16 Nov 2020
A quick lunchtime jaunt to Dowry Square, which is very close to me but, being effectively a cul-de-sac as well as a square, I've probably only circumnavigated a couple of times in the last couple of decades.
The Bristol Hotwell was, of course, much smaller than the neighbouring spa of Bath, and it was in no sense a rival but rather a supplementary cure, for many people combined visits to the two resorts. After 1785 the Hotwell imitated Bath by appointing a Master of Ceremonies, "William Pennington Esquire," who wore a gold medallion strung on a blue ribbon to emphasise the dignity of his office. In order to preserve decorum in the public entertainments he issued the following regulations:
06 Dec 2020
I wasn't really feeling it when I set out today, on my first car-assisted wander. By the time I'd parked on Alma Vale Road in Clifton it was just starting to rain and I picked my way about in quite a desultory way. It felt strange, as I was very familiar with the area because I'd walked through it hundreds of times when I worked at the top of Whiteladies Road, and used to walk up the hill from Hotwells and through Clifton to get there, and back again, every day.
Then a complete coincidence seemed to make the change I'd been hoping for. I was standing taking a photo of Christ in the front garden of All Saints church when a couple of people walked out of the front door. I got talking with a lady I took to be part of the ministerial team, who invited me to come in and look around—something I'd always wanted to do on the morning commute. (I think we connected a bit when I recognised the name John Piper, who did the amazing windows—I learned about him while I was at Warwick, through his connections to Coventry Cathedral.
I left with much more of a spring in my step, wandered around the area a bit more, finally working out that the tennis courts I used to pass every morning are those of Clifton Lawn Tennis Club, and finally grabbing an excellent Hungarian sausage hot dog from the Budapest Cafe. I feel a lot better now than I did before I went out.
23 Nov 2020
I've just got to the bit in Fanny Burney's Evelina where our eponymous heroine visit a grand house on Clifton Hill during her stay in Hotwells. It was interesting to wonder if it could be any of the places I passed in my lunchtime jaunt, which took in both Clifton Hill and Lower Clifton Hill.
From Evelina (1778):
"Yes, Ma'am; his Lordship is coming with her. I have had certain information. They are to be at the Honourable Mrs. Beaumont's. She is a relation of my Lord's, and has a very fine house upon Clifton Hill."
Or Ainger and Smith. The latter sounds more like a detective agency, I feel.
My historical research took a wander underground recently, partly inspired by the Canynge Square sinkhole, partly by St Vincent's (Ghyston's) cave and its tunnel to the Observatory, and I was surprised to find that there might be an intact tunnel from the Bristol Port Railway and Pier still just sitting there under Bridge Valley Road. A quick search turned up this recent video by an intrepid explorer, so it's definitely still there.
I went looking for the entrances today, and definitely found the south entrance, at the start of the Bridge Valley Path, the footpath that starts with steps at the bottom of Bridge Valley Road. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it. I think I've figured out where the north entrance is, too, but it was getting dark at that stage and the Portway was still busy enough that crossing the road was still the normal nuisance, so I thought I'd leave further explorations for another day.