St John’s Conduit on the side of the church on Nelson Street has recently been restored. The conduit dates from the fourteenth century and is part of Bristol’s extensive medieval water system.
Water flows to the conduit from a spring near the top of Park Street. The main purpose of the system was to supply the Carmelite Friary that was once on the site of the Colston Hall. In 1376, the friars allowed the parishioners of St John’s on the Wall to connect a narrow ‘feather’ pipe to their supply.
The plaque on the conduit says:
GRANTED TO THE VESTRY OF ST JOHN IN THE WALL IN THE 14TH CENTURY
THE SOURCE OF THE SUPPLY IS AT THE TOP OF PARK STREET
WATER IS CONVEYED BY FEATHER PIPE FROM THE CARMELITE PRIORY CISTERN – ON THE COLSTON HALL SITE – THROUGH HOST STREET AND CHRISTMAS STREET TO ST JOHN’S GATE
IT ORIGINALLY STOOD ON THE INNER SIDE OF THE GATE BUT WAS MOVED TO ITS PRESENT SITE IN 1827 WHEN THE FOOTWAY ON THE EASTERN SIDE OF THE GATE WAS MADE AFTER THE SUPPRESSION OF THE MONASTERIES
THE ENTIRE COST OF MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR OF THE PIPE DEVOLVED UPON THE CHURCHWARDENS AND VESTRY SOMETIMES TAKING THE WHOLE PARISH REVENUE FOR THE YEAR
IN 1865 AFTER A SEVERE DROUGHT THE DEEDS TOGETHER WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR UPKEEP WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE LOCAL BOARD OF HEALTH
DURING THE AIR RAIDS OF 1940 IT WAS FOR A TIME THE SOLE WATER SUPPLY IN THIS PART OF THE CITY
Between 1982 and 1984, the Temple Local History Group surveyed and documented the cisterns, tunnels and pipes leading from the source to the conduit. They published their research as a booklet “…one of a series of articles which it is hoped will be of interest to strangers and Bristolians alike.”
If the Whitley Pump had procured a copy of this little book before our twinning visit, a whole walking route could have been devised to track the water system through the streets of Bristol. Pipe Lane is so called because of the water pipe and the authors conjecture that Culver Street might once have been Culvert Street. There are also St John’s Conduit markers in the pavement – but we missed all that!
Restoration work on the conduit was funded by section 106 developer contributions from the development of the nearby former Magistrate’s Court. The area around the church is being massively redeveloped. The council’s plans were set out in 2015 in the Nelson Street Public Realm Strategy.
St John on the Wall
The church of St John on the Wall or St John the Baptist and the adjacent gate are the last remnants of Bristol’s city walls and they are listed grade 1. The church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust to whom we are grateful for alerting us to the restoration of the conduit.