Your community website for Bishopston, Ashley Down, Horfield and St Andrews

About Bishopston

The following article is kindly supplied by local historian David Cemlyn


st_michaels_church_bishopBishopston the council district and associated parish are relatively new. It was created out of the parish of Horfield in the mid 19th.century after the consecration of St. Michaels and All Angels in 1862. The Church stood on the east of Gloucester Road on Pigsty Hill but after it fell into disrepair in the 1990s, mainly due to subsidence, was demolished in 1997.

It has been suggested that the name Horfield came from Hore, or Horu, possibly the name of a chief killed in a fight between the Saxons and the Romano-British, and buried in one of the two tumuli which were originally close to the common; ‘Hore’ may also be descriptive of the clayey, dirty, or muddy subsoil. There was almost certainly a settlement in Horfield in Saxon times. The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions Horfield

Horfield has had a chequered past which culminated in the new parish being called “Bishopston.”

In 1140 Robert Fitzharding, Lord Berkeley, a wealthy and  powerful Lord, whose estates included the Manor of Horfield founded St. Augustine’s Abbey and gave the Manor  to the Abbey in whose possession it remained for the next 400 years.

When monastic holdings were confiscated by Henry V 111 instead of selling the Manor, as he did with the local Ashley Estate he gave it to the newly formed Bishopric of Bristol a clever move that helped ensure the Bishops loyalty.  The manor was not under the control of the Church of England but the Bishop himself who then leased it to what was known as a Lord Farmer.

These arrangements continued until Cromwell in turn confiscated the Manor and sold it. However within a few years Charles 11 was crowned King and ordered the return of confiscated lands. The Bishop was soon back in control and the Manor was again leased for a period of three lives. This meant that the lease holder, the Lord Farmer, could pass on the title in his will and the next person could do the same but on their death the lease would revert back to the Bishop unless it was renewed.  All went smoothly until in the 1830s the Church Commissioners and Bishop Allen realising that the last life of the Manor, John Shadwell, was an old man, are said to have agreed not to renew the lease when he died so the Manor could revert to the Church by default.  The commissioners wanted the estate to help them support other Cathedrals and Churches. Lord Melbourne the Prime Minister was said to have urged Bishop Allen not to renew although this was later denied.

In 1836 Bishop Allen was sent to Ely and Bishop Monk was appointed. He took a very different view. He was not prepared to let the lease lapse and saw no reason why the Manor and Parish of Horfield should be lost. The Church Commissioners said he had an obligation not to renew the lease but Bishop Monk said he had no such obligation.  Eventually the Bishop offered the Commissioners the Manor for £11,000, £6000 for himself and the rest in trust for the Parish. 

The deal was never struck and so the Bishop realised part of the estate and leased the remainder to his secretary and other trustees of the Trust he set up for the Parish. John Shadwell died in 1849 and the new arrangements came into effect but not without much controversy. After 700 years the Manor of Horfield was finally broken up this time never to be re established.

Clearly Bishop Monk was seen as a local hero. The new Parish seems to be named after him, Bishops Ton (the Bishops small place). Later roads such as Bishop, Monk, Shadwell and Melbourne along with Berkeley and Manor acknowledge Bishopston’s history.

The rapid expansion of Bristol in the mid nineteenth century led to the viability of former farm land being made available for housing. Within 40 years much of Bishopston had been developed with the remaining land being swallowed by the 1930s.

Although Bishopston itself maybe a recent creation it is steeped in history and has a wealth of fine buildings, open spaces such as St. Andrews Park, street furniture and classic shop fronts.
Local community groups continue to add to knowledge of the area.

St Andrews

An extract from: The Hidden History of St Andrews, Bristol
Kindly supplied by local author Michael Manson of Past & Present Press
The Hidden History of St Andrews is available from

muller_homesThe St Andrew’s building boom began in the 1870s. It was a hesitant start. Stuart Colman is said to be responsible for some the earliest houses. Not much is known about Colman. What is certain is that he was responsible for some of the most innovative – and, unfortunately, least stylistically successful – architecture in St Andrews. The nature of his architectural training is uncertain. Yet what he lacked in technical expertise he made up with enthusiasm. He won a number of local architectural competitions – which he then failed to realise.
Colman’s most successful building in St Andrews was the David Thomas Memorial Church, named after a popular local preacher.  Although the majority of the building has been redeveloped the landmark spire remains. The first of Colman’s new houses were constructed on land owned by Mr Derham who ran a large boot factory employing over 1,000 people in St James Street in Bristol. The houses were built with a very un-St Andrews building material – brick. The brick houses edged along North Road in clusters; with a couple also appearing at the bottom of Sommerville Road.  Most interesting is a row of brick cottages built in a subdued Bristol Byzantine style in North Road. With their patterned brickwork and unique recessed double front doors they were described by the authors of Bristol -An Architectural History as ‘horrifically primitive Gothic cottages.’  They’re not that bad!

Stuart Colman, went on to design an equally alarming row of houses in Belmont Road, the next road up the hill. With their awkward Arts and Crafts influences they are some of the most unusual houses in Bristol; a queasy and unsuccessful experiment. It can be surmised that Colman was also responsible for several other pairs of houses on Belmont Road, identifiable by their ‘nutcracker’ porches and steeply sloping gables.

police_stationA map of 1880 shows a completed Cromwell Road and Belvoir Road, with Belmont, Effingham and North Roads still under construction. The experimental phase was over and there was a return to more conventional building styles.

One can guess that Colman had moved on to other projects. The St Andrew’s Estate was now established; an architect was no longer required and builders could be trusted to construct in the more traditional manner. The houses now conformed to a style that is familiar across Bristol.

The more costly were faced with dressed Bath stone; the less expensive were built with cheaper, locally quarried, Pennant sandstone and finished around the doors and windows with Bath stone ornamentation. The Bath stone would have been carved off-site and arrive by train in standard size ready for fitting. Sash windows were standard as, it would seem, were Venetian blinds in the front windows. At first the houses were lit by gas, but as time went by electricity was installed. Heating was provided by coal fires in each of the main rooms; there was also constant hot water – luxury indeed – supplied from the coal fired kitchen range.

The cost of the houses varied. The larger houses on Belmont Road sold in the 1870s for £350 with a ground rent of £5.00 per annum. In the 1890s the slightly smaller houses of Sefton Park Road sold for £250 with a £4.00 per annum ground rent. Ground rents were usually for 1000 years or in perpetuity. The rent would be collected on a half yearly basis; though quarterly was not uncommon. Over the years, as the real value of the ground rent shrank to virtually nothing, most households have paid a lump sum – say £75 – £100 – to avoid this inconvenience. Even so, some of these rents are still collected – albeit erratically.

st_bartsSo who were the new residents of St Andrews? Home owning was not the ultimate panacea that it is today. Indeed it is estimated that until the beginning of the 20th century 90% of houses were rented from private landlords. Conditions of letting varied greatly. The middle classes generally paid their rent quarterly or half yearly – usually Candlemas (2 February) and Michelmas (28 September). The working classes had to pay their rent every week.

By today’s standards houses were frequently crowded. The idea of a spare room was certainly a luxury. At 33 North Road, the Weeks family – Seth, a groom and coachman, and his wife, Mary and their three children, Arthur, Richard and Gracie – shared their house with the Thomas family. Alfred Thomas was a baker, while his wife was busy looking after their one-year-old son, William, and their two-year-old daughter Evelyn.
The census of 1901 paints a graphic picture of young white-collar workers moving into the area. They were the new middle class. In Sefton Park Road the new settlers were teachers, office managers, and salesmen. They were comfortably well–off. Some houses even had live-in maids. (There was an ample supply from the Muller Orphanage down the road.)

Bishopston Horfield and Ashley Down Local History Society

This friendly local history group provides a programme of lectures and events to promote an interest and understanding of all aspects of local and social history in the immediate area and Bristol as a whole.

They undertake and encourage research into all aspects of the area and encourage knowledge, appreciation and preservation of its history. The society always welcomes any historical information or material for copying which could be stored in the archives. This local research group has had a number of books published.

Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month (except July, August and December) at 7.30pm at the Friends’ Meeting House, 300 Gloucester Road, Bishopston. For anybody looking for an evening out locally where you can make new friends, and enjoy the talks and slide shows given, feel free to attend and see if it would appeal to you. Visitors are charged £2 per visit with a free cup of tea or coffee, and a biscuit. Subscriptions are £10 a year.

For information on their forthcoming meetings visit the ‘What’s On’ section of this website.