ST. MATTHEWS CHURCH, Moorfields, Bristol.
The Church of England purchased the western part of the huge Redfield Estate in 1872 and close to the Redfield Road the new Parish Church of St. Matthews was built to the design of J.C.Neale. The North front faces Church Road and the West front is in Cowper Street, The Tower was never completed. The Church was consecrated on 28th January 1873. Bishop Cowper performed the opening ceremony and the first vicar was Rev. Griffiths.
In time as funds became available alterations were made. In 1887 the South aisle was added, also by 1900 a large church hall was provided at the top of Cowper Street. A few years later another huge expense faced the church when the roof was found to be in a dangerous condition. St. Matthews was temporarily closed allowing urgent building work to be carried out. 1907 saw the Church re-opened amid big celebrations.
There was no vicarage attached to the church when it was built so for a couple of years the vicar was forced to live in rented accommodation, but a plot of land was purchased by the Church of England in nearby Whitehall Road and in 1875 a fine vicarage was built on the site.
In the late 1930’s a new curate came to St. Matthews Church, his name was Mervyn Stockwood. He took control of the Mission of St. Saviours in Moorfields (Off Russell Town Avenue) this being the mission church of St. Matthews. There over the next few years he did valuable work amongst the poor in the district. The church played a prominent part in the needs of its parishioners with the coming of the Second World War and afterwards with the repatriation of the servicemen.
In March 1941 a big blitz saw bombs falling all around. Incendiary bombs had been dropped on the roof of the church resulting in several fires. Church members climbed on to the roof putting out the fires. Their actions saved the church from destruction. That same year 1941, Rev Stockwood became the Vicar of St. Matthews. He made St. Matthews grow into an important parish.
After the war the interior of the church changed as an attempt was made to modernise it. The altar was redesigned and the windows and window panels were painted over destroying the original artwork.
Mervyn Stockwood stayed at St. Matthews until 1955 and was very popular amongst the parishioners. He went on to become very well known as the Bishop of Southwark. During his ministry a new vicarage was built close to the Church Hall. The old one in Whitehall Road was sold to the Education Department and became a day nursery, as it is today.
After 125 years of faithful service to the community St Matthews was forced to close due to a dwindling congregation. The last service was held on 1st February 1998.
In January 2000 the church was broken into and used for a New Year illegal ‘rave’. Pews and chairs were smashed and the font was irreverently used for the disposal of empty cans. Shortly after this the lower windows were boarded up.
By May 2003 St. Matthews, Moorfields had been converted into offices and seven flats and is now known as ‘Stockwood Chambers’. The outer appearance of the Church has changed very little. Fittingly a blue plaque has been placed on the exterior of the building as a reminder of St. Matthews most famous vicar- it reads
Rt.Rev.Dr.Mervyn Stockwood 1913-1995
Vicar of this parish from 1941 – 1955
Bishop of Southwark 1959 –1980
As a Christian he inspired generosity. As a leader he fought for tolerance.