Longitude: 51.4517649 / Latitude: -2.6183525 / Distance: 2.5 km / Duration: 60 mins / Google Map
College Green, the site of the crescent-shaped City Hall (formerly the Council House) built-in 1956, is approximately 3 acres and a popular local spot. The large hotel, built-in 1868, incorporates two 18th-century houses in its design. In front, there is a statue of Queen Victoria, which was erected in 1887 to celebrate her Golden Jubilee.
Overlooking College Green is Bristol Cathedral, founded in 1140 and consecrated in 1148, it was originally St Augustine’s Abbey but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it became, in 1542, the seat of the newly created Bishop of Bristol and the cathedral of the new Diocese of Bristol. It is a Grade I listed building. Legend has it that St. Augustine preached here in the late 6th-century. A more recent preacher, Greta Thunberg, led a march through Bristol city centre in Spring 2020. Thousands of people attended the event which started on College Green with an address from Miss Thunberg and was followed by a march through Bristol.
Behind the Cathedral and through the Abbey Gateway is the Cathedral School, found in 1140, refounded by Henry VIII in 1542 after he had dissolved the monastery.
The Abbey Gateway, also known as the Great Gatehouse, was built around 1170. The sculptural decorations on the archways of the gatehouse containing early examples of the use of pointed arches in England.
On the right of the Abbey Gateway stands the Bristol Central Library, built-in 1906, by Charles Holden. Its design was influential in the development of Edwardian Free Style architecture. Holden would later go on to build the Edward VII Memorial Wing of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. The Library, which was recently extended, contains the ‘Bristol Room‘, a replica of the Old King Street Library.
Across from this is the City Hall, designed by architect Vincent Harris, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. Before then the seat was in the Old Council House on Corn Street. On the roof of City Hall are giant golden unicorns. The foundations for the structure were originally laid in 1935 but work was delayed during the Second World War.
To the rear of City Hall, is St. George’s Road and Brunel House. Here are examples of 18th-century houses reminiscent of those which Coleridge and Southey would have lodged at on College Street. Brunel House, designed and built-in 1839 by Richard Shackleton Pope and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was originally the Royal Western Hotel which accommodated those transatlantic travellers arriving at Temple Meads and waiting to board the ship “The Great Western“. The property has been occupied by the local Council since the 1980s when offices were built behind the preserved, Grade II listed, neoclassical façade.
Along St. George’s Road to Park Street. On the corner is the Freemasons Hall, built-in 1821 by Sir Robert Cockerell as ‘The Philosophic Institution for the Advancement of Science, Literature and the Arts. The hall is home to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Bristol. It is the central hub for the practising of Freemasonry in the region. Which is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organisations in the world. Above the entrance, you will see a further example of the work of Bristol-born sculptor Edward Hodges Bailey. Another of Bailey’s notable works include the figure of Nelson in Trafalgar Square in London.
Park Street, the first street that was built in ‘Bullock’s Park‘ in 1762. Bullock’s Park was an estate in Bristol, between College Green and Brandon Hill. The last owner, Nathaniel Day, obtained permission to develop it in 1740, although the building did not begin until 1761. The original boundaries of the park now encompass Park Street, Berkeley Square and Berkeley Crescent.
Although Park Street was badly damaged by the bombing in the 1940s, it still retains many original features. For example, numbers 47 and 51 include original Georgian doorways and railed steps. Number 47 was one of the first houses to be converted from residential to commercial use. Henry Cruger, the former Mayor and Member of Parliament, lived here from 1757-1770. Born in New York in 1739, he was a British merchant at the time of the American Revolution. Cruger lived in Bristol before returning to become a Senator in New York State. He has a unique distinction of having been elected to both the Parliament of Great Britain (MP, 1774–1780, 1784–1790) and the New York State Senate (1792–1796).
Turning the corner into Great George Street, built around 1780 by Thomas Paty and Sons. At Number 7 you will find ‘The Georgian House‘, former residence of John Pinney, a wealthy merchant, sugar plantation and slave owner. Pinney lived here around 1790 and reputed to be a was a friend to William Wordsworth. If so, it is highly likely that he met with Coleridge and Southey here. The house has eleven rooms spread over four floors revealing what life was like above and below stairs, from the kitchen in the basement where servants prepared meals to the elegant formal rooms above in the late 18th-century.
The opposite side is St. Georges’ Chapel, built as a church between 1821 and 1823 by the architect Sir Robert Smirke, who designed it in the Greek Revival style. Over time it has undergone many changes. In 1999, with funds awarded by the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Boards and by English Heritage, St George’s Music Trust underwent a multi-million-pound refurbishment. It is now the focal point for music lovers with diversity in the genres of jazz, classical, folk, world music and opera.
At the top of the rise is Brandon Hill, also known as St Brandon’s Hill, a twenty-nine-acre site that includes parklands, a nature reserve and Cabot Tower. Cabot Tower, built-in 1897, to commemorate John Cabot’s voyage in the Matthew to Newfoundland in 1497.
The upper part of the hill is a steep park, divided into informal gardens, a small nature reserve and open grassland. The lower slopes of the hill were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. The two-hectare nature reserve has been run since 1980 by the Avon Wildlife Trust’s headquarters.
There are 109 steps to the top and the view is magnificent. Carrying on down the other side of the hill towards Jacob’s Wells Road. Just before the exit on the right, you will see the old police station. Built-in 1836, the offices of The Avon Wildlife Trust was once used as a part of the sixth form block of Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. Situated on Jacob’s Wells Road on the edge of the park the old police station was one of four built after the Bristol Riots of 1831 when a police force was first established in the city.
Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital (also known as QEH) is an independent school. The Queen is the School’s patron, although QEH is named after its original patron Queen Elizabeth I. The school was founded upon the death of an affluent merchant John Carr in 1586, gaining its first Royal Charter in 1590.
The school started life near St. Mark’s Chapel and later at the foot of Christmas Steps above St. Bartholomew’s. There was controversy over the original building as it stood on the site of a 600-year-old Jewish cemetery. The gravestones were used in the foundations of the building. Turn left down Jacob’s Wells Road and at the roundabout turn left to College Green or take a right and walk-up, with the hill on your right, to the Triangle at the top. Turning right will take you to the top of Park Street.