Rev John Louis Petit, 1801 - 1868
Interior of St Nicholas Church Whitchurch, Bristol
Interior of St Nicholas Church Whitchurch, Bristol

inscribed on the reverse

pencil and watercolour
38.10 x 25.40 cm. (15 x 10 in.)


There has been a place of worship on the site of St Nicholas for over a 1,000 years, believed originally to have been an old saxon cell or chapel of the saint, St Whyte. The church was built here In the Norman time and was known as St Gregorys and only became St Nicholas after the reformation. When it was built, the church was an enlargement of an aisleless cruciform plan, with the tower between the nave and the sanctus above the chancel and appeared to have been completed in the year 1200AD. The church has been built on and improved in many ways over the centuries. In the 13th century, the chancel was rebuilt and lengthened and the east and north transept windows were installed. The south aisle was added in the 15th century. Currently we are able to trace, and hold records of, priests dating back to1600 AD. Evidence of the churches history can still be seen in and all around the church. The south door has musket shot marks engraved into it, dating back to civil war times and in the south porch there is evidence of a Pre-Rreformation Holy Water Stoup. The beautiful east window, of the three lights, has many hidden representations: The left hand light represents, 'Christ blessing little children.' The centre light the 'crucifixion.' The right hand light 'Christ’s commission to his disciples to feed his sheep.' The window also holds the inscription, “To the Glory of God and in the memory of Henry Cole M.A. during six years curate of this parish who died April 2nd 1862 aged 35 years." Henry Cole, gave the pulpit to the church during its refurbishment in 1861. It cost a considerable amount of money and came at great personal sacrifice to Henry, who in the process of raising the funds partly starved himself. His health was weakened by this and he unfortunately died from a severe cold and hence the installation of the window in his memory made by his many friends. The font is Norman as is the beautifully carved old oak screen which divides the Smyth chapel from the south aisle. That just leaves the tower, which now only contains one bell, the others having been sold to the church in Queen Charlton. The remaining bell is thought to be very valuable and was recast by Bilbie, the well known bell founder of Chew Stoke.

Artist biography

John Louis Petit was born at Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, son of John Hayes Petit. He was educated at Eton, and contributed to the "Etonian". He was elected to a scholarship at Trinity College Cambridge in 1822, graduated BA in 1823 and MA in 1826, and on 21st June 1850 he was admitted "ad eundem" at Oxford. He took holy orders in 1824, but undertook no parochial work. Petit showed a taste for sketching in early years. His favourite subject was old churches, and a great part of his life was spent in visiting and sketching them. In 1839 he made his first extensive tour of the continent. The results appeared in his "Remarks on Church Architectire" (1841, 2 vols which had illustratuions. It was followed in 1846 by "Remarks on Church Architectural Character" Royal folio format.In the same year Petit published a lecture which he had delivered on 24th Feb 1846 to the Oxford Society for promoting the study of Gothic Architecture, under the title "Remarks on the Principles of Gothic Architecture as applied to ordinary Parish Churches". It was succeeded by "Architectire of Tewksbury Abbey Church". Royal svo 1846. " Architectural notes in the neighbourhood of Cheltenham"and "Remarks on Wimborne Minster", 1847. "Remarks on Southwell Minster". With numerous good illustrations. 1848. "Architectural Notices relating to Churches in Gloucestershire and Susse". 1849. "Architectural Notices of the Curious Church of Gillingham.Norfolk". And an "Account of Sherborne Minster". 1850. In 1852 Petit published an account of Brinkburn Priory". In 1854 appeared Petit's principal work. "Architectural Studies in France", imperial SVO. It was beautifully illustrated with fine woodcuts and facsimiles of anastic drawings by the author and his companion, Professor Delamotte. It showed much learningand observation, and threw light upon the formation of Gothic in France, and on the differences between English and French Gothic. A new edition , revised by Edward Bell, FSA, with introduction, notes and index, appeared in 1890. The text remained unaltered but the illustrations were reduced in size, and a few added from Petit's unused woodcuts. In 1864-65 he travelled in the East and executed some striking drawings. He died in Lichfield on 2 Dec 1868, from a cold caught while sketching and was buried in St Micheal's Churchyard. Petit was the founder of the British Archealogical Institute at Cambridge in 1844. He was also FSA, an honoury member of the Institute of British Architects, and a governor of Christ's hospital.