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Explore Historic Goldney Garden

The Orangery and Canal

Goldney Gardens Pond

Press release issued: 27 May 2014

Booking is now open for a series of summer guided tours around one of Bristol’s most beautiful hidden gardens as the University of Bristol invites the public to enjoy the rich history of Goldney Garden.

Goldney is home to one of the country’s the finest surviving examples of an 18th century grotto, and was created by wealthy merchant Thomas Goldney as an elaborate town garden.  It’s currently part of a hall of residence, located at the top of Constitution Hill. Although the garden is normally closed to the public it may be familiar to many after featuring in an episode of Sherlock earlier this year.

The ornate garden is hidden away behind Goldney House, in Clifton Wood, and includes a heritage orchard, an orangery, a canal and tower, a rotunda and bastion, Corinthian columns, and the elaborate grotto.

Alan Stealey, Head of External Estates at the University of Bristol, said: “I always look forward to the summer and the opportunity to walk around Goldney Garden whilst it looks its best. The garden really is an oasis within the town and it is great to share its beauty and history with members of the public”.

“The tours offer the perfect way for people to appreciate the features and landscape in context with Bristol's maritime and industrial development.”

The Goldney family first came to live on the property in 1694, when Thomas Goldney II rented it. He later bought the property in 1705 before rebuilding the house and adding to the garden in the 1720s.  However, most of what we see today was the work of his son Thomas Goldney III, who enlarged the garden to 16 acres within a period of 35 years.

Goldney III kept a garden book which logged all the work he carried out to transform the grounds. His first major project in 1737 was the construction of the grotto.  The first part of this scheme was to build a tunnel so that he would not have to cross the public footpath leading through his estate.

The Grotto itself was completed 27 years later in 1764. The walls and pillars are covered with a vast array of minerals, shells, corals, rocks and fossils.

In 1714 a greenhouse was constructed to accommodate newly discovered tender exotics which were often brought to Bristol by merchant ships.  It is likely that these plants included citrus trees, which gave rise to the fashionable Orangery of the period. In 1762 Goldney provided a home for his citrus trees with his own Orangery, located at the end of the canal. 

Goldney House was later owned by two eminent supporters of the University of Bristol, first by Lewis Fry in 1864 and then by George Wills, the prominent Bristol industrialist who sold it to the University of Bristol in 1956.

Tours cost £6 and can be booked via the online shop, where the new second edition of the Historic Gardens Book can also be purchased.

Further information

Goldney Garden tour dates:

  • 15 June, 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm
  • 20 July, 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm
  • 10 August, 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm
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