The Changing Face of Bristol

Photographic Archive of Totterdown Bristol BS4

Totterdown is a suburb of Bristol, England, situated area just south of the River Avon and south-east of Temple Meads railway station. It rises relatively steeply from the river bank to a largely terraced Victorian housing area which is notable for its painted homes - often in bright colours - that can be seen from some distance. There is a tight network of extremely steep roads in eastern Totterdown, of which Vale Street, although very short, is alleged to be the steepest residential road in England. For safety cars can only be parked on it at an angle to the kerb.

Modern Totterdown owes much of its character to the suburban expansion of Bristol in the 1870s and 1880s.

Once mainly a working class area and built for the nearby railway industry, in the mid to late 19th century, Totterdown has become a popular area for the younger generation taking up work in the city centre.

During the early 1970s a road scheme (the Outer Circuit Road) was proposed for the Totterdown area and 550 houses and shops were demolished. However, the road scheme was never implemented, and later new houses were built on much of the land. In the late 1980s, a cut down version of the road was proposed joining the original section at Barrow Road, crossing the railway and river and a large viaduct, and joining the A4 at Arnos Grove. This was built in the early 1990s and opened in October 1994.

This was a council that wanted a hotel in Avon Gorge, a roundabout on The Downs, and to rip up much of Clifton, Cotham, Montpelier, Easton, Totterdown and Bedminster for a monstrous outer-circuit road with tunnels, flyovers and giant roundabouts. It built Broadmead, Britain’s worst big city shopping centre, and tore down hundreds of historic buildings that had survived the war. Even worse, decisions were taken in secret and Bristolians were told to accept what experts had decided was best for them.

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Modern Totterdown owes much of its character to the suburban expansion of Bristol in the 1870s and 1880s, but beneath the brick and stone terraces of Lower Totterdown's "Pylle Hill" lies a much older history.

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