"CLIFTON, a parish and suburb of the city of Bristol, in the hundred of Barton Regis, in the county of Gloucester, 1 mile to the W. of Bristol, of which city it is generally reckoned a part, being included within the borough. Its name is derived from its situation on the cliffs overhanging the river Avon, which, rising at St. Vincent's Rocks to the height of 308 feet, command extensive prospects of sea and land, varied with highly picturesque scenery. The rocks abound in fossils, and a variety of quartz called Bristol diamonds. Many rare and delicate plants, as the Arabis stricta, Geraneum sanguineum, &c., are found growing wild, especially round St. Vincent's Rocks.
Clifton is supposed to have been resorted to by the Romans on account of its waters, and to have been the site of the station Abone, as traces of a large camp 510 feet by 300 are met with on Clifton Down. It continued neglected, however, till 1695, when the Hot Wells' pump-room was built; it then rose rapidly into favour, and continues to flourish, not only as a fashionable watering-place, but as the favourite residence of the Bristol merchants and other persons in affluent circumstances.
The waters of its springs are sulphureous, and are considered medicinal in cases of scrofula, inflammation, and stomachic complaints; at the time of the Lisbon earthquake they turned red as blood, and the river, which ordinarily rises 45 feet at high water, went back. In order to accommodate the numerous visitors, the New Victoria Pump-rooms were built by a private company. This building is a noble structure in the Grecian style of architecture, with a richly sculptured portico of Corinthian columns; it contains a fine hall, 117 feet by 55, in which concerts and public meetings are held, and a ball-room, 70 feet by 30.
The town is designed in handsome squares, crescents, and terraces, as Lansdowne square, Cornwallis and York-crescents, the Paragon, the West Mall, and several broad streets, as Queen's-road, in which most of the public buildings are situated. On this street is the Bristol Academy and School of Practical Art, erected in 1857, in the Italian style, containing a fine bust by Flaxman. It is attended by upwards of 2,000 pupils. A college has been lately erected by a company styled the "Clifton College Company", with very handsome buildings, the schoolroom being one of the largest in England; the education given is of the highest character.
Clifton also contains a blind asylum, in the early English style; Bishop's College, in the Elizabethan style; assembly-rooms, libraries, baths, Union poorhouse, dispensaries, besides numerous hotels and boarding-houses. On Cliff Down is West's Observatory, under which is a cave, or hermitage, 80 feet deep, called the Giant's Hole; and near Durdham Down, where is a fossiliferous bone cave, are the zoological gardens.
Crossing the river to Leigh Woods is the elegant suspension bridge removed from Hungerford-market in 1862. The first of the wire coils, 1,100 feet in length and weighing 2 tons, was successfully suspended across the chasm at St. Vincent's Rocks on the 3rd of June, 1863. The huge stages on either side of the river, together with the anchorage, have occupied between five and six months in their erection. The temporary bridge, of which the present coil of wire is the first support, will occupy about a fortnight in completion, and all this will be only the preliminary operation necessary for the men to work over the immense span of 700 feet.
The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, value with the curacies of Dowry and St. James's annexed, £782, in the patronage of Simeon's Trustees. The parish church is a modern building, erected in 1822, and is calculated to accommodate 1,700 persons. There are also the following district churches in this parish, all of which are perpetual curacies: St. John the Evangelist, at Redland, value £140, in the patronage of the bishop; Trinity Church, in the patronage of trustees; Christ Church, in the patronage of Simeon's Trustees; and St. Paul's and St. Peter's, in the patronage of the incumbent.
The Roman Catholics have recently erected an elegant cathedral, and the Independents, Baptists, and Wesleyan Methodists have places of worship, all of which are ornamental buildings of modern erection. Schools are attached to most of the churches and chapels, and spacious National and British schools have recently been built on the most approved plans.
Clifton enjoys all the literary advantages of a large city from its proximity to Bristol, and has one newspaper of its own, the Clifton Chronicle (Conservative), established in 1850, and published on Wednesday. Clifton is the head of a Poorlaw Union and registration district, but is included in Bristol new County Court district. The races which took place in April are discontinued."