Retirees Go Abroad –Bristol and Bishop’s Knoll

There was a “Bristol during WW1” Remembrance Day exhibition on display at the M Shed. The receptionist recognising our accent invited us to particularly look at the display on private hospitals for soldiers at that time. Amongst the memorabilia war this article about an Australian who threw open his home for Australian soldiers. Here is an excerpt for Bishop’s Knoll and the web links.

“Bristol’s Australians- only hospital

With the outbreak of the First World War a number of wealthy families offered to turn their mansions into convalescent hospitals for wounded soldiers. Bishop’s Knoll War Hospital stands apart as it was the only “make shift” hospital in the area that accepted patients directly from the front. Eventually it was to be used only by Australian soldiers, and it was entirely paid for by former Gloucestershire cricketer Robert Edwin Bush.

Years before the war Bush played for the county alongside the greatest cricketer of all time, WG Grace, but after hanging up his bat Bush spent many years in Australia as a sheep farmer, and made a fortune. On returning to Bristol at the turn of the 20th century, he and his wife Marjorie took up residence at Bishop’s Knoll. With the outbreak of war, Bush wanted to play his part and so set about converting his family home into a war hospital for wounded soldiers.

Having made his fortune in Australia Bush wanted to repay the country that made him so wealthy, and so wanted his home to be used only by Australian soldiers. To start with the Australian authorities refused his offer, before saying that if he wanted to do this then it would have to be staffed by Australians too. Bush disagreed, but finally won his battle in 1916, and for the remainder of the war only soldiers from Down Under were treated at Bishop’s Knoll.

Hundreds of Anzac soldiers came through the gates of the Knoll including Victoria Cross winner John Patrick Hamilton. The care was reported as second to none with Bush himself working there as an orderly. The hospital history reports that after the war a fight broke out in an Australian bar between two men who had been looked after in the West of England during the First World War, both arguing the place they had been treated was better than the other. It was only after the fight that both men realised that they actually been treated at the same hospital – Bishop’s Knoll.

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Retirees Go Abroad – What a lovely pair of – Bristol

Before our Australian guests arrived in late November, Kerry was anxious that we visit Bristol and experience that city. She had gone there to see a surgeon whilst I was working back in Australia and felt compelled to return. We booked accommodation at the Mercure Hotel Brigstow Bristol in Welsh Back with parking at the parking station in Queen Charlotte St behind the hotel. Our room was very comfortable and overlooked the Canal with a view of Bristol Bridge and St Peter’s Church.

The weather was mild with a slight breeze and the trees were still losing leaves. Every now and then the sun would poke through just to check that we were okay.

I had a few ideas around what I wanted to do in Bristol but once we started walking along the canal toward Redcliffe Way most of my planning went by the way. We came across a memorial to merchant seamen just outside the hotel, then a Tudor style hotel Llandoger Trow, and then further around the canal the memorial to John Cabot.

I remembered this name from social Studies in Primary School but had no idea what controversy surrounded his exploration. Wikipedia reports“. In May 1497. John Cabot, sailing from Bristol, took the small ship Matthew along the coasts of a “New Found Land”. There is much controversy over where exactly Cabot landed, but two likely locations that are often suggested are Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Cabot and his crew mistook this place for China, without finding the passage to the east they were looking for.”

After the memorial I spotted the M Shed on the other side of the canal. This was one stop I wanted to make. Bristol has been a major maritime port (its proximity to the Americas helped) and large wharves have been turned into a museum housing England’s oldest steam tug, steam powered unlading cranes and a replica of the “SS Matthew”.

There was a “Bristol during WW1” Remembrance Day exhibition on display at the M Shed. The receptionist recognising our accent invited us to particularly look at the display on private hospitals for soldiers at that time. I have prepared a separate blog for this subject “Retirees Go Abroad –Bristol and Bishop’s Knoll”.

After visiting the M Shed we continued our walk through Millennium Square and north to Bristol Cathedral. This is another enormous Cathedral and apparently the only one in the UK to have the ceilings of its halls along the Nave at the same height as the Nave. Kerry was very taken with the stained glass. Although modern, the original having been damaged in WW2, it depicts the heroism of different branches of the  civil services during that war.

After the Cathedral we decided to continue our journey down Deanery Road and we found the Central Library. We poked in side and were surprised to find a structure made entirely out of pencils with furniture made of the same material.

Kerry was wanting to get to Clifton Village an inner suburb of Bristol so we headed to Constitution Hill and what a hill. Probably a 25% grade and 500m long but there no stopping when you are on a mission. It did not take long before we were in the Village – very pretty Victorian shops and houses – pretty pricey too I would bet. There was a pretty arcade where we had coffee and then the White Lion Hotel overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. So we had drinks at the White Lion and by the time we returned to our walk the sun had set and lights were on all through the village. We decided to walk up to the Bridge and then across the Bridge before trying to find The Coronation Tap (the Cori Tap to the locals) a cider house with live entertainment. When we did find it unfortunately it did not open til 8.00pm with no food and the entertainment at 9.00pm. Too late for us.

We strolled back along the narrow streets and found a plaque to the memory of Francis Greenway Father of Australian Architecture affixed to the wall of a hotel design by Greenway presumably before he moved to Australia. The community had erected their Xmas tree and lights making the old town picturesque by night. We dined at a small Italian restaurant (no chips) and then walked back to our hotel through the lights of the modern city.

We planned a return trip through the countryside tomorrow unaware that we would discover Britain’s most complete Roman Villa.