"The Christmas Steps, Bristol"

The old-fashioned street with the quaint and unique name of “Christmas Steps “, is one of the most picturesque in the older parts of Bristol, and proved one of the chief attractions to a large number of the American troops who were stationed here during the war.

Christmas Steps is nationally famous for its historic shops that run up either side. Towards the top, a plaque commemorates the gallant royalist Colonel Henry Lunsford who was shot at the top of the steps, through the heart, whilst leading the Royalists attack and siege of Bristol in 1643 during the English Civil War.

A stone plaque at the top above the alms-gatherers’ niches states that this ancient street was “Steppered Done and Finished September 1669”. Amid the picturesque surroundings of the medieval Christmas Steps are the seven streets of Christmas Steps Art Quarter. This shopping district appeals to many folk, with a host of individual and fascinating shops, galleries studio's and creative outlets.

In medieval times, Bristol’s population outgrew the ancient walled city, and overflowed from St. John's Gate up the steep hillside around Christmas Steps. Early in the 14th century the street was known as "Cultellare Street," or Cutlers Street, where the cutlers lived.

Its medieval title was Queene Street, which later became known as Knyfesmyth Street, after those who traded there.

Originally, there had been a steep, muddy and narrow street leading from the bridge over the Frome, outside the city walls, near the old St. Bartholomew’s Hospital towards St. Michael’s Church. A stone plaque commemorates how the street was “steppered done and finished in September 1669”, to create the cobbled slopes and steps which remain today.
The Early English gateway and the mutilated figure near the foot of the steps is the only existing relic of the Hospital, Almshouse and Church, dedicated to St. Bartholomew.

A nativity scene can be found in a stained glass window of The Chapel of the Three Kings of Cologne, which lies at the top of the steps.
Until the 17th Century, barrels were rolled down the hill to be loaded onto ships. The steep-slanted steps were constructed in September 1669 and were paid for by wealthy vintner, John Blackwell, who had been one of the Sheriffs of Bristol 17 years previously, as well as an Alderman of London, during the Mayoralty of Henry Gibbs. When the improvement was effected the thoroughfare was given the name of Queen Street, and it is so named on Millerd's map of 1673 which shows the layout as already described, and this name continued for approximately 100 years, after which it began to be known as Christmas Steps. Matthew's directory of 1775 refers to "Queen St, now Christmas Steps."

Mr. Blackwell lived for some years in the parish of St Michael's, where he died and was buried.

The song “Christmas Steps” by Mogwai is named after the street.



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