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Bristol Literary Trail

Bristol Walk

County/Area - Bristol

Author - Bristol Tourism & Conference Bureau

Length - 1.5 miles / 2.4 km    

Ascent - nominal or unknown

Time - 0 hours 50 minutes    Grade - easy

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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Bristol Literary Trail
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This trail is designed to provide a taste of Bristol's literary heritage. Although having many literary connections, Bristol's most famous cultural link is with the romantic poets - Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth all spent time in the city. The trail includes a return to the city centre by seasonal ferry. Please check a timetable before setting out and note that they operate only at weekends during the winter season. As some of the walk is up and down very steep hills, sensible shoes are advised. The trail will take up to six hours, including visits.

1. Leaving St Nicholas Church in St Nicholas Street (closed to the public), turn right and then left into the High Street, noting the sign for The Rummer.

2. This public house (now closed) saw the launch of Coleridge's magazine The Watchman in 1795. Joseph Cottle whose bookshop once stood on the corner of High Street and Corn Street, befriended Southey and Coleridge whilst they were still unknown, offering to publish their poems for thirty guineas. Wordsworth finished one of his poems in the back room of Cottle's shop. There has been some speculation that Coleridge took inspiration for his epic The Ancient Marina from Captain Thomas James who voyaged from Bristol to Hudson Bay in 1631.

3. Continue walking until reaching the intersection of High Street and Corn Street. Robert Southey was born at number 9 Wine Street in 1774. A Poet Laureate, he also wrote the children's favourite The Three Bears. A plaque commemorating him can be seen on the Prudential Buildings to the right. He gave lectures on politics and theology at The Plume of Feathers public house, which once stood in Wine Street. Before turning left into Corn Street, note the Quarter Jacks on Christ Church. Southey wrote how he often "stopt to see them strike". The Quarter Jacks were originally part of an earlier church, demolished in 1786. Southey laid copper coins under the foundation stone of the present church. It was in this area that Bushey and Green, who figure in Shakespeare's Richard III, were executed by Henry Bolingbroke's men.

4. Walk through Corn Street, noting the plaque on the immediate right where The Bush Inn, mentioned in the Pickwick Papers, stood. Continue through Clare Street and cross the centre. Turn left at the Hippodrome and follow the route to the right into Park Street. Cross into College Green and walk towards the Cathedral.

5. This houses a pair of silver candlesticks commemorating the voyage of the Duke and Duchess, two ships owned by Bristol merchant Thomas Goldney, who rescued the castaway Alexander Selkirk. Daniel Defoe is reputed to have met Selkirk on his return to Bristol. He was so inspired by Selkirk's tale he turned fact into fiction and wrote Robinson Crusoe. In a dwelling by College Green, during 1764, two women were viciously murdered. Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, makes mention of this in his essay Murder as One of the Fine Arts.

6. On leaving the Cathedral turn left and walk to the back of the Council House and onto College Street.Coleridge and Southey once lodged here. A plaque commemorating the birth of William Friese-Green, the pioneer of cinematography, can be seen at the back of the Council House.

7. Walk up St Georges Road and turn left into Park Street. This thoroughfare was the site of a boarding school for young ladies run by the author Hannah More and her sisters, The Philosophical and Literary Institution, an early 19th century intellectual society and the Clifton Arts Club, a thriving club in the 1930s. On the right is the Bristol Guild. Founded in 1908 by local followers of William Morris' Arts and Crafts Movement, the Guild today displays top-quality work by British craftsmen alongside distinctive gourmet food, home furnishings and gifts.

8. A detour can be made into Great George Street to visit the Georgian House. Built in 1791 for the merchant John Pinney, it is decorated and furnished to show how an 18th century merchant and his family lived.

9. Continue up Park Street and take the second left into Berkeley Square. The poet John Addington Symonds was born in 1840 at number 7 Berkeley Square, although he far preferred Clifton Hill House, another stop on this tour. Exteriors for 'The House of Elliot' television series were filmed around this square. Note the replica of Bristol's High Cross in a corner of the square's garden.

10. Return to the main road and cross over at the pedestrian crossing. Two detours can now be made: the first to the City Museum and Art Gallery which contains fine examples of paintings from the school of Bristol Artists, and the second to the Royal West of England Academy which is further up Queen's Road. Cross Whiteladies Road at the pedestrian crossing in front of the Academy.

11. The Victoria Rooms, built in 1841 saw performances and readings by Charles Dickens, Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde among others. Clifton attracted literary society throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Shelley, Tennyson, Byron and Jane Austen all visited, as did the Empress Eugenie of France and Queen Victoria when young ladies. Agatha Christie married in Clifton.

12. Continue along Queen's Road until reaching Victoria Square and walk through the park on the right. Note the fine terraces. John Addington Symonds lived at number 7 on his return to Bristol after University and marriage. Turn left, passing the former home of cricketer W G Grace, left again and then right to enter St Andrews Walk. On leaving the Walk make a short detour to the left to come to Clifton Hill House. John Addington Symonds' farther moved here with his children in 1851. Retrace steps and continue to Saville Place. Goldney House, on the left, was built for Thomas Goldney, the owner of the ships that brought back Alexander Selkirk, and a tower can be glimpsed in the garden. The gardens are open to the public on occasion. Turn into Saville Place.

13. The author E H Young lived at number 2 Saville Place. All seven of her Upper Radstowe books are based in Clifton.

14. Return to the main road and turn right. Cross at the pedestrian crossing and carry on walking until Rodney Place, which will be on your left.

15. At number 3, Dr Beddoes hosted many gatherings of literary society. The novelist and sister-in-law of Dr Beddoes, Maria Edgeworth, often stayed, and the Romantic poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes was born here.

16. Turn left into Portland Street and then second left into The Mall. The Assembly Rooms were the focus of literary Clifton before the Victoria Rooms were built. From the Mall, turn left, right and right again into Royal York Crescent.

17. This is reputedly the longest terrace of its type in Europe. Note that there is no number 13. Eugenie House at number 2 is named after the Empress Eugenie of France who went to school here.

18. At the far end of Royal York Crescent, walk down the hill and turn right into Windsor Place. Number 4 Windsor Terrace was the home of Hannah More. Walk down Victoria Terrace and cross Hopechapel Hill passing Hope Square and the Hope Centre, once a chapel and now a centre for Arts and Entertainment.

19. Turn into Dowry Square. Dr Beddoes moved to the basement of number 11 in 1793. In 1799, he moved to 6 Dowry Square to join Humphrey Davy (of miners lamp fame) at the Pneumatic Institute, which specialised in incurable diseases. Their assistant was Peter Roget who later went on to find fame with his Thesaurus. Coleridge and Southey visited and joined in some rather dubious experiments with nitrous oxide!

20. Leave Dowry Square and join the main Hotwell Road. Turn left and walk a few metres to Merchants Road.

21. Hotwells is so named because the Hot Well in this area was once a famous spa attracting such visitors as Addison, Cowper, Sheriden, Pope and Mrs Thrale. Smollett set some of his novel Humphrey Clinker here, as did Fanny Burney with her novel Evelina. Ann Yearsley, the once famous milkmaid turned poet and protégé of Hannah More, had a library in the Colonnade which still stands at the base of the Suspension Bridge. The painter Samuel Jackson lived in Hotwells at numbers 3 and 8 Freeland Place.

22. Turn right at the pedestrian crossing into Merchant's Road and left at the Pump House to catch a ferry to St Augustine's Reach.

23. Disembark at St Augustine's Reach and walk down Narrow Quay. The Watershed Media Centre is across the harbour on the right and the Arnolfini arts complex further down on the left. Cross over Prince Street Bridge and turn left to walk along the harbourside. Cross over the footbridge and walk past the Ostrich pub, up the steps on the right, and along Redcliffe Parade to St Mary Redcliffe Church.

24. St Mary Redcliffe, while beautiful, has many literary links. Both Southey and Coleridge were married here, and the boy poet Chatterton spent much time within the church where his uncle was church sexton. Chatterton, after studying many scrolls, wrote verses in a medieval style and passed them off as being written by a monk called Rowley. His genius discovered, Chatterton set off for London to seek his fortune. Unfortunately, fame did not reach him and he killed himself by swallowing arsenic at the age of 17. Dr Johnson and Boswell visited the church after Chatterton's death to see where the supposed Rowley manuscripts were found.

25. Cross Redcliffe Way and turn right to see the birthplace of Chatterton. Retrace your steps then walk over Redcliffe Bridge and pause outside the Hole in the Wall public house, the inspiration for the Spyglass Inn in the novel Treasure Island. Walk through Queen Square bearing right at the fine equestrian statue of William III to come to King William Avenue and historic King Street.

26. To the left is the Old Library, used by Coleridge and Southey

27. Turn right.

28. The Theatre Royal is the oldest working theatre in Britain whilst the Llandoger Trow at the bottom of the street is the supposed model for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island.

29. Turn right into Queen Charlotte Street and right into Baldwin Street to return to St Nicholas Church.

Further information about walks can be obtained from Bristol Tourist Information Centre on 0117 926 0767 who are located at Wildscreen Walk, The Harbourside, Bristol (by the Explore-at-Bristol building)

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