Since an Act of Parliament in 1861, when Bristol Corporation acquired Durdham Down, the Downs have been managed as a single unit by the Downs Committee, a joint committee of the corporation and the Merchant Venturers.
They are used for leisure, walking, team sports and sightseeing (especially at the Avon Gorge cliff edge). There are permanent football pitches, used by the Bristol Downs Football League, the lowest tier any club has ever joined in order to be promoted to the Premier League. There are also temporary attractions on the Downs, such as circuses and the annual Bristol Flower Show.
In 1982, 6,000 people assembled on the Downs, in response of to a local newspaper advertisement placed by the makers of the new breakfast television show TV-am. The 6,000 people were used to make the words 'Good', 'Morning' and 'Britain', used for the opening titles of the TV-am show, of the same name. It took 2 hours to get the people into place, and another 2 hours to shoot.