Use Places & People to search over 6,600 parks and gardens in the UK and 2,100 biographies of people associated with them. Image location: Bedgebury National Pinetum

Learn about the rich heritage of parks and gardens in Topics.
Image location: Powis Castle

Follow News & Events, updated regularly with the latest information affecting historic parks and gardens. Image location: Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Visit the Schools for ideas and activities to encourage the interest of children and young people in their local parks. Image location: Trentham

Join us as a volunteer and Research & Record historic parks and gardens in your area.
Image location: Cirencester Abbey

View the Illustrated Glossary which provides definitions and accompanying images for terms and concepts associated with historic parks and gardens. Image location: Pannett Park

The Goldney family first came to Bristol in 1637 when Thomas Goldney I, son of a prosperous clothier, was apprenticed to a Bristol grocer. After leasing Goldney House in 1694, his son Thomas Goldney II bought it in 1705.

Thomas Goldney II was a successful Quaker businessman with investments in trade and in Abraham Darby's iron works at Coalbrookdale. In the 1720s the house was partly rebuilt and extended. When Thomas Goldney II died in 1731 his son Thomas Goldney III continued the family business.

In 1732 Thomas Goldney began to expand the estate by buying adjacent property, a house and land to the east. After a visit to the garden in 1735 a visitor described it as being 'very fine with Walks, Greens, Waterworks, Summer Houses etc there were many Lemons and Orange Trees with fruit on them'. (Stembridge, 1996, see references). This probably describes the garden much as it was when Thomas Goldney inherited the estate.

In 1736 he began to keep a garden note book and started a programme of design and development of the garden, which continued until his death in 1768. He was much helped by his head gardener, Adam Sixsmith. The garden and grotto were much visited in Goldney's time. 

From 1768, the property was inherited in turn by Thomas's remaining three siblings - Hannah, Gabriel  and Ann. Then for some 60 years after Ann's death in 1794 the house was occupied by their Goldney cousins from Chippenham.

In 1857 some of the outer areas of the estate were sold. New roads and Victorian villas were built in the Clifton Wood area - Randall Road and Glentworth Road. Later, to the west and the south the Ambra Vale districts and Goldney Road and Avenue were laid out.

In 1864 the house and estate were bought by Lewis Fry of the local Quaker family. He engaged Alfred Waterhouse to alter the house. After Lewis Fry's death in 1921 George Wills, whose family were supporters of the University of Bristol, bought the house, intending that it should become a university hall of residence for men students. In 1909 the nearby Clifton Hill House had been opened for women students. However, this scheme was not approved, and the house was let for 10 years.

In 1932 his daughter, Margaret, and her husband Ellison Eberle bought the house from trustees and began an extensive restoration plan. Besides work on the new house, there was also work on the orangery, canal and grotto. Paths were also re-laid and additional greenhouses were built. In 1956, after Mrs Eberle's death, the house and garden were sold to Bristol University and became an annexe to Clifton Hill House. In 1969 the residential towers for 185 men and women students were built and Goldney was established as an independent hall of residence. Some 30 years later, this has been remodelled and extended.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):



In 1694 Thomas Goldney II, son of a successful Quaker grocer, leased a gentleman’s house and garden on Clifton Hill. In the late 17th century, Clifton was a small village of some 200 inhabitants, separate from the city of Bristol, which was beginning to attract city dwellers in search of cleaner surroundings. Goldney purchased the property in 1705 and had the house rebuilt between 1722 and 1728. After his death in 1731, the property was inherited by his son Thomas Goldney III who, over the next seventeen years, gradually acquired additional parcels of land on which he developed the garden until his death in 1768. The property was inherited by his brother, Gabriel (d 1782), who appears to have made no significant changes to the garden. It passed to his sister Ann, who died in 1796 (Stembridge, 1996). After her death it was inherited by cousins but, after a dispute over the will of another Thomas Goldney in 1856, parts of the grounds were sold off for residential development before the house and the remnant of the estate were acquired in 1864 by Lewis Fry of the Quaker family of chocolate manufacturers.

Fry commissioned Alfred Waterhouse to remodel the house, 1864-65. After Fry’s death in 1921 the house was bought by Sir George Wills, who let it, before his daughter Elizabeth took it over in 1932 with her husband Ellison Eberle. They carried out an extensive programme of repairs to house and garden (Country Life, 1948). In 1956, after his wife’s death, Eberle sold the property to the University of Bristol. It was converted it to a hall of residence which it has remained. In 1969, the University constructed student accommodation blocks on Hill Close, south-west of the house, and these were redeveloped and extended in the mid-1990s.

People associated with this site

Designer: George Tully (died 1770)

Architect: Alfred Waterhouse (born 19/07/1830 died 22/09/1905)



Feature created: 1730

The orangery dates to around 1730. It was re-fronted in 1933 and the glass roof was replaced by a slate one. It is made of red brick and is a single storey building.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

garden building

Feature created: 1725

Clifton Wood House stables.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II


Feature created: 1967 to 1969

Three four storey tower blocks were built for University of Bristol student acconmodation. These are on the site of the west paddock.

tennis lawn

Tennis court.


This is the site of Clifton Wood House garden.


There is a sunken walk and rock garden which curves down to the lawn and the tennis court.

artificial mound

The mound is to the west of the grotto entrance. There are steps, and a holly and yew on the top.


The parterre is between the canal and the orangery. It is planted with herbs and edged in box. In the 1940s it was a rose garden.


The site of the original vegetable garden is now rough grass.


There is a modern greenhouse adjoining the terrace wall.


There is a paddock between the terrace and the site of the old vegetable garden.


The west walk extends from the simple formal garden at the west of the house down to the Corinthian columns opening onto the terrace. There is a herbaceous border, stone wall and balustrade.


The 'Olde Worlde Garden'. This area, enclosed by a high perimeter stone wall, is now stocked with plants which would have been available in the 18th century. Along with the adjoining tennis court and lawn this was the site of the original fruit garden. In the 1940s it was the vegetable garden.


Feature created: 1725

Clifton Wood House.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II


Feature created: After 1753

There is a terraced walk extending to 120 metres. It required a 1.5 metre thick wall as support. There is a cedar and a statue of a lion at the east end.


There are 7 pairs of yews forming an avenue on the main axis of the design.


Feature created: 1758

There is a stone statue on the terrace. It is a figure of Hercules armed with a club, standing on a stone pedestal.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II


Feature created: 1720 to 1865

Creator: Alfred Waterhouse (born 19/07/1830 died 22/09/1905)

There is a pair of stone Corinthian columns. These are probably from the original doorway to the south front (built around 1720). They were erected as a garden feature by Waterhouse around 1865.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

ornamental canal

Feature created: 1758 to 1759

Creator: Alfred Waterhouse (born 19/07/1830 died 22/09/1905)

The rectangular pool was built from 1758-59. The Triton fountain and stone figure ('The Old Quaker') at the south end were added during the period of the Waterhouse alterations around 1865. At the southern end is a small enclosed collection of plants where the canal goes underground.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II


Feature created: 1764

This is a four storey red sandstone tower built in the Gothic style. It was built to house the 'fire engine' which pumped water from a well to supply the grotto and the original fountains in the canal. The steam engine was a product of Coalbrookdale.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*


Feature created: 1757

The rotunda is in the form of a Gothic gazebo based on Batty Langley designs. It was erected in 1757 at the change of level between the terrace and bastion. It has a Jacobean style crenellated parapet. The original colonnade was removed in the early 19th century.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II


Feature created: 1748

There is a bastion and connecting wall with the rotunda.


Feature created: 1737 to 1764

The grotto has a pillared hall, rock pool and 'Lions' den'. The interior is encrusted with British rocks of all types, but especially quartz and the so-called 'Bristol diamonds'. There are also shells brought back from the West Indies and the Far East. A statue of Neptune holding a pitcher can be seen through a tunnel down which water cascades into the grotto pool. The passage extends under the terrace and emerges into the paddock. The grotto is considered to be of high quality, though vandalised in the 1980s.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade I