Bristol General Hospital


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Bristol General Hospital, Guinea Street, Bristol, BS1 6SY


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Statutory Address:
Bristol General Hospital, Guinea Street, Bristol, BS1 6SY

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:


Bristol General Infirmary, a late C19/early C20 group of hospital buildings by Gingell Crisp, Oatley and Lawrence.

Reasons for Designation

The former Bristol General Hospital, of 1853-5 with later additions, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: an eclectic complex of evolved hospital buildings incorporating high-quality Italianate and Edwardian Baroque styles * Architects: Gingell, Crisp and Oatley are well-regarded Bristol architects, with a number of listed buildings to their names, several at a higher grade; * Historic interest: founded in 1832, the hospital is an early response to the need for improved medical facilities within the growing city of Bristol * Intactness: despite alterations to meet changing hospital requirements, the complex has a good degree of survival; * Group value: as a good ensemble of hospital buildings, many of which are to a high architectural order, the complex has good group value.


Bristol General Hospital was founded in 1832 and established, with 20 beds, in converted premises in Guinea Street. These premises proved to be unsuitable, and in 1845 Joseph Eaton, a member of the Society of Friends, made an offer of £5000 towards a new purpose-built hospital, on condition that a further £10,000 was raised for the construction. The money had been secured by 1852 and a nearby site, formerly occupied by the Bathurst Ironworks, was purchased for the new hospital. Following a lengthy assessment process, the designs of William Bruce Gingell were accepted for the new building. Construction began in 1852 and was completed in 1856. It was considered ‘funcionally very advances with a fireproof construction,… elaborate heating and ventilation systems, speaking tubes and a steam powered lift’ (Crick).

Additional space was needed, however, and in 1873 the first extension was made by Henry Crisp; in 1888 construction began on new wing at the north-west corner of the site, also by Crisp. This matched the architectural treatment of the earlier block, and was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh, after whom it was named, in 1891. Nurses accommodation, designed by Crisp and his partner George Oatley, was added in 1895. A pathology department by Oatley was erected in 1898, with an isolation block and nurses accommodation to either side of the entrance onto Guinea Street added in 1907, this time to designs by Oatley & Lawrence. In 1914, a major addition to the site was completed with the construction and opening of a large new ward wing, the King Edward VII Wing, which contained medical, maternity and dental departments as well as accommodation for residents, students and night nurses. A laundry building, which replaced an earlier laundry on the site, also formed part of the 1912 extensions, with a chapel wing added to the main building in 1915. The last significant addition to the hospital complex was a new out-patients’ department in 1931. As with the 1907 isolation block, these later additions were also by Oatley & Lawrence.

The hospital suffered bomb damage during WWII which resulted in the loss of part of the mansard roof to Gingell’s hospital block and the distinctive ogee dome to the octagonal tower. The elegant balconies were subsequently removed. Bristol General Hospital will close in 2012 when the South Bristol Community Hospital opens and services currently provided at BGH transfer to the new hospital.

William Bruce Gingell (1819-99) is described as one of the most colourful and widely employed of Bristol’s Victorian architects (Gomme and Jenner). He was articled to a Bath practice, and aside from a couple of brief partnerships, worked on his own. He played a large part in shaping the appearance of the city, and so numerous were his commissions that inferiority began to creep into his later work. The commission for the hospital was won in his prime, however, and typifies his robust style. Henry Crisp (c1826-96) trained under Bristol architects Foster and Sons. He formed several partnerships, notably with EW Godwin in the early 1880s, and with Oatley in 1888 until his death. He was appointed president of the Bristol Society of Architects (BSA) in 1894.

Sir George Herbert Oatley (1863-1950) was one of the most accomplished architects working in Bristol in the late C19/early C20. A devout Christian, much of his work was undertaken on behalf of the well-known Non-Conformist families of the day such as the Wills, Robinsons and Frys, for whom he undertook a wide range of commissions. Oatley was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1899, later serving on its council from 1904 to 1906. Following Crisp’s death, Oatley continued the practice himself until 1902 when he took his brother-in-law, George Churchus Lawrence (1872-1938) into partnership. Lawrence was president of the BSA between 1919 and 1923, and vice president of the RIBA between 1928 and 1929. This partnership ended in 1936. Throughout his career Oatley designed a wide range of buildings including commercial premises, hospitals, private dwellings and most notably a range of buildings, commissioned by the Wills family, for Bristol University.

The significance of the group of architects is recognised through the designation of many of their buildings, frequently at high grades.


Hospital of 1852-5 by WB Gingell. Extended in 1873 and 1888 by Crisp, with further extensions in 1895, 1898, 1907, 1912-14, 1915 and 1931 by Crisp, Oatley and Lawrence.

MATERIALS: squared pitch-faced blue pennant stone with Bath stone dressings under slate mansard and gabled roofs with stone lateral and ridge stacks. Later additions, designed by Oatley, are reinforced concrete by Mouchel and Partners, with external walls constructed of concrete blocks made using the ‘Winget’ system on a metal frame.

PLAN: the hospital buildings are developed organically and are loosely arranged around a central courtyard with the principal entrance to the complex to the north, fronting onto Guinea Street flanked by a pair of entrance gates on blocked ashlar gate piers with ornate ‘lantern’ heads, supporting cast-iron carriage and pedestrian gates with palmette cresting each bearing the hospital arms and the dates of the establishment and erection of the hospital.

EXTERNAL: the principal hospital building is Italianate with a French Empire style roof. To the Lower Guinea Street and Guinea Street elevations it is of three stories set on a full-height rusticated basement of diminishing courses of rubble, punctuated by semicircular-arched entrances with rock-faced jambs, relieved by arcades of semicircular-arched windows between. The basement formerly extended the full length of Lower Guinea Street to Commercial Road to the south but was demolished in advance of the construction of the 1931 out-patients’ wards. The heaviness of the basement is relieved by the upper stories which are set back under coved eaves. Here the blue Pennant stone is set in random work with clasping rusticated Bath stone pilasters, bands and windows with keyed segmental arched heads and blocked jambs; fifteen bays to Lower Guinea Street and fourteen to Guinea Street. There is a projecting stair tower with Venetian windows to the Lower Guinea Street façade with a four storey octagonal tower to the right-hand corner with paired brackets to the eaves. A C20 steel and glass balcony has been erected on the Lower Guinea Street façade and the first floor has been extended with a glass and metal framed sun porch. The Crisp extension of 1873 turns the corner at the junction of Lower Guinea Street and Guinea Street, and matches the earlier building closely in style although here there are simple basket-arched windows to the basement, with the window design rising through the storeys from square headed; segmental; round arched to dormers under segmental arched pediments.

To the courtyard elevation, the hospital is of three storeys with square-headed windows with Bath stone Gibbs surrounds and Bath stone quoins. A C20 gently curved single storey entrance by Oatley has been added to right. Of concrete under a flat roof, the main entrance is to left flanked by blocked pilasters with ionic capitals and a single sash window to the porter’s room to right. A further three doors with three light square fanlights, one blocked, are located to right and have panelled doors in moulded architraves with heavy keystones. A C20 fire escape and enclosed walkway at second floor level have been added to the right of the south west corner. The position of the octagonal tower is marked by a small square tower which projects at second floor level over an arched recess. Projecting stair towers with Venetian windows are positioned immediately to either side, that to the right masked by the C20 walkway. A small porch with Roman Doric columns gives access to this range.

The CHAPEL, a gift of Mr Fenwick Richards, projects northwards at right angles into the courtyard from the southern range. Designed by Oatley and Lawrence, it is of Bath stone ashlar to first floor over a banded rusticated ground floor. There is an apsidal end to the north under a gabled roof with three round arched lancets at first floor and a blocked door to the ground floor. There are two Venetian windows flanking a large cartouche, carved by Gilbert Seale, bearing the date 1915 and the donor’s initials at first floor level to the east elevation over a shaped door surround at ground floor.

Extending southwards from the eastern end of the original hospital is the KING EDWARD VII WING of 1912-14. It comprises a single long range orientated north to south, connected to the earlier building by a short corridor, with an apsidal end with loggias (now infilled and glazed) to the south. A distinctive feature of the building was the flat roof of the wing which served as a garden for patients. The ground and first floors are rusticated with scored concrete above to resemble ashlar. The loggias at second and third floor have Doric columns on the second floor and Ionic to the third, the whole under a dentilled eaves. Each long side has a series of tall Italianate concrete ventilation/chimney stacks divided into two stages by round-headed entablatures. Each stack has timber louvres flanked by columns with Ionic capitals to the outer face of the lower stage and four linked chimney pots with recesses between to the upper stage. There is a sanitation block to the east elevation, beyond which is a shallow bay window at second floor which marks the position of the former large labour ward. The ground slopes steeply downwards at the northern end, exposing a basement storey.

The former PATHOLOGY LABORATORY lies to the north of the former laundry. Built to plans dated 1898, it has banded rustication to the ground floor with contrasting bands of blue pennant rubble and Bath stone above rising to a large pediment with a Diocletian window. A central panelled door set in a Gibbs surround with a heavy keystone, inscribed to either side with ‘PATHOLOGICAL DEPARTMENT’, gives access at ground floor. At first floor is a large central fixed window with narrower three-light windows to either side, all separated by blocked columns with Ionic capitals under an entablature with a plain frieze and dentilled cornice. The banded columns formerly rose through a further stage with an arcade of four round headed lights separated by banded pilasters rising to a shaped gable with ball finials to the apex and shoulders. Behind this formerly ran a long lantern giving light to the open hall below.

The ISOLATION BLOCK and former NURSES ACCOMMODATION of 1907 are positioned to the north of the site to either side of the Guinea Street Entrance. The isolation block consists of two distinct sections, connected centrally by a passage. Of blue pennant rubble with Bath stone dressings and a pierced parapet of interconnecting circles. Sanitary facilities were formerly provided in the two circular rusticated Bath stone turrets capped with ogee roofs to either side (east and west). There is an oriel window to first floor to the north elevation under a gablet with a Diocletion window below. Windows are a mixture of sash windows and metal casements, those to the west elevation at first floor having been altered to create a door to the C20 fire escape. Dwarf rubble walls with railings link this elevation with the gatepiers of the Guinea Street entrance.

To the Guinea Street elevation, the nurses accommodation has giant order rusticated Bath stone pilasters rising to a central pediment with oculus and swags over an oriel (of matching style to that of the isolation hospital) at first floor level. Pierced parapet. Windows are timber sashes and metal casements. The west entrance façade has a large four-light window to each floor over a central entrance doorway with segmental head and flanking windows under a projecting moulding; panelled door with a large glazed circular panel under a square fanlight.

INTERIOR: as is to be expected for buildings which have continued in use, the hospital has undergone considerable internal alteration to meet changing standards of care. There are, however, a number of features of note including three slender cast iron columns to the ground floor corridor giving access to the former surgeon’s consulting rooms and casualty wards; and the stair leading for the first floor wards which has a cast iron column newel with cast oval balusters. The former committee room, located on the ground floor within the octagonal tower also retains its compartmented ceiling and wood block flooring. The CHAPEL retains its restrained decoration including doors, window fittings, and a window with stained glass roundel bearing the arms of the hospital in memory of a former Matron at the hospital, Annie C Robins, with a commemorative plaque over the door in memory of Wilfred Martin Barclay, a former surgeon. The panelled doors and room numbers of the resident staff and student rooms to the third floor of the KING EDWARD VII building survive, although the rooms have otherwise been much altered. The PATHOLOGICAL DEPARTMENT retains its impressive queen post roof although the lantern which formerly lit the open hall (now subdivided) has been lost. Similarly the ISOLATION HOSPITAL has been considerably altered, although its plan is still legible. The NURSES ACCOMMODATION of 1907 perhaps has the best survivals internally retaining considerable joinery including its staircase, doors, windows and fire surrounds. It also retains some decorative stained glass to the stair windows.

The former Laundry of 1912, the Nurses Home of 1921 and the Out-Patients extension of 1931 are not of special interest.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the east, near the former Nurses Home of 1925, is a repositioned Portland stone fountain which formerly was located in the courtyard of the hospital. Funded by Joseph Storrs Fry, Treasurer of the Hospital, it was erected in 1906-7 and takes the form of a trefoil-shaped pool supporting a central pedastaled basin, all set on an octagonal plinth of three steps.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Crick, C , Victorian Buildings in Bristol, (1975), 36
Gomme, A H, Jenner, M, Little, B D G, Bristol, An Architectural History, (1979), 364
Whittingham, S, George Oatley: Architect of Bristol, (2011)
City & Country Group, The Bristol General Hospital: Heritage Statement, March 2012,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 07 Mar 2004
Reference: IOE01/11866/06
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Ian Garman. Source Historic England Archive
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