Margaret Evans  Porter

Bristol and Clifton

Bristol & Clifton

My connection to Bristol, the major city of the West of England, and Clifton, its lovely suburb on the heights, has lasted for more two decades. For a number of years my husband's consultancy was based in Clifton, so we spent considerable time there, forging friendships and becoming familiar with the surrounding area.

Bristol's 18th century prosperity was based upon shipping, glass manufacturing, distilleries (Harvey's Bristol Cream, for example), and the slave trade (until abolished)

Bristol blue glass.

The city retains its Georgian character to a remarkable degree. Bristol Hotwells was a famous and fashionable spa.

The theatre established in the 1760's was yoked with the Bath theatre. Now the Bristol Old Vic, it retains many of the features of an 18th century theatre. Its other claim to fame is serving as a training ground for nearly all the most renowned British stage and screen actors.

The Art Museum is fantastic. I always enjoy my visits.

Clifton's development was delayed, largely due to its location high on the downs. It offered a spectacual vista over the Avon Gorge--to the 18th and 19th century visitor, among Britain's greatest natural wonders. Fanny Burney set part of her novel Evelina at Hotwells and Clifton.

Eventually, crescents and terraces were constructed to take advantage of the pure air and the health-giving spring waters. With Clifton's rising popularity, Hotwells began to decline.

In 1798, Humphry Davy wrote this description: "Clifton is situated at the top of a hil commanding a view of Bristol and its neighbourhood, conveniently elevated about the dirt and noise of the city. Here are houes, rocks, woods, town and country in one small spot; and beneath the sweetly flowing Avon, so celebrated by the poets. Indeed, there can hardly be a more beautiful spot."

Clifton and its view

For similar reasons, Jane Austen gretly preferred Clifton to Bath, where her family chose to live. She stayed there in July of 1806, and later wrote to sister Cassandra, "It is two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape."

When there, did she visit the Assembly Rooms, later immortalised by Brisolian and painter Rolinda Sharples? The artist is also responsible for a charming scene depicting the Clifton Races on the Downs. The Royal York Crescent, the largest terrace row in Europe, was completed, and by Victorian times Clifton was even more fully developed and populated.

A portion of my novel The Proposal takes place in Clifton, in a house much like this one:

Clifton's most famous landmark is the Suspension Bridge spanning the Gorge, leading to Leigh Woods where we now stay.

A deer family lives in the garden. I shot both photos from my bedroom window!