12 Nov 2020
My goal is walk down every public road within a mile of me; sometimes it's not easy to tell what's public. I've passed the turning for Cornwallis Grove a thousand times, but never had a reason to venture down it, and although the street signs at the end seem to be council-deployed and I didn't spot any "private" signs, it's a gated road and definitely feels private.
Gathering all the white middle-class privilege I could muster, I wandered down and was rewarded with the sight of a Victorian pump, a statue of Jesus, and from the end of the road, a view of a private garden that once belonged to a private girls' school.
The Cornwallis House history page says:
In the early 20th century the house, together with Grove House, became a Catholic school, St Joseph’s High School for Girls. The Congregation of La Retraite took over the school in 1924, with the nuns living in Grove House while the schoolrooms were in Cornwallis House. The headmistress was Mother St Paul de la Croix (Sister Paula Yerby). By the 1970s La Retraite High School had around 700 pupils.
It closed in 1982 and the building was bought by Pearce Homes Ltd (now part of Crest Nicholson) who developed it into 21 flats. Grove House next door was bought by the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, and was later converted into flats in 2007.
According to the history page on its website, it's been everything from the private residence of the wealthy nephew of a shipping agent who had a hand in the slave trade, to a Protestant nunnery and a Catholic school, St Joseph’s High School for Girls. It's now residential.
This is opposite Grove House, but I'm wondering if it might be a remnant of the adjacent Cornwallis House having been a Catholic girls' school or a Protestant nunnery. All I know is that I've walked past the end of this road a thousand times without knowing how close to Jesus I was.
Cornwallis House's extensive private garden, with the back of York Gardens serried at the top.
Got to be Victorian, right?