A Detailed History

Page 2—The Building

The foundation stone of the Church of St Matthew, Kingsdown was laid on August 26th 1833.

Mr. George Thorne, of Portland House, Kingsdown, had promised £1,000 towards the project, provided the remainder could be raised. A suitable site was obtained in Nine Tree Field on the property of T. F. Freemantle, Bart. and Mr. Thomas Rickman was elected as architect. As yet there were few houses near the proposed site, only Kingsdown Parade some ¼ mile away on the City side.

In the following year, on Monday 26th August, a procession was formed after the service in St James and proceeded from there to the site for the new church on a route via Barton Alley, the Barton, North Street and Square Avenue, around King Square to Dighton Street and Marlborough Street, up Marlborough Hill, along Montague Parade, Kingsdown Parade to St James’ Place. Some of these streets are still recognisable but others no longer exist. More than 15,000 people were assembled to witness the ceremony which began with the singing of Psalm 100Open Link in New Window.
An engraving showing the church set in open fields. Published by John Chilcott of Wine Street

A capsule containing coins of the day was laid with the stone together with a plaque (no longer visible) recording the event. This held the following inscription:—

The Corner Stone of a new Church, dedicated to St Matthew, was Laid by John Bangley, Esq., Senior Vestryman of St James, on the 26th day of August 1833 being the Fourth Year of the Reign of His Majesty King William the IVth. This Church was built and endowed by Voluntary Subscription. Rev. Thos. T. Biddulph, M.A., Minister, Rev. Theophilus Biddulph, M.A., Curate, William Barge & Robert Henry Webb, Churchwardens, William Ody Hare, Vestry Clerk and Thomas Rickman, Architect.

The ceremony continued with addresses given by Mr Bangley and the Vicar of St James. John Bangley also subsequently presented the bells to the Church.

The eventual cost of the building was £7,882 and the Church was consecrated on April 23rd, 1835 by the Hon. Henry Ryder, Bishop of Lichfield. Pevsner describes it as being typical early 19th. century with a long wide body, tall regular windows of three lights and four centred heads. There is a west tower in perpendicular style containing a peal of eight bells by Jeffries of Bristol. There is a clerestory and the building is entirely embattled. The east has two turrets flanking the window, typical of late Georgian Gothic. He notes that the interior was not divided into nave and aisles, but has galleries on three sides. The organ, built by John Smith Snr. in 1840, is situated at the west end in the gallery.


The original furnishing consisted box pews and a central three-decker pulpit and it wasn’t until the incumbency of Wm. Doherty (1879) that they were modernised to a lower offset pulpit and benches. We believe that the gallery pews are original.

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