Virtual museum visit

Currently the museum’s focus is on a the contents of residents guided walks which we conducted in September 2019 as part of Bristol Open Doors. This includes a focus on St Edyth’s Church, Sea Mills Farm, the Doctor’s Surgery and the very beginnings of the garden suburb. On the museum shelves (also viewable from outside) there is a focus on WW1 & 2 with reproduction items on display.


Complete interpretation board from Sea Mills Museum

Take a walk around the historic Garden Suburb of Sea Mills

The earliest part of Sea Mills to be built was the area south of Shirehampton Road, the very first houses being on Sylvan Way.
It was part of a major building program after WW1 and was designed to promote healthy living. 

Map of Sea Mills


The first houses and residents in Sea Mills, the Burchell family

 The first residents of Sea Mills were Alfred and Winifred Burchell and their three daughters Cynthia, Muriel and Bettina. They moved into a three bedroomed parlour house in Sylvan Way during 1920.


Christopher Addison and Lady Mayoress Emily Twiggs

On 4th June 1919 Dr Christopher Addison (top right) visited Bristol. During his visit the oak tree you can see behind this museum was planted by Emily Twiggs. Emily, is pictured here with her husband Lord Mayor Henry Twiggs above left.


Early 1960's bus on Sea Mills Square. (c) Michael Warner

Sea Mills Square has always been a transport hub. Here a bus conductor takes a break in the Square


 Sea Mills was previously farm land belonging to Napier Miles of Kingsweston House. In 1848 it hit the headlines (above) for unfortunate reasons.

Napier Miles was a follower of the garden city movement and had previously attempted to build housing on garden city principles in Shirehampton and Avonmouth. In 1919 he agreed to sell land to the Bristol Corporation for house building on the condition that it be built as a garden suburb at a density of not more than twelve houses per acre.

The old Sea Mills Farm house still remains amongst the ‘newer’ houses in Bowerleaze.


Violet Wills and St Edyth's Church
Bristol Archives

The first St Edyth’s Church was housed in a black wooden hut. In December 1926 the foundation stone was laid for the church we have today. The money to build the church was donated by Violet Wills of the Wills Tobacco family. The architect was Sir George Oatley who is better known for the Wills Memorial building in Park Street. He also designed the Methodist Church on the Square. 


Sea Mills Primary School 1932

Before Sea Mills School opened in 1928 children were taught in a temporary school in St Edyth’s Church. The new school’s inspection report in 1935 noted, “the children possess those initial advantages which come from favourable home conditions”.


Dr Hooker, newspaper cutting

The first Doctor’s Surgery for the estate was run by Dr Hooker from a house in St Edyth’s Road. Sadly it’s easier for us to find out about his poor driving than his skills as a doctor!


Sea Mills AFC 1932 (c) Steve Farr

Open spaces for leisure and recreation are a feature garden suburbs. Sea Mills Rec was home to Sea Mills Park AFC, the team still exists and now play at Kingsweston.


Image 1 – upper shelf – Medical care in Sea Mills

Before the NHS began in 1948 you had to pay to see a doctor. There was a doctor’s surgery in St Edyth’s Road and later in Westbury Lane. Find out more from audio clips 6 and 7.  This display includes medicine bottles from 1920 / 1930.

National Insurance was started in 1911 as a scheme to provide healthcare to working people. 

The log book of Sea Mills School records many children seeing the doctor at school along with many absences for illnesses we see less often today.  

Image 1 – lower shelf – Children’s toys

After WW1 many parents did not want their children to have toys like replica guns and soldiers, so other sorts of toys became popular.

Lott’s bricks were  first produced in 1918, originally they were plain. This more elaborate set dating from around 1932 was designed to reflect the buildings of the time which look very much like the houses in Sea Mills.

Toymakers such as Britains who made lead soldiers began to make other toy figures such as farm, circus and zoo figures.
These are the sort of toys the first children to live in Sea Mills would have played with. 

Image 2 – upper shelf – Housing

There are two types of houses in Sea Mills. Parlour and non-parlour. The Parlour houses have an extra room downstairs as well as a living room and kitchen. In 1920 they would have been considered quite posh.

All the houses had inside bathrooms. 

When the first residents arrived in 1920 the rent was 12 shillings for a parlour house and 10 for a non-parlour one. 

As you can see from these documents by 1933 the Howell family were paying considerably more for their parlour house in Sylvan Way. 

Image 3 – upper shelf – WW2

This year is the 80th anniversary of the start of World War two. During this time there was a public air raid shelter in the Square where the children’s play area is now. Some people had shelters in their gardens. 

Everyone was issued with a gas mask, an identity card and ration book. The big gardens in Sea Mills would have been used to grow vegetables to supplement the ration. 

You can hear some recollections of WW2 from local people on audio clips number 4 and 5 (below) 

Some children collected “shrapnel”, like this – small bits of metal which were parts of exploded bombs. 

Image 3 – lower shelf – The Square

Sea Mills Square has always been a transport hub for buses. 

This bus is similar to those which served Sea Mills in the 1940’s and 50’s. The bus ticket was found under the floorboards of
a local house and dates from the 1920’s

Audio clips available at the museum

Previous audio available at the museum

Visit other virtual Sea Mills 100 displays