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St Paul's Church

The foundation stone of St Paul's in Portland Square was laid in 1789 and the church was opened in 1794.

Its parishioners came from the elegant newly built townhouses of Brunswick and Portland Squares and the streets which linked them.

St Paul's became known as the Wedding Cake Church from the unusual tiered tower, also described as 'semi-Chinese' and 'incongruous'.

Originally the architect James Allen delivered a sober Greek design which had the approval of the authorities. This was later rejected in favour of the submission by Daniel Hague, who was a mason and developer of the rest of the square. Locals actually attributed this 'eccentric' design to the first vicar.

One of the memorials in the church is to Colonel Spencer Thomas Vassall of the 38th Foot who was mortally wounded, aged 40 at the Battle of Montevideo in 1807, after serving in the British Army since the tender age of 12 years.

First buried at Montevideo, his body was brought back to Bristol and placed in the family vault. 'On this marble gaze with teafrul eyes', it says on the monument, erected by his widow, Catherine. It was designed by Flaxman with poetic inscription by Amelia Opie and the work was executed by Rossi.

On June 4th 1849 the churchyard was the scene of an exhumation.

The corpses of the wife and two children of a Kingsdown builder T W Hill were removed from their graves. They had all died the previous autumn and Mr Hill was set to receive three thousand pounds from an insurance policy on his wife's life. Forensic tests found that they had been poisoned with arsenic and while the inquest was being held, Mr Hill, realising that his guilt would be discovered, took his own life by a dose of prussic acid.

As in so many other places, the large houses were gradually converted into offices. Lacking an adequate congregation, the church was closed in 1988.

It languished for many years but in 2001 structural repair and renovation work began by the Churches Conservation Trust so it could be put to new use. It was thoroughly cleaned and carefully renovated. The picture below right shows new stone finials awaiting installation during the work.

The renovation was completed in 2005 and the church then converted for use by Circomedia.
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