CHURCH OF ST. MICHAEL WITHOUT
Although the Church which stands today is 19th Century, a church has stood on this spot since around 973 AD.
When it was first built, St. Michael’s stood just outside the City Walls of Bath (hence St. Michael’s Without). 973 is considered a good date for foundation as King Edgar was crowned in Bath Abbey that year. There was certainly a church here by 1180 when it was part of the properties of the Abbey.
The first church seems to have been replaced by a second built at the end of the 14th Century and this was a large “wool” church. This church stood until the 18th Century. In 1450 a re-consecration was held to bless the church which had “lately been polluted by the shedding of blood”.
After the Reformation the Church continued in parochial use. By 1731 it was considered too small once more and John Wood, the famed Georgian architect, was offered the chance to redesign and rebuild. Much to his chagrin the townspeople called his design “a patronising slur” and refused it – instead they chose the designs of a churchwarden called John Harvey and this church was consecrated in 1743. John Wood, as might be expected, hated the church and made jibes that it was so ugly his horse would only pass it if it was blind-folded!
The church didn’t last very long, it rapidly became too small, and it was built so quickly that structural defects soon emerged and so it was demolished in 1835. The new church took just two years to build and it was consecrated in 1837. The design is by C.P. Manners. Because the site is so confined the decision was made to face the church north-south instead of east-west which is usual.
One of the most unusual Rectors of the Church was the Rev. H.J. Heard who was a skilled mountaineer and was often seen scaling the spire of St. Michael’s to inspect the state of the building!
The parish which St. Michael’s Without serves has slowly become less residential and several amalgamations have occurred with other local parishes. In 2006/7 the church closed to change the interior fixtures and remove the fixed pews to allow the church to have a more flexible purpose and today it is, like so many larger churches, part tourist attraction and part working church. It must be said, turning a corner in beautiful Bath, and coming upon St. Michael’s reaching up into the sky is one of the many delightful surprises in this City.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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Andrew J. Müller,
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