Faith & Worship

Week 46 - Louise Bainbridge

In this week's #BlessedIsShe, we meet Louise Bainbridge, the Cathedral Architect.

In this centenary year of women's suffrage, we are celebrating the women who play important roles in the daily life of the Cathedral community.

Each Saturday of the year, we will be sharing a different story here and across our social media. 

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and search for the #BlessedIsShe hashtag.


What’s your connection with Bristol Cathedral?

I’m the cathedral architect appointed by the Chapter to advise on the condition and maintenance of the cathedral church and buildings in the precinct. I also oversee various projects of repair and conservation, improvement and updating of facilities and installations. This involves regular visits and reporting to the Chapter Clerk and the Fabric Advisory Committee, which meets three times a year.


How long have you been associated with the Cathedral?

I have been involved for 17 years, since 2001.’


What first drew you to Bristol Cathedral?

I was a student at Bristol University and later a scholar with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, specialising in work with historic buildings. I had enjoyed living in Bristol and when the previous architect Alan Rome retired and the position was advertised, this was a great opportunity for me to renew my association with the city. 

The Cathedral itself is a wonderful building in the heart of the city which has been adapted through centuries of urban development. Each generation has left an impression. Inside there is a great quality of light, with the distinctive tall aisle windows.


What have been some of your personal highlights?

Every five years I carry out a ‘quinquennial survey’ when I look at the building fabric in detail from top to bottom, outside and inside, and make recommendations for conservation, repairs and improvements in order of priority. It is fascinating to see the work done by the original craftsmen and generations since. The naturalistic carvings in the Berkeley Chapel vestibule are a delight, and the detail in the stained glass windows, the old bells still in use, and the complicated workings of the organ.

Highlights for me have been the discovery of details which have dulled or been covered over time. It was wonderful to see the glass of the west rose window cleaned and conserved. When the abbey gatehouse stonework was repaired we found the mediaeval masons’ marks and traces of early pigment on the archway carvings. The trial cleaning of the organ case has revealed the quality of carving.

It is a privilege to work with the dedicated staff and volunteers at the Cathedral, people with a wide range of interests and knowledge.


What would you like to see the Cathedral doing over the next few years?

I should like to see the Cathedral continue to make improvements for congregation and visitors with ‘Warmth and Welcome’ in mind.

This includes projects such as the refurbishment of the organ and organ case.

There are proposals in place to make the landscape around the cathedral more user-friendly, to make the cathedral more accessible and it will be great if this can be done soon. Inside there are plans to relay areas of floor to improve access where at present there are steps.

Outreach to people through services, events, exhibitions and publicity keeps the Cathedral open and sustainable. The building is not as well-known as it should be for its fine architecture from the twelfth century Romanesque chapterhouse, early fourteenth century east end and Victorian nave, all of the highest quality. I hope that more can appreciate this lovely building and enjoy the experience of being here.


What does the Cathedral mean for you?

The Cathedral is a centre for worship and mission in the heart of Bristol. It is the seat of the Bishop for the Diocese.

For me the building tells the story of the people who made and have used the Cathedral over hundreds of years. My role as cathedral architect is to use my knowledge to ensure that fabric of the building is cared for and looked after for the current and future generations.