BRUNEL HOUSE, ATTACHED FRONT RAILINGS, AND REAR HORSE BAZAAR STRUCTURE
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- BRUNEL HOUSE AND ATTACHED FRONT AREA RAILINGS, ST GEORGES ROAD, BRISTOL, BS1 5UY
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- Statutory Address:
- BRUNEL HOUSE AND ATTACHED FRONT AREA RAILINGS, ST GEORGES ROAD, BRISTOL, BS1 5UY
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- City of Bristol (Unitary Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
An early-C19 hotel facade with railings and an associated horse bazaar structure to the rear, by R.S. Pope and I.K. Brunel.
Reasons for Designation
Brunel House, attached front railings and horse bazaar, St Georges Street, Bristol, an early C19 hotel façade by R. S. Pope and I.K. Brunel, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: Brunel House has a strong presence on the streetscene and is a confident articulation of Classical themes. The horse bazaar is of impressive scale with monumental brick and stone elevations, its design signifies the importance of the horse trade in the mid-C19 commercial life in Bristol; * Historical and Design Interest: R.S. Pope was a highly-skilled architect of note, and a number of his buildings in Bristol are listed. The work of I.K. Brunel as an engineer and as a designer is widely regarded as exemplary and often of national and international significance; * Rarity: non-railway designs associated with Brunel are rare, as are horse bazaar structures; * Date: it was one of the first purpose built hotels to have an architect designed façade. The horse bazaar was constructed circa 1840, which is relatively early for a commercial building; * Alterations: while the hotel has been replaced, the façade was carefully preserved during the redevelopment works and its largely unaltered. A significant proportion of the C19 horse bazaar fabric remains unaltered, although the structure was strengthened with concrete in the late C20, which was required to secure it from collapse.
Brunel House stands at the foot of Brandon Hill, to the north of Bristol Cathedral and its associated College Green. The steep hillside behind it appears to have been quarried out and supported by retaining walls by 1673, as shown on a map by John Millerd’s Map of Bristol. The buildings that are shown on the site mark. One of the buildings has formal gardens bounded by substantial looking retaining walls. Close to this building group the map is marked “Water house”, indicating a link with the site further uphill marked “A Conduit head”. Buildings, gardens and retaining walls are also shown at this location on the Rocque Map of 1750. Alderman John Noble was in residence in 1794, and he sold a building to his butler John Reeve, who converted it into a hotel which opened in June 1807. The rear of Reeve’s Hotel and neighbouring dwellings are shown on a watercolour of 1826 by Samuel Jackson.
Ashmead’s Map of 1828 shows Reeves Hotel on College Place (later renamed St Georges Street). Adjoining the hotel to the north-west is a narrow yard that was probably lined with stabling for carriages, and possibly associated with the “Horse Bazaar” on the neighbouring site accessed via Boar’s Head Yard. Horse bazaars were once common in urban settlements as places to display horses and carriages for sale (not to be confused with open air ‘horsefairs’). In 1831, contemporary accounts state that the Dragoon guards deployed in Bristol to quell the riots were billeted at either the Horse Bazaar or at the Reeves Hotel itself. In 1836, the Reeves Family Hotel and Tavern was bought by William Rogers, the owner of the coach-building works next door. A year later, Rogers engaged the prolific local architect and City Surveyor Richard Shackleton Pope to design a new façade for the hotel and replace, or make improvements to, the existing buildings.
Re-named as The Great Western Steamship Hotel, it opened on 18 April 1839 as a vital component of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s visionary scheme to provide an integrated route of travel between London and New York via his Great Western Railway and Great Western steamship. The impressive neo-classical façade was the showpiece of one of England’s earliest hotels to be given a full architectural treatment, and sketches by Brunel indicate that he designed the carriage arches to each side of the façade. The right archway led into an integral carriage drive forming a 200ft long Horse Bazaar or Bazaar Ride, an expanded variation of that shown on the map of 1828, and which would have provided covered access to the hotel for its customers. However, Brunel’s transatlantic scheme did not come to fruition and the hotel, by this time called the Royal Western Hotel, closed in 1855. A map of that indicates that there may have been access between the Bazaar Ride and the neighbouring earlier Horse Bazaar at Boar’s Head Yard.
Sometime after the closure of the hotel it reopened as a Turkish baths, as shown on the Ashmead Map of 1874. The map shows the depth of the hotel had been truncated, and by the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1885 this part of the building is shown as stabling. It is thought that the stabling was linked to the coach works next door by a ramp. By the time of the Second Edition in 1903 the stables had reverted to use by the hotel. By the 1920s, The Turkish Baths and Hydro was advertised thus: “The Hydro is not a Nursing Home but an Hotel for Visitors and those who wish for Rest and Special Attention. Turkish Baths or Treatment optional.” During the interwar period, the owner Dr Arthur T. Spoor laid out spectacular “hanging gardens” at the northern end of the Bazaar Ride, adapting the ‘amphitheatre’. During or shortly after the Second World War, the Bazaar Ride, which has been used as a paper warehouse, was largely destroyed by fire. The hotel was renamed Brunel House in 1949 and a new owner gained permission to convert it partly to office use.
Following continued commercial use, the site was redeveloped by the Co-operative Insurance Society Limited in 1982-84. The former hotel was demolished and the façade retained. New office accommodation was built and the amphitheatre restored to form a hanging garden and open space. A sculpture celebrating the site’s horse-related history was commissioned by Bristol City Council, who occupied the buildings in the late C20 and early C21. Boar’s Head Yard was redeveloped as Dean’s Court in the late C20.
A hotel of 1837-39, by R.S. Pope with I.K. Brunel. Rebuilt behind the facade 1982-84 by Alec French Partnership, and associated features to the rear altered in the mid-late C20.
MATERIALS: limestone ashlar to the facade. The offices behind are constructed of modern materials with some brick cladding. The Horse Bazaar is constructed of rubble stone with some brick openings and concrete adaptation and strengthening.
DESCRIPTION: a Neoclassical façade of four storeys. A wide, symmetrical, fifteen-window front with projecting single-window pavilions set one window in from the ends, and linked by a two-storey, fluted, Ionic colonnade with a full-width entablature, and a banded ground floor. The middle five upper windows break forward, with an attached giant tetrastyle in antis Corinthian colonnade and raised parapet. The pavilions have open two-storey semi-circular carriage arches with imposts, keys and radiating voussoirs, and wrought-iron two-leaf gates swept down to the middle. Above is a distyle-in-antis attached porch, and also to the central bays. Behind the colonnade are segmental-headed ground-floor windows. The other openings have architraves, eared on the upper floors, to 6/6-pane sashes. The late-C20 offices* are of five storeys and have open-plan areas, stairs and lifts.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are attached, wrought-iron, spike-headed railings and gates along the colonnade. To the rear right, through the carriage arch, is the remaining structure of the Bazaar Ride and Horse Bazaar. This comprises a tall brick and stone boundary wall with buttresses and evidence of rebuilding in some areas. It connects with a tall semi-circular north end, an amphitheatre, surrounding a late-C20 garden. The structure is principally built of local stone with some brick and concrete repair. Doorway and window openings have been reinforced in concrete. At upper level a walkway extends behind the amphitheatre, following its curve. Window openings with brick surrounds and stone cills are spaced across the upper level. The wall has coping stones and at the north end are brick lined apertures linking to the ground floor openings. A tall back wall curves along the walkway. It is a retaining wall of stone that extends as high as the gardens of Great George Street to the north. There are spaced joist holes in the back, some opposing the window openings. The back wall has an extreme batter along its curve. The length of the west side of the walkway is interspersed with inserted concrete beams between the front and rear walls. Halfway along the walkway are three small steps, and at the north end is a late-C20 steel gate and steel railings to the openings. In the centre of the garden, which was adapted in the early 1980s, is a sculpture* of 1986, Horse and Man by Stephen Joyce.
* Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the office buildings of 1984, the adjoining brick and concrete parts of the historic structures, and the modern garden features and sculpture are not of special architectural or historic interest.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
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Books and journals
Foyle, A, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Bristol, (2004), 198
Gomme, A H, Jenner, M, Little, B D G, Bristol, An Architectural History, (1979), 239
Leech, Roger, The Town House in Medieval and Early Modern Bristol, (2014), 51 & 167
A Geometrical Plan of the City and Suburbs of Bristol, John Rocque, 1742
An exact delineation of the famous citty of Bristoll and suburbs, Jacobus Millerd, 1673
Map of the City and Borough of Bristol, George Ashmead, 1855
Map of the City and Borough of Bristol, George Ashmead, 1871
Plan of the City of Bristol and its Suburbs, George Ashmead & John Plumley, 1828
Press release on behalf of owners of Brunel House, Golley Slater Public Relations, 1984
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing