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Bristol’s heritage and horticulture revealed

Royal Fort Garden

Goldney Garden

Press release issued: 27 March 2017

The rich horticultural history and biodiversity of some of Bristol’s most beautiful gardens will be revealed to the public through a series of guided tours and events, starting next month.

The University of Bristol is inviting people to explore its celebrated grounds during a special programme of activity, which begins on 8 April and runs until October.

Following last year's success, the University and the Bristol Naturalists' Society have again joined forces to offer a programme of Biodiversity Events alongside the annual Specialist Garden History Tours.

Experts from the Society will lead the biodiversity events, which each focus on different aspects of the diverse flora and fauna that can be found in the local area.

Among the gardens featured are Goldney Garden in Clifton, Royal Fort Garden and the Stoke Bishop campus.

Normally closed to the public, the ornate garden tucked behind Goldney House, in Clifton Wood, includes a heritage orchard, an ornamental garden, an orangery, a canal and tower, a rotunda and bastion, Corinthian columns and the elaborate grotto which is one of the finest surviving examples of an 18th century garden grotto in Britain.

Royal Fort Garden, which is nestled away behind Tyndall Avenue, began life as a Civil War fortification created to defend the city in the 16th century. Although it's open to the public, few people are aware of its pivotal role in Bristol's history.

Stoke Bishop Halls of Residence are surrounded by a diverse range of habitats which comprise both formal and informal gardens, including woodland, that offer the facility to host a number of the biodiversity events.

Alan Stealey, External Estates Manager at the University of Bristol, said: "The annual historic tours of Goldney and Royal Fort Gardens continue to attract large numbers of visitors and we’re delighted to add to our offering through our continued partnership with the Bristol Naturalists' Society. From flora and fauna, to bats and bushes it’s an enjoyable insight into Bristol's natural life. 

"The University takes great pride in maintaining a large number of listed buildings and gardens and we're looking forward to sharing this slice of Bristol's heritage with the public once again."

Lesley Cox, Honorary Secretary of the Bristol Naturalists' Society, said: "The Bristol Naturalists' Society and the University of Bristol have been closely associated ever since their first foundations in 1862 and 1876 respectively.

"It is both a privilege and a pleasure to be able share our collaboration with all those who would like to learn more about the wealth of species that can be seen and heard locally through this innovative and varied upcoming programme of Biodiversity Events." 

Historic Garden Tours £10 (to include a copy of historic gardens book) and bookable online

Sunday, 7 May: Goldney Garden, from 3pm
Sunday, 21 May: Goldney Garden, from 11am
Sunday, 4 June: Royal Fort and Centenary Garden, from 11am
Sunday, 2 July: Goldney Garden, from 11am
Sunday, 13 August: Goldney Garden, from 11am
Sunday, 10 September: Goldney Garden, from 2pm

Biodiversity Events £3-£6 with free student places and bookable online

Saturday, 8 April: Early Morning Bird Song, Goldney Garden, from 7.30am
Saturday, 22 April: Early Evening Bird Song, Stoke Bishop, from 6.30pm
Friday, 5 May: Light Trapping and Insects, Stoke Bishop, from 9.00pm
Saturday, 6 May: Early Morning Bird Song, Stoke Bishop, from 7.30am
Tuesday, 9 May: Tree Gazing, Royal Fort Garden, from 12.30pm
Sunday, 14 May: Insect Detection, Stoke Bishop, from 2pm
Monday, 12 June: Urban Nature Detective, Royal Fort Garden, from 2pm
Thursday, 15 June: Urban Nature Detective, Royal Fort Garden, from 5.30pm
Sunday, 30 July: Flowers, Pollen and Pollinators, Stoke Bishop/Botanic Garden, from 2pm
Sunday, 6 August: Be A Nature Detective, Stoke Bishop, from 2pm
Friday, 29 September: Bat Detection, Goldney Garden, from 7.15pm
Friday, 13 October: Bat Detection, Stoke Bishop, 6.45pm
Sunday, 22 October: Awesome Autumn, Stoke Bishop, from 2pm

For further information, please contact Nicolette Smith – Follow External Estates on Twitter or on Facebook.

For booking, see the Garden Events web page.  

Further information

About Royal Fort Garden

The landscape around the Royal Fort has altered dramatically over the past four centuries and little remains of the fortifications created to defend the city during the Civil War (1642–46).

It was originally known as Windmill Fort, located at the top of St Michael’s Hill, before the Royalists captured Bristol and Dutch military engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme redesigned it.

It was the strongest defence in Bristol and acted as the Western headquarters for the Royalist army under Prince Rupert of Rhine, the 23-year-old commander of the Royalist cavalry.

Prince Rupert surrendered to Oliver Cromwell and Lord Fairfax in 1645, with the fort being demolished in 1655.

The wealthy Tyndall family, who established Bristol’s first bank, acquired the land to build a sizeable new house with generous gardens.

The current three-storey villa was built between 1758 and 62 for Thomas Tyndall, a wealthy Bristol merchant, and his young wife Alicia. Its three facades in three different classical styles - Baroque, Palladian and Rococo - were a compromise after three separate architects submitted designs.

A later Tyndall generation called in the landscape designer, Humphry Repton, to screen their 'pleasure grounds' from urban sprawl after a disastrous housing scheme fell through. Repton's original drive and planting around the house have recently been reinstated.

The Tyndall family lived there until 1916, when the house and grounds were bought by Henry Herbert Wills, who later donated it to the University of Bristol.

About Goldney Garden

The ornate garden hidden away behind Goldney House, in Clifton Wood, includes a heritage orchard, an ornamental garden, an orangery, a canal and tower, a rotunda and bastion, Corinthian columns and the elaborate grotto which is one of the finest surviving examples of an 18th century garden grotto in Britain.

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 in over 35 years.

He 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 actually 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 variety of minerals, shells, corals, rocks and fossils, some of which may have been brought back to Bristol by Captain Woodes Rogers.

In 1760, the Orangery was constructed to house an exotic collection of citrus trees which would have been brought to Bristol by merchant ships.

The garden at Goldney garnered a reputation as one of the must-see gardens of the 18th century, with both visitors and writers.

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