Queen Square, Bristol 2740

Bristol, England, Bristol, City of

Brief Description

Queen Square is a public communal garden dating to 1700.

History

Site created in 1700.

Visitor Facilities

The square is open continuously for general public use.

Terrain

Flat

Detailed Description

Queen Square is a large open square of grass, bordered with a double avenue of mature plane trees. It is divided into two triangles by the Redcliffe Way. A statue of William III, now part of a traffic island, stands at the centre of the square. Stone terraces with steps border the road on either side of the statue.

Queen Square is maintained by the Parks Department of Bristol City Council. The grass is cut on a regular basis, and the square is kept free of litter.

Features
  • Statue
  • Description: This is a bronze statue of William III on horseback, dressed as a Roman Emperor in triumph. It is on a stone pedestal. It was thoroughly restored in 1947.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Terrace
  • Description: There are terraces and steps, built after 1940 to lead down from the Redcliffe Way onto the level of the square.
  • Earliest Date:
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The square is open continuously for general public use.

History

Detailed History

In 1699 the Mayor and Corporation of the City of Bristol sent a surveyor to look at the 'void ground' round what was then known as Bristol Marsh, and to survey it 'for the purpose of building houses of a uniform style'. This marked a decisive step in the early town planning of Bristol.

The land now known as Queen Square was included among lands granted to St. Augustine's Abbey by Robert Fitzharding some time after the Norman Conquest. This land lay between the Frome and the Avon, and was often flooded. In the 13th century, the course of the River Frome was altered and the Marsh was divided into two parts. The eastern portion was granted to the City of Bristol in 1286. Now drained, the land was used for open-air activities of all kinds, including bear-baiting, archery, military parades and the like.

The decision of 1699 to surround the marsh with houses, and to lay out a formal garden on the marsh shows the confidence and pride of the city authorities. They decided to insist on all houses around the square being built of brick, and of a uniform style. The square was to be the largest outside London, second only to Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Building commenced in 1700. In 1716, 257 trees were planted in avenues, at a cost of £26.

The square had been visited by Queen Anne and Prince George in 1702, and was subsequently known as Queen Square.

By 1765, the trees had grown sufficiently to warrant thinning. 57 were left, many of these being blown down in 1881-82. They were thinned again in 1923. London planes were planted in double lines all around the edge of the square, probably after 1882. They are now mature.

A statue of William III was commissioned by the City Corporation and the Society of Merchant Venturers in 1736. They jointly paid £2,000 for a bronze equestrian statue. This was placed in the centre of the square, and was the focus of the rioting which erupted there on Sunday 30th October, 1831. This was during the agitation which preceded the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. Two sides of Queen Square were burnt down, in addition to the Mansion House and the Old Custom House. Several paintings and engravings were made of the riots in Queen Square.

Buildings were subsequently re-erected on the site of the ruins, and the square is still entirely enclosed by buildings.

A major change was made to the square in 1939-40, when a major road was put through the square, dividing it into two triangles and isolating the statue of William III between the carriageway.

The statue had been renovated in 1937, and was moved to Badminton in 1947. It was re-installed in its historic site in April 1948.

Despite the changes to the layout of the square, and the alterations to the surrounding architecture, Queen Square remains an outstanding example of 18th century town planning.

References

References

Contributors

  • Avon Gardens Trust