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The History of St Helen's, Alveston

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St Helen's Church

St. Helen’s Church, Alveston is a Victorian, Gothic church built in 1885 on land, given to the parish by Sir John Willoughby, on the edge of the A38 where a small road led off to Alveston village.

The total cost of the new church was £3,500 of which the Bush brothers donated £2,000. They also gave a peal of bells, a clock and, in 1888, the organ.

The need for a new church grew out of the fact that the old church at Rudgeway was becoming dilapidated and the centre of population was more prominently at an increasing distance in Alveston from the church buildings.

Various articles were transferred to the new church when the move was made. These consisted of two bells, which were incorporated in the peal, bringing the muster up to six bells. Also brought were the commandment boards and a hatchment of the Tonge family.

The church was designed in the style of Aust church, which the Bush brothers much admired. The work was carried out by local masons and the outer wall is of local stone.

There are several stained glass windows; facing the south door is one depicting St Helen and St George; the east chancel window representing faith, hope and charity and Christ blessing the children was erected to the memory of Mrs Edward Bush. On the south side is a representation of the healing of the Centurion’s servant erected to the memory of Edward Bush by his nephews and nieces.

There have been alterations to both the churchyard and the church’s interior over the years. The lych-gate and churchyard were moved back to accommodate improvement of the A38 road. Inside the church the pulpit was erected as a 1914/1918 war memorial. Pews have been removed from the back of the church on the west side of the south door and on the north side a similar number were removed in 1972 and 1975 respectively.

St Helen's Church

The font was moved from the central position at the west end to a place directly opposite the south door. The original organ was rebuilt in 1973 and removed in 1996/7 being replaced by a rebuilt instrument from the now closed Lockleaze church. Book shelves and lighting systems were the subject of various donations and internal decorations augmented by removable quilted banners on various religious themes.

The clearing of the area to the west of the south access door presented the idea of further development on the principle that the church is the largest public building in the village and should take its rightful place amongst the centres of community life in the area.

Based on this thinking, in the early years of the new Millennium, a major refit was undertaken to remove the pews and plinth, giving a flat floor surface of polished oak and the original aisle tiles. At the same time the kitchen area, including the toilet, was redesigned and developed.

The font was replaced at the back of the church and access to the first floor of the tower was obtained via a new spiral staircase. The rear of the church to the west of the south porch is carpeted.

Opening up the nave area to provide a large Community Space has enabled the PCC to offer space to let for concerts and social events as well as providing good facilities for a lunch club, art group and other “Outreach” activities to encourage visitors and potential church members into our Church.

In 2015 English Heritage listed the War Memorial Cross in our Churchyard as Grade 2 for the following reasons:

  • Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impacts of world events on this community and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20
  • Group value: with the Grade II listed church of St Helen which provides its backdrop.

Photographs on this page have been kindly provided by Brian Lee.

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