Royal Fort House

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Royal Fort House
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Royal Fort House is located in Bristol
Royal Fort House
Location within Bristol
General information
Architectural style Baroque, Palladian and Rococo
Town or city Bristol
Country England
Coordinates 51°27′30″N 2°36′13″W / 51.4583°N 2.6035°W / 51.4583; -2.6035
Construction started 1758
Completed 1761
Client Thomas Tyndall
Design and construction
Architect James Bridges
Engineer Thomas Paty

The Royal Fort House is a historic house in Tyndalls Park, Bristol. The building currently houses the University of Bristol's Institute for Advanced Studies, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research and the Cabot Institute.


The house was constructed on the site of a Civil War fortification, which had two bastions on the inside of the lines and three on the outside. It was the strongest part of the defences of Bristol, designed by Dutch military engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme. It was one of the few purpose-built defensive works of the war era. The fort was designed as the western headquarters of the Royalist army under Prince Rupert.[1] Royalists retreated into the fort when the Parliamentarians had broken through the lines in the siege of 1645, before eventually surrendering to Cromwell's forces.[2]

The fort was demolished around 1655. The "Royal" in the name was in honour of Prince Rupert, when he was made Governor of Bristol.[3] An archaeological investigation in 2009 discovered a defence ditch, two bastions and the possible foundations of a defensive wall on the summit of St Michaels' Hill.[1][4]


The design of the mid-eighteenth-century house by James Bridges, for Thomas Tyndall KCB, was a compromise between the separate designs of architects Thomas Paty, John Wallis and himself. This led to different classical styles: Baroque, Palladian and Rococo, for three of the facades of the house.[5] It was built between 1758 and 1761, by Thomas Paty with plasterwork by Thomas Stocking.

A later Colonel Thomas Tyndall employed Humphry Repton from 1799[6] to landscape the gardens which form a small part of Tyndall's Park, which extended to Whiteladies Road in the west, Park Row in the south and Cotham Hill to the north.[7] Over the years large parts of the park were sold for housing development, as the site for the Bristol Grammar School, purchased in 1877, and only a small part of the original area remains, as Royal Fort Gardens. The siting of drives in the Royal Fort park is still reflected in street plans today.

The current stone gatehouse, built in the Victorian era and known as the Royal Fort Lodge, stands at the entrance to the driveway leading to Royal Fort House. It currently houses the University of Bristol security services.[8]

The house has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.[9]

Royal Fort Gardens[edit]

The Royal Fort Gardens adjoin the house. They are surrounded by an old high wall, and contain a small pond, and a memorial.


It is now owned by the University of Bristol, who were given the estate as a gift by Henry Herbert Wills[10] of the Bristol tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills. For many years it housed the university's Music Department (which in 1996 moved to the Victoria Rooms), then became a conference and banqueting venue, and now houses the university's Faculty of Science, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research and the Cabot Institute.


  1. ^ a b "Royal Fort dig". Bristol University Press Office. 21 April 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  2. ^ "Bristol". Fortified Places. Retrieved 24 March 2007. 
  3. ^ "Royal Fort House". University of Bristol Conference Office. Retrieved 24 March 2007. 
  4. ^ "Secrets of the Royal Fort in Bristol are uncovered". BBC Bristol News (BBC). 8 December 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Royal Fort House". University of Bristol. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Historic Parks and Gardens Protected under Bristol Local Plan Policy NE9 (On-line text).
  7. ^ University of Bristol Strategic Masterplan , Appendix 12:The Royal Fort Lodge Site, (November 2005) (On-line text).
  8. ^ "Bristol University Security Services contact". Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  9. ^ "Royal Fort and attached front step railings". Images of England. Retrieved 24 March 2007. 
  10. ^ "Henry Herbert Wills Physics laboratory". University of Bristol. Retrieved 24 March 2007. 

External links[edit]