Clifton is a beautiful suburb of Bristol, located just a five minute drive away from the city centre.
It is renowned for having some of the most iconic spots in Bristol, including Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo and Clifton Downs.
Clifton has a rich history; the earliest settlements were built even before Bristol, as the remains of an Iron Age camp of about 350 BC found near to the Observatory have shown.
After this we know little of Clifton’s history until the Domesday Book, when Clifton was recorded in the book as Clistone, denoting a ‘hillside settlement’.
In 1686 the Society of Merchant Venturers bought the manor of Clifton and became owners of a spring of warm water that bubbled through the mud in the River Avon. They saw the spring's potential and built a spa that soon became a summer resort for high society.
By 1828 a very successful local artist, William West, built the Clifton Observatory which included a telescope and the camera obscura, now the only example left in England.
Subsequently, work on Isambard Kingdom Brunel's world-famous suspension bridge across the Avon Gorge began in 1831 but as a consequence of political and financial difficulties, was then abandoned in 1843. It was finally completed in 1864 as a memorial to the late Brunel who died in 1859 without seeing his masterpiece finished.
Just five years after work began on the bridge, another would-be famous attraction joined Clifton’s burgeoning list of charms; Bristol Zoo, Britain’s second oldest zoo opened its door for the first time in 1836.
The end of the 19th century - and the years before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 - saw Clifton at the height of its prosperity. However, the end of the war caused significant change as families became smaller and many houses were turned into flats.
Clifton and Hotwells were devastated by the Second World War due to their close location to the port, but the suburb began to blossom once again as the twentieth century progressed.
Clifton retained its appeal, especially for artistic and creative types and its vast number of incoming students. In the 1950s and 60s, Clifton was home to actor Peter O’Toole, playwrights Tom Stoppard and Peter Nichols and restaurateur Keith Floyd. Future novelists Deborah Moggach and Angela Carter and broadcaster Sue Lawley were amongst other famous names who lived there as students.
Today, Clifton is renowned for its stunning Georgian and Regency architecture, in particular Royal York Crescent which was once reputed to be the longest terrace in Europe. It boasts a whole host of shops, restaurants and businesses, a number of green spaces and a thriving tourist community – a jewel in Bristol’s crown.