Waring House Development, Redcliff Hill, Bristol, BS1 6TE
Albert H. Clarke, Bristol City Architect
Precast reinforced concrete.
Brickwork access towers.
Domestic. Social Housing. Function not altered.
The building is still made up of private flats and is not open to the public. The exterior can be viewed from Redcliff Hill.
Redcliff Hill’s Waring House development consists of three linked buildings forming a U-shape: Waring House facing Redcliff Hill, Francombe House along the riverside on Commercial Road and Underdown House on Guinea Street. When Waring House opened in April 1960, a three-bedroom maisonette cost 64s 4d to rent (roughly £3.20), most likely per week, including hot water, laundry and heating.
The layout was explained as: ‘a living room and kitchen on the lower floor and bedrooms on the floor above so that living in one of these dwellings is much like living in a normal house.’ This complex was part of Bristol City Council’s redevelopment of the Redcliff area after severe bombing in the Second World War. Redcliff was one of several social housing zones for ‘key workers’ – an important post-war idea – built on the edges of Bristol city centre, the others being the Barton Hill flats and Dove Street in Kingsdown.
The architectural style is mostly a fairly stark modernism. However, Francombe House’s frontage has a scalloped roofline and entrance canopy, designed to echo the arched supports on the riverside below. Today the buildings are still managed by the council but many of the flats are privately owned.
The site once contained a historic almshouse destroyed by bombing in the Second World War. This was said to have been founded by the famous medieval city merchant William Canynges and was rebuilt in the 18th century. The bombing also destroyed shops in the Redcliff area, so Waring House frontage was built with 11 shop spaces. Waring House contains 79 three-bed flats. Francombe House and Underdown House provide two- and one-bed flats.
The buildings’ frames are made of reinforced concrete. Their construction method has been expressed in the design, as the concrete frame is seen on the outside – a modernist idea. Across the three buildings a mixture of recessed and projecting balconies provides visual variety. Another nice detail is the Terrazzo facing on the columns of the Commercial Road entrance. A considerable fall in ground level across the site made it possible to build some garages partly underground, enabling their roofs to be used for recreation.
Waring House is named after councillor William James Waring, Vice Chairman and later Chairman of the Housing Committee during the major redevelopments in the Redcliff area. This social housing zone included the flats on the other side of Redcliff Hill (1955–64). The key workers for whom these homes were designed included people such as city-centre nurses and dock workers. Such zoning was the central plank of many local authorities’ planning policy in the post-war era, and influenced the planning of many New Towns.