The Arts Society Bath Visits

The 2019/2020 Season of visits began with a walking tour around historic Bristol stopping first at The Priory Church of St James, a Grade I listed building[ in Horsefair, It is Bristol’s oldest church still in use..

Founded in 1129 as a Benedictine priory by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of Henry I. The early nave from 1129 survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries. On 9 January 1540 the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII meant that St James Priory was surrendered to the crown. The priory buildings were demolished, keeping only the nave of the church. In 1543 the land and the right to hold a fair were sold to a London merchant-tailor. In 1604 there was concern that the national attraction of St James' Fair would increase the spread of the plague, so a royal proclamation was issued prohibiting Londoners from attending.[4] The south aisle was widened and rebuilt in 1698. The porch dates from the late 18th century, and the north aisle was rebuilt in 1864.

The Guild of Merchant Taylors was one of the ancient guilds of Bristol, set up by charter of Richard II in 1399. It later became a chartered company.  The Guild's Hall (the darker building in the picture to the left) was erected in Tailors' Court in 1740, replacing an earlier one on the site.

Rules of the Guild were very strict. For example:

Our walked  continued through the back alleys of Bristol centre led by Blue Badge Guide Susan Parslow who explained the history of the buildings on our route including The Tailors Hall.

Our morning ended at Bristol’s floating harbour and here guide Susan explained its history as well as those of Cabot and Brunel and the riches that the slave brought to Bristol.

In the afternoon we had an interesting visit to the Ken Stradling collection looking at furniture, ceramics and art glass.  It was a very enjoyable trip and we look forward to a visit to Oxford later in the year.

Many thanks to Susan Parslow for  such an interesting day.


This magnificent coat of arms of the Guild decorates the porch hood over the Hall's door. The hood is contemporary with the building, but was restored in 1960. The moulding includes St John Baptist's head on a platter (left of hood). St John was patron saint of the Guild. The Guild's motto was "Concord makes small things flourish.”

Tailors Court

Decorated porch showing arms of the guild