to home page«Home
South Gloucestershire
This page meets W3C standardsCSS coding on this page meets W3C standardsThis page has been labelled to ICRA standards

St.Michael's Room 1988

The following two articles are reprinted from


1888 - 1988.

Drawing of exterior of St Michael's Rooms


Twenty years ago, Mr HWN Ludwell » wrote the story of St.Michael's Room, and concluded by saying that "It was remarkable among Parish halls, both for the service it has rendered to the community and for the way in which it was maligned". Curiously the criticisms were made by people who used the Room but did little else.

Since then, the service the Hall has rendered has continued and grown. Year after year it is used most mornings, afternoons and evenings of the week. Indeed, if every one of the twenty-one times that are theoretically available was to be booked, it would be impossible for the caretaker to carry out a very considerable task of cleaning it. A hundred people a day, 30,000 a year, make a lot of mess! No-one, however, maligns it today.

The most recent improvements are mentioned in the history that follows. What is not mentioned but is just as important is the host of minor improvements and repairs that have been, and are continually being carried out. Their organization often takes as long as their execution. Not being particularly involved myself, but knowing something of what they do, I can express the debt we owe to the committee for its management over the years.

With the conversion of the original sanctuary into a storeroom, meeting room and office, St.Michael's Room has again become a real Parish Centre. Not only are Services held there from time to time, but Bible Study is held each month, the Sacraments of Confirmation and Marriage are prepared for, the life of the Church is administered, Prayer offered and Counselling shared.

Thus the founders' intentions continue to be fulfilled in ways that are appropriate to our time. They may be summarised as Drama, Worship and Community Service, so Thanks be to God for all this Centenary has to celebrate.

Edward Bailey



It was in April, 1887 that the then Rector, the Reverend AH Austen Leigh, MA, put forward his idea for St.Michael's Room to his parishioners. in his letter in the parish magazine he said:

"I am anxious to mark this, the Jubilee Year of our good Queen's reign, by the erection of a Chapel of Ease or Church Room. The Parish Church is so far off that I cannot have as many services as I would wish, and you cannot go to it as often as you would wish. We want, therefore, a building of such a character that it can be made to look like a church and in such a situation that it may be handy both to the Winterbourne and Watleys End folk".

Various legal problems had to be surmounted, but the idea caught on, and Sir Greville Smyth (of Ashton Court) gave the site, and Mr HW Marsh (of Winterbourne Park) prepared the plans. In Septmber 1887, the Rector announced that work would start in the Autumn and the total cost would be in the region of £500. By December £397-12-7d had been given as well as several valuable gifts for use in the room.

Work was held up by bad weather at the beginning of 1888, but by Easter Day (April lst) the building was complete, equipped and opened for Worship. It had been less than twelve months from suggestion to completion. On April 18th it was licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, at that time "for the performance of Divine Service and the administration of the Sacraments according to the ritual of the Church of England."

The licence is still valid. Certainly the building is still used for worship - such as the service before the Annual General Meeting each year, and the Centenary Thanksgiving Service on April 24th this year - and meetings for Bible Study, Mothers Union, and the Church Council in the Upper Room each month.

The printed letter of and audited statement of published on July 27th 1888 showed that the total cost of the Hall and its equipment was £505-3-2d. While many people gave and helped with this project, as Mr Ludwell made clear in his account (and from which this history is largely taken) the moving spirit was the Rector, the Great-nephew of the novelist Jane Austen. He also gave generously to the church school, and the parish church. We are especially pleased that his grandson, Mr Henry Jenkyns, will be with us at the beginning of our Centenary week on April 15th. The 1937 Deeds state that the Trustees are the Parochial Church Council and the appropriate body of the Diocese of Bristol and describes the building as "St.Michael's Mission Room"

During the 1939-45 war, St.Michael's Room was commissioned as a First Aid Rest Centre. Afterwards it resumed its use for some regular Church Services which were only discontinued when the Rectory Tithe Barn was dedicated by the Bishop of Bristol on Palm Sunday 1959, thus allowing the Hall to be used for a wider range of activities. At one time there was a stage at the South End, and the hall was used for school concerts and village plays, and later, film shows.

Today the hall is used regularly by a wide age range from the very young to Senior Citizens.

Since the war, and especially during the past few years a large number of improvements have been carried out. The toilets and kitchen were added in the early 1950s (and were refurbished in the early 1980s). The floor in the replaced in 1964, and a false ceiling conserve heat) in 1975. Electric heating in 1960 and replaced by overhead heating in the north end was "squared off" to overcome provide planned storage space, as well as for the Church Secretary and for small the Lower Room for the Rector. Therefore the building has once again become a Church Centre.

The use and upkeep of the building is managed on behalf of the Parochial Church Council by a sub-committee. A representative from each of the organisations who are regular hall users is invited to attend their meetings. To them and to all who have helped with the improvements over the years we owe a great debt.

In an article written by Mr HW Ludwell in 1970 he said:

"Few halls have proved to be such a valuable asset as St.Michael's Room since it was first built".

The same sentiment is applicable today.