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Hollywood Tower


Hollywood Tower is a zoological reserve and breeding ground on the site of a Romantic landscape park. Construction of a National Wildlife Conservation Park on this site commenced in 2008 and it is now open to the public. This record was checked with South Gloucestershire Historic environment Records Officer - June 2010.

The woodland walks landscaping is in a wild, rustic, romantic style. The site is bounded to the north by ancient woodland known as Blackhorse Wood. It is also bounded on this side by a shallow moat-like structure. There is a water channel running down the slope north-west of the woods. There are signs of woodland paths creating a picturesque woodland walk, as it faces on this side towards the Severn and Welsh hills. There were also signs of a water cascade on the woodland slope. There are several ornamental ponds on the main estate containing goldfish.

There is an ornamental water garden known as Webb's Brake, which contains miniature lakes and Japanese-style stone arched bridges. When last surveyed, this area was slightly overgrown, but created a suitable environment for a nature reserve. Webb's Brake was a more informal part of the garden, a little abundance of bamboo, iris and shrubs. Viburnum, spindle berry, yew and rhododendron grew in this area. A tiny rustic summerhouse (child-size) had been constructed along side the miniature lakes. This was partly used for storing a child's punt boat. Part of Blackhorse Woods is on a steep slope, covered in bluebells.

Much of the early-19th century parkland survives, mainly consisting of conifers such as Scots Pine and dwarf conifer varieties. The folly tower is surrounded with Scots Pine still, though there used to be more of an abundance of the species around the tower in previous times. The folly tower is the main architectural garden feature of the estate and was constructed between 1848 and l854.

The estate takes its name from the abundance of holly that used to grow there. There is still part of an avenue of holly leading up to the main house and then running at right angles from the house towards the motorway. To the west of the estate there was a wood known as Hollyhill Wood. The kitchen garden is still intact. It has two green-houses, and vegetables are still grown as well as cordoned plums and gages.

The orchard area still contains some of the John Downie species, but has been planted up with Cypress, Scots Pine and a Blue Cedar and some Crab Apple also. It is no longer purely used as an orchard, fruit growing area. There were some herbaceous borders near the house. These have become shrubberies with some Dogwood species growing.

Though Hollywood Tower Estate is still a most pleasant landscaped garden, part of which was laid out in l8l4, the remainder in 1907, the Zoo have not preserved some of the historic features of the garden. The avenues of trees, pleached walks and the orchard have not been maintained. Priority is not given to the historic layout of the garden but to producing plants for animal feed and shrubs and saplings for re-stocking planting at the main Zoo. The kitchen garden houses cages for tigers, and giraffe and camel houses are dotted about the estate.

The buildings which were part of a model farm created in 1907 are still well-maintained. This area is situated at the east of the estate. The estate contains various species of animals such as okapi, tigers, camels and giraffes in the parkland.

An arboretum, an entrance access to the estate, a lodge house and part of the early-19th century landscape park has been destroyed by 20th-century developments. There is a motorway which cuts through part of the estate, and further damage was done during the laying of mains gas pipes.

The Zoo have not been entirely empathetic with preserving historic features. Overall, however, this is a pleasant historic garden, forming a refuge for wildlife, trees and greenery in an area which has become increasingly industrialised and taken over by developers for commercial purposes.

In the woodland both undergrowth and trees need thinning back. There are not enough staff to keep it well-maintained, and some woodland walks are completely overgrown. One path of woodland walk was passable but one picturesque early-19th century rustic summerhouse was in ruinous condition. Part of the woods are named Bluebells woods. This area has been more maintained than the rest and was covered in a carpet of bluebells. Rustic summerhouses were previously features of the woodland walks.

Moss grows in the woodland in abundance, as it is a moist sloping woodland with water draining down it to the field below. All the moss is collected for various uses at the main Bristol Zoo, such as lining hanging baskets.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts



Access contact details

The site is now part of Bristol Zoo's Wild Place Project and is open daily from 10am to 5pm.


Bristol and Clifton Zoological Society

Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA

The name of this fine estate is derived partly from the vigorous growth of holly noticeable on the high plateau and partly from the look-out tower built within the estate. The tower is a mid-19th century folly.

As late as the 1950s this estate was described in more favourable terms than the Ashton Court Estate, a garden which is now on the National List. It was then in a better state of maintenance and preservation. It was at first the home of Sir John Davis, a diplomatist and governor of Hong Kong. After ownership by Sir John P. Davis, Bart K.C.B, it was purchased by Sir Stanley White, the transportation pioneer in trams, railways and aeroplanes.

The parkland around the tower was planted out in 1815, and an avenue of oak was planted in the same year and named Waterloo to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. The picturesque walkways with rustic summerhouses were set out in the same period in the woodland area known as Blackhorse Wood.

Not all of the previous landscaped features from the early-l9th century still survive. Apart from the early-19th century parkland around the folly tower, the woodland walks have become overgrown. The commemorative avenue of oaks has not been maintained although part of the avenue remains.

The remainder of the garden was landscaped and built in 1907, including the model farm which was run by Lady White and the Oriental water garden known as Webb's Brake. This area was described as the ‘natural garden'. Pedigree Jersey cattle used to be kept on the model farm, the buildings of which are still almost immaculate. The rec¬tangular shape near Webb's Brake and the model farm was a 19th-century sheep dip.

Near the main Hollywood House was a quite extensive rock garden which was created in 1907. The estate was notable for the number of bulbs planted along the Waterloo Walk and for the rarer snake's head fritillary. There is still an extensive bulb walk along and around what remains of the oaks in the avenue named Waterloo Walk. Bulbs include purple and white snake's head fritillary, purple flags, wild daffodils, cultivated daffodils, primrose, crocus and snowdrops.

A pleached nut walk of hazels near the house was planted up in 1907. This avenue still exists but is not pleached ‘and never will be again' according to the foreman Mike Jeffries. The hazels are cut back as pea sticks and plant supports at the Zoo.

The head gardener at the Hollywood Estate was a Mr Herbert Broomfield. Altogether there were 14 gardeners who worked on the estate. In the 1950s, female gardeners worked on the estate. It is now maintained under the direction of the head gardener of the Bristol Zoological and Botanical gardens, who cannot devote all his time to Hollywood Tower as he is also responsible for the gardens at the Zoo. One of the previous head gardeners for Hollywood Tower now works for Mr Bernays, maintaining his historic garden at Old Down House, Tockington.

There is some irony in that the capital for buying the estate was made from Sir White's development of British Aerospace at Pilton. This very development has eventually led to the part-destruction of the Hollywood Tower gardens. The motorway has cut through one of the access entrances to the estate. The laying of gas pipes has meant the destruction of an arboretum and an old lodge house. Part of the historic gardens have been sold for modern industrial developments.

Apparently the Hollywood Tower Estate was sold to the Bristol Zoo under a covenant which stated that a condition of the sale was that it would be open to the public for viewing and that it was to become a model Zoo. The idea was that animals were not to be kept in cages, but should rather have large moated areas of land to roam in. Sir Stanley White was then involved in a serious motor accident and never enforced this covenant. Hollywood Tower Estate is not open to the public. Sir Stanley White's son wishes that the condition of the covenant had been kept. The estate gardens were probably their pride and joy, and they wished them to be preserved and opened to the public as a philanthropic gesture to the people of Bristol.

In 1820 the estate and mansion was called Holly Hill Mansion and estate. It included a coach houses and stables, an excellent walled garden, well stocked with fruit trees of superior kinds, and a thriving young orchard. Well laid out pleasure ground of park-like appearance were situated at Holly Hill commanding views over the River Severn, part of Bristol Channel, Kingsweston and Henbury.

Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Hollywood Tower
  • Grade: II


  • Tower
  • Description: The clock is reputed to be made by the same clock-maker who made Big Ben. This is a three-stage clock tower, and was built between 1848 and 1854. Architects plans still exist. It was built under the instructions of Sir John Davies, who was a diplomat and governor in Hong Kong until 1838. According to an oral history account from Sir George White the tower was built on the lines of a similar one in the Far East, in which Sir John Davies sought refuge during some civil riot.Hollywood tower is reputed to have been built as an observatory. It is in Italianate and early English style. There is a door with pointed arch, hood moved with mask stops with the arms of Sir Stanley over. The clock is set in the upper level in a decorative stone surround. It is a striking feature, set in the 1914 landscaped parkland.
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  • Tree Avenue
  • Summerhouse
  • Description: One ruined rustic summerhouse remains.
  • Cascade
  • Pond
  • Description: There are ornamental rectangular ponds near the orchard. They contain goldfish for display at the Zoological gardens in Clifton.
  • Boat House
  • Description: Children used to take punts out on the lakes and there is a tiny rustic summerhouse or boathouse situated alongside the ornamental water garden.
  • Specimen Tree
  • Orchard
  • Description: In 1820 the orchard was described as `a thriving young orchard?. Some of the orchard still survives, containing John Dowrie Crab apple and other apple trees. It has been planted with Scots pine, Cypress, Paper Bark Birch, Atlantic Cedar, Blue Cedar and Prunus Scimitti, so that it is becoming transformed into a small arboretum.
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  • Pleached Trees
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was built in 1520 with 19th- and 20th-century additions and alterations. It is in Palladian style, with a semi-circular Roman Doric Portico. There is a single storey, three-bay wing to the right with a central semi-circular bay, outer windows in a recessed arch with carved draped spears. The south-west garden facade has a semi-circular bay to the left with three french windows with recessed panels over.
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  • Rockery
  • Description: A rockery was created in 1907. It was the largest in the south-west, and the White family collected several plant species from abroad. It is now much smaller in scale, and an old village cider press that was collected for it by Sir Stanley White is now in ruins. Some of the features of the historic garden have been moved to the main Bristol Zoo. Examples include the statue of a robed woman in Classical Roman style and part of the rock garden.
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  • Water Feature
  • Description: This is the ornamental water garden, also called the natural garden or Webb?s Brake. It is a series of miniature ornamental lakes in a Japanese style, with small arched Japanese stone bridges joining the lakes, some of which have islands. It did cover a larger area than it does today. There is an abundance of Bamboo growing around the lakes, also yellow and purple flag, Reeds Rushes, and water-lilies in the lakes. There is some viburnum, and an abundance of yew and rhododendron. This Japanese-style ornamental water garden is a charming feature which forms a natural garden for wildlife as well as an ideal undisturbed habitat for water plants. Snakes head fritillary used to grow here on the land near the lakes.
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  • Ferme Ornee
  • Description: This feature is the model farm. The buildings are still in good order. Pedigree Jersey Cattle were kept here. There is a walled sheep dip with an entrance gate which is now an ornamental pond containing goldfish and water lilies. Lady White took a great interest in the model farm and actively helped to run it. The remaining farm buildings are situated to the east of the estate.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: There is still a walled kitchen garden with two greenhouses, vegetables, gooseberries, plumbs and gages. The kitchen garden also houses tigers in cages. In the l820s it was described as an `excellent walled garden well stocked with fruit trees of superior kinds?.
  • Walk
  • Description: These are the woodland walks. The woodlands have views over the River Severn, part of Bristol Channel and the Welsh hills. The walks and pathways were laid in the early-19th century. Blackhorse Woods is an ancient woodland with early-l9th century planting. The woods are now overgrown and under-managed through lack of maintenance staff. One ruined rustic summerhouse remains, but the woodland paths are mainly overgrown. Spindle berry was growing there which is an indication of ancient woodland. The Bluebell woods part of the woodland is slightly better maintained.
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  • Planting
  • Description: This is the parkland. It is a landscape of the early-19th century with an avenue of oaks, various conifers and Scots Pine. There was a small arboretum, but the trees were accidentally cut down during 20th century development. Much of the parkland still survives.
  • Aviary
  • Description: The aviary is now being used for growing fruits in.
Key Information





Principal Building






Open to the public


Civil Parish




  • Susan M. Plaister

  • Avon Gardens Trust