My Memories of Living in Park Street, Bristol

My Memories of Living in Park Street, Bristol
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Image by brizzle born and bred
image above: c1902 view of Park Street Bristol – photograph taken from the corner of Great George Street.

In 1758 a design by George Tyndall was approved for Park Street to connect to Whiteladies Gate, one of the turnpikes. George Tully drew up plans and building started in 1761. The first phase of building finished at Great George Street around 1762. The upper part of the street was developed from about 1786 and work was suspended in the financial crisis of 1793, resumed and completed about ten years later.

Beyond The Walls – Park Street

Over half the shops and buildings on Park Street were damaged or destroyed by bombing during WW2. 30 were destroyed, 6 burnt out and another 3 severely damaged.

They were rebuilt during the 1950’s and then City Architect Nelson Meredith ensured they were designed in a sympathetic and similar style, so the skyline and character remained fairly unchanged.

The street is now mainly retail and leisure premises. Among the more unusual businesses are the Bristol Folk House, an arts centre, and the Bristol Guild of Applied Art. In 1976 a huge gas explosion destroyed some of the buildings near the bottom of the road; most were rebuilt as replicas.

Some of the furnishings from the RMS Mauretania were installed in a bar and restaurant complex at the bottom of Park Street, initially called "Mauretania", now "Bar III". The lounge bar was the library with mahogany panelling: above the first-class Grand Saloon with French-style gilding overlooks Frog Lane. The neon sign on the south wall still advertises the "Mauretania": installed in 1938 this was the first moving neon sign in Bristol. It is a grade II listed building.

Visible from the viaduct, on the side of a building in Frogmore Street, is a controversial mural by local graffiti artist Banksy.

My Memories of Living in Park Street Bristol by Paul Townsend

I rented a small attic studio flat/apartment in Park Street BS1 – opposite Freemasons Hall 1988-1991. Parking was an absolute nightmare. The rear bedroom window overlooking The Mecca Centre in Frogmore Street. It was possibly the noisiest place I have ever lived.

But it was the most interesting place I have lived: watching shoppers on Saturday, looking into the double decker buses, hearing 10 second snippets of conversation on the pavement, drunk students, urinating in shop doorways, dancing, singing, shouting, arguing, queuing, fighting, sleeping tramps at the front door, and you folks who enjoy Bristol City Centre probably have no idea how much work (and noise) goes into keeping it clean, tidy and safe through the night with pressuring washing, sweeping, bin emptying and commercial waste disposal (I love the sound of crashing bottles at 4:30am). Something I really wasn’t expecting was taxi traffic jams at 3am, followed by taxi horn blowing competitions.

"Night-time violence in drink is endemic in and around the city centre of Bristol".

One night in 1989 the building was broken into while I was sleeping, I hit the burglar over the head with a industrial fire extinguisher, but he managed to flee the building before I could do some serious damage on him. He escaped over the rooftops of Averys Wine Cellars in Frogmore Street. In his haste to escape he left his swag-bag full of my gear behind!

He escaped over the rooftops of Averys Wine Cellars in Frogmore Street.

“Oh well, no harm done” (well not to me?)

Did I inform the police NO? for obvious reasons.

OK, so it may sound like I am complaining but I am not, it got me into shape by simply walking up and down the steep incline of Park Street.

Park Street has almost two lives, the day life and the night life. In the day Park Street is often a bit of a nightmare in the car and the cafes do well at lunch time, mid evening it turns into a place to dine with a number of nice restaurants and then come nightfall, you can stay here till the early hours. On Sunday the street is quiet, almost deserted. Nearly all shops and restaurants close. Most of the local pubs do not open on Sunday.

My favourite clubs were The Mandrake in Frogmore Street & The Dug Out on Park Row.

Do you have any memories of Park Street past or present?

Down in the below street-level basement I found a small room originally used by the servants – it was originally used as cellars and basements for the posh Georgian town houses on Park Street – complete with small kitchen with dumb waiter to dining room, servants bells and a narrow underground tunnel that went under Park Street. It seemed to travel the entire length of the street.

Perhaps for this reason, there are no banks in Park Street?

People may be unaware when they are walking around the centre of Bristol, that beneath their feet is a warren of underground passages. Some of the tunnels date back to the 12th century when Bristol was the centre for wine imports.

The wine was stored in magnificent stone caverns which have survived the bombing of the second world war. Many of these underground tunnels were inter-linked, making it possible to walk from Corn Street under the centre, to Castle Park.

The book, ‘Secret Underground Bristol’, written by Sally Watson, invites the reader to look over the edge of the river wall by the ambulance station near Castle Park to see an entrance to the moat that once went around the Castle.

Sally studied archaeology at the University of Bristol and spent a lot of time exploring the city’s underground history, much of which is now not accessible to the public.

"All periods of Bristol history are captured down there", Sally Watson told BBC Bristol.

From the caves which were used when the city was a centre for smugglers, to bunkers where the BBC operated during the war.

One of the highlights of the book is the old stone mine near the Box tunnel.

"The mine was used to house the RAF control after the BAC had been bombed in 1941", said Sally.

"It’s like a set from the TV show Mash with murals on the wall and the menu still hanging up in the canteen area," she said.

Sally is keen to talk to anyone who worked at BAC at the time when production was taken underground.

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