Queen Square, Bristol

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Queen Square
An equestrian statue stands at the centre of a grass-covered square, with several paths leading towards the centre from the corners and sides in a star-shape. People sit on benches or walk on the paths.
The centre of Queen Square, seen from the south-west corner
Queen Square is located in Bristol
Queen Square
Queen Square
Queen Square shown within Bristol
OS grid reference ST591722
Coordinates 51°27′00″N 2°35′42″W / 51.450°N 2.595°W / 51.450; -2.595Coordinates: 51°27′00″N 2°35′42″W / 51.450°N 2.595°W / 51.450; -2.595
List of places

Queen Square is a 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) garden square in the centre of Bristol, England. It was originally a fashionable residential address, but now most of the buildings are in office use.

The site on which the Square was built lay outside Bristol's city walls and was known as the Town Marsh. The Square was planned in 1699 and building finished in 1727.[1] It was named in honour of Queen Anne.[2] The north side and much of the west were destroyed in the Bristol Riots of 1831 and rebuilt. Many of the buildings now have listed building status.

In 1937 the Inner Circuit Road was driven diagonally across the Square but in 2000 it was removed and the open space restored.


Statue of William III by John Michael Rysbrack erected in Queen Square in 1736

In the centre of the Square is an idealised equestrian statue of William III by John Michael Rysbrack,[2] cast in 1733 and erected in 1736 to signify the city's loyalty. The brass statue is on a Portland ashlar pedestal with a moulded plinth and cornice and is a grade I listed building.[3]


The north side contains the Custom House (1835–37) by Sydney Smirke, (II* listed),[4] and a terrace (1833) by Henry Rumley, which are now offices, (II* listed).[5]

Sydney Smirke's Custom House.

The east side contains some 20th-century buildings and the Port Authority Office (1889) by William Venn Gough. The Sailors Refuge which makes up nos 27–29 dates from 1709–11 and is II* listed.[6]

The south side contains varied 18th century buildings, which are similar to those nearby in Queen Charlotte Street and King Street. Two are by R.S. Pope. The west side was rebuilt in the 1830s after the riot, largely by Henry Rumley, some of which are still private houses but many are offices.[7][8][9][10][11]


In the 18th century, Queen Square was the most sought after place to live in Bristol, but as Clifton was developed from the end of the 18th century and through the 19th century, it supplanted Queen Square.

The famous privateer Woodes Rogers had a house on the west side. There is a plaque that commemorates this on a building that now occupies the site of his former home.[12]

William Miles (1728–1803), Sheriff of Bristol in 1766, Mayor of Bristol in 1780 and Warden of the Merchant Venturers, lived at number 61 (now renumbered as 69/70/71) and the house became the offices of his family's extensive business interests.[13][14][15]


A chaotic scene of a riot in which buildings burn in the background while people are attacked by mounted soldiers with swords
The 1831 Riot in a nineteenth-century engraving

The Bristol Riots of 1831 took place after the House of Lords rejected the second Reform Bill, which aimed to get rid of some of the rotten boroughs and give Britain's fast growing industrial towns such as Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds, greater representation in the House of Commons. Bristol had been represented in the House of Commons since 1295, however by 1830 only 6,000 of the 104,000 population had the vote.[16]

The local magistrate Sir Charles Wetherell, a strong opponent of the Bill, visited Bristol to open the new Assize Courts, on 29 October. He threatened to imprison participants in a disturbance going on outside, and an angry mob chased him to the Mansion House in Queen Square. The magistrate escaped in disguise but the mayor and officials were besieged in the Mansion-house.[17]

The rioters numbered about 500 or 600 young men and continued for three days, during which the palace of the Bishop of Bristol, the mansion of the Mayor of Bristol, and private homes and property were looted and destroyed, along with demolition of much of the gaol. Work on the Clifton Suspension Bridge was halted and Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself was sworn in as a special constable.[18]

Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brereton of the Dragoons led a charge with drawn swords through the mob in Queen Square. Hundreds were killed and wounded and the mob dispersed. Brereton was later court-martialled for leniency because he had refused to open fire on the crowds, but shot himself before the conclusion of his trial.[18] About 100 people involved were tried in January 1832 by Chief Justice Tindal.[19]

Four men were hanged despite a petition of 10,000 Bristolian signatures, which was given to King William IV.[18]


A telegraph stamp used at the telegraph office in Queen Square in 1877.

In 1937 Bristol Corporation approved the construction of a dual carriageway road diagonally across the Square, from the north-west to the south-east corner. This formed part of the Inner Circuit Road, connecting Redcliffe Way with The Centre, and involved the demolition of property in both corners of the Square and the re-alignment of the Rysbrack statue.

By 1966 the Corporation were looking at the possibility of reducing the flow of traffic through the Square by changing the route of the Inner Circuit Road to pass along The Grove and thence across the mouth of St Augustine's Reach. They even considered it possible that the road across Queen Square might eventually be closed if circumstances permitted.[20] By the 1980s it was recognised that the dual carriageway was a "massive intrusion" on the amenity of the Square, and plans were made to "put things right".[21]

In 1992 the dual carriageway was closed to through traffic for an initial six-month trial period.[22] It never reopened. Buses continued to pass around the Square, however, until they were eventually diverted via The Grove and Prince Street.

The Square has now been restored to a very high standard. The railings and forecourts of the surrounding buildings have been reinstated, and the central open space with its promenades and equestrian statue restored to their former grandeur. The restoration is recognised as a major success.[23][24] To commemorate the 2000 Millennium, a circular carved stone inscription was laid on the ground around the Rysbrach statue, but it has since become badly damaged.

The Square is often used for public events, mostly in the summer months, although the east side and south side are prone to flooding after heavy rainfall.


  1. ^ Wells, Charles (1975). Bristol's History: v. 2. Reece Winstone Archive & Publishing. pp. 135–146. ISBN 978-0900814471. 
  2. ^ a b "A brief history.pdf" (PDF). Queen Square Association. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "Equestrian statue of William III". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  4. ^ "Custom House and attached rear area wall and piers". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  5. ^ "Terrace of 9 houses, now offices". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  6. ^ "No.29 Sailor's Refuge". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  7. ^ "No.51 Phoenix House and attached railings and piers". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  8. ^ "No.56". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  9. ^ "No.57". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  10. ^ "No.58". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  11. ^ "No.59-62". Images of England. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 
  12. ^ "Woodes Rogers blue plaque in Bristol". Blue Plaques. Retrieved 7 August 2016. 
  13. ^ http://www.artfact.com/auction-lot/a-louis-xvi-ormolu-mounted-apple-green-sevres-por-1-c-3gy9a6xhlf
  14. ^ http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/GLS/Bristol/JOSEPHtoRINGER.html
  15. ^ http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=TS18730728.2.7&l=mi&e=-------10--1----0-all
  16. ^ "Bristol riots". Spartacus Education. Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007. 
  17. ^ "The Bristol 1832 Reform Bill riots". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 7 March 2007. 
  18. ^ a b c "Revolting riots in Queen Square". BBC Bristol. Retrieved 7 March 2007. 
  19. ^ Trials of the persons concerned in the late riots. Broadmead, Bristol: Philip Rose. 1832. 
  20. ^ City centre policy report and map 1966. City and County of Bristol. City of Bristol Printing and Stationery Department. 1966. 
  21. ^ The City Centre Draft Local Plan, Avon County Council and Bristol City Council, February 1990
  22. ^ Queen Square Experimental Closure to Through Traffic, leaflet, Avon County Council and Bristol City Council, 1992
  23. ^ "Queen Square". Green Flag Award. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  24. ^ "Queen Square Regeneration". The Landscape Institution. Retrieved 11 February 2011.