Castle Park, Bristol
Western part of Castle Park, with ruined St Peter's church, garden and square in centre and Bristol Bridge in top left
|OS grid reference||ST59234 73144|
|List of places: UK • England • Bristol|
Castle Park (sometimes referred to as Castle Green) is a public open space in
The ruined tower of
Tree-lined St Peter’s Square, to the north of St Peter's church, has been home to various events including German Xmas markets. In recent summers a tethered balloon has been placed near the bandstand, offering ascents to sightseers.
Recent attempts to develop the area between the park's western edge and High Street have proved controversial; Bristol City Council are keen to replace derelict buildings with a mixed-use development to help reconnect the Old City to
The town of Bristol was settled at some time in the
Archaeological excavations of the area in 1962-1963 suggest that the original settlement was centred to the east of St Peter’s Church, with Mary-le-Port on its western limit. The building of Bristol Castle in the latter part of the 11th century resulted in the focus of the settlement being moved to the west, where it developed into a symmetrical plan centred on the crossroads of High Street, Wine Street,
By the 16th century the castle was ‘tending to ruin’, and following his victory in the
Wine Street and Castle Street became the main shopping streets, where retailers such as
24 November 1940
On the afternoon of 24 November 1940, 148 aircraft of the
The destruction was not total, however. Post-war photographs show that buildings survived intact on Bridge Street, High Street, Castle Street and Peter Street. The west end of Narrow Wine Street, a 'fantastic little old thoroughfare', was more or less intact; Castle Mill Street and Castle Green received little damage, and Upper, Middle and Lower Terrace survived. More importantly, the irreplaceable mediaeval street plan remained.
The idea that Bristol's main shopping area should be moved away from the Castle Street and Wine Street area was first proposed to Bristol Corporation's Planning and Reconstruction Committee by the Multiple Traders' Federation (MTF), representing the larger retailers and chain-stores, in October 1943. They suggested that the pre-war shopping area should be set aside as a civic area with perhaps a concert hall or similar building and an open space, and that the central shopping area should be moved to a less-constrained site. This suggestion formed part of the City Engineer's Master Plan of February 1944, which envisaged that the area would contain a limited number of buildings such as a conference hall, with underground parking for 2,000 cars. The removal of the shopping area was considered desirable because the fire that had destroyed so much of the area was in large part sustained by its congested nature, and in any case many of the chain-stores represented by the MTF wanted larger sites.
The main objection to this plan came from the independent traders who did not wish to relocate because they felt that the proposed new shopping area was ‘off the beaten track’. This objection was not unreasonable, as in its pre-war topography Bristol had a long shopping axis that started at Stapleton Road to the east, passed through
By 1966, the shops had been rebuilt in 'barren' Broadmead (at the expense of demolishing an area of
In the event, the north-western corner was leased to the Bank of England and
Finally, in 1977, work began on an ‘emasculated’ version of the new park. This was designed by Bristol City Council’s parks department and, largely for financial reasons, it contained few of the features intended by earlier plans but was much larger than that originally planned. The last remaining vestiges of the mediaeval street plan, Dolphin Street and Peter Street, were buried.
In 2006, Bristol City Council announced its intention to redevelop the area to the west of Castle Park, known as the 'Mary-le-Port' site. These plans encompassed the by then derelict financial buildings, and the area to the west of St Peter’s church , about 5% of the park. It was to be a 400,000 square feet (37,000 m) mixed-use development to 'regenerate this historic heart of Bristol' and to 'improve connections between Broadmead, the Old City and Redcliffe' and 'enhance the setting of St Mary-le-Port church'. The council selected Deeley Freed as its preferred developer. The scheme provoked opposition from park users who felt that any reduction in the area of the park was not acceptable. 'Surprised by the extent of feeling', Bristol City Council decided to revise the plans. Campaigners then applied to have 'Town Green' status applied to the park, but this was declined in 2009.
In 2010, the Mary-le-Port site was listed as being 'for sale' by Bristol City Council.
Sites of Interest
Very little of
The park contains a number of memorials. The ruins of St Peter’s Church are a memorial to the civilians and auxiliary personnel killed in the
The ruined tower of St Mary-le-Port church, subject of a painting by
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