Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Tuesday 7th April 2020

Bush House

Prince Street [1] between the two arms of the Floating Harbour. It is better known as the 'Arnolfini' - the arts centre conversion [2] of 1975, now an important part of Bristol's cultural life.

Nikolaus Pevsner described it in 1958 as "a big Bristolian warehouse in the RundbogenstilGlossary Term [3] built remarkably early. It is shown on a drawing dated 1847." The authorship of local architectWool Hall [4] (1828), and confirmed by his obituary in 'The Builder' for 1884.

The building's dating [5] was unclear, but it is now certain that its two phases were built in 1831 and 1835-6 for the iron-founding firm of D., E. & A. Acraman. It was undoubtedly the most architecturally ambitious warehouse in Bristol, with the then huge rateable value of £540 a year. The antiquarian G.W. Braikenridge (not normally given to mentioning new buildings) referred to it in his journal of 1831 as "a most superb warehouse".

Pope's composition is deceptively simple; a rock-facedGlossary Term [6] plinthGlossary Term [7], three storeys of simple rectangular windows recessed within tall roundGlossary Term [8] arches, and a shallow atticGlossary Term [9]. Rugged Pennant sandstone [10]cast ironGlossary Term [11] DoricGlossary Term [12] columns. Many elements recur in the 'Bristol Byzantine [13]' style developed from the 1850s, explaining why Pevsner felt that 1847 was remarkably early.

Architecturally the Bush warehouse is notable for its stately proportions, its scale and the almost Grecian purity of the detailing. Its dignified bearing transcends its industrial origins and sits happily with its present use.

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009