A house through time series 3 Guinea Street Bristol

The front of 10-12 Guinea Street. The rather unassuming house chosen for the BBC series #A house through time

A house through time is a BBC 2 series which  tells the story of an English city through the history of one of its houses.  Two previous series, which I very much enjoyed have focused on the northern cities of Newcastle and Liverpool.  As I belong to a history walking group and have written on my blog about our walks through Bristol I was excited to discover that  the new series which starts this week is set in my home city.  I think we all enjoy looking through the keyhole of an old house and imagining what might have happened inside. If you live in an old house as we do, it is fun to try and find out as much as you can about the lives of the people who lived there before you.

In an interview the presenter David Olusogu explained how the house 10 Guinea Street pictured above was chosen.  David who is a British Nigerian historian who lives in Bristol knew that he wanted to discuss Bristol’s links to slavery which meant he needed to find an early 18th century house. Each series consists of four hour long episodes so the house also had to have other interesting stories which reflect the changing fortunes of Bristol.  It must have changed hands several times. Most importantly the current owners had to be willing to let a T.V. crew into their home for several weeks.

The white door of 10 Guinea Street
We will get a chance to look through this key hole.

Guinea Street

Guinea Street which is in Redcliffe close to Bristol harbourside is part of an area which has seen several changes of fortune and narrowly escaped the 2 nd world war blitz. The houses chosen for the series set in Newcastle and Liverpool were more modern which meant that it was fairly easy to discover the lives of previous occupants using census records and birth marriage and death registrations. This house dates back to 1718 so he had to use documents such as old maps and land tax registers. The name Guinea Street comes from Guinea in West  Africa.  The Golden Guinea further along the street is a very friendly real ale pub. Now the area is thriving the old general hospital further along the road is being turned into upmarket flats. The whole harbourside area is a very fashionable and expensive area to live.

A boat passing the colourful houses on Bristol harbourside
The colourful houses of Hotwells

I know from my own research that an early owner of the house captain Edmund Saunders  was involved in at least twenty slaving voyages and I have written a little bit  about the Bristol Slave trade before.  The Bristol slave trade. 

In fact he lived at number 11 and he let number 10 to another slave ship captain Joseph Smith. I think most Bristolians find this a very problematic heritage. It is true that much of Bristol’s wealth came from the profits of the triangular slave trade. The same traders whose boats carried slaves to America and the West Indies in terrible conditions also built alms houses for the poor and built a beautiful theatre for the city. Many Bristolians made their fortunes from making copper and brass goods for trade to Africa or from refining the sugar that was brought back from the West Indies.

Captain Saunders was himself an elder of the beautiful St. Mary Redcliffe church which is close by and I know there was a sugar house in Guinea Street.  The house has also revealed other secrets: The story of Martha Redcliffe a foundling  baby left on the doorstep of number 10 and Thomas a black servant who managed to run away.

The facade of St. Mary Redcliffe Church
St Mary Redcliffe Church

I am also hoping to learn more about the history of Bristol particularly about the part Bristolians played in the abolition of slavery. In the first programme I learnt that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and an ardent abolitionist actually built one of his first chapels in Guinea Street and preached there himself. Unsurprisingly none of the residents of number 10 were listed in the membership records. That chapel has disappeared but you can visit his first chapel, the New Room in Broadmead  which has a small museum.


I have just heard that the present owners have placed the house for sale on Rightmove with a guide price of £800,000 and the BBC have commissioned a fourth series of a house through time to be set in Leeds.


Author: Anne Fraser

Hi, I am Anne, I am a retired nurse from Bristol in South West England. I am married with five grown up children, four boys and a girl , a grandson and a cat. I like History, travel and reading. I hope to connect with other people with similar interests.

12 thoughts on “A house through time series 3 Guinea Street Bristol”

  1. Hi Anne – it sounds like an interesting series – although more so for those in the UK than for the rest of us. I’m glad it inspired you to do some extra research and to find a history that pre-dates a lot of Australian history (we’re a very young country). Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL (but please keep the guidelines in mind when you choose a “lifestyle” post to share) and I’ve shared this on my SM 🙂

  2. Its funny that I read this post today as last night I watched an episode of not Antiques Roadshow but sort of like that where they visited Bristol and talked about the trading and the Bristol blue glass. And then this morning I read this. It’s like my new cookbook Oats In The North where the dedication is an acknowledgement that most of the cakes, gingerbreads & biscuits in teh book wouldn’t have existed if not for sugar imports made possible due to slavery. “Sugar has a cost, and that cost was paid by those held in bondage.” #MLSTL

    1. A lot of antiques shows are made in Bristol. My daughter and her friend were on bargain hunt a few years ago. The early methodists refused to put sugar in their tea because of slavery.

  3. Hi Anne, I wonder whether we have access to this Series where I live. It looks very interesting. Fascinating about the links to slavery and like you say, accepting history. Also, as you mention, Anne, the owners have to let the T.V. Crew have access.

Don't be shy I would love to hear from you. If this is your first visit your comment will be held for moderation to avoid spam.