Clifton and Hotwells
Improvement Society (CHIS)

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Over 40 years of working for Clifton and Hotwells

If you appreciate what CHIS does, please encourage others to join. Our strength lies in our membership.

Millennium and other projects


2004 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Licensing , Membership , St Andrews

2005 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Licensing , Membership , St Andrews , Trees , Web

2006 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Licensing , Membership , St Andrews , Trees , Web

2007 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Licensing , Membership , St Andrews , Trees , Web

2008 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Licensing , Membership , St Andrews , Trees , Web

2009 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Membership , Trees , Web

2010 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Trees , Social Events , Residents Parking , Streetscape , Web , Plaques , St Andrews Churchyard , Waste Disposal , Licensing
Richard Bland & Maggie Shapland spent much time and effort in producing the Appraisal for Clifton Conservation area, a most important document for the future.

A member of the committee represents CHIS at nearly twenty different regular meetings. These range through planning (see above), the police, the Downs, the Rocks Railway, community liaison with the Council and both universities, Parks Forum and others.

Bristol in Bloom:
Sharon Baker actively represents CHIS on the committee for Bristol in Bloom and organises the judging tour round Bristol 8.

2012 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Trees , Social Events , Residents Parking , Streetscape , Web , Plaques , St Andrews Churchyard , Waste Disposal , Licensing
Other activities
Entente Florale Bristol was honoured to represent England in the European Entente Florale competition this summer and three of our committee, Sharon Baker. RoseMary Musgrave and Richard Bland, were involved. Sharon Baker helped out with the administration and community gardens involvement, RoseMary Musgrave acted as a'dummy judge' on two occasions as presentations were practised and the route worked out; she represented CHIS at an exhibition of community volunteer groups at the M Shed. Richard Bland was part of a presentation given about the Downs as a representative of the Friends of the Downs.

2013 Reports

Chairman , Planning , Trees , Social Events , Residents Parking , Streetscape , Web , St Andrews Churchyard , Waste Disposal , Licensing

From the Beginning

This brief survey inevitably omits some important activities and developments. However, if it gives a flavour of what the Society has achieved and encourages others to help, then this summary will have achieved its purpose.


To those who have known Clifton and Hotwells only in recent years, it is difficult to imagine the area as it was 30 years ago.

In Bristol as a whole, planning was overseen by the City Engineer. A large area of Clifton was scheduled for demolition to build the Outer Circuit Road, with its eleven interchanges. (The only interchange eventually completed at Totterdown, resulted in 550 families being evicted and their houses demolished!).

Another grandiose plan was to culvert over the Floating Harbour to provide additional space for office development.

Writing in 1989, local architect Michael Jenner says: "The Circuit Road was only one of the threats to Bristol and Clifton, most of them proposed by people who thought they were working for the common good, but were desperately out of touch with public opinion. Some of their proposals seem today so bizarre that people can't believe them .... The 60s and 70s was the period when the planners and the grottiest commercial architects ruled."

The picture of Clifton itself was of decaying Georgian terraces, many little better than slums, owned frequently by uninterested landlords. In those few houses which were being repaired, after years of wartime and post-war neglect, original fittings such as fireplaces, mantelpieces, panelled doors, sash windows and shutters were being ripped out wholesale and plaster ceiling mouldings broken by internal sub-divisions. Balconies and their roofs hung precariously in many cases, peeling paint and broken rendering covered facades or, if the original stone had been retained, it was streaked with soot. Front railings and balconies displayed all the colours of the rainbow. The gardens in front of the major terraces had often lost their surrounding railings for scrap during the 1939-45 war and the trees and shrubs were neglected and lawns weed-infested.

In Hotwells many bomb-damaged properties had been demolished and others were under threat, while decisions over future road plans caused planner's blight to hinder development of the area.

Yet despite this, much of Clifton still retained a raffish charm which appealed across generations and classes. Indeed, the area was in many ways a much more representative and interesting cross-section of the community than it is today. There was a wealth of friendly service shops within easy walking distance and the pubs, each with its own character, were essentially 'locals'. Parking was easy by day or night.

A handful of younger people with energy, attracted by the Georgian and Victorian architecture, the ease of shopping and convenience for commuting, began buying these houses and gradually restoring them.

It was a group these younger people and some older residents who cared for Clifton and Hotwells who came together on 1 April 1968 at a meeting in Caledonia Place to discuss the problems and to try to find a way forward.

These 30 pioneers arrived at the meeting buzzing with the latest proposal - that the Mall Gardens were scheduled to become a tarmacked car park with a public lavatory and electricity sub-station to complete the effect!

By the end of the meeting is was agreed that Clifton and Hotwells needed a society to protect and especially to improve the area. A list of aims was drawn up and a committee elected. CHIS was born.


The first six years saw:


From this point onwards there began to be a change in the attitude of the City Council. A Planning Officer was appointed for the first time and much of Clifton and part of Hotwells designated as Conservation Areas.

Gradually the Planning Group of CHIS began to work with rather than against the local authority. A Conservation Advisory Panel was set up by the City Council to look at major plans and the Society's opinion on planning matters was increasingly sought by both planners and developers.

The Department of the Environment offered Town Scheme Grants, helped by City Council funding, to four of Clifton's major terraces, which did much to restore them.

The potential of Clifton became more apparent and a new generation of owners, buying rather than renting, began to make Clifton and Hotwells their home.

Residents' societies, previously dormant or defunct, were formed to make improvements to their local areas.

This more affluent Clifton gave rise to new problems. Many of the small service shops could no longer afford increased leasehold payments and were replaced by boutiques, restaurants and wine bars serving the whole of Bristol and beyond rather than the local community. During this period four small food stores, three butchers, two greengrocers, a Woolworth's, baker's, draper's, ironmonger's, tailor's, and fishmonger's, amongst many others, were lost in the centre of Clifton alone.

The new shops created refuse problems and a sharp increase in vandalism was evident after closing time. There was also a dramatic increase in the amount of traffic and problems with parking.

As well as carrying out many 'routine' activities, the Society:


The boom years, followed by the depression, increased existing problems while creating new ones.

Parking and traffic management became critical and the closure of shops was viewed with concern. House and flat owners struggling to pay mortgages were often not maintaining their properties as they did a few years earlier.

During these years, most of the regular activities previously describe continued to be carried out and CHIS:

1994 - 2002

The Society's by now traditional activities described above continued and increased. Donations were made to residents' societies, Hotwells and Christchurch Schools, the Hope Centre, Hotwells Living Memories Group, the Rocks Railway Group and the Hotwells Local History Group for a variety of purposes,

Certain issues continued to pose the same problems almost since the Society began, such as parking, refuse and overhanging branches.

Much effort which could have been used more productively was channeled into preservation, especially fight the surge of licensing applications in Whiteladies Road and the heart of Clifton. By 1996 there were 44 licensed premises in Clifton and 52 in Whiteladies Road. Saturation point had been reached. Long and complicated opposition was put forward against further licences in large premises such as the former Antiques Market, the Osmond Tricks building in Regent Street and Maples.

The Planning Department finally issued a special guidance note limiting further development.

This period also saw:

Last but not least:

August 2003 onwards

The Society's on-going activities continue. These include the study of planning, licensing and tree applications (and objecting where considered necessary), planting trees and bulbs, erecting plaques on the houses of famous residents, installing benches and litter bins, organising talks and visits and publishing the regular newsletter, as well as considering traffic, parking, refuse and fly-posting issues. The most recent activities of the Society have been:

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