A walk around Sea Mills Garden Suburb

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Devised by Melanie Kelly for the Homes for Heroes Book of Walks.
Published by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership

This walk will take you around one of the country’s finest municipal garden suburbs, one that was praised by John Betjeman in a 1937 radio broadcast for its ‘vistas of trees and fields and pleasant cottages’.

Among the characteristics of garden suburbs to be found in Sea Mills are: a planned layout of low-density housing and clearly defined streets; houses coherently grouped in symmetrical pairs with occasional short terraces to add variety; generous rear gardens and spaces between properties to maximise access to sunlight and circulating air; a pleasant green setting and attractive outlooks; tree-lined streets and deep grass verges with houses set well back from the road; and provision of allotments, recreational areas, shops, schools, places of worship and a library. Sea Mills was designated a Conservation Area in February 1981.

Western Daily Press 5th June 1919

Bristol’s earliest garden suburb was at Shirehampton. It was set up by the Bristol Garden Suburb Company Limited before the First World War. The company was founded by Elizabeth Sturge, a pioneer in education for women; her nephew Frederick Allen Sturge Goodbody; and Eliza Walker Dunbar, one of the first female physicians in the UK. They had been inspired by a visit to Bristol by Ebenezer Howard, one of the early leaders of the garden city movement. George Oatley was appointed the company’s architect and in 1909 land was purchased for the building of the estate from Philip Napier Miles, the biggest landowner in the north-west of the city. The project faced financial difficulties. Only 44 cottages for rent had been built by the time war broke out and the scheme was never completed. Napier Miles was a keen supporter of garden suburbs and would go on to be an important figure in the development of Sea Mills.

Start walk one 1. Meadway 2. The Square 3. Methodist Church 4Library & Community Centre 5. Hallen Drive 6. Progress Inn & Haig Close 7. Sylvan Way 8 & 9. The Pentagon & St Edyths 10. Primary School 11. The Farm 12. St Edyths Road 13. The Rec