Stokes Croft in 2009 at night
|Length||0.2 mi (0.3 km)|
The road became a centre of industry during the mid-19th century, including the Carriage Works. After large-scale bombing in World War II, the area rebuilt itself as a centre of art, music and counter-cultural lifestyle. Banksy's mural The Mild Mild West is on Stokes Croft, and riots broke out after the controversial decision to open a Tesco Express in the local area.
The road is around 0.2 miles (0.32 km) long and begins as a continuation of North Street, immediately north of Bristol city centre. At the junction with Ashley Road, it then becomes Cheltenham Road, followed by Gloucester Road. The road forms part of the A38, which was once a main road north of Bristol, though long-distance traffic now takes other routes.
The road takes its name from John Stokes, mayor of Bristol in the late 14th century. His will recorded the area as "Berewykse Croft in Redeland", while the will of Nicholas Excestre, who died in 1434, named it "formerly John Stokes close (ibid.)". It runs through the historic manor of Barton, which was recorded in the Domesday Book and part of the City of Bristol since 1373.
Stokes Croft was predominantly rural until around 1700, being mainly used for market gardening. Urban development was first logged in the parish records of 1678, while St James Square, to the west of Stokes Croft, was laid out by around 1710. John Roque's map of Bristol 1750 shows the area built up and running north of a central courtyard between Stokes Croft, North Street and Wilder Street. Though industries were established on Stokes Croft during the 18th century, the road was not fully developed and built-up until around 1850. Construction of the Carriage Works at No. 104 began in 1859, while the City Road Baptist Church was built in 1861.
The road was damaged badly in World War II, when Bristol was extensively bombed, destroying many buildings on and around Stokes Croft. Postwar redevelopment was slow, as Bristol City Council tended to concentrate on building offices to the south, closer to the city centre, and social housing to the north, towards Gloucester Road. Owing to the lack of large-scale development, small and independent businesses set up on Stokes Croft, which contributed to the bohemian character of the street. In the 1960s, the completion of the M32 motorway meant that Stokes Croft was no longer the main road from Bristol City centre northwards.
Stokes Croft also refers to an area around the road as an informal district between Kingsdown and St Paul's in Bristol, including Jamaica Street and the southern part of Cheltenham Road. The area is a centre of art, music and independent shops in Bristol, with clubs such as the Croft, Lakota and Blue Mountain; the nearby music college BIMM Bristol on King Square; numerous pieces of graffiti art and one of Bristol's oldest musical instrument stores in Mickleburgh Musical Instruments Ltd. The area’s character has given rise to a group of activists and artists calling themselves The People's Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC), who are seeking to revitalise the area through community action and public art.
Today the area is known for its derelict housing, squats, anarchist activity, counterculture and alternative nightlife. The Carriage Works has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building, though it is not currently in use and has become increasingly dialapidated. Along with neighbouring Westmoreland House, these buildings are a popular place for graffiti artists to draw work on the abandoned structures.
In 2006 a Heritage Lottery Fund grant was obtained by Bristol City Council to help overturn the decline in economic activity and environmental quality and a rise in social problems seen in the area since the 1970s.
At the junction of Stokes Croft and Jamaica Street is a large mural,"The Mild Mild West", painted the 1990s by Banksy. It depicts a teddybear lobbing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police. In 2007 the mural was voted Alternative Landmark of Bristol.
The attraction of Stokes Croft has brought up property prices in the area, with a typical terraced house costing around £250,000 – £350,000. A 2015 report in The Sunday Times suggested that Stokes Croft was one of the best urban areas to live in the South West.
In 1837, rioting broke out after the annual St James Fair in Stoke's Croft was cancelled, following continual complaints from local landowners about excessive drinking, gambling and prostitution.
In April 2011, the local community protested against the opening of a new 'Tesco Express' store at 138–142 Cheltenham Road, just north of Stokes Croft, spearheaded by the group, "No Tesco In Stokes Croft". In anticipation of demonstrations of the new store, which opened on 15 April, Tesco had put in place additional security measures. Various protests took place outside and inside the store during the seven days after its low-key opening. Although most protesters were peaceful, a minority threw paint and urinated on the shopfront.
On 21 April the police evicted squatters from a property opposite the store (known as 'Telepathic Heights'). This action led to a riot involving many people and lasting for much of the night, during which the shop-front of the Tesco Store was damaged and some looting took place. Further confrontations between police and protesters occurred in the early hours of 29 April.
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