The history of St. Paul’s Church
Posted - September 04, 1984
To become an arts centre
St. Paul’s was begun in 1836 on a site donated by the Radcliffe Trust almost opposite the Universtity Press whose workers it was built to serve. Built in Bath stone in a style known as Greek Revival, the portico, with four fluted Ionic columns, was modelled on the north porch of the on the north porch of the Erechtheum in Athens (5th century BC). Between 1857 and 1859 the apse was added, the ceiling of which was decorated by William Holman-Hunt, the pre-Raphaelite painter. In 1910 a classical decorative scheme replaced the sumptuous medieval—style decoration.
Although Holman-Hunt’s painting of Christ in Majesty reamained uncovered the rest was painted over with thin pastel paint, allowing the original decoration to show through. St. Paul’s opened during the peak of the Oxford Movement.
Under successive ministries both the building, and the conduct of worship grew in splendour, reaching a climax under the Rev. Roger Woodhouse early this century. His devotions were carried out after the French manner to such an extent that a French visitor to St. Paul’s was convinced that St. Paul’s was Roman Catholic. After World War II the popularity of St. Paul’s began to decline in favour of St. Mary Magdalen where the Rev. Colin Stephenson was drawing large congregations with his dynamic preaching. In |964 St. Paul’s was declared redundant and the parish was incorporated with St. Barnabas. From that time the church deteriorated and became overshadowed with the threat of demolition until it was purchased with funds raised by OAAC and brought under the protection of Listed Buildings legislation. Since then work has been carried out to restore the building and protect its fabric from further deterioration.
In order to make St. Paul’s a suitable venue for theatre, dance and music flexible seating and lighting arrangements have been designed so that the auditorium can be arranged in a variety of ways. To keep structural alterations to a minimunjmost ancillary services such as storage, workshop space dressing rooms and lavatories will be housed in an unobtrusive single-storey extension along the north and south sides of the building. The box office and bar will be installed beneath the balcony. If you would like to help raise the final £65,000, get in touch with Judith Ackrill, St. Paul’s Project, 40 George Street Tel:245588/722648.