Bristol General Hospital began life in 1832, housed in modest dwellings in Guinea Street between the Redcliffe and Bedminster Parishes. The new facilities were the initiative of a group of local Quakers who were appalled at the lack of health provision for the growing industrial poor of Bedminster and Redcliffe and in the early days only local residents were allowed access to treatment.
The early 1830’s were a time of great social change in most English cities and Bristol was no exception. Political unrest erupted with the Bristol Riots of 1831 where residents demanded the right to vote and the big health issue of the day was the containment of the deadly cholera epidemics. Both these issues were to influence, indirectly, the growth of the General Hospital.
Bristol General Hospital first opened its doors on the site in 1858 making a grand statement with its Italianate stonework and French Renaissance rooftops. The new hospital cost £28,000, with much of the funding coming from local workers, who gave a penny a week towards building and running costs.
The original building began as two four-storey blocks joined by a central tower with one block facing Bathurst Basin and the other the New Cut. In 1873 the northern block was extended and in 1886 a new nurses’ home was wrapped around the corner to Guinea Street. The nurses’ home was subsequently extended again in 1907. These four phases largely represent the work of W.B Gingell, a local architect known for his elegant warehouses and churches, Henry Crisp, another local man, and his protégé, George Herbert Oatley, Bristol’s most renowned architect and Knight. From 1915 Oatley built the Chapel and King Edward VII Wing, a tour de force in reinforced concrete.
Following the addition of a nurses’ accommodation block to the east of the site in 1925, the final expansion took place in 1931 with the construction of the William Lloyd Unit on Commercial Road.
During WWII the Hospital suffered severe bomb damage which all but destroyed the mansard roof and the structure over the octagonal tower in the south west corner of the building. The roof and top floor including that of the octagonal tower was subsequently removed and the building re-roofed with a flat roof. The 1916-1919 metal balconies were also removed owing to bomb damage.The remainder of the 20th century development of the site has been characterised by ad hoc accretions, infill and extensions which lacked any sense of vision or formal masterplan.
The Bristol General Hospital finally closed its doors in 2012 when the planned South Bristol Community Hospital opened and the services were transferred. City & Country acquired the site in June 2012.
First residents moved into their new homes.
The General, reinstated to its former glory after restoration, construction is almost complete.