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Goldney Hall (also known as Goldney Hall)


This is an asymmetrical formal garden layout with buildings extending to around 1.6 hectares.

The gardens can be hired for events and also have specific open days for the public to visit. Please check the website for details.

The main entrance to the garden is through the porch and hall of Goldney House, to a good view southwards down the main axis of the design towards the terrace. The much-reduced area of the modern garden is very roughly triangular, and includes most of the 18th century features, with the rotunda and bastion projecting from the south west corner at the end of the terrace.

The central area consists of a yew avenue which leads to the grotto entrance below the great terrace; this runs at right angles to the central axis. The canal is parallel to the avenue on the east and on an axis south from the orangery. Further east, beyond a high hedge was probably the original kitchen garden, an orchard and wall fruit. In the later 20th century it was hoped to plant the section north of the tennis court with plants similar to those grown in Goldney's garden. This was not really viable and is now called the Old World Garden. South of the tennis court fruit trees have been planted.

From the terrace and bastion there were views across the Avon and towards the city, a prospect commented on by 18th century visitors. Housing development and the growth of trees now impede most of this. A paddock slopes steeply down from the terrace to a boundary wall and the area of the 20th century vegetable garden. The nine residential towers are situated beyond the west walk on former meadow land leased by Goldney to protect the western side of his garden. The most recent extensions mean that they impinge more than formerly on this walk and the bastion.

In the south east corner is a gardeners' bothy. Also to the south east, beyond Goldney garden boundary, are a mid-18th centuy stable block and the once handsome early 18th century Clifton Wood House, owned as part of the Goldney estate for some 250 years, but not part of Goldney garden. Goldney grounds are maintained by University of Bristol gardeners. In January 1984 the grotto was vandalised, shells and 'Bristol diamonds' being broken off. Restoration and other repair work was carried out by Simon Verity and Diana Reynell, experts in grotto restoration.

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):

A mid-18th century merchant’s villa garden with subterranean grotto and bastion overlooking Bristol harbour.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Goldney House and garden occupy a site of c 1.6ha., located on the brow of Clifton Hill, c 1.5km west of the centre of Bristol. The northern boundary is formed by Clifton Hill, a public highway. To the west the registered site is bounded by Goldney Lane, and to the east by Clifton Wood Road, both public roads which descend steep hills to the south. The southern boundary is formed at the eastern end by a communal garden, on the north side of Randall Road, 200m south of the house, and by a Pennant sandstone rubble wall running west to Goldney Lane along the north side of properties on Ambra Vale East. The garden runs from the house, southward to a terrace some 100m south of the house, then steeply south towards the suburb of Clifton Wood and Bristol Harbour, over which there are long views south-west to the Avon valley and the hills of Ashton Court, Avon (qv) beyond. Goldney House and garden are surrounded by the Bristol suburb of Clifton.

Entrances and Approaches

The garden is approached through the house, the main entrance door of which is on Lower Clifton Hill. A door on the south front of the house opens directly into the garden. A carriage entrance, 30m east of the house along Lower Clifton Hill, is via a gateway, attached to former stables, with ashlar piers with ball finials (early C18, listed grade II) in a 2m high rubble wall. This wall curves for 20m south-east, and then a curved brick wall runs c 40m to Constitution Hill. A door in the garden wall fronting Clifton Wood Road, 100m east of the house, provides pedestrian access into the former kitchen gardens laid out east of the main garden.

Principal Building

Goldney House (listed grade II) is built of limestone ashlar with a slate hipped roof. Its early Georgian origins are visible despite C19 alterations including a stair tower to the east. It is located close to the north boundary of the registered site. The house dates from c1720 when Thomas Goldney II had an earlier villa residence rebuilt, possibly to designs by George Tulley. It was encased, altered and extended by Alfred Waterhouse in a Second Empire style, 1864-65. His tower has four stages, a pyramidal roof and a wrought-iron widow's walk. The south, garden front retains a 7 bay symmetrical Georgian design with a central door, although the sash windows are now of C19 plate glass.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The principal garden extends the width of the south front, c 60m from east to west. Immediately south of the house is a lawn, c100m long, which is the probable site of Goldney's `Fountain garden' (1739). On the west side it is bounded by a 2.5m rubble wall, which separates it from student accommodation blocks (1960s and 1990s) in Hill Close. At the southern end of this wall, c 100m south of the house, stands a pair of Corinthian columns (listed grade II) taken from a c 1720 doorway and repositioned here by Waterhouse, 1864-65. The principal planted feature is an axial yew walk that bisects the lawn and runs south from the central door of the house to the entrance of a grotto (date, listed grade I). There are seven pairs of yews, 8m apart in the row in a 9m wide avenue, which may have been part of a union-jack pattern of formal planting shown on the 1746 survey of the Manor of Clifton. On the west side of the entrance to the grotto is a mount planted with holly and yew, which may be the `Hawthorn Mount¿ referred to by Goldney in his Garden Book (Stembridge, 1998)

Parallel to, and 10m east of the yew walk, on the east side of the garden, is a stone-lined canal (1758-59, listed grade II*), 30m long and 4m wide, with a central C19 fountain of tritons supporting a shell. At the canal's northern end is a C20 parterre and an orangery (c1730, re-fronted 1933, listed grade II*). At its southern end is a raised bank behind which is a sunken, serpentine footpath, lined with tufa, leading for some 20m eastwards from the main lawn to the kitchen garden.

At right angles to the yew walk axis is a terrace walk, c 100m south of the house, which was built up over the grotto shell and finished by 1755 (Stembridge, 1996). This stretches c 120m from an eastern point at the southern end of the canal to terminate at a rotunda (Goldney, 1757, listed), 110m south-west of the house, at the western end. The rotunda is glazed on two sides commanding views to the south and south-west and was originally surrounded by a colonnade, removed c date.

West of the rotunda and below the level of the terrace, is a stone bastion, which runs a further 45m west (mid C18, rotunda, bastion and connecting wall group-listed grade II*). This is a buttressed retaining wall with a grass walk on top which ends in a round-ended viewing point, designed to command views south and west, now obscured by two C19 horse chestnuts and a beech tree on a lawn immediately south-west of the bastion. Although not shown on the 1746 survey of the Manor of Clifton, the bastion, or an early version of it, is referred to by Goldney in 1748 (Stembridge 1998)

The grotto appears to have been among the first works undertaken by Goldney. He began with a tunnel that runs southward from the main chamber under the terrace. The tunnel was finished in 1737, in which year work also began on the main grotto chamber. Goldney appears to have started work on the decorating of the grotto from about 1739, the date is set into the shell work and also the date when Goldney noted that he had `cover'd and finish'd ye shell of ye Grotto', and continued until 1764.

The grotto's principal approach is from the north, via steps at the end of the Yew walk which descend to a Gothic door with flanking trefoil-headed windows to either side and an octofoil window above. Either side of the main façade are tufa-lined arches, to the east giving access to the upper part of the grotto, to the west leading into the main chamber by a curved tunnel. The main chamber is a pillared hall, in which every surface is encrusted with shells, quartz and the local rock crystal known as Bristol diamonds. It has a cave guarded by two stone lions and a pool fed by a sloping cascade, at the higher, eastern end of which is a top-lit figure of Neptune. The tunnel, which runs for some 30m southward un

der the terrace, is lined with furnace slag and at its southern end has an arched entrance set into the terrace wall. The grotto was supplied with water raised by a steam-engine housed in a Gothic prospect tower (1764, listed grade II*) which stands on the terrace, some 20m east of the north entrance to the grotto, and 90m south of the house. The three storey tower is of red sandstone rubble with limestone dressings, with Gothic pinnacles on a parapet and narrow Gothic windows on each storey. Beside the terrace walk and above the grotto, is a statue of Hercules on a plinth (1758, listed grade II*), 8m south-west of the tower.

South of and below the terrace is a sloping lawn, with a range of late-C19 glasshouses attached to the terrace's south wall, and an C18 London plane to the east. This area was occupied in the mid-C18 by a poultry garden, a vineyard at the western end, and a paddock at the eastern. The lawn slopes downward some 50m to a rubble wall on top of a substantial retaining wall running the width of the garden. Steps descend to a third level via a gateway with brick piers roughly in the centre of the wall. This comprises to the east a communal garden for Randall Road, on land which was part of the Goldney estate to the mid 1850s but outside the site here registered, and to the west a lawn, separated from housing on Ambra Vale East by a belt of self-sown trees and a 2.5m high rubble wall. The two parts of this lower level are separated by a 1.5m high rubble and brick wall.

Kitchen Garden

East of the canal and separated from the main garden by a hedge is the kitchen garden, 50m south-east of the house. It is accessed via the serpentine tufa-lined path which runs around the southern end of the canal and enters the garden via an iron gate between two brick piers. Tennis courts occupy the northern part, while to the south fruit trees have been planted in recent years (late C20). The kitchen garden is slightly lower than the lawn and canal to the west; the hedge that divides the two stands on a 1m-high retaining wall.


Country Life, vol. 104 (1948), pp 278-81; 328-31

N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (1979), pp 446-47

R Savage, ‘Natural History of the Goldney Garden Grotto, Clifton, Bristol’, Garden History, 17:1 (1989) pp 1-40

P K Stembridge, Thomas Goldney's Garden, 1996

P K Stembridge, The Goldney Family: a Bristol Merchant Dynasty, Bristol Record Society, Vol. LIX (1998)

Description written: December 2002

Register inspector: DAL

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The gardens have infrequent open days, but no regular opening times.


Top of Clifton Hill, Bristol


The University of Bristol

Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1TH

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.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area

  • Reference: Clifton
  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1412
  • Grade: II*
  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Goldney House
  • Grade: II




  • Town House (featured building)
  • Description: Goldney House is one of a group of substantial town houses built during the first half of the 18th century at the south-east end of Clifton Hill. It was built around 1720, probably by George Tully. This building may have incorporated part of the earlier house of 1694. It was almost completely altered and extended by Alfred Waterhouse in 1864-5. He added a substantial tower. The south front is entirely built by Waterhouse, with a covered way to the street entrance.
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  • Orangery
  • Description: 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.
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  • Ornamental Canal
  • Description: 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.
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  • Statue
  • Description: There is a stone statue on the terrace. It is a figure of Hercules armed with a club, standing on a stone pedestal.
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  • Column
  • Description: 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.
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  • Grotto
  • Description: 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.
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  • Tower
  • Description: 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.
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  • Rotunda
  • Description: 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.
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  • Bastion
  • Description: There is a bastion and connecting wall with the rotunda.
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  • Terrace
  • Description: 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.
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  • Avenue
  • Description: There are 7 pairs of yews forming an avenue on the main axis of the design.
  • Artificial Mound
  • Description: The mound is to the west of the grotto entrance. There are steps, and a holly and yew on the top.
  • Parterre
  • Description: 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.
  • Potager
  • Description: The site of the original vegetable garden is now rough grass.
  • Greenhouse
  • Description: There is a modern greenhouse adjoining the terrace wall.
  • Lawn
  • Description: There is a paddock between the terrace and the site of the old vegetable garden.
  • Walk
  • Description: 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.
  • Planting
  • Description: 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.
  • Building
  • Description: Clifton Wood House.
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  • Garden Building
  • Description: Clifton Wood House stables.
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  • Tower
  • Description: Three four storey tower blocks were built for University of Bristol student acconmodation. These are on the site of the west paddock.
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  • Tennis Lawn
  • Description: Tennis court.
  • Planting
  • Description: This is the site of Clifton Wood House garden.
  • Planting
  • Description: There is a sunken walk and rock garden which curves down to the lawn and the tennis court.
  • Formal garden
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public





  • P K Stembridge

  • Avon Gardens Trust

Related Documents
  • CLS 1/31/192

    Proposed Management Plan for Goldney House Garden - Hard copy

    University of Bristol - 1991

  • CLS 1/31/197

    Proposed Management Plan for Goldney House Garden, dated 8 Aug. 1991 - Hard copy

    University of Bristol, Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds - 1991