This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.


List Entry Summary

This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for its special historic interest.


List entry Number: 1000444


The garden or other land may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: City of Bristol

District Type: Unitary Authority


National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II*

Date first registered: 30-Apr-1987

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: Parks and Gardens

UID: 1412

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Garden

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Mid-C18 merchant's villa garden with subterranean grotto and bastion overlooking Bristol harbour.

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT In 1694 Thomas Goldney II, son of a successful Quaker grocer, leased a gentleman's house and garden on Clifton Hill In the late C17, Clifton was a small village of some 200 inhabitants, separate from the city of Bristol, which was beginning to attract city dwellers in search of cleaner surroundings. Goldney purchased the property in 1705 and had the house rebuilt between 1722 and 1728. After his death in 1731, the property was inherited by his son Thomas Goldney III who, over the next seventeen years, gradually acquired additional parcels of land on which he developed the garden until his death in 1768. The property was inherited by his brother, Gabriel (d 1782), who appears to have made no significant changes to the garden. It passed to his sister Ann, who died in 1796 (Stembridge, 1996). After her death it was inherited by cousins but after a dispute over the will of another Thomas Goldney in 1856, parts of the grounds were sold off for residential development before the house and the remnant of the estate were acquired in 1864 by Lewis Fry of the Quaker family of chocolate manufacturers.

Fry commissioned Alfred Waterhouse to remodel the house, 1864-65. After Fry's death in 1921 the house was bought by Sir George Wills, who let it, before his daughter Elizabeth took it over in 1932 with her husband Ellison Eberle. They carried out an extensive programme of repairs to house and garden (Country Life, 1948). In 1956, after his wife's death, Eberle sold the property to the University of Bristol. It was converted it to a hall of residence which it has remained. In 1969, the University constructed student accommodation blocks on Hill Close, south-west of the house, and these were redeveloped and extended in the mid-1990s.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Goldney House and garden occupy a site of c 1.6ha., located on the brow of Clifton Hill, c 1.5km west of the centre of Bristol. The northern boundary is formed by Clifton Hill, a public highway. To the west the registered site is bounded by Goldney Lane, and to the east by Clifton Wood Road, both public roads which descend steep hills to the south. The southern boundary is formed at the eastern end by a communal garden, on the north side of Randall Road, 200m south of the house, and by a Pennant sandstone rubble wall running west to Goldney Lane along the north side of properties on Ambra Vale East. The garden runs from the house, southward to a terrace some 100m south of the house, then steeply south towards the suburb of Clifton Wood and Bristol Harbour, over which there are long views south-west to the Avon valley and the hills of Ashton Court, Avon (qv) beyond. Goldney House and garden are surrounded by the Bristol suburb of Clifton.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The garden is approached through the house, the main entrance door of which is on Lower Clifton Hill. A door on the south front of the house opens directly into the garden. A carriage entrance, 30m east of the house along Lower Clifton Hill, is via a gateway, attached to former stables, with ashlar piers with ball finials (early C18, listed grade II) in a 2m high rubble wall. This wall curves for 20m south-east, and then a curved brick wall runs c 40m to Constitution Hill. A door in the garden wall fronting Clifton Wood Road, 100m east of the house, provides pedestrian access into the former kitchen gardens laid out east of the main garden.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING Goldney House (listed grade II) is built of limestone ashlar with a slate hipped roof. Its early Georgian origins are visible despite C19 alterations including a stair tower to the east. It is located close to the north boundary of the registered site. The house dates from c1720 when Thomas Goldney II had an earlier villa residence rebuilt, possibly to designs by George Tulley. It was encased, altered and extended by Alfred Waterhouse in a Second Empire style, 1864-65. His tower has four stages, a pyramidal roof and a wrought-iron widow's walk. The south, garden front retains a 7 bay symmetrial Georgian design with a central door, although the sash windows are now of C19 plate glass.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The principal garden extends the width of the south front, c 60m from east to west. Immediately south of the house is a lawn, c100m long, which is the probable site of Goldney's `Fountain garden' (1739). On the west side it is bounded by a 2.5m rubble wall, which separates it from student accommodation blocks (1960s and 1990s) in Hill Close. At the southern end of this wall, c 100m south of the house, stands a pair of Corinthian columns (listed grade II) taken from a c 1720 doorway and repositioned here by Waterhouse, 1864-65. The principal planted feature is an axial yew walk that bisects the lawn and runs south from the central door of the house to the entrance of a grotto (date, listed grade I). There are seven pairs of yews, 8m apart in the row in a 9m wide avenue, which may have been part of a union-jack pattern of formal planting shown on the 1746 survey of the Manor of Clifton. On the west side of the entrance to the grotto is a mount planted with holly and yew, which may be the `Hawthorn Mount¿ referred to by Goldney in his Garden Book (Stembridge, 1998)

Parallel to, and 10m east of the yew walk, on the east side of the garden, is a stone-lined canal (1758-59, listed grade II*), 30m long and 4m wide, with a central C19 fountain of tritons supporting a shell. At the canal's northern end is a C20 parterre and an orangery (c1730, re-fronted 1933, listed grade II*). At its southern end is a raised bank behind which is a sunken, serpentine footpath, lined with tufa, leading for some 20m eastwards from the main lawn to the kitchen garden.

At right angles to the yew walk axis is a terrace walk, c 100m south of the house, which was built up over the grotto shell and finished by 1755 (Stembridge, 1996). This stretches c 120m from an eastern point at the southern end of the canal to terminate at a rotunda (Goldney, 1757, listed), 110m south-west of the house, at the western end. The rotunda is glazed on two sides commanding views to the south and south-west and was originally surrounded by a colonnade, removed c date. West of the rotunda and below the level of the terrace, is a stone bastion, which runs a further 45m west (mid C18, rotunda, bastion and connecting wall group-listed grade II*). This is a buttressed retaining wall with a grass walk on top which ends in a round-ended viewing point, designed to command views south and west, now obscured by two C19 horse chestnuts and a beech tree on a lawn immediately south-west of the bastion. Although not shown on the 1746 survey of the Manor of Clifton, the bastion, or an early version of it, is referred to by Goldney in 1748 (Stembridge 1998)

The grotto appears to have been among the first works undertaken by Goldney. He began with a tunnel that runs southward from the main chamber under the terrace. The tunnel was finished in 1737, in which year work also began on the main grotto chamber. Goldney appears to have started work on the decorating of the grotto from about 1739, the date is set into the shell work and also the date when Goldney noted that he had `cover'd and finish'd ye shell of ye Grotto', and continued until 1764. The grotto's principal approach is from the north, via steps at the end of the Yew walk which descend to a Gothic door with flanking trefoil-headed windows to either side and an octofoil window above. Either side of the main façade are tufa-lined arches, to the east giving access to the upper part of the grotto, to the west leading into the main chamber by a curved tunnel. The main chamber is a pillared hall, in which every surface is encrusted with shells, quartz and the local rock crystal known as Bristol diamonds. It has a cave guarded by two stone lions and a pool fed by a sloping cascade, at the higher, eastern end of which is a top-lit figure of Neptune. The tunnel, which runs for some 30m southward under the terrace, is lined with furnace slag and at its southern end has an arched entrance set into the terrace wall. The grotto was supplied with water raised by a steam-engine housed in a Gothic prospect tower (1764, listed grade II*) which stands on the terrace, some 20m east of the north entrance to the grotto, and 90m south of the house. The three storey tower is of red sandstone rubble with limestone dressings, with Gothic pinnacles on a parapet and narrow Gothic windows on each storey. Beside the terrace walk and above the grotto, is a statue of Hercules on a plinth (1758, listed grade II*), 8m south-west of the tower.

South of and below the terrace is a sloping lawn, with a range of late-C19 glasshouses attached to the terrace's south wall, and an C18 London plane to the east. This area was occupied in the mid-C18 by a poultry garden, a vineyard at the western end, and a paddock at the eastern. The lawn slopes downward some 50m to a rubble wall on top of a substantial retaining wall running the width of the garden. Steps descend to a third level via a gateway with brick piers roughly in the centre of the wall. This comprises to the east a communal garden for Randall Road, on land which was part of the Goldney estate to the mid 1850s but outside the site here registered, and to the west a lawn, separated from housing on Ambra Vale East by a belt of self-sown trees and a 2.5m high rubble wall. The two parts of this lower level are separated by a 1.5m high rubble and brick wall.

KITCHEN GARDEN East of the canal and separated from the main garden by a hedge is the kitchen garden, 50m south-east of the house. It is accessed via the serpentine tufa-lined path which runs around the southern end of the canal and enters the garden via an iron gate between two brick piers. Tennis courts occupy the northern part, while to the south fruit trees have been planted in recent years (late C20). The kitchen garden is slightly lower than the lawn and canal to the west; the hedge that divides the two stands on a 1m-high retaining wall.


Country Life, vol. 104 (1948), pp 278-81; 328-31 N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (1979), pp 446-47 R Savage, 'Natural History of the Goldney Garden Grotto, Clifton, Bristol', Garden History, 17:1 (1989) pp 1-40 P K Stembridge, Thomas Goldney's Garden, 1996 P K Stembridge, The Goldney Family: a Bristol Merchant Dynasty, Bristol Record Society's Publications XLIX (1998)

MAPS OS 6" to 1 mile: 3rd edition, 1936, Gloucestershire sheet LXXI.SE OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition, surveyed 1884, published 1886, Gloucestershire sheet LXXV.4 OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition, 1903, Gloucestershire sheet LXXV.4 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition, 1885, Gloucestershire sheet LXXI.16 OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition, 1918, Gloucestershire sheet LXXI.16 OS 10" to 1 mile, 1886, Gloucestershire sheet LXX1.16.22. Estate map, c1856 (Bristol Record Office) G.C. Ashmead, Plan of the City of Bristol, 1828 (Bristol Record Office) Clifton parish tithe map, 1844 (Bristol Record Office) Survey of the Manor of Clifton, 1846 (Society of Merchant Venturers) GC Ashmead & Sons, map of Bristol, 1855 (Bristol Record Office) Ashmead, map of Bristol, c1872 (Bristol Record Office)

ILLUSTRATIONS S H Grimm, Goldney, the rotunda and bastion from the west, 1788 (British Library)

ARCHIVAL ITEMS Thomas Goldney, 'Garden Book', begun 1736, University of Bristol Debois Landscape Survey Group, 'A Survey of the Landscape of Goldney House, Bristol', 1990

Description written: December 2002 Register inspector: DAL

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: ST 57401 72734


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1000444 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 22-Apr-2018 at 02:19:55.

End of official listing