordered the Chancel and restored the Choir stalls in 1898.

 

The Trinity Chapel was restored in 1908 by C.E. Mallows. From that period date the English Altar and the altar rails by the Bromsgrove Guild.

 

Also notable is the fine stained glass by Hardman, Clayton & Bell, Kempe, Burlison & Grylls and a window of 1908 by Paul Woodruffe of Chipping Camden.

 

Throughout the second World War from 1941 onwards, St Paul's was used by the BBC for the broadcasting of the Daily Service. During that time, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York celebrated the Eucharist together in a live broadcast and the Roman Catholic Cardinal Hinsley preached here. Prominent people baptised at St. Paul's include Trevor Huddleston (1913) and the comic actor John Le Mesurier (1912).

 

From the mid 1970s restoration and improvements were made, culminating in 1982 with the addition of two doors at the west end designed by the well-known glass engraver, David Peace.

 

 

Further information can be found in 'Buildings of England: Bedfordshire' by Nikolaus Pevsner, 1968; also Bedfordshire Historical Records Society Volume 73, Bedfordshire Churches A-G, edited by Chris Pickford (Pub 1997)

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