Pipe Lane, Bristol

BaRAS have recenty finished work at the corner of Pipe Lane and Trenchard Street, opposite the Colston Hall Foyer in Bristol.

Until 1937 the site was occupied by a large, three-storey gable-fronted building (No. 9 Pipe Lane) and one of the aims of the fieldwork was to determine its age and relationship with St Mark’s or Gaunt’s Hospital — a medieval monastic site north of College Green.

No. 9 Pipe Lane Bristol in 1903

No. 9 Pipe Lane, Bristol in 1903

St Mark’s Hospital was established in about 1230 and had a precinct which extended as far as Frogmore Street and Pipe Lane to the north and west. When No. 9 was demolished a decorative niche, reputed to have once held a statue of the Virgin and Child, was recovered from the corner of the building and it was thought that No. 9 may have incorporated parts of a medieval building associated with the Hospital.

The earliest feature on the site was a huge, backfilled, quarry-pit which contained late 11th to early 16th-century finds. Excavations at Colston Hall in 2006 uncovered evidence of widespread quarrying taking place soon after the Dissolution of the Carmelite Friary in 1538 and this quarry may be similar in date.

Number 9 Pipe Lane was probably built in the early 17th century, which suggests that the niche was probably not in-situ. In 1812 it became home to the ‘Bristol Eye Dispensary’; a hospital for diseases of the eye established by John Bishop Estlin (1785 – 1855), a famous ophthalmic surgeon, philanthropist and campaigner for the abolition of slavery. When the hospital moved to new premises in Orchard Street in 1870, No. 9 became a lodging house.

site of 9 pipe lane viewed from above

The archaeological excavation viewed from Trenchard Street multi-storey carpark

Road improvements in 1937 resulted in the demolition of No. 9. The site was subsequently redeveloped as an engineering works but has been derelict since the 1980s. Redevelopment for a student residence and key worker’s accommodation is currently underway.

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