The Red Lodge, Bristol

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The Red Lodge is an old house run as a museum by Bristol City Council. Built in 1580 as the lodge for a large grand house, which is long gone, it was altered around 1730, and restored in the early 20th century. It’s been used as a private residence during the Elizabethan and Georgian periods and also as a reform school for girls during the 19th Century.

Like the Georgian House Museum, entry is free. Information is sparse and there wasn’t a guidebook. But visitors are given a laminated information sheet and the room stewards were very friendly and helpful; when asked they were very keen to tell the story of the house and point out interesting features

A number of rooms are open to the public. The first floor rooms are decorated and furnished in Elizabethan style. The centrepiece is the Great Oak Room  with it’s dark, carved oak panelling, an ornate plasterwork ceiling and carved stone chimneypiece.


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The oak panelling is decorated with intricate carvings with figures and other objects from the New World, representing the source of the owner’s wealth.





The panelling in the bedroom, which features an ornate oak four poster bed, is much less intricate.


The Elizabethan theme continues outside where a Tudor-style knot garden filled with flowers and shrubs of the period has also been created.


It’s best viewed through the windows on the first floor

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The ground floor rooms are decorated in Georgian style. They weren’t as interesting as the Elizabethan style rooms, but still worth a look.

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The house is quite small and doesn’t take too long to look round, but it was definitely worth a visit.

Art Nouveau in Bristol


This amazing Art Nouveau building is at the bottom of Broad Strret in the old city area of Bristol. Set back from the road and behind the line of the adjacent buildings you don’t notice it until you’re right on top of you, but when we caught sight of it we couldn’t help but stop in our tracks to take a look.

It was built in 1900 as the main works for the printer Edward Everard.. It was designed by a local architect, Henry Williams, and the tiled facade, made from ‘Carraraware” *, was created by W.J. Neatby, Chief Designer for Doulton and Co.

Half way up the facade there are representations of Gutenberg and William Morris, both working at their presses, standing on either side and looking inwards towards an angelic Spirit of Literature. Behind each is a typeface which he designed. The company’s name is spelled out in letters designed by Everard himself,

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At the top in the pediment there’s a female figure representing Light and Truth. The tiles are arranged so they radiate out from the figure like the rays of the sun.

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Art Nouveau was very much a continental movement, and classic AN style buildings are few and far between in Britain. This is a beautiful example. Although most the building was demolished in 1970, thankfully the marvellous facade was preserved.


*Carrara ware was the trade name for a glazed stoneware, single fired to a matt (often white) finish, developed by Doulton’s of Lambeth during the late 1880s and used from 1888 in architectural work; it was produced until 1939. (Source here)

The Georgian House Museum, Bristol

Keeping on with my Georgian Bristol theme, while we were in Bristol we paid a visit to the Council owned Georgian House Museum on Great George Street. It’s a fairly substantial house that was originally owned by John Pinney, a wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant, who made his fortune in the West Indies.


The house was built in 1790 and is typical of the period. It’s the third Georgian house we’ve been inside in recent years, having visited those in Dublin and Edinburgh. The Bristol house is grander than the one in Dublin, which was which was part of a development aimed at the middle class, but not as grand as that in Edinburgh which was owned by a member of the Scottish landed aristocracy.

There are five floors, counting the basement and the attic and eleven rooms, spread over four floors, can be visited. There is little original furniture, but it has been well fitted out representative of the period.

John Pinney was either a man of relatively simple tastes, or, possibly, relatively mean, as the decoration is relatively simple with not much in the way of fancy plasterwork on the walls and ceilings, like I saw recently in the Georgian house where the James Joyce Centre in Dublin is located.

On the ground floor there’s a study with some fine pieces of period furniture including an attractive bookcase.


This is the dining room.


Formal meals would be served here, although everyday meals would probably be taken in the private, personal rooms on the first and second floors.

Down in the basement there’s a large kitchen, where food would have been prepared and then sent upstairs,


and other rooms used by the servants, including a laundry which was occupied by a party of young school children re-enacting the folding of the linen and other tasks while dressed up in period costume.  There was also the housekeeper’s parlour and this intriguing cold water plunge pool used by the master of the house (no longer containing any water).


The first floor of Georgian houses, or “piano nobile” was usually used for entertainment, and this was the case with the Bristol house.


Guests would be entertained here in the main drawing room on the first floor; the grandest room in the house. It appears as if it is at the back of the house – the opposite side to the front door. But in Georgian times this room would have had a view down the hill over the city and it is likely that people down the hill would be able to see in through the large windows especially when lit up. After all, that is what the owners would have wanted –  to show off and make an impression.


I quite liked the effect created on the ceiling by the chandelier.

The curtains and blinds are kept closed, but he view these days, which can be seen from the rooms on the second floor, is nothing to write home about.

The bedrooms were on the second floor. Only one was accessible and it contained this four poster bed and a child’s cradle.


There was a small display about slavery and John Pinder’s history as a slave owner running a plantation on the Caribbean island of Nevis, in one of the other rooms.

The attic rooms would have been occupied by servants, including Pero, Pinney’s personal valet and slave, who was purchased when he was only 12, along with two younger sisters. The bridge over the floating harbour near the busy bars on the waterfront is named after him (“Pero’s bridge”).


Entry into the museum was free. There were no guided tours, visitors were free to wander around on their own, but an information sheet was provided.

Georgian Bristol – Clifton


Although it’s now very much part of Bristol, the leafy suburb of Clifton used to be outside the city limits, only being formally incorporated into the city in the 1830s. The area developed rapidly in the late Georgian period when wealthy Bristolians wanted to move out to a pleasanter environment.

Because of when the development of the area occurred it is dominated by Georgian / Regency and Victorian style houses and other buildings.

These very typical Georgian houses are on Sion Hill, in a prime location overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I suspect that the balconies are later additions.


These three houses, further down Sion Hill,  have interesting black and white canopies over the first floor balconies.


These houses have bow and bay windows, unusual compared to most of the Georgian houses I’ve seen around the country.


Although there are plenty of individual style houses, Clifton has more examples of the planned Georgian terraces and crescents than the city centre. This is Royal York Crescent, a late Georgian development. The stuccoed houses are rather plain other than for the balconies which are their dominant feature.


The crescent is built up on a vaulted terrace so the houses are in an elevated position overlooking the River Avon.


This is the central section of a grand building that stands at the top end of Caledonia Place, a long narrow square with typical Georgian and Regency houses built around a pleasant garden.


It was originally built as the Clifton Hotel and Assembly Rooms, so quite an important building in it’s day which explains the very ornate design with the triangular pediment, tall ionic columns, pedimented ground floor windows and rusticated base. The wings of the building, which aren’t in the picture, also have a number of ornamental flourishes.

Here’s a longer view of the  building from inside the garden in the centre of the square.


The buildings on the east and west sides of the square were built in two phases. The older phase, at the top end, on both sides consists of a terrace of houses built as a “mock palace”. The houses at both ends and the centre of the terrace are pedimented and project slightly forward.


There have been a number of modifications over time to some of the houses, included first floor iron balconies (these really must have become fashionable in Bristol at some point, they’re everywhere) and extensions on the roof, which, to me, ruin the roof line and the overall look of the terrace. They wouldn’t be allowed by today’s planning laws.

The top house on the east side has had some substantial modifications adding a balcony supported by Corinthian columns which were made in the 1920’s when it was first converted into a bank.


A view from the central garden across to the west terrace.

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The houses at the southern end of the square are also built as terraces, but to a simpler overall design and with no attempt to pretend they’re a grand palace. They al have first floor balconies which seemed to be identical and so where probably part of the original design.


Another view from inside the central garden. A good display of Spring bluebells evident too.

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There’s a lot more to Clifton than we were able to see during our short visit to Bristol. As well as the Georgian and Victorian Houses there’s a modern Catholic Cathedral, opened in the 1970’s,  that I’d have liked to have seen. Another time perhaps.

Georgian Bristol – City Centre

Bristol’s prosperity increased dramatically during the 18th century with it’s increasing importance as a transatlantic port with its involvement in the  ‘triangular trade’ to Africa and the Americas.; trading in commodities such as sugar and tobacco and, sadly, the associated slave trade.

Expansion of the city meant that there was a building boom with the construction of houses in the classical influenced architectural styles fashionable at the time – styles that today we know as “Georgian” and “Regency”.

There are Georgian style houses throughout the City. This is a very grand example at 29 Queen Square.


It’s very ornate with pediments over the windows on the ground and first floors and with superimposed columns – doric, ionic and composite. Very ostentatious given the relatively simple and more restrained style of the typical houses from the early Georgian period.

This large house on King Street, although plainer, has a very fancy porch over the front door.


These simpler, smaller houses with a stuccoed facade, built around 1794, are on Queen’s Parade, at the bottom of Brandon Park. They have a good view over the park towards Cabot Tower.


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This house, at the end of the row above on Queen’s parade, has very interesting ogee arches over the door and window. Gothic features, and quite different from it’s neighbours.


This house has been very nicely renovated.


Quite a few houses had iron balconies and verandas on the first floor. These seemed to have been fashionable in Bristol in the later Georgian period and seem to have been added to earlier houses.

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In Bristol City centre, here’s relatively few of the planned squares, crescents and rows of houses made to look as if they’re a larger palace or villa,  like you find in other “Georgian” towns and cities like Bath, Edinburgh and Dublin. Although there are some terraces, there were a large number of individual houses scattered throughout the city centre. Even Queen Square, the first attempt at urban planning in the city, was developed as individual houses and small groups rather than as uniform terraces.

No Borders in Bristol

While we were in Bristol recently we called into the Bristol Museum and Art gallery intending to take a look at their collection. Unfortunately due to refurbishment that’s taking place at the moment a number of the galleries were closed. But there was a good exhibition of international contemporary art, “No Borders”, featuring works by artists from Asia, Africa and the Middle East

The exhibition includes 25 new works of art by artists acquired by the Gallery with a £1million grant from the Art Fund aimed specifically at developing a new collection of international contemporary art. The works, which were selected with assistance from the Arnolfini, Bristol’s contemporary art gallery,  included paintings, sculpture, photographs, videos and installations. I didn’t like everything, but there were a number that particularly appealed to me.


All are the colours of my heart II by Imram Quershi (2011)

Walking into the gallery the first thing we saw, as they were hung on the wall immediately opposite the door, were a number of paintings by Imram Quershi, an artist from Hyderbad in Pakistan. There was only one colour – blood red. The patterns in all the paintings were reminiscent of blood splatters. That’s intentional as they’re part of a series of works made as a memorial to two young men who were beaten and killed in the Punjab city of Sialkot in 2010 in a tragic episode of mistaken identity and mob vigilantism (Source: Art Fund website).


I liked this “textwork” made from yellow tape by Shipa Gupta, who lives and works in Mumbai.


There is no border here by Shilpa Gupta (2006)

The words are a poem arranged in the form of a flag, set out using the type of bright yellow tape that is used at crime scenes

Shahzia Sikander was born in Pakistan and currently lives in New York. She is an exponent of Indo-Persian miniature painting. At first glance this seemed surprising as the work on display in the gallery was anything but a minature. The term is applied to the style of painting – painting in a fine and small-scale manner – and the use of minium, red lead oxide pigment, rather than it’s size.


Encapsulated Confrontation  by Shahzia Shikander (2011)

female figures arranged into a spinning wheel; animal silhouettes; the gopi-hair/black crows; the scrambled Urdu text; the French horn; and the East India Company Man who is the only character in colour. The densely layered surface of the drawing ‘encapsulates’ the confrontation staged by the artist between ‘East’ and ‘West’. (from the Art Fund website)

The exhibition also included a video work by her which can be viewed on Vimeo.

Here she is talking about her work.

The “star” exhibit was this rather large cube made from compressed tea by the well known Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

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A Ton of Tea by Ai Weiwei, 2007

Ai has chosen the Pur Er blend of tea as it is drunk by ordinary Chinese citizens across the country. The tea leaves have been dried and compressed into a block form, a traditional means of preserving and transporting tea. (From the Art Fund website)

And according to the Art Fund director, Stephen Deuchar,

“Ai Weiwei’s allegorical A Ton of Tea illuminates both the international trading links intrinsic in Bristol’s history and the DNA of the artist’s home country of China, one of the world’s biggest exporters of tea.

I’m sure quite a few people would scoff at the idea of a cube made of compressed tea being displayed as a work of art, but I thought it was very clever and attractive. Looking closely, there were distinct layers and textures and patterns. And being made of organic matter it had developed fractures as the tea dried out. It will change over time, rather like the outdoor works by David Nash. But  that is part of it’s attraction. There was also a distinct odour, not unpleasant.

Other works that I liked were the photographs of South African workers in the sugar cane fields  by Zwelethu Mthethwa and a miniature installation of an art gallery containing works inspired by the Lebanese civil war by Walid Raad.

While we were in the exhibition we got talking with one of the gallery assistants who was very enthusiastic and keen to tell us about the works on display.

Cabot Tower, Bristol


The Cabot Tower stands on top of the hill in Brandon Park in the centre of Bristol. It was named after the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, better known as John Cabot, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyage in 1497 of the Matthew from Bristol across the Atlantic where he discovered Newfoundland. According to Pevsner’s Architectural Guide to Bristol, it “defies stylistic labels” but it has a number of distinct neo-Gothic features, which were fashionable during the late Victorian period.

It’s a fair climb up a narrow spiral staircase inside the tower to reach the top (make sure nobody is coming down when you’re going up and vice-versa or one of you will have to back track as there’s no passing points!) but it’s worth it for the 360 degree view of Bristol.


Looking down towards the floating harbour and city centre


A close up of the Cathedral and the city hall


Looking further along the floating harbour towards S S Great Britain


zooming in on Brunel’s mighty iron vessel


Looking out towards Hotwells with it’s brightly coloured houses and marina with a newer development on the waterside


Looking over towards the University, the view dominated by the neo-Gpthic bulk of the Wills memorial building


Turning towards the Georgian suburb of Clifton, the Clifton Suspension can just be made out in the distance


Zooming in on the bridge.


“My first child, my darling”

This is how Isambard Kingdom Brunel described the Clifton Suspension Bridge that has spanned the Avon Gorge on the outskirts of the city of Bristol for close on 150 years. However he never saw it completed. Although construction started in 1829, delays caused by political upheavals and financial problems meant that it was only completed in 1864, five years after his death in 1859.

Today it’s still a functioning bridge used by thousands of vehicles every day and a major tourist attraction, and was a “must see” during our recent trip to Bristol.

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412 metres long, the deck, which is 75 metres above the river is supported by six massive wrought iron chains which run over two 26 metre tall towers and are anchored in the rock. When it was completed it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.


There are good viewpoints from both sides. The picture above was taken fro the western side, standing on the hill that overlooks it.

This one was taken just prior to sunset from the eastern side


There’s an information board at a viewpoint below the bridge on the eastern side,


The bridge appeals to me in different ways. The design is simple, but effective. It does the job. Aesthetically I like the curve of the chains that support the deck, the simplicity of the structure, the colour of the stone from which the towers and abutments are constructed, the parabolic arches in the towers and the setting above the dramatic gorge.


If it had been constructed 100% true to Brunel’s design there would have been some significant differences. The towers would probably be clad with smoother stone and there would have been embellished with hieroglyphic decoration and sphinxes standing on top of them. In fact there are a number of alterations to his engineering aspects of his design too by  William Barlow and Sir John Hawkshaw and there’s a school of thought that the bridge should be attributed to them rather than Brunel.

Whatever! The simple design and the setting combine to create a fantastic sight. I’ve been to see it several times and never tire of looking at it.

See No Evil

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Nelson Street is a non-descript thoroughfare of unattractive, scruffy, in some cases, semi-derelict, buildings on the edge of the old city area of Bristol. In 2011 and 2013 it was transformed by a festival of Street Art. The works, many on a monumental scale, include both figurative to abstract works, some with elements of both and many of them containing figures of fantasy.

There are some fantastic works of art and the street is now a tourist attraction. I didn’t like everything but applaud the imagination of both the artists and the organisers.  They’re not to everyone’s’ taste, and there are a substantial number of people who’d like to see them removed. But that would be a pity. As Bristol born Banksy has shown, what starts on the street can become mainstream.  For once I find myself agreeing with the Telegraph

The progress of all art – whether we are talking the Impressionists or the spray-cannists – is always from outsider status, towards the established.

and that’s not easy to for a Guardian reader admit .

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Brunel’s S S Great Britain


Probably the most popular attraction in Bristol, and deservedly so, is the S S Great Britain, the restored iron steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It’s history is nicely summed up on Wikipedia

(built for) …… service between Bristol and New York. While other ships had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Great Britain was the first to combine these features in a large ocean-going ship. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, which she did in 1845, in the time of 14 days.

When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. However, her protracted construction and high cost had left her owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846 after the ship was stranded by a navigational error.

Sold for salvage and repaired, Great Britain carried thousands of immigrants to Australia until converted to sail in 1881. Three years later, she was retired to the Falkland Islands where she was used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and coal hulk until scuttled in 1937.

In 1970, Great Britain was returned to the Bristol dry dock where she was built. Now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, she is an award-winning visitor attraction and museum ship in Bristol Harbour, with 150,000–170,000 visitors annually.

I can remember watching the ship being towed down the Avon in 1970 on its way back from the Falklands on the TV.



The hull, which remains substantially complete from the time of her construction in Bristol, is of wrought iron riveted plates on wrought iron frames ……….. The interior of the ship has been reconstructed and replicated to the highest research standards using primary sources to interpret different parts of the ship at particular times in the vessel’s long life. The promenade deck, adjacent cabins, and dining saloon have been replicated to represent what was there in 1843. The original steam engine and chain drive have been replicated and, along with the ship’s galley, are from that period too. (National Historic Ships website)

On a nice sunny day we had a pleasant walk along the waterside from the city centre to take a look at the ship berthed in the very same dry dock where it was built..

Visitors are brought in at the rear of the ship.


and then walk along the starboard side


and then descend down some steps to inspect the hull. There’s a specially constructed air tight chamber formed by a glass plate fitted around the ship at the waterline. The air inside is conditioned, maintaining a relative humidity  of 20% by special dehumidification units to minimise corrosion. Jets direct the dehumidified air along the hull.


The hull was already quite badly corroded when it was brought back to Bristol


but the dehumidification should minimise further damage.

Once inside the chamber visitors can walk right round the hull. It was particularly interesting to look at the reconstructions of the porpellor and rudder.


Here’s a copy of the original anchor


Looking at the bow


After climbing back up to ground level we were taken through an exhibition about the history of the ship, working backwards in time, until we arrived on the deck.


There were free audio guides available – four different ones providing different perspectives and viewpoints. I decided I’d take the one focussing on Steerage class passengers. So I wouldn’t really have been allowed past here


although I did sneak past to have a look at the ship’s wheel.


Descending below deck we were able to see the Steerage passengers’ accommodation


and their mess


the engine


First Class cabins (which were still very small – the bunks were tiny)


the Saloon deck


where Mr Brunel himself was taking a rest


and the First Class Dining Room


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Here’s the ship’s surgeon


and barber


somebody feeling sea-sick


and here;s the Captain giving one of the crew his orders.


Fancy taking a bath?


All mod cons available!


Cargo and passengers’ belongings are all ready for loading on the ship on the port side


Our visit lasted just over two hours and we could probably have spent a little longer looking round, but time was against us as the attraction closed at 5:30.

Feeling tired after a long day, we took the ferry back down the Floating Harbour to the city centre