Learn the history about St Annes Church

Church History

St Anne’s Church, Siston

Photographs from ca. 1880

These images of St Anne’s Church, Siston were included in an album of late 19th-century photographs of English churches which was dismantled and auctioned off in small packets.  They original photographs are now in my possession and should not be reproduced without my permission.  Stephen Hill

The church from the south seen from Siston Lane.  A small child stands in the road.  At that time there were pinnacles at each corner of the tower, a pierced parapet and a weather vane surmounting its pitched roof. 

This is the only image I have seen of the interior of the church taken before the insertion of the paintings and decoration within the chancel and around the chancel arch.  As such we can assume that this is how the church must have looked in Puritan form after the Reformation.  The original pews are in place, including (on the left at the west end) the curtained box pew for the residents of Siston Court.  These pews were supposedly removed to for wall-panelling in the Court. They were replaced initially with chairs and subsequently with pews salvaged from a redundant church in Bristol.

The window in the north wall opposite the entrance door, with the chained bible and scripture books in place.  The books were removed ‘for safe-keeping’ but their current whereabouts are unknown.

The Saxo-Norman doorway in the north wall of the church.  The Saxon architectural elements are all in re-use.


Three Churches in Syston

In living memory there has been talk of three churches in Syston.  St Anne, St Bartholomew and St Cuthbert.    However whilst being interviewed for the Bristol Observer January 21st 1925 the then Rector, Reverend J Hunter Robinson   (  incumbent 1917 b- 1927, retired in office ) declined the idea of there ever having been three churches at Syston.  He pointed out, to support this theory that Syston was never thickly populated.

He also stated that there was something very suspicious of the position of St Annes. Around the church there were grouped only nine houses and most other dwellings were nearer other parish churches as in Warmley, Kingswood and  Mangotsfield.  This idea is supported by the fact that during 1769 to 1805 Christopher Haynes was in charge of Syston as well as Mangotsfield and the single weekly service alternated between the two ( see the booklet published to celebrate 800 years of worship at St James  Mangotsfield, this year). 

The observer journalist completes his piece on St Anne thus- “In spite of the disadvantage of it’s position, however, Syston is crowded with worshippers on a Sunday evening and the congregation are especially large in summer months.  The motive for having three churches remains anything but obvious”.

My own view is that the storylines have become blurred at the edges.  There quite probably were three churches but, almost certainly, not at the same time.  There certainly does appear to be some history about a church dedicated to St Bartholomew being at Churchly ( also sometimes spelt Churchleigh)  in the Autumn 1982 edition of Avon Past ( The Mollie Ashley Memorial Issue).  Churchly appears as partway between the Griffin at Bridgeyate and the turning for Webbs Heath.

Also in this issue of Avon Past on  pages 22/23 On Syston Common  “there were widely scattered groups of 18th 0r 19th century houses, successors of the shacks of the original miners.  In the western part of the Kingswood medieval settlement, over the centuries, parishes have dispersed or disappeared altogether.  A good example of this is Churchley on the boundary of Syston and Wick parishes for which there is little documentary evidence.  Slight earth works in a field called CHaperl Hayes on Chesley Hill , North East of Bridgeyate Common,, may be connected to Churchley and it’s chapel of St Bartholomew, the ruins of which survived into the 18th Century”.  There is currently a church by the name of St Bartholomew at Wick.

“Associated with the KIngswood Manor Houses are remains of fish ponds, rabbit warrens and deer parks. The only definite example of a deer park is at Syston, a licence granted to Robert Walerand in 1252.  The exact location and boundaries are unknown but it is most probably in the area between Syston Court and the 17th Century Lodge Farm”.



Although there are obvious Elizabethan and Stuart alterations and extensions to the Church, including Jacobean Pulpit, the Norman porch with its inner leaning arch, is the architectural gem of St Annes.

The holy water stoop was severed at the Reformation when all wall paintings were also obliterated.  ( There is a slight suspicion of colouring over the inside of the doorway ).  The Cromwellian bullet holes in the heavy door are permanent reminders of the Puritan era.

It is, however the huge notched Norman arch with its semi-circular tympanum which impresses the visitor and worshipper.  This stone carving reminds us of the illiterate days when the priest taught and preached from paintings and carving in wood and stone.  The three sprigs and ‘fruit ‘  are usually interpreted as The Tree of Life ( or good and evil in the Garden of Eden).  The three sprigs also represent the Holy Trinity.

The first pre-conquest Saxon building would have been of wood, but it is possible to narrow-down the age of its Norman stone replacement.  Believing that the world would end 100 years after the birth or crucifixion of Our Lord, no new building took place until about 1070.  The pointed arch only came into use between AD 1120 and 1140 in very interesting circumstances.  So St. Annes  porch was evidently rebuilt within that 50/100 year interval.  This coincides with the acquisition of the William Rufus lead font from Winchester.

The innovation of a Norman pointed arch between 1120/40 is attributed to new building ideas brought back from the Holy Land by returning Crusaders who had never previously seen Arabic domes or pointed arches.

The alternative or coincidental explanation is that Athelyard ( Adelard ), a studious monk from Bath Abbey discovered at Cordova University in Spain, a copy of a book of Euclid, dealing with interesting circles which was thought to have perished when the Turks burned the Great Library of Alexandria.  The enclosed intersection portion (“ The Versica”) of the two circles formed a pointed arch – as at Wells Cathedral. This revolutionised Church architecture and inspired the Perpendicular style of Nave.

 As written by  Mr Hubert Dearnley of Warmley and published in St Annes Syston magazine in October 1986.




Roger Otory ( Clerk )


Roger Otory ( Ordained Minister)



Sir Thomas Sweatenham


John Honeybourne


Richard Flower


Jonathon Luffingham M.A.


John Wells


Samuel Trotman M.A.


William Vaughan M.A.


Christopher Haynes


Francis Pelly M.A.


William Bernice Borrett M.A.


Thomas Boys Groome M.A.


William Addington Taylor M.A.

1878-1912 d

Charles Gregson M.A.


James Hunter Robertson M.A.

1917-1927  r

William Gell M.A.

1928-1937 r

John Assheton Brownlow Yorke Lodge

1937-1939 r

Herbert Davies M.A.

1939-1945  d

Ronald H Downs 


Cyril Winch Francis 

1951-1961 r

Ronald Pearce B.A.

1961-1968 r

William George Parsons M.A.


John Chilton Poarch B.A.

1972-1987 r

George Mitchell


Paul Denyer

2002- 2013

Jeremy Andrew 

2014- to date 


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