St. Michael’s on the Mount Without
The church of St. Michael’s on the Mount Without is a prominent Grade 2* Listed building with historical evidence of it being established as early as the 13th Century. The name ‘on the mount without’ comes from the location of the church being situated on the hill just outside the old city boundary wall.
The church is located at the bottom of St. Michaels Hill and is very close to one of the main thoroughfares from the City Centre, which leads past the Bristol Royal Infirmary up to Clifton and beyond.
Bristol was historically a major port for trade and commerce. During the 17th Century poor-quality housing, intensive occupation and unsanitary conditions made worse by the River, were a serious problem in the areas surrounding the harbourside. The church’s location was originally the transitioning point from the bustling, fetid harbourside and city, up to the start of the open rural countryside with fresh, clean air.
The site is tucked away, behind established Lime trees, a hidden green pocket providing a much needed respite from the urban, built up environment.
This area has a dramatic level difference starting at 10m above sea level at the lowest point then rising up to 75m towards the top of St Michael’s Hill. The site is intrinsically linked to the steep Christmas Steps, with its quaint, historical shops and pubs that bring you up from the harbourside.
The building has been reinvented and restored over the centuries after damage, bombings and fire. The church, having already suffered in December 1940 bombing raids, was severely damaged by fire during the later ones of March 16th/17th 1941, leaving it roofless but repairable.
The church finally closed in 1999 due to falling attendances and has remained shut since. It has been inhabited by squatters and the homeless over the years and sadly it is on the Buildings at Risk Register.
It is now in the ownership of Norman Routledge, previous owner of Kings Weston House, who is in the process of faithfully rebuilding the church after huge damage was caused by a fire in October 2016. The church will be given a new lease of life as a much needed performing arts and events space for Bristol.
St. Michaels on the Mount Without presents the opportunity to create three exterior gardens which will be used by visitors to events at based in the church. The gardens are set around the church and are divided by traditional wrought iron railings and pennant stone flagstone footpaths.
There are numerous graves and tombstones within the surrounding areas of the church with tombstones dating to the 17th Century. With no direct vehicular access to the church, it really feels like a hidden oasis which is an important element to be nurtured and enhanced.
The landscape proposal is led by nature, to create a place of sanctuary, where the seasons are brought in to close perspective in the centre of the city. By reusing materials from the church in the design, it will enrich the existing sense of place, really allowing the reincarnation of the space to sit harmoniously within its context.
All the graves will be incorporated as features in to the design. The proposed spaces will be respectful to the extensive and incredible history that comes with such a project, whilst creating elegant and practical areas that can be used safely. It has the most magical feeling both inside the church and in the gardens, so it is important to allow this essence of the site to shine through.
The three spaces offer a range of planting types due to the location and the available sunlight. The planting will be site specific and selected to create a stunning visual display with an elegant plant palette that flows coherently from one space to another across the seasons.
The plants will provide crucial habitat/foraging resources for birds and pollinators, and take in to account the ever changing climate. This very natural and ecological approach to the landscape proposal contributes and enhances the local green corridor, enabling ecological connectivity and improving habitat and wildlife opportunities.
Nature and biodiversity are key components of the design ethos.