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.