Eric and Avon

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Fri 21 May 2010 22:39
Eric and Avon
Tuesday the 18th of May I took Bear to see Eric Clapton.
 He was at the NEC on stage with the fabulously voiced Steve Winwood. It was a birthday pressie to Big Bear, Kate and Mark joined us to celebrate his forthcoming 30th on the 14th of October
Then we escaped to the Avon Gorge Hotel, Clifton for Bear to get rid of his horrendous cough, sunny enough on the terrace for lunch

The Avon Gorge Hotel has provided its guests with its fantastic setting and views since 1898. This elegant building began life as a spa and is situated in Bristol's premier residential area of Clifton; the Avon Gorge Hotel is surrounded by some of Britain’s most spectacular architecture.  I last stayed here some six years ago and little has changed but the building is due for a thirty million pound refit, would be nice to go there one day and not see the scaffolding. Still it gave us the time for Bear to rest and get better and for me to bead my braids




My hair half done by Thursday night, complete on our Anniversary, with the help of my bead sorting Bear


Clifton and the Hot Wells

The hot springs of Bristol, whilst forgotten today, in the past made the city world famous. The spring bubbled up hot (23ºC) through the mud between high and low tides of the River Avon located below Hotwells Road, South of the Suspension Bridge.   The water from the spring was said to have been, according to an analysis in 1912, 170 times more radioactive than the public water supply. The Hot Well’s history goes back as far as the 15th Century where people used the spring for its so-called ‘medicinal properties’ including sailors who drank it in hope that it would cure their scurvy.   By 1630 many people started visiting the well to wash and drink from it, however the path to the well was hazardous and many could not make it. Fortunately, those who could not reach the well could purchase it in the bottled form and by the end of the 17th Century Bristol water was being shipped all over the world. To this day Bristol is still recognized for its glass-making which originated from the demand caused by the popularity of Bristol’s spring water years ago.  

The popularity of the Hot Well attracted many peoples attention including the Society of Merchant Ventures, who purchased the Hot Well along with the manor of Clifton in 1676. The Merchants saw the potential of the spring and it soon became a popular venue for many, including Royalty in Charles II’s Queen; Catherine of Braganza. Whilst popularity grew for the Hot Well, the Merchants encountered many problems including sewage which persistently contaminated the spring water.    

In 1695, the Merchant Venturers granted a 90 year lease on the Hot Well for an annual rent of £5, on condition that the new lease holders spend £500 developing the area including a new footpath providing better access, a pump room and lodging houses. New pumps and valves were also installed to reduce contamination. The new pump room became the scene of many fantastic society functions and when an assembly room was added to the facilities in 1723 more and more people flocked to the Hot Well including the literary and artistic jet set such as Haydn, Swift and Defoe.   Different to that of Bath and Cheltenham’s spas, Bristol’s Hot Well was free and easy and didn’t just attract the formal and aristocratic types, it had charm and appealed to everyone.  

The 1790’s saw the Hot Well start to decline and as costs rose to keep the Hot Well from being polluted and the need for remedial work meant less and less people began to visit the spring. Clifton on the other hand was becoming very prosperous with merchants building mansions on the Hill to get away from the pollution in the City. In 1822, attempts were made to revive the spa and the old Hot Well Pump Room was demolished and a new building called The Royal Clifton Spa was built. Even with these attempts to reinvigorate the popularity the Spa once had, it never did regain its highly recognised reputation. The Royal Clifton Spa was then demolished in 1867 and the water was instead piped to a pump in a cavern at the foot of the cliff; up to 300 people a day drank from the spring until it was finally closed in 1913.  

The Merchants did however have one last attempt at reviving the spa in the 1890’s. At this time George Newnes had applied to the Ventures to build Clifton Rocks Railway; when he was commissioned to build the railway he had one condition; to construct a ‘hydropathic institution’. Newnes pumped the Hot Well spring up through the rock to “Clifton Grand Spa and Hydropathic Institution” (which is now next to The Avon Gorge Hotel).  The elegant pump room 100 feet long by 57 feet wide was not just an ordinary building, it also contained a variety of baths and showers. The popularity of the hydropathic treatments did however wane after the First World War when it was then used for balls and prestigious events.   

The 19th Century also saw the construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Whilst the foundation stone was laid in 1831 the project was dogged with political and financial difficulties. Brunel died prematurely aged 53 yrs in 1859 and never saw his design coming to life with the bridge finally opening in 1864. Designed for light ‘horse drawn’ traffic the bridge still today meets the demands of 21st century traffic with 11-12,000 motor vehicles crossing it every day.   In years gone by, newly qualified R.A.F. pilots used to fly under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, to be toasted by their officers standing on the Hotel's Terrace, as part of their initiation ceremony. By 1920 the building had become a cinema and then in the 1950’s and 1960’s the Pump Room became the most popular dance venue in Bristol. The Avon Gorge Hotel also became a place to spot the rich and famous including Cary Grant, a Bristolian from Horfield, and Hollywood legend for many years stayed at the Hotel several whilst visiting his mother.  



Happy Wedding Anniversary Big Bear, a nice shot of him with the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge behind him