51 Queen Charlotte St, Bristol, BS1 4HQ
Completed 1869. Converted into flats 2002.
Ponton and Gough. 2002 conversion by Barton Willmore.
Victorian incorporating Venetian and Moorish influences (also categorised as Bristol Byzantine)
Grade II 1959
Red and buff Cattybrook brick, black painted brick used as decoration on window arches, stonework bands on building and lintels.
Industry & Commerce
The building is made up of private flats and is not open to the public. There is a restaurant on the ground floor which is open to the public. The exterior can be viewed at all reasonable times from Welsh Back, Queen Charlotte St and Little King St.
The Granary was built in 1869 for Wait, James and Co. Huge amounts of grain were stored and spread out to dry in this building, so it had to be strong, stable and warm, with maximum ventilation. Its many openings provided ventilation and the bricks used were easily heated up from inside to warm the building.
Arched and round openings are also decorated beautifully with dazzling multicoloured brickwork. This is a striking example of the Victorian fashion for using Venetian, Moorish and Byzantine features – its architects may have been comparing Bristol with the great trading ports of Istanbul and Venice. The building became obsolete soon after completion as warehouses closer to the water took over.
Its exotic appearance made it the ideal venue (lower floors only) for a successful jazz and rock venue between 1968 and 1988, hosting acts from Genesis to the Stranglers. In 2002 the building was converted into flats and a ground-floor restaurant without making any dramatic change to the exterior.
This is an excellent example of ‘form following function’ – a building’s purpose being expressed by its design. However, the architects decided to go further and make it very attractive, too. They chose a Byzantine-style design dominated by six levels of arched, exotic-looking openings of varying height and shape topped by eastern-style battlements. The arches contain open-work brick grilles, which also vary in pattern. Machine-made bricks were used that came from the Cattybrook pit at Almondsbury.
The building had seven grain floors and its big, solid angles contained lifts that took grain to the top. It was then shovelled down through chutes in the floors, being dried as it went. Large chimneys show that flues ran up inside the walls to heat the brickwork, which acted as a giant radiator. The chutes brought grain out through the round openings at the base and into waiting carts.
This is one of several important Victorian industrial buildings that survive in this part of Bristol’s floating harbour and that reflect the predominant use of the area for flour mills. There were many grain merchants’ offices in houses on nearby Queen Square. The building was commissioned by William Wait. He was MP for Gloucester and became Bristol’s major the year the Granary was completed.
The building soon stopped being used as a granary because it was set back on the quayside. Later warehouses built on the opposite side of the harbour on Redcliffe Back had direct access to the water. Its conversion in 2002, by architects Barton Willmore, shows how buildings can be successfully converted for very different use but keep all of their attractive, historic features.