History of Clifton

The earliest signs of settlement in Clifton are the remains of an Iron age camp on Observatory Hill, dating from around 350 BC. Clifton is recorded in the Domesday book as Clistone, the name of the village denoting a 'hillside settlement' and referring to its position on a steep hill. It was noted as having a population of about 30 people.

Clifton remained a small settlement until the Manor of Clifton was bought by Bristol's Merchant Venturers in 1686. This purchase triggered the development of the hot spring in Hotwells into a spa destination, with many famous visitors being recorded including the Duchess of Marlborough and Lady Spencer, Swift, Defoe and Haydn.

The demise of the spa at the end of the eighteenth century signalled a shift in focus from thr area around the river to the area now commonly known as Clifton further up the hill, with the start of development of the many well known terraces such as Royal York Crescent and West Mall around Clifton village, and later through the Victorian era many grand Victorian merchants houses.

Places to visit

The Clifton Suspension Bridge - Brunel's world famous bridge over the Avon Gorge is a must see. There is a dedicated visitor centre . Work on the bridge was started in 1831 but it wasn't finished until 1864, five years after Brunel's death.

The Observatory - Situated on the hill above the suspension bridge, the observatory has a camera obscura with a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, and also access to the cave which opens out halfway down the side of the gorge.

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