The Churches and the Working Class in the Dings, Bristol, c.1880-1910

Denley, Christian Sean (2020). The Churches and the Working Class in the Dings, Bristol, c.1880-1910. Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University postgraduate module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a distinction.
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
Copyright resides with the author.


This study addresses the question of how far the working-class residents of the Dings area of Bristol were ‘outside the churches’ at the end of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. It takes issue with some of the views held by historians on the pessimistic side of the secularisation debate.

Much of the study focuses on the work of the Shaftesbury Crusade, a mission hall sponsored and organised by middle class volunteers from the congregation of the Redland Park Congregational Church. It also looks at marriage and baptism records of churches in the Dings (in particular the Church of England Emmanuel and the Congregationalist Kingsland Road Chapel). Census records are also used to assess the extent of church connection through solemnising rites of passage.

The evidence is used to argue that religiosity and connections with religious institutions remained strong in the Dings up to 1910. The residents of the area used the churches to solemnise rites of passage but also maintained links through accessing sporting, leisure and social opportunities provided by the Shaftesbury in particular, and through enrolling children at Sunday school. There was a moral and religious motivation to these choices. Instead of seeing the Shaftesbury and the efforts of the Redland Park volunteers as attempts for social control by the middle class, the extent of involvement with it shows it was an accepted and important part of the community and the fabric of the lives of the local residents. The working class population of the Dings did not align themselves with the churches in a denominational sense but expressed religiosity through the undenominational means available to them such as the Shaftesbury and the Sunday schools in the area.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions