The Benedictine Priory of St James was founded in the 12th century by Robert of Caen,
Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of King Henry I, and was Bristol's first monastery.
From 1238 the week-long St James' Fair was held annually in the churchyard, dealing mainly
in horses, but also in cloth and leather, and the streets around the churchyard were filled with
stalls and booths. There were also amusements such as circuses, actors and peep shows, and
these eventually drew the wrath of the church elders who decided that such antics were not
suitable. The last fair was held in 1837. The Priory became a parish church in 1374, and a
new tower was built in the Perpendicular style to house the bells. The church became
redundant in 1984 but was reopened in 1993 by the Little Brothers of Nazareth.