The Greek settlement in Bristol goes back to the 19th century when Greek sailors embarked in the area with the idea of setting up businesses. Bristol continues to be an important port in the U.K. as it has been for many centuries. Some of those sailors began to settle down not only in the centre but also in the outskirts of Bristol when the need of practising the Orthodox religion arose. The living conditions and specifically the communication were very much different from present times.
After this settlement some important facts in history took place and World War II was an unpleasant reality. Many people were found they were stranded, having to deal with hunger and political unrest from which they had to escape in order to survive. As such, we find many Greeks and especially Cypriots, choosing the U.K. to try and secure a better future compared to that from their own countries.
In 1942 Greeks were starting to establish their own businesses, mostly restaurants and cafés and by 1945, according to records there were about 20 families established in the Bristol area. At that time there wasn’t a Christian Orthodox facility to accommodate them and enjoy the benefits of practicing the religion. When the tide allowed, they would to sail to Wales for onward travel to the church in Cardiff with Aust Ferry who operated small vessels across the River Severn between Aust and Beachley both in Gloucestershire, England with a capacity of only 16 cars or alternatively one with a capacity of 20 cars often having to wait in a long queue together with Greeks from other parts of England. Sometimes the tide wasn’t suitable and people would have to travel north to Gloucester first west into Wales which meant the trip was over 100 miles. In October 1947 the first Divine Liturgy at the Apostle Barnaba church at Knowle in Bristol was held. The Greek Community was starting to grow. The need for regular services became essential and the shortage of priests and venues meant services could only be held about every couple of months. So the only option was to use Anglican churches, usually St James and St Barnabas. At the same time our national days were always celebrated at restaurants or houses open to all people with great enthusiasm.
As the Greek community was gathering efforts to acquire a permanent temple were consistently made by its members when the Anglican Church kindly permitted the use of the temple of St Simon in Lower Ashley Road in 1958. Over the years to come members of the Greek community dedicated a great deal of time and resources to mould the church into an Orthodox one. In 1963 the church was renamed to Apostles St Peter and Paul and in 1978 it was bought for £12500.00.
However before that happened there were a number of instances which established the community in the area. In 1958 the Archimandrite Eirinaios Athanasiades was appointed as a permanent reverend as well as the foundation of the Greek school with the appointment of Mrs. Marika Mathew as a teacher. Just a few years later followed the foundation of the Ladies Auxiliary Society to support the work of the church and the community as a whole. In 1979 the community was registered as a charitable trust in the name of the Greek Orthodox Community of Bristol, Registered No 279079. That year Father George Nicolaou arrived with his family from Cyprus to serve the Orthodox community to date.
An important event for all members was the establishment of the Cypriot Consulate in Bristol for the West of England and Wales by the memorable Honorary Consul Mr. Pavlos Lazarides. His son has now taken this position.
Since 1991 the Greek Orthodox Church was officially licensed to hold wedding services.
Their contribution was significant and many members were able to acquire some properties operate revenues and support the Orthodox community:
House at Berkeley Road, Westbury Park
Building next to the church where the Greek school is accommodated
Property – land west area of the church (donation by Mr. Pierakes Mitsides & Mrs. Augousta Mitsides)
House at Cromwell Road (donation by Mr. Savvas Giannakes)
House at Bedford Crescent (partial donation by Miss Eleonora Gianni)
The community hall was built
A number of donations have been made during the years from members of the community, small and large amounts, which hold the community as younger generations are being introduced and enjoy practising our religion while they meet with our culture. A personal contribution of each one who dedicates significant time and effort to secure all this work and help people in need. We appreciate the willingness of many showed every day. We would like to thank you all!