View Full Version : Archived: Bridewell Island (shut it you nonce), Bristol - March 08

06-11-2008, 11:24 AM
Visited with Tumbles who managed to pull a few strings to get us in.

The Bridewell or Bridewell Island is a rougly triangular section of land in the center of Bristol, It is boardered on three sides by Bridewell Street, Silver Street and Nelson Street. It comprises 4 listed buildings around a central courtyard including a Police Station, Firestation, Law Courts and a former Police Headquaters. It's very similar to the london road complex in Manchester but where that is domnated by the Fire service The Bridewell is very much a police manor.

Starting at the point of the triangle where Bridwell St, Silver St meet the first building is Central Fire Station with its large fire doors fanning across the curved end to the building down the Bridewell and Silver Street sides of the complex, The opeing out in to a nicely tiled engine bay. The firestation was one of the buildings completed in 1928 faced with bathstone on the exterior and constructed of yellow brick arround the courtyard. The exterior firedoors are painted bright fire engine red from is it time as a theme bar following the fire brigade's departure. The interior doors are painted in orginal dull government blue paint and havent had much attention for years. The firestation was closed during the early 1970's as the fire service modernised and increasing traffic within the city center made the station less effective. Since it closed the fire station has been a number unscuessful bars and clubs so internally nothing orginal survives except for the nicely decorated tile floor in the engine bay, I couldnt be bothered taking pics of any of the tacky club interiors.

The first building along bridewell road side Is the Police Headquaters for the Bristol City Constabulary, It isn't really a seperate building the exteriors of all the structures blend into each other they are just divided internally. The Police headquaters was also finished in 1928 and is dressed in the same bathstone as the other 1920's buildings. The police Headquaters is esentially a five story office block, the first three floors have been converted into studios and workspaces for art students who are using the building until the redevelopment project starts in 2009, Above the top two floors are still awaiting conversion and still have there police decour the offices just ooze 1970's with fake plastic wood dividing walls topped with frosted glass you can just imagine Life on Mars characters strutting about saying "shut it you slag". Inside the police HQ very little survives from the police days except a Royal Cypher above the gates on the antique lift, and the records room in the basement still lined with heavy wooden filing cabents labeld "Bristol Crime reports B Division 1972" or "Murder Cases Bristol Unsolved 1975" all of which were empty apart from an unopened folio of membership books for the "Avon Constabulary Police Club" dated 1975. After Bristol City Poilce was merged into the newly created Avon and somerset Constabulary in 1974 the Bridewell headquaters could'nt cope with the increased number of staff needed so the headquaters started to move out the following year leaving the headquaters building as the CID offices CID for bristols A, B and C divisions. They too left the building in 1986 when New Bridewell Police Station was completed accross the road. On the interior of the old police HQ a black clock face looks down overthe court yard it does look a little out of place but i was determined to try inad find the workings. Which surprisingly enough were located behind a cupboard in the male detectives toilet i only found them by acident because i need a pit stop, The clock working seem to pre date the site the inside winding face is marked "Crower & Sons of Bristol 1884"perhapts the clock was saved from an earlier building on the site bizarely although the clock is no longer turning when we got outside and looked at its face it was displaying the exact time.

Moving down Bridewell Road the next building is the old city magistrates court, Originally constructed in 1878 of red brick courts had the existing bathstone facade added between 1928 and 1930 so it would blend in with the rest of the complex, unluckly the court has just been handed over to a new tennant who has replaced all the locks so we couldnt get access to the court houses today. The court house was used by the city magistrated until the early 80's when they moved to a new building half a mile away which has also recently closed.

The final building in the complex Bristol Central Police station or "Old Bridewell" occupied the entire length of the Nelson Road facade. The police station was the last of the 1928 range of buildings to be completed, opening in 1930 the police station served as the city centers main police station for 75 years until it closed in 2005. The police station has been mostly semi converted to art studio space but the main reception desk, custody suite interview rooms and most importanlty the cells in the basement are still complete. the cells are amazingly cool also yellow is my favorite colour so loved the steel doors down there. Along Silver Street the buildings length is occupied by the offices of Central Police Station the main gate into the courtyeard and then back to the fire engine bays on the fire station.

Finaly the courtyard area is dominated by a towering concrete fire tower, unfortunatley its apparently waist deep in pideon shite so they wouldnt let us go in there. Just like london road firestation the floors above the firestation are taken up with firemans accmodation with paved areas out side overlooking the couryard like little streets in the sky.

Throught its history the complex had two owners the City Council owned the firestation and Courts while the Police owned the HQ and police station. Following the closure of the police station in 2005 both owners took the oportunity to sell the site jointly via a redevelopment competition, This was won by Urban Splash who plan a mix use residental, retail and office development retaining all the exisiting buildings. Currently the site is occupied by the artspace lifespace project who get use of the buildings pending redevelopment in exchange for security through occupation who were kind enough to give us free reign through the parts of the building they use.

Anyway piccy time.

Central Police Station (Nelson Street)

Facade of the Magistrated Court (Bridewell Street)

Police Headquaters (Bridewell Street)

Police Station Reception Desk christmas decorations are from some art expibition


Police Station Corridor

Custody Suite Only ever been in front of one of these onece before and then i was holding a number




The only cell not decorated by artists


Police Records


CID Office you nonce





Fire Tower