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
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,
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)