History

of St Laurence church, Bradford on Avon

The twelfth century historian William of Malmesbury reports that the church was standing in the 1120s, but thought it dated back to the time of St Aldhelm (d. 709). A charter of King Æthelred granted Bradford to the nuns of Shaftesbury in 1001, and the church’s architecture suggests it was built for the nuns early in the eleventh century.

St Laurence’s is a characteristic Anglo-Saxon building: tall and narrow with small windows. The extent and richness of its decoration, however, are rare, perhaps suggesting it was designed partly for the relics of Æthelred’s brother Edward the Martyr, which were housed with the nuns at Shaftesbury. Some time later the church, being no longer required, was lost amidst other buildings and only came to notice again in the nineteenth century.

It was recognized as a late Saxon building by Canon Jones (a Vicar of Holy Trinity and a noted historian) in 1857, but in 1871 he read William of Malmesbury’s comments and decided that it must have been built much earlier by Aldhelm. However, it is more likely that Aldhelm’s church would have stood somewhere on the site of the present Holy Trinity.

The Church of St Laurence is still used as a place of worship by the congregation of Holy Trinity, as well as by other Christian groups. It is part of the network of Small Pilgrim Places.