Host Street in the centre of Bristol, plays host to our Bristol office. It is now a quiet cul-de-sac, but it has a long history, with interesting origins.
From the foot of Christmas Steps, turn right to go past the Christmas Steps pub. Host Street, accessed through an inconsequential gap, rises before you. A quiet lane faced onto by a mixed assemblage of Victorian and Georgian buildings is screened behind the modern development along the south side of Colston Avenue. But the well-worn cobbles and the cast iron kerbs hint at what it could have once been.
Situated at the confluence of the River Avon and River Frome, Bristol’s relationship with the water is fundamental to its development. The safe harbour offered by its tidal waters inlets led to Bristol’s early development.Trade and industry, houses, workshops, warehouses and activity crowded along the water. Somewhere beneath what is now Colston Avenue – before the modern city over took it – the River Frome once flowed. Host Street’s origins lie in this now forgotten relationship. Along with the narrow alleys, steps and lanes, such as Zed Alley, Steep Street, Queen Street (Christmas Steps) that led up St Michaels Hill, ‘Horssetret’ as it was then known, took a gentler gradient as the primary route from Frome Bridge.
As the docks developed and warehouses were built along the waterfront, Host Street bustled with commercial enterprise set up to service weary mariners and dock workers. Our building, which we share with CSJ Planning, is late Georgian in origin and grade II listed. Initially constructed as a residence, the building has been a pub for much of its history – with an apparently salubrious reputation. Narrowly surviving the blitz – number 2 and 3 next door were not so lucky – the building has been remodelled, initially to accommodate a print works and latterly being converted into the office in which we work today.
But for the steep Christmas Steps, the remnants of Zed Alley and this cobbled cul-de-sac, the memory of the dense medieval street pattern and the docks is now mostly forgotten. The tradition of this particular building, to satisfy its clients, continues to this day.
For more information on historic maps of the area: