industrialists later moved to the fashionable suburb of Kingsdown, which
still has many architectural gems. What we think of as the suburbs today
were mostly small villages or groups of houses outside the city. Cotham
was developing fast and there was a huddle of poorer houses in the area
known as The Quarry, between Durdham Downs and the west side of Blackboy
Hill. These were built into the quarry whence much of the stone came to
build the big houses of Clifton.
Gradually the area between Cotham and Clifton was built
up. This contained the homes of the middle classes, moving further out
from the city centre, the respectable citizens with large families, two or
three servants, often a carriage and pair and a comfortable income. One
has only to look at the houses in Burlington Road and the Whiteladies Road
end of Apsley Road, to feel oneself in a spacious age of leisure and
taste. Each house would be the home of but one family, with rooms for the
servants in the attic. Tucked behind in narrow streets, are smaller,
simpler houses of the less well off.
Highbury Chapel, founded in 1843, was a thriving and wealthy church
under its patriarchal first minister, the Rev David Thomas. It had amongst
its membership some of the most influential Bristol gentlemen such as Mark
Whitwill, E S Robinson, and several members of the Wills family. They
engaged in much philanthropic work and one of their projects was the
formation of a Sunday School for the deprived children in the Quarry area,
which met in the local day school.
In 1860 the church meeting of Highbury decided that a
Congregational Church was needed in the rapidly expanding Redland area. A
suitable site was sought and a desirable one found on the corner of
Redland Park and Whiteladies Road, a piece of land which was part of Mr
Garaway's market garden, and it was purchased for £700.
The foundation stone was laid on 11th June, 1860, by Mr
Richard Ash, the service being conducted by the Rev David Thomas of
Highbury. The cost of the building was tendered at £4200 which included
the buildings, gates, enclosing walls and railings. Thanks to the
generosity of the people, rich and poor, who came to the service on the
day the church was opened and consecrated, the last £600 of the cost was
given, so it opened free of debt. The building which over the years had
several alterations and additions, was essentially the same until its
destruction in 1940.
On 1st November, 1861, the church was formally
established with 49 members and the first two deacons elected, Mr
Wilberforce Tribe and Mr Samuel Derham. Readers will hear more about Mr
Tribe and his family later in the book, as they played a great part in the
life of the church throughout the years.
In 1862 the church felt it was ready to call its first
minister. On 9th February of that year a young man aged 23, just leaving
Cheshunt College, preached at Redland Park and on 8th June the church
meeting unanimously decided to invite him to be their pastor. He accepted
in a devout and humble letter, asking the congregation to support him with
So, on 26th November, 1862, the
Urijah Rees Thomas became Redland Park Church's first minister.