The Priory Church of St James
() is a Grade I listed building
in Horsefair, Whitson Street.
It was founded in 1129 as a Benedictine priory
, Earl of Gloucester
, the illegitimate son of Henry I
. The nave survives from 1129 but the tower was added around 1374. The south aisle was widened and rebuilt in 1698. The porch dates from the late 18th century, and the north aisle was rebuilt in 1864.
Legend has it that every 10th stone brought from Normandy to build the Castle was set aside to build the Priory, and therefore ‘now that the castle has vanished these stones are like an echo from 800 years ago.’
The building is on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register
and described as being in very bad condition.
St James's Fair
From 1238 an annual fair held over fifteen days, was held here. Originally starting on 25 July (the feast day of St James) it was later changed to the first fortnight in September. The fair, which was held in the Churchyard and adjoining streets, was regarded as the most important of the Bristol Fairs. By the 17th century it was so prominent that merchant ships sailing in to Bristol for it were frequently attacked by Turkish pirates in the Bristol Channel
. The last fair was held in 1837. It also subsequently left its mark on the geography of Bristol as the roundabout nearby is called the Horsefair.
St James Priory Project