George Street, Bristol, BS1 5RR
Bath stone façade with brick for inner walls and a slate roof
Open to the public at varying times from Easter through to the end of October. Please check the website for opening hours.
The Georgian House was built for John Pinney, a wealthy sugar merchant who owned West Indian sugar plantations worked by slaves. The style is Neoclassical: for example a symmetrical frontage with sash windows and a pediment and half-columns forming the main doorway (the façade’s only decoration). It was designed as part of a development across several streets in what was then a newly fashionable neighbourhood. Locating houses in this area to the west and above the city was deliberate. Here were breezes and fresh air, and the prevailing wind took city smells in the other direction.
It has been council-owned since 1938 and after loving restoration now houses a museum. The rooms open to the public are furnished to show how the house would have been lived in. They include domestic rooms, John Pinney’s office, a kitchen and housekeeper’s office below stairs and even a cold plunge bath in the basement (for health purposes, not washing). Pinney had a wide social circle and Lord Nelson and the poets Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth may have been among guests entertained here.
Pinney’s association with the slave trade is representative of the lives of many wealthy merchants at this time. Living in the Georgian House was John Pinney’s own personal slave, the African Pero. At just 12, in 1765, Pero Jones was bought by Pinney to work on his plantation. In 1784 he came with the family when they moved to Bristol. His life and experience is explained in an exhibition within the museum, and he is commemorated by the Millennium bridge across Bristol’s floating harbour, named Pero’s Bridge.