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Clifton, Gloucestershire

Historical Description

Clifton, a suburban town and a parish in Gloucestershire. The town stands on the right bank of the river Avon, nominally 1 mile or even 2 miles W of Bristol, but really connected with it by street thoroughfares, and mainly separated by Brandon Hill. It is almost entirely within the borough of Bristol. It was once a distinct village, but it came into notice about 1695, in connection with mineral wells, and it is now a choice summer residence for strangers, and a permanent home of many of the Bristol merchants. A remarkable chasm at it, called the gorge of the Avon, has a depth of about 250 feet, and a width at the top of about 600 feet, and is flanked by rocks and hanging woods in a manner magnificently scenic. Numerous residences stand on the summit of the rocks, overlooking all the gorge, with Leigh woods beyond; other ranges of buildings, in streets, crescents, and squares, intermingled with trees and rocks, descend the slopes to the east; and others, around the mineral wells, occupy low ground at the foot of the cliffs on the south. A suspension bridge, 630 feet long, was designed by Brunely to be constructed across the deepest and most picturesque part of the gorge, and some works for it, including the masonry of the piers nnd a single suspending bar of iroiiy were set up at a cost of £40,000, but were abandoned for many years. Ultimately the chains of the Hungerford Suspension Bridge, which formerly spanned the Thames at Charing Cross, were removed here, and the bridge was completed in 1864. It has a span of 703 feet, and the roadway at the highest elevation is 245 feet above the water. Three emin "ences adjacent to the gorge are crowned by British or Roman camps. St Vincent's rocks in the same vicinity consist of fossiliferous limestone, very interesting to geologists, and have yielded multitudes of quartz crystals, known as Bristol diamonds. The observatory here commands a very fine view, and a cavern called the Giant's Hole, reached by a flight of steps on the rock from the observatory, gives a curious echo to a shout from the opposite bank. A beautiful ravine, called the Nightingale valley, strikes westward from the opposite bank, and is accessible from Clifton by the Eownham ferry. The part of the town around the mineral springs is called Hotwells. A fine zoological garden, with a good collection of wild animals, is on Durdham Down, and serves for fetes and athletic games. The town has a post office under Bristol, a station called Clifton Down on the Bristol, Clifton, and Avonmouth branch of the G.W.R. & M.R. Joint, and publishes a weekly newspaper. The parish church of St Andrew was built in 1822, and has been restored. St James' is a chapel of ease in Victoria Square. All Saints' in Pembroke Road, is a fine edifice in the Decorated style, built in 1868, with a beautifully decorated interior; it contains a magnificent reredos, and the windows are filled with fine stained glass. Christ Church on Clifton Down is a cruciform edifice in the Early English style. Emmanuel Church in Guthrie Road is a cruciform building with a square tower, erected in 1869. Holy Trinity is a plain edifice, erected in 1830. The church of St Andrew the Less, in Downing Square, was erected in 1873. St Paul's was rebuilt in 1868, the former church having been destroyed by fire. St John the Evangelist's in Redland was built in 1841. St Peter's in Clifton Wood was built in 1882. There are numerous dissenting chapels. The Roman Catholic cathedral is an elaborate structure, and has attached to it the bishop's residence. Clifton College, constituted in 1862, is a good public school with accommodation for about 700 boys; it is a very handsome edifice, and has a beautiful chapel, built in 1867 at a cost of £5500, in memory of Canon Guthrie. The Blind Asylum is a building in the Early English style. The Victoria Rooms are used chiefly for lectures, concerts, and meetings. Hannah More lived some time in a house in Windsor Terrace, and died there.

The parish contains 834 acres; population, 29,345; the population of St Andrew's parish is 6044. The livings are all vicarages in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol. Gross value of St Andrew's, £800 with residence. Patrons, Simeon's Trustees. The following are the ecclesiastical parishes: —All Saints', constituted in 1868 (population, 1795); gross value, £150. Patron, the Bishop. Christ Church, constituted in 1844 (population, 3803); net value, £500 with residence. Patrons, Simeon's Trustees. Emmanuel, constituted in 1869 (population, 1910); net value, £510 with residence. Patrons, Simeon's Trustees. Holy Trinity, constituted in 1864 (population, 3489); net value, £160. St Andrew the Less, constituted in 1881 (population, 2600); net value, £343. Patrons, Simeon's Trustees. St Paul's, constituted in 1859 (population, 2257). Patrons, Simeon's Trustees. St John's, Redland, constituted in 1841 partly in Westbury-on-Trvm parish (population, 6395); net value, £182. Patron, the Bishop. St Peter's, Clifton Wood, partly in the parish of St Augustine's, Bristol, constituted in 1856; gross value, £350. Patrons, Simeon's Trustees.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Church Records

The parish registers for the Diocese of Bristol are available online at Ancestry, in association with Bristol Archives.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Clifton from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Gloucestershire is available to browse.


Online maps of Clifton are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Gloucestershire online:


The Clifton College Annals and Register, 1860-1897 is available to browse.

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of the county of Gloucester, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

CountyCity of Bristol
RegionSouth West
Postal districtBS8
Post TownBristol