By B.H. Sheldon (former chair of the Christ Church Trustees)
The foundation stone was laid in 1795, and a special prayer was composed and read by Archdeacon Daubeny, the inspirer of the Church and the first Incumbent.
About £4,500 was raised by public subscription, including donations from both Archbishops, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and £500 from SPCK. The site was bought for £300. The contract for the building itself was just over £3,000 and even with extras the total cost was under £4,000. A great deal of the furnishings were given including the organ and altar candlesticks by Archdeacon Daubeny, and two silver ewers, two patens and two chalices by Mrs. Elizabeth Denison, which are still in use.
The Church was consecrated by the Bishop, Dr. Moss on 7th November, 1798.
The seats in the body of the Church were free, but pew rents were charged for the gallery seats, and these constituted the sole stipend of the Incumbent. In 1830, the seats where the Lady Chapel and the new Vestry now stand were also appropriated for sittings.
It is not clear whether there were any heating arrangements, but the first appearance of a payment for coal (£1 2s 6d) was in 1810, while in 1821 the Trustees decided that, should fires be judged necessary, the charge for putting up stoves and of fuel should be borne by the ministers. It was not until 1851 that Messrs. Hadens installed a heating apparatus costing £73 10s 0d.
The Trust Deed appointing Trustees was executed in 1801, and the Trustees met regularly, but for the first twenty years appear to have done little else but approve the Annual Accounts. The Bishop attended fairly regularly and meetings were sometimes held at his home in Bath, stated on different occasions as being 18 Rivers Street, 1 Royal Crescent, and 14 Queen Square.
Considerable improvements were carried out in 1838 and in 1844, and in the former year it was necessary to sell stock realising £350 to pay for it.
I believe, the conventional district was given to the Church in the 1840's, but I can find no record of the exact date.
In 1849, The Rev. J. Wood and J. H. Way were appointed as joint ministers, and from then on there is much to record, but first, as an amusing interlude, in 1851 Herbert the Beadle was suspended for habitual drunkenness. The Trustees considered that an example should be made of one who had occasioned so much scandal as an officer of the Church. He was admonished by the Archdeacon and dismissed.
In 1851, the land to the North and West of the Church was bought for £400. It consisted of a cottage (to the West) and fourteen coach houses and stabling for twenty-eight horses (to the North). In the same year, new entrances were made to the gallery and a new Vestry and WC were built costing £170.
In 1856 the two cottages were built, costing £550.
In 1859, gas lighting was installed costing £172. The Church had originally been lit by candles, but in 1835 the Clerk was voted one penny per night per lamp for his extra trouble in lighting the Church with lamps instead of candles.
In 1861, No. 5 Montpelier was bought, costing with improvements £700, and in 1866 it was demolished and the apse built on its site, the cost of the work being £1,470.
Originally the Church had been rectangular, the altar being parallel with the East End of the galleries and a Panel behind the altar had the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer.
In 1852, a fourth bell was given by Captain Anderdon, and it would be convenient here to record that two more bells were given by Commander Hardy in 1868, and two more in 1873 by the Misses Halliday. They were named Sister Anne and Sister Susan, perhaps after their donors.
Neither baptisms nor marriages could at first be carried out in the Church, but in 1876 baptisms were allowed and a font erected and by October 1877 there had been thirty-five baptisms, and in 1887 the Church was licensed for marriages.
In 1883, it was resolved to give the Easter collection to the Incumbents and in that year it Was £36 10s 2d.
In 1885, Prebendary Norton Thompson was appointed Incumbent and activity increased to a marked degree.
In that year, new choir stalls were erected, the pulpit moved to its present position and Christ Church Hall was bought for £800 by Friends of Christ Church who later handed it over to Trustees. It had been a Roman Catholic Chapel.
In 1886, the organ which had been at the West end of the Gallery was moved to its present position.
In 1888, a new heating apparatus under the apse was installed and a new vestry was built costing £400.
In 1894, the cottage which had been bought in 1851, was pulled down, thus widening the private road and improving access to the Church.
In 1895, the Infant School was built on the site of the coach-houses and stabling bought in 1851, costing £1,166, and was opened for work in October. It was let by the Trustees to the School Managers and remained the property of the Trustees.
In 1897, electric light was installed, the cost being met by a member of the Congregation. In that year there were 932 Communicants at Easter and 563 at Christmas (by comparison in 1884, 254 and 300 respectively), 98 confirmation candidates and the Easter offering was £140 18s 1d.
In 1903, Mr. William Daubeny, who had been Treasurer for twenty-five years until 1894, died and thus severed an unbroken connection of the Daubeny family with the Church of 105 years.
In 1904, the oak reredos was given by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jolly and in 1910 there were again new choir stalls.
In 1912, Prebendary Norton Thompson resigned and Prebendary M.E. Hoets was appointed Incumbent and from then on one can rely on memory instead of records.
In 1927, a new heating plant was installed by Hadens, which lasted for about twenty-five years, when there was a new solid fuel installation, which has since been converted to oil-fired, while in 1929 the organ blower was electrified. In 1937, during the Incumbency of Dr. Judd, a Lady Chapel was made at the east end of the north aisle, the screen separating it from the choir stalls being added during the incumbency of Prebendary Millen and more recently during the incumbency of the Rev. R.N. Bathgate, the east end of the south aisle was made into a vestry, and in 1975 during the incumbency of the Rev. Denis Clements, a kitchen was made in the former south entrance porch and a ladies cloakroom was made near the downstairs entrance to the south gallery.
In 1933, during the incumbency of the Rev. F.F. Komlosy, a Finance Committee was formed and the financial control and administration reorganised and in 1947 when Prebendary Colbourn was Rector of Walcot, an agreement was entered into recognising the Conventional District and transferring the patronage to the Bishop, though this was later repudiated by a subsequent Rector. At the same time the Parochial Church Council was formed.
Twice since the last war in 1955 to 1957 and in 1967 to 1969, the Church has been without an Incumbent for a period of two years, and both times the Churchwardens first the late Mr. J.L. Palmer and the late Frank Read and on the second occasion Frank Read and Mrs. Palmer bravely carried on with greatly appreciated help from the local clergy, both active and retired, and kept the Church going.
Christ Church has had many gifts during its history, and they are too numerous to mention all. In addition to those already recorded, many furnishings were given at its foundation and many gifts of Communion plate have been made since. The nine stained glass windows in the apse were given in 1871, two windows at the east end of the south gallery (in memory of Prebendary James Wood) and four on the south side underneath the gallery were given in 1890, and the large window at the west end of the gallery was erected by the congregation in memory of Queen Victoria. In more recent times, in 1945, the silver altar cross was given in memory of the late Miss Julia Balfour by her three nieces, and in 1947, the kneeler at the altar rail was given by Mr. (now Sir) John Betjeman, in memory of his mother. All gifts since 1971 are recorded in the Gift Book.
I have left till last, details of the redecoration of the interior of the Church which brings us down to 1973. In 1850 this was carried out at a cost of £43. 3s.6d. , in 1879 at a cost Of £105.12s. 6d., in 1909 some redecoration but chiefly fabric repairs at a cost of £741., in 1939 (including some fabric repairs and electrical rewiring) at a cost of £1,126, (the work was in progress when war was declared ), while in 1973 the total cost of re-decoration, the making of the open space at the back of the Church, the removal of the font to a new position, the new carpeting, electrical work and various improvements amounted to about £3,700.
May I end on a personal note. In 1890, Mr. Mercer Adam, who was a partner in my firm was appointed as Trustee and in 1891 my father came to Bath and first attended the Church. Ever since then my family have been connected with the Church and a member of my firm has been one of the Trustees.
Since the above was written, during the incumbency of the Rev. R.R. Broackes, in 1979 Mr. David Burt, the son of the Verger Mr. W.L. Burt, and Mr. David Kelly put in working order six of the Church Bells and subsequently the remaining two Bells and they are now pealed on the first Sunday in each month and on special occasions. Major work to the Organ was carried out in 1980 costing £2,938 and the whole electrical wiring of the Church was renewed at a cost of £3,720 in 1981.