Information

Blaise Castle Museum and Estate


Blaise Castle Museum and Estate is a Humphrey Repton designed landscape in in North Bristol, with a house, castle and folly on its grounds. It remains a popular spot for Bristolians at weekends as an escape from the centre of the city.

History of Blaise Castle Museum and Estate

The area around Blaise Castle has been probably been inhabited since Neolithic times – there’s definitely evidence of settlements from the Bronze Age onwards. It formed part of the Kingdom of Mercia prior to the Norman Conquest, and during this time, it gained its name: a chapel to Saint Blaise was constructed.

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 1530s, the estate was granted to Ralph Sadler, whose family owned it until 1675.

The estate then changed hands four times in the next hundred years, until it arrived in the hands of John Harford, a wealthy Bristol merchant and banker, who bought it in 1789. He had Blaise Castle House constructed: designed by the architect William Paty in a neoclassical style. Later additions included the Orangery, and the Picture Room, which is open to the public today.

Harford also built the nearby Blaise Hamlet to house his servants and tenants: it is now under the ownership of the National Trust, having originally been sold to Bristol City Council in 1926 to prevent redevelopment.

Blaise Castle House has been under the ownership of Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery since 1949, and is rented out as a private event space, as well as being partially open as a museum primarily focusing on domestic and social history.

Blaise Castle Museum and Estate today

With 400 acres of parkland, Blaise Castle is a popular walking and running spot, particularly on weekends. Look out for the 19th century Gothic Revival folly – built in 1766, it’s said to feature in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It’s open some weekends in the summer, and there are fantastic views from the top on a clear day: look closely and you can see over to Wales. Take good walking shoes so you can explore fully!

The Castle Museum itself is also worth a visit, its costume collection alone amounts to 10,000 items, and the ‘Bristol At Home’ display is fascinating.

Getting to Blaise Castle

Blaise Castle Estate is located a couple of miles off the M5, near Henbury in North Bristol. There is ample parking nearby, including disabled spaces. Bus route 1 goes from Bristol Temple Meads / City Centre to just outside the estate. The nearest station is Bristol Parkway (5.1 miles).


Blaise Castle Museum and Estate - History

the current blaise house dates from 1796-1798 and stands next to the site of the previous blaise house. the house is now owned by Bristol city council and is currently used as a museum and a wedding venue.

the picture room was added between 1832 and 1833 and has been restored to its former glory.

its walls are decorated with a sumtuous red flock paper and hung with pictures from the fine art collections from artists William James Muller, james curnock, charles branwhite, james baker pyne and henry hewitt.

the dairy was built between 1803-1805 and is grade II* listed. it was designed by fashonable architect john nash, the cottage style is similar in style to the cottages in blaise hamlet also designed by nash. the dairy provided butter and possibly cheese for the house. cows and sheep were grazed on the estate and it's likely the milk of both was used in the dairy.

it's been suggested that the decorotive appearance of the dairy means that it was intended more as a fashionable amusement for it's wealthy owners than a working dairy.

however the building has many of the practical features which were recommended at the time for a dairy and in some respects was progessive.

the dairy garden was once the site of the original manor house. it was demolished after 1798 when blaise house was completed. the planting designs in the garden have evolved over time. what's here today includes plants and shrubs that would have been known and used at the time the house was built and the estate was landscaped.

The Amphitheatre which is used for outdoor events was created as part of a heritage lottery fund project in 1999 which saw many areas of the estate restored and redeveloped.

the orangery is located between the house and the dairy garden. it was built to a design by john nash in 1806 and is different to the deisgn orginally proposed by humphry repton. today it's filled with hothouse plants that were purchased by the friends of blaise.

Behind the orangery is a large laundry room and beyond that is the service wing for the house. the siting of the orangery was designed to hide the more modest parts of the house from view, so that the family and their guests could enjoy the gardens.


Activities

  • horse riding, a two mile trail runs from Kings Weston Road car park to Kings Weston Down
  • orienteering, the course is managed by Bristol Orienteering Klub
  • Nordic walking, sessions are run by Bristol Nordic Walking
  • buggy-friendly walking, Walks With Buggies has an accessible walking route

Model aircraft, including drones

The model aircraft must weigh 7kg or less, without its fuel. The person flying the aircraft must:

  • be a member of the British Model Flying Association
  • register with the Civil Aviation Authority and get a Flyer ID
  • have public liability insurance

Venue Type:

Museum, Historic house or home

Thursday - Sunday: 11am - 4pm.
Plus Tuesdays and Wednesdays during school holidays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

No admission fee - donations welcome

Part of Bristol Museums’ Designated Collections related to Bristol’s role as a manufacturing city and major seaport is on display here.

Other parts of these collections can be seen at Bristol’s City Museum & Art Gallery, Georgian House, and Red Lodge. Please contact Bristol Museums for more information if you wish to see a specific item.

The museums were Designated in respect of outstanding collections relating to the City of Bristol, including topographical paintings and prints, maps and archaeological collections. The collections relating to the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries are particularly rich, and reflect the importance of Bristol in those centuries.

A History of the Blaise Estate features Humphrey Repton's Red Book, bound in red leather, detailing his plans to landscape the park. Bristol at Home Display, upstairs in the museum focuses on domestic equipment, including stoves, fireplaces, cooking utensils, vacuum cleaners and other everyday items.

The Costume Collection is the fourth largest in the South West, however limited space only enables a very small sample to be on display at any one time. The Picture Gallery added in 1832-33 is downstairs in the museum and was designed by Charles Cockerell. It is now restored to its mid-Victorian glory. The Toys Room includes many old dolls, board games and the popular model trains and is exceptionally popular with visitors of all ages!


Weddings

Get married at a museum! Blaise Museum is licensed for civil wedding ceremonies, civil partnership ceremonies and naming ceremonies.

This beautiful historic house is set in 400 acres of landscaped parkland and has been a museum for well over 50 years. The displays here feature a wide selection of toys and games, intriguing domestic equipment and costume dating from the 1730s to the present day.

Tie the knot in our sumptuous Picture Room surrounded by paintings from Bristol’s fine art collection or say ‘I do’ outside in the pretty Dairy Garden. The choice is yours.

Download our weddings brochure to discover more about hosting your special event at Blaise Museum and contact us for availability. We’d love to help you plan your day to perfection.

The Picture Room package

Four hour hire of our Picture Room and adjoining dining room. With its classical portico, domed glass ceiling and chandeliers, the Picture Room is an elegant backdrop for your special day. You will also have access to our sunny rear terrace – the perfect place for a celebratory glass or two of bubbles and nibbles after the ceremony. £1,200 + VAT

The Dairy Garden package

Four hour hire of our secret dairy garden. Get married outside in our magnificent English garden with access to our pretty thatched dairy. After ceremony drinks and nibbles can be enjoyed in the garden, amphitheatre or on the rear terrace. £1,350 + VAT

The Best of Both package

Ten hour hire of our Picture Room, dining room and dairy garden for your wedding ceremony and reception. This is the perfect choice for couples who just can’t decide and want to enjoy all that Blaise has to offer! £2,550 + VAT


Teen accused of damaging Blaise Castle museum and attacking man

A teenager is accused of damaging a Bristol museum and attacking a man.

More than £5,000 worth of damage was caused at Blaise Castle on two separate occasions, police have said.

The 16-year-old boy, who has not been named for legal reasons, will appear in court charged with two counts of criminal damage and one count of assault.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: "A 16-year-old boy has been charged with causing criminal damage to a museum within the Blaise Castle Estate in Bristol.

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"The boy has been charged with causing two counts of criminal damage (both incidents estimated at causing more than £5,000 worth of damage) to Blaise Castle House Museum on Friday 6 March and Friday 20 March.

"He’s also been charged with an unconnected assault on a man in Crow Lane, Henbury, on Saturday 21 March.

"He’ll appear at Bristol Magistrates’ Court at a date to be confirmed."


Blaise Castle House Museum broken into and windows smashed

Officers from Avon and Somerset Police are currently at Blaise Castle after the house museum was broken into and its windows smashed.

Police were initially called to the scene at 7.30pm yesterday evening after reports of a break-in.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police confirmed: “We were called to reports of a break-in at a property in Henbury Road last night between 7.10-7.30pm.

“A number of windows in the building were smashed.

“Police enquiries into the incident are continuing.

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“Anyone with information is asked to contact us, quoting reference 5220065779.”

Bristol City Council, who own Blaise Castle, has also been approached for comment by Bristol Live.


Blaise Castle Museum and Estate - History

every year volunteers endeavour to open up the castle to the public between March and October on the third sunday of each month, plus bank holidays as well as Bristol open doors weekend and the Goram Fair.

Come up and visit us between 2.00pm and 4.30pm, entry is free but donations are welcomed.

2020 opening

we have taken the hard decission to keep the castle closed for the rest of the year, we have done this to protect our volunteers and visitors. We do however plan on reopening for Easter 2021.

We are always looking for more volunteers to help open the castle for just a few hours on a weekend or a bank holiday afternoon.

without your help we will struggle to keep opening this fine gothic folly to the public.

if you think you could help us even for an hour, then email us at [email protected]

the friends of blaise were formed in 1981 to restore the castle to its former glory after it had once again fallen into disrepair. it was also subject to vandalsim and arson to the point of being condemned and partially demolished.

with the hard work and fund raising of the friends the castle was partially restored to enable people to enjoy it once more.

From the top of the castle you could use to see as far as chepstow, the cotswolds, the mendips, kings weston down and portbury. Although in recent years the view has become more obstructed by trees, it is an aspiration to cut down the very tops of the trees to once again provide stunning views of the whole area.

in 2019 the friends of blaise invested in signs for the top of the castle to help visitors know what they are able to see in all directions.

Blaise castle

History

The origin of blaise castle

Blaise hill has always been an important site and has been occupied since the iron age in one form or another.

In roman times the hill was homed to a hill fort, the remains of the fort were descovered by a dig in 1918, when stone foundations and roman artifacts were found.

blaise hill was formerly home to St Werburgh's chapel, which is thought to have been founded around the year 700, but could have been as late as 960, although there is no record of st Werburgh's after 1299.

There are records of a St Blaise Chapel which is believed to have been located on the same site, the chapel was abandoned by the year 1577.

in 1707 some excavation took place and many human remains were found in a vault by the chapel site.

Blaise castle was commissioned by Thomas Farr a wealthy Bristol Merchant as a summerhouse and was built in 1766 by robert mylne on the site of the former blaise chapel at a cost of £3,000.

The castle was built on the highest part of the estate at a height of 250 feet above sea level. it was built with carboniferous limestone, dolomite conglomerate, Lias Limestone and pennant sandstone which was mainly taken from the hill itself and the sourounding area. Bath Stone was also used for ornamental purposes and was probably shipped along the river avon from bath to sea mills where it was hauled up to the site.

originally the castle had two floors which were furnished and there was access to the roof via a staircase. one of the turrets contained a wooden staircase to reach the very top of the castle to provide an even better view.

The estate was bought by bristol city council in 1926, in 1957 the castle underwent a significant restoration and in 1959 the building was Grade II Listed.


Contents

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery run a programme of free and paid events throughout the year that include multi week exhibitions, workshops and drop in gallery curator talks. The biggest annual event is the weekend celebration for Chinese New Year during February which has dancing dragon and lion performances, martial arts, traditional Chinese dances, storytelling, family trails, arts and craft activities. Information on current and past events can be found on the museum's website.

The Museum and Art Gallery's origins lie in the foundation, in 1823, of the Bristol Institution for the Advancement of Science and Art, sharing brand-new premises at the bottom of Park Street (a 100 yards (91 m) downhill from the current site) with the slightly older Bristol Literary and Philosophical Society. The neoclassical building was designed by Sir Charles Robert Cockerell (1788–1863), who was later to complete the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and build St. George's Hall, Liverpool, and was later used as the Freemasons Hall. [3]

In April 1871 the Bristol Institution merged with the Bristol Library Society and on 1 April 1872 a new combined museum and library building in Venetian Gothic style was opened at the top of Park Street. [4] The lease on the former Bishop's College building next door, which had been the Library Society's home since 1855, passed to the local army reserve unit, whose drill hall lay behind it it became the Victoria (later Salisbury) Club and a restaurant. The old Institution building was sold to the Freemasons. Although the new building was extended in 1877, by the 1890s the Museum and Library Association was struggling financially, and even unable to pay its curator, Edward Wilson (1848–1898). Negotiations with the city corporation culminated in the transfer of the whole organisation and premises to Bristol city corporation on 31 May 1894. Wilson remained Curator until his death – only this time he was actually paid!

However, in June 1899 the site of the Salisbury Club was offered for sale to the city, the tobacco baron, Sir William Henry Wills (1830–1911, later Lord Winterstoke) offering £10,000 to help buy the site and build a new City Art Gallery on it. [5] Designed by Frederick Wills in an Edwardian Baroque style work on the new building started in 1901, and opened in February 1905. It was built in a rectangular open plan in 2 sections each consisting of a large hall with barrel-vaulted glazed roofs, separated by a double staircase. [2] It incorporated a Museum of Antiquities, as it had been decided during the planning stage that Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities should be grouped with art in the new structure, rather than remaining with the natural history collections that remained in the old building. Stone tools continued to reside with the geology collections within natural history. Yet more space became available to museum displays when Bristol Central Library moved down the hill to College Green in 1906. [6] The vacant rooms were reconstructed as invertebrate and biology galleries.

In 1913, the army reserve's drill hall, which now lay between the rear of the Art Gallery and the rapidly expanding University of Bristol, was purchased by the two institutions, three-fifths of the complex falling to the Museum and Art Gallery, the rest to the University. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war in 1914 put paid to any plans for new building indeed, the Upper Museum Room (geology) was cleared in 1916 to become a 'Soldiers Room' to entertain convalescents and the Egyptian Room 'served for reading and writing and for the delivery of special demonstrations. However, after being used for storage for over a decade, it proved possible to demolish the Drill Hall to permit a rearward extension of the Art Gallery. This was funded by Sir George Alfred Wills (1854–1928, a cousin of Lord Winterstoke) and completed in 1930.

The 1872–77 Museum building was gutted by fire following a bomb hit on the night of 24–25 November 1940, during the Bristol Blitz, some 17,000 of the natural history specimens being lost. The 1930 extension of the Art Gallery was also hit, but luckily escaped the conflagration, although suffering badly from blast damage. Nevertheless, the Art Gallery partially reopened in February 1941, now also housing some of the Museum's surviving material on a 'temporary' basis. Although now housed in the same building, from April 1945, the Museum and Art Gallery were formally split into separate institutions with the lower floor becoming the Museum and the upper floors the Art Gallery. As part of this restructuring, the archaeology and anthropology collections were transferred from the Art Gallery to the Museum.

In February 1947, the remains of the old Museum building (with the exception of the undamaged lecture theatre) were sold to Bristol University: it was then rebuilt as its dining rooms, later becoming Brown's Restaurant. [7] The sale of the building in 1947 reflected the intention that new premises would soon be provided for the Museum and the Art Gallery planning began in 1951, but then dragged on for the next twenty years, during which time the old buildings received minimal attention, other than the insertion of mezzanines to gain additional space.

Meanwhile, various proposals had been made for new museum buildings in Castle Park, in the very centre of Bristol, overlooking the river Avon. However, spiraling costs and funding difficulties meant that in 1971 the plans were abandoned and a smaller amount of money was put into upgrading the existing building. Wholesale refurbishment was required, including rewiring, rearranging offices, creating laboratories and dividing up and furnishing the basement to provide proper storage for the reserve collections.

In the summer of 2009 the museum hosted an exhibition by Banksy, called Banksy versus Bristol Museum featuring more than 70 works of art, including animatronics and installations it is his largest exhibition yet. It was developed in secrecy and with no advance publicity. [8]

Today, the top floor art galleries include a collection of Chinese Glass and the "Schiller collection" of Eastern Art donated by Max Schiler, the Recorder of Bristol from 1935 to 1946 and collected by his older brother Ferdinand N Schiler. It contains a range of Chinese ceramics wares spanning different dynastic periods. Particularly fine pieces include a number of white, light blue and green-glazed (Ying Qing and Qingbai) wares from the Tang (AD 618–960) and Song (AD 960–1279) dynasties. It also holds a collection of Bristol blue glass.

The Egyptology gallery contains mummies besides other items and a wall decoration made over 3,000 years ago – the Assyrian Reliefs, which were transferred from the Royal West of England Academy. It also has a significant collection of Egyptian antiquities, a considerable number derived from the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Society and British School of Archaeology in Egypt. A completely rebuilt Egyptian gallery opened in 2007.

A natural history gallery contains examples of aquatic habitats in the south west of England and an interactive map of local wildlife sites and a freshwater aquarium containing fish typical of the region. [9]

The museum also holds many of the prehistoric and Roman artefacts recovered before the flooding of Chew Valley Lake, [10] and other local archaeological finds such as those from Pagans Hill Roman Temple [11] and the Orpheus Mosaic from Newton St Loe.

There is a choice of galleries situated upstairs full of artworks: Old Masters, French School, British Collection, Modern Art and the Bristol School. [12]

In 2012, the museum was given the entire 50,000 piece collection of the former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. [13]

The Friends of Bristol Art Gallery [14] has supported the gallery since 1947, acquiring over 300 works of art for the gallery. The Friends of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery [15] was founded in 1977 (first known as the “Bristol Magpies”) to support the principal sites of Bristol’s museums, galleries and archives service.

On 1 July 2014 Arts Council England announced that Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives secured its second 'Major partner museum' funding for 2015-18 which will see the service receive approximately £4.7 million over three years to help deliver public outcomes.

Other museums and sites administered by Bristol Culture are M Shed, Blaise Castle House Museum, the Red Lodge Museum, the Georgian House Museum, Bristol Archives and Kings Weston Roman Villa. The Bristol Industrial Museum, which closed in 2006 reopened in June 2011 as a museum called M Shed dedicated to telling the story of Bristol.


How to get here

Most of our places run the Gift Aid on Entry scheme at their admission points.

Under this scheme, if you're not a member you have the choice of two entry tickets:

If the place runs Gift Aid on Entry, we'll offer you a clear choice between the Gift Aid Admission prices and the Standard Admission prices at the admission point. It's entirely up to you which ticket you choose.

Gift Aid Admission includes a 10 per cent or more voluntary donation. Gift Aid Admissions let us reclaim tax on the whole amount paid - an extra 25 per cent - potentially a very significant boost to our places' funds.

An extra £1 paid under the scheme can be worth over £3 to the National Trust as shown below:

Gift Aid Standard
Amount paid by visitor £11.00 £10.00
Tax refund from Government* £2.75 £0.00
Total received by the National Trust £13.75 £10.00

*Gift Aid Admissions let us reclaim tax on the whole amount paid - an extra 25 per cent - potentially a very significant boost to our places' funds.


Watch the video: History of Blaise Castle House Museum (January 2022).