Christmas Steps

Christmas steps is a curious and attractive little street in Bristol, leading up from near the harbour to where wealthy merchants had their houses, on high land which would have given them splendid views of the city. Originally the River Frome, much of which is culverted and underground, came very near to the bottom of the steps, so goods could be unloaded from the ships, and barrels could be rolled down to be loaded.

No-one quite knows where the name comes from as it was originally Queene Street, and then Knyfesmith Street. A the top there is a chapel dedicated to the Three Kings of Cologne, founded in 1490, with a beautiful stained glass window. Maybe the three kings were  the Magi, the wise men, and  there actually is a shrine to the three kings in Cologne Cathedral. Maybe this connection with the Christmas story resulted in the steps leading to the chapel being given its name… but who knows?!

The buildings at the bottom which are in my featured pic, are extremely old, going back to the thirteenth century. The steps over the centuries they have been there  must have seen some extraordinary events; perhaps one of the most dramatic was when Colonel Henry Lunsford was shot through the heart whilst leading the royalists attack on Bristol in 1643 during the Civil War.

These days, they are just a fascinating little alley to explore, taking you from the bustle of the lower level and traffic rushing by, to the elegant old merchant’s houses up at the top. Well worth a visit!

I wrote about what can be found at the top of the steps here:

http://loiselden.com/2013/09/20/and-suddenly-we-found-it/

… and if you want to know more about Christmas Steps and download a ‘curiosity walk’, then look here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bristol/content/articles/2004/07/12/christmas_steps_feature.shtml

http://www.christmasstepsartsquarter.co.uk/history/

7 Comments

  1. Ali Isaac

    I love Bristol! I used to live in Clifton, just off the Whiteladies Road, in fact I used to be the store manager of the Habitat store there, do you remember it? Good times…

    Like

      1. Ali Isaac

        No I haven’t seen any news today…and I live in Ireland now, so although we do get BBC, we don’t always watch it. I will google it.

        Really enjoyed your post, it was an unexpected trip down memory lane! Although I did go back to Bristol in November for a girls weekend…it hasn’t really changed much!

        Like

  2. Alastair Savage

    I went to Uni in Bristol too and I remember the The Three Sugar Loaves at the foot of the Christmas Steps. Your supposition about the three kings sounds very logical to me. There is a shrine to the Magi in Cologne cathedral and it was long one of the key pilgrimage points in Gaermany because their supposed relics were to be found there: http://www.koelner-dom.de/index.php?id=17450&L=1
    (I lived in Cologne for a while too).
    As a major trading port, Bristol also had strong links to the German Hanseatic League in the late middle ages, which provides further evidence of a possible connection between the two cities.

    Like

    1. Lois

      I never thought of the Hanseatic connection – more used to thinking of them as East coast merchants, but of course they would have been in Bristol too!

      Like

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