History & Restoration
“Queen Square has been a place for assembly and ceremony. Living and working, art and leisure, riots for democratic reform and, allegedly, capital punishment. The square was built in the early eighteenth century when Bristol was emerging as England’s second city. Within a century, the complacency that past success can engender meant that the city was beginning to fall behind newly industrialised cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. In the 300 years since it was built, Queen Square has, like much of Bristol, suffered the economic and political vicissitudes of the times. Now, at the beginning of a new century, the renovated square takes its place at the heart of a city confident about its future.”
Queen Square Bristol, Andrew Kelly. 2003.
The best introduction to both the history and restoration of Queen Square is probably the article in Green Space, September 2004. A Brief History provides an historical overview but other important publications are linked to in this section and listed in Publications (below).
Queen Square is one of the largest residential Georgian squares in Europe and is probably the first landscaped square to be completed in England outside of London (circa 1699). It combined the then fashionable idea of tree-lined walks and gravel paths set within grass, with a sculpture of King William III on horseback by Rysbrack at its centre.
The square has since witnessed many changes and events, including the Bristol Riots of 1831 when the Political Reform Bill was defeated in Parliament and ordinary people rose up and filled Queen Square in their thousands to vent their fury. This history became an on sitesonic theatre experience in 2004 as a part of www.mobilebristol.com.
But in 1936 the architectural unity of the space was destroyed by the construction of a dual carriageway through the square. This led to a steady decline in the quality of the surrounding environment and empty office buildings that was finally arrested in 1999 when the City Council, supported by English Heritage and the Queen Square Residents Association, made a successful grant application to restore the square as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Urban Parks programme.
The project started in September 1999. Phase I Restoration of the Square was completed in July 2000. Phases II and III, Reinstatement of the cobbled streets and Forecourts, was completed in June 2003. The restoration has used the best conservation and renovation practices to achieve restoration of the 1800 original layouts. The equestrian statue of William III by Rysbrack, possibly the finest of its date in the country, was restored and protected as part of the project. The transformation is ongoing with the final Phase IV creating a new public space connecting the square with the Centre Promenade. Local residents and businesses have been very involved in the design of the new public space (Final Stages: Consultation Workshop Report 2004) and construction is now underway.
The successful regeneration and enhancement of Queen Square has been well recognised nationally and features as an exemplar scheme on the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment website (www.cabe.org.uk). The project has won two national awards – the Royal Town Planning Institute planning award for the Built Heritage, 2003 (RTPI National Award 2003), and the National Civic Trust Award, 2004.
List of Publications
Restoration and Enhancement Publications
Phase IV Restoration Newsletter 2005 is a newsletter from Bristol City Council, Urban Design team detailing the planned final restoration works.
Queen Square, Bristol is an article in Green Places September 2004, by the Restoration Project Officer, Christopher Heath. For more info visit www.landscape.co.uk
Restoration of Queen Square, The Final Stages is a report from a stakeholder workshop held in July 22 2004
Restoration Newsletter 2001 is a newsletter from Bristol City Council, Urban Design team describing the completion of Phase I works.
Restoration Newsletter 1999 is a newsletter from Bristol City Council, Urban Design team detailing the initial project and construction stages.
Restoration of Queen Square: Application to Heritage Lottery Fund 1996 is the detailed application document.
Queen Square: A Brief History is a brief summary of the square from the 1600’s to today.
Queen Square Bristol is a detailed and well-illustrated history of the Square by Andrew Kelly. 2003. Redcliffe Press Ltd. ISBN 1 900178 84 2. The book is available from the Visitor Information Centre on harbour side by @Bristol.
The History and Development of Queen Square is a comprehensive and illuminating historical study by Bristol City Council, funded by English Heritage, 1996 prior to the Heritage Lottery Fund application.
Riot! A Sonic Theatre Experience in Queen Square is a brief description of the Hewlett Packard led project in 2004.