The University of Bristol is inviting people to explore its celebrated grounds at Goldney House.

Specialist Garden History Tours will run from April to October 2019 

Normally closed to the public, the ornate garden tucked behind Goldney House, in Clifton Wood, includes a heritage orchard, an ornamental garden, an orangery, a canal and tower, a rotunda and bastion, Corinthian columns and the elaborate grotto which is one of the finest surviving examples of an 18th century garden grotto in Britain.

Historic Garden Tours are £10 (to include a copy of historic gardens book) and bookable online. Tours start at 10:30am.

What To See

The University of Bristol is the guardian of an impressive range of historic gardens. These include a Civil War fortification at the Royal Fort, an Edwardian flower garden designed for the treatment of hospital patients, and a rare Quaker merchant’s eighteenth-century town garden with the most exotic and best-preserved Grotto in the entire country, at Goldney.

With its glistening shell-lined grotto and famous orangery, the 10 acre gardens at Goldney Hall in Clifton are among the most beautiful in the region.

Although Goldney Gardens is largely a hidden gem, nestled away at the top of Constitution Hill, it was brought to the attention of millions after featuring as the wedding venue for Dr Watson’s marriage to Mary Morstan in Sherlock in 2014.

Public tours of the gardens, orangery and grottos can be arranged through Bristol university, see Contact Us for booking tour.

Quiet Space

The grotto appears to have been among the first works undertaken by Goldney. He began with a tunnel that now runs southward from the front entrance of the main chamber under the terrace. The tunnel was finished in 1737, in which year work also began on the main grotto chamber. Goldney appears to have started work on the decorating of the grotto from about 1739; the date is set into the shell work and is also the date when Goldney noted that he had ‘cover’d and finish’d ye shell of ye Grotto’, and continued until 1764. The grotto’s principal approach is from the north, via steps at the end of the Yew walk which descend to a Gothic door with flanking trefoil-headed windows to either side and an octofoil window above. Either side of the main façade are tufa-lined arches, to the east giving access to the head of a well, to the west leading into the main chamber by a curved tunnel. The main chamber is a pillared hall, in which every surface is encrusted with shells, quartz and the local rock crystal known as Bristol diamonds (Savage 1989). It has a cave guarded by two stone lions and a pool fed by a sloping cascade, at the higher, eastern end of which is a top-lit figure of a river god, his hand resting on an urn to discharge the cascade to the pool. The tunnel, which runs for some 30m southward under the terrace, is lined with furnace slag and at its southern end has an arched entrance set into the terrace wall. The grotto was supplied with water raised by a steam-engine housed in a tower (1764, listed grade II*) which stands on the terrace, some 20m east of the north entrance to the grotto, and 90m south of the house. The three storey tower is of red sandstone rubble with limestone dressings, with Gothic pinnacles on a parapet and narrow Gothic windows on each storey. On the second storey of the north elevation is a large opening intended for the beam of the engine. Beside the terrace walk and above the grotto, is a statue of Hercules on a plinth (mentioned in situ in 1768, listed grade II*), 8m south-west of the tower.

What We Offer

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT In 1694 Thomas Goldney II, son of a successful Quaker grocer, leased a gentleman’s house and garden on Clifton Hill. In the late C17, Clifton was a small village of some 200 inhabitants, separate from the city of Bristol, which was beginning to attract city dwellers in search of cleaner surroundings. Goldney purchased the property in 1705 and had the house partly rebuilt and extended between 1722 and 1728. After his death in 1731, the property was inherited by his son Thomas Goldney III who, over the next 22 years, gradually acquired additional parcels of land on which he developed the garden until his death in 1768. The property was inherited by his brother, Gabriel (d 1786), who appears to have made no significant changes to the garden. It passed to his sister Ann, who died in 1794 (Stembridge, 1998). After her death it was inherited by a sequence of cousins but after the death of another Thomas Goldney in 1856, there was a dispute over inheritance, following which outer parts of the grounds were sold off for residential development before the house and the remnant of the estate were acquired in 1864 by Lewis Fry of the Quaker family of chocolate manufacturers.

Opening Times


Contact Us

Lower Clifton Hill (635.25 km)
BS8 1BH Bristol, United Kingdom

To Book a tour please go to the website: