Sea Mills, Bristol

Coordinates: 51°29′08″N 2°38′32″W / 51.4856°N 2.6422°W / 51.4856; -2.6422
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Sea Mills
Sea Mills is located in Bristol
Sea Mills
Sea Mills
Location within Bristol
OS grid referenceST555765
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBRISTOL
Postcode districtBS9
Dialling code0117
PoliceAvon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
51°29′08″N 2°38′32″W / 51.4856°N 2.6422°W / 51.4856; -2.6422

Sea Mills is a suburb of Bristol, England, 3.5 miles (6 km) north-west of the city centre, towards the seaward end of the Avon Gorge, between the former villages of Shirehampton to the west and Westbury-on-Trym and Stoke Bishop to the east, at the mouth of the River Trym where it joins the River Avon. Sea Mills was part of the city ward of Kingsweston. Following a Local Government Boundary Commission review in 2015,[1] ward boundaries were redrawn and Sea Mills is now split between the Stoke Bishop ward and the Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston ward.


Pre 20th century[edit]

Sea Mills was the site of a Roman settlement, known as Portus Abonae. Its origin may have been as a military settlement but by the early second century, a civilian town had been established.[2] It was important enough to feature in the 3rd-century Antonine Itinerary which documents towns and distances in the Roman empire, and was connected to Bath by a road.[3] Archaeological excavations[4] have found evidence of the street pattern, shops within the town and cemeteries outside it. The Roman settlement seems to have been abandoned by the 4th century, and there is no evidence of Saxon settlement.[5]

Foundations of Roman building in Portus Abonae.

By the Middle Ages Bristol had become a major port, with all traffic between the port and the sea having to pass through the Avon Gorge and past Sea Mills. In 1712, Joshua Franklyn, a Bristol merchant, built a wet dock at Sea Mills, to eliminate the need for large sailing ships to navigate the dangerous River Avon any further upstream. This was located where the River Trym enters the River Avon. However, poor transport links doomed the enterprise and the harbour facilities fell into disrepair by the end of the 18th century. Some remains of the dock still exist and are used as a harbour by pleasure craft.[5]

Other industries included agriculture (Sea Mills Farmhouse still exists) and water mills at Clack Mill (a corn mill just below Dingle Road Bridge) and Coombe Mill (for flour production) just beyond the Blaise Estate car park in The Dingle.[6] Both mills were old and appear on the 1746-1803 mapping on the Know Your Place web site.

Sea Mills Garden Suburb[edit]

After WW1 Sea Mills was one of several areas in Bristol to be developed as municipal housing by the Bristol Corporation under the 1919 housing legislation known as the Addison Act. The Act was designed to address the shortage of quality housing for working people and provide homes for the thousands of troops returning from WW1. Houses built under the Addison Act are often referred to as "homes for heroes".

On 4 July 1919 Dr Christopher Addison visited the building sites at Hillfields and Sea Mills. At Sea Mills he gave a short speech and the Lady Mayoress, Emily Twiggs planted an Oak sapling.[7] The tree, known as Addison's Oak still stands today and in 2019 was a runner up in the Woodland Trust tree of the year competition.[8]

The land on which Sea Mills is built was purchased by Bristol Corporation from Philip Napier Miles of Kingsweston House and developed on garden city principles, including building at no more than 12 houses per acre. Building began in 1919 and by October 1920 sixteen houses were already occupied. The early houses were built to the standards specified by the Tudor Walters report, including a parlour downstairs, and three bedrooms upstairs. [9]

The suburb includes two small shopping areas, one at Westbury Lane and another on Shirehampton Road featuring a symmetrical arrangement of shops around a green bisected by roads. This is known as Sea Mills Square and is now home to the Cafe on the Square[10] [11] and the Sea Mills mini-museum.[12] The Square was also once the site of one of the 13 Trench style police boxes which were erected in Bristol in 1932 to serve the suburbs in lieu of new police stations.[13]

During WW2 a large air raid shelter was provided on Sea Mills Square. For this and other information about the residents see the wartime stories on the Sea Mills 100 web site.[14]

After WW2 a small estate of prefabricated bungalows were built adjacent to the Portway and also in nearby Coombe Dingle.[15] These have since been demolished.

Centenary celebrations[edit]

In 2019 the Sea Mills 100[16] project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol City Council celebrated the centenary of the 'homes for heroes' municipal housing. Events included a 100 birthday celebration for Addison's Oak and a weekend long heritage trail around the estate. Its lasting legacy is a mini-museum situated in a K6 phone box[17] which was renovated by local volunteers as part of the project. The project also published a book called 'How Lucky I Was'[18] written by people who grew up in the area between the 1930s - 1950s, including novelist Derek Robinson.

Sport and recreation[edit]

Sea Mills has a football team Sea Mills Park FC, formed in 1925. The 1st team play in the Bristol Premier Combination. They historically played their games at the Rec, opposite Sea Mills Square, but play all home games at Kingsweston Sports & Social, Napier Miles. They were Bristol & District Senior League Champions 2012/13.

October 2006 saw the opening of The Portway Rugby Development Centre. The facilities there are two outdoor 3G Crumb pitches, suitable for rugby and football, outdoor grass rugby pitches, and grass training grids. There are two meeting rooms. Local football clubs use this facility including Wanderers FC. Bristol's rugby clubs use the facilities also, from St Brendans RFC to Clifton RFC.

The remains of the dock wall and the Severn Beach line crossing the River Trym at Sea Mills


In 1865, the Bristol Port and Pier Railway opened from Hotwells to a deep water pier on the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth. Sea Mills railway station was one of the original stations on the line. The station still exists, although the line is now part of the National Rail network, and the line has been extended to run from Bristol Temple Meads to Severn Beach.[19] In 2021 a mural created by Graft which features the flora and fauna of the area and was created at the station in consultation with local people.[20]

The A4 Portway trunk road passes along the south-west edge of Sea Mills and links central Bristol with its port at Avonmouth. Running parallel to the River Avon, the Portway was the most expensive road in Britain when it was opened in 1926. Both the Portway and the railway line have bridges over the harbour outfall into the Avon.

Ocean-going ships used to sail past Sea Mills, going to and from Bristol Docks. Nowadays most of the shipping is in the form of pleasure craft, Bristol's main docks now being at Avonmouth and Portbury.

There are frequent bus services to the city centre, Westbury and Cribbs Causeway.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "LGBCE | Bristol | LGBCE Site". Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Abona - The Romans in Bristol". Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  3. ^ "Roman Roads in Avon - Bristol and Avon Archaeological Society". Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Sea Mills, Bristol: 1965 - 1968 excavations in the Roman town of Abonae" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b "About Bristol Suburbs - Sea Mills - Early History". About Bristol. Retrieved 15 June 2006.
  6. ^ Ordnance Survey (1844-1888) 25" 1st Edition
  7. ^ "Happy 101st Birthday Addison's Oak". Sea Mills 100 Museum. 4 June 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Tree of the Year 2019: Oaks and sycamore in running for award". BBC News. 9 September 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  9. ^ "Homes for Heroes". Sea Mills 100 Museum. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  10. ^ "General 1". Sea Mills Community Initiatives. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Conversations at the Cafe on the Square". Bristol 24/7. 17 July 2020. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  12. ^ "Virtual museum visit". Sea Mills 100 Museum. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Have you seen the TARDIS?". Bristol Museums. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  14. ^ "War Stories - Sea Mills & Coombe Dingle". 3 April 2021.
  15. ^ "About Bristol Suburbs - Sea Mills - The Housing Estate". About Bristol. Retrieved 15 June 2006.
  16. ^ "Sea Mills 100 Museum". Sea Mills 100 Museum. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Sea Mills' mini-museum reopens with new exhibition". Bristol 24/7. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  18. ^ "New book celebrates memories of Sea Mills". Bristol 24/7. 4 May 2021. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  19. ^ "About Bristol Suburbs - Sea Mills - Stations". About Bristol. Retrieved 16 June 2006.
  20. ^ "Stunning mural transforms railway station". Bristol 24/7. 16 November 2021. Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  21. ^ Luzern, wave interactive. "In Memory of Roger Hallett (1929 – 2018)". International Panorama Council. Retrieved 28 December 2021.

External links[edit]