Theaster Gates’ Sanctum Under Construction At Bristol’s English Heritage Monument

Work starts today to build a remarkable temporary structure at Temple Church, off Victoria Street, which will host Theaster Gates’ Sanctum from 29th October – a continuous programme of sound over 24 days by hundreds of performers, artists and speakers. Produced by international arts producers Situations, in partnership with English Heritage, Sanctum is the first public project in the UK by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates and forms part of the cultural programme for Bristol 2015 European Green Capital supported by Arts Council England.

The concept for the structure follows Gates’ principles of breathing new life into sites, which have been ‘sleeping’, using materials which are solely sourced from the local area. The timbers, bricks, doors and windows, which will house Sanctum, have been sourced from former Georgian houses and 19th century sites of labour and worship across Bristol.

The Salvation Army have gifted bricks from the now demolished 19th century Bristol citadel at the corner of Brigstocke Road and Ashley Road in St Pauls which makes way for a new state-of-the art centre. These bricks were originally produced from the distinctive Redcliffe clay at the Cattybrook brickworks in 1896. In its prime, Cattybrook supplied bricks for major works across the South West region including the supply of 74m bricks for the Severn Tunnel and for the building of the Imperial Tobacco Company buildings in Bristol.

The former Harris & Co warehouse at the corner of Farrs Lane and Narrow Quay provides pitch pine timber joists, original oak roof joists and two intact large apex pieces which will be used for fabricating the roof and internal walls. Farrs Lane is named after Thomas Farr, a renowned 18th century sugar-merchant who invested heavily in the slave trade and was responsible for commissioning Blaise Castle. Flooring will be created using doors from the former chocolate factory in Greenbank, Easton, donated by Generator South West. Built in 1901 it operated as a chocolate factory for 105 years until 2006. Originally founded by Mr Packer, an ex-employee of Fry’s in different premises in 1881, the company survived both world wars, with part of the factory taken over by American Army in WWII , and became Elizabeth Shaw in 1968.

A Scheduled Monument in the care of the charity English Heritage, Temple Church is not usually open to the public – Sanctum offers a rare chance to step inside. Bombed almost 75 years to the day as part of the first night blitz on Bristol in 1940, the shell of the building dates from mainly the 14th century, underneath which are buried the remains of the original 12th century circular church built by the Knights Templar. The famous tower leans 5 feet (1.6m) out of the vertical, comparable to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


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