Redcliffe Wharf


The Hospital of St. John the Baptist, a semi-monastic institution founded by Henry II, was located on what is now called Redcliffe Wharf and stretched to Redcliffe roundabout. It consisted of a Hall, Cloisters, Stables, Bakehouse, Guest Chambers for the Bishop of Wells. Like most mediaeval hospitals it was also a "hostel" and one of considerable note, for Henry IV stayed there when he visited Bristol in 1446. At first the hospital was prosperous, favored by gifts from wealthy citizens. When, in about 1190 Robert de Berkeley gave the waters of a spring on his lands to the use of the people of Redcliffe, he made provision that the Hospital was to have a share of the supply through a branch pipe, the diameter of a man’s thumb called a feather, from the main conduit. William Worcestre who wrote a topographical description of Bristol in the 15th century, says that this flowed into a pool measuring 60 feet by 64 feet, in the middle of the Hospital Cloisters. Relations between the Monks of the Hospital at the bottom of Redcliffe Hill and the Vicar of Redcliffe at the top of the hill, were not always cordial, for in 1320 the Vicar was accused of interfering with the Hospital’s water pipe. The monks had in their care a chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, which was built just outside the south porch of St Mary Redcliffe by Henry Tessum, Master of the Hospital, in the early 13th century. The later history of the Hospital was fraught with financial difficulties. It was finally dissolved by the commissioners of Henry VIII in 1544 and was demolished soon afterwards. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit however, was turned into a school which survived until 1766.


There are two points of interest in the drawing -

Bristol City Walls can be seen in the foreground they stretched from this point over to the Temple area of Bristol. However the parishes Redcliffe and Bedminster were outside the city walls; they were owned by the Berkeley family of Gloucestershire. There was much rivalry between the peoples outside the walls and the folk of Bristol often leading to violent clashes.

St Mary Redcliffe Church can be seen at the top right of the drawing. In 1446 a violent storm stuck and the Church spire was hit by lightning, it toppled and fell upon the nave causing a large amount of damage. The people of Redcliffe rebuilt the church but did not replace the spire. The church was to remain without a spire until 1872.


Redcliffe Wharf 1889 Photograph : Alan Gray collection

This photograph is titled "Cripp's Wharf". The wharf was owned by Richard Cripps (b. 1810 d. 1891) a Conservative and Docks member from 1886 to 1890. His occupation was a Warfinger and Marble Merchant. The white blocks of stone in the photograph are marble. In the background is St. Mary Redcliffe Church and to the right is the top of the old lead shot tower that stood on Redcliffe Hill.


St. Mary Redcliffe Church with a Rainbow Photograph : Alan Gray

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