They said that the term Bristol Byzantine was used by the famous architectural historian Sir John Summerson first. This term has been included in the literature as Bristol Byzantine Architectural Style due to the Byzantine and Moorish influences seen in the buildings in the city of Bristol.
Decorative details often bear traces of the Venetian and Northern Italian Gothic style. These eye-catching structures of the Istanbul or Mediterranean ports of Venice inspired them. This inspiration should not be confused with an imitation. This was not an imitation. The Victorian era was forward-thinking, innovative, and leading the era. With this, the Bristol Byzantine movement emerged as an example of innovation and change at that time. It laid the groundwork for the emergence of different and inspiring designs.
This period started approximately in 1850 and lasted until around 1880. It can be called a kind of Byzantine Revival Architecture. A rebirth of Byzantine artifacts, but not a repetition. It means a contemporary interpretation and returns.
Many buildings of this style were destroyed, especially due to the Second World War. Some of these collapsed structures were rebuilt by the original. On the other hand, some structures have survived until today. Almost all of these rare buildings that have been rebuilt or restored are private buildings protected by the British Government.
The inspiration of Venetian and Northern Italian Gothic style, Byzantine and Moorish inspired bricks in various colors such as red, yellow, black, white, and orange, arches and arched entrances on the ground floor, and arched horizontal or vertical openings on the upper floors are the common features of this style.
The best surviving examples of the Bristol Byzantine architectural style are:
1. Arnolfini – Bush House
This building, whose construction was completed between 1831-1836, was first built as an iron foundry warehouse. Its architect is Richard Shackleton Pope. The southern part was completed in 1831, and the northern part in 1836. This building was later described as the first example of the Bristol Byzantine architectural style. This building, also known as the Bush House, was later used as a tea store. When it was converted into a tea warehouse, intermediate floors were added. It now houses an art gallery.
In this building we see the arched ground-level entrances belonging to this style. It also has arched windows on the top floor and rectangular windows on the lower floors. The penthouse was added later.
This important building was designed in 1869 by the Bristol Byzantine style. The architects of this building are Archibald Ponton and William Venn Gough. Cattybrook brick and limestone pavers are used. It is the best-preserved example of this style. It was built as a granary and later used as a night club and office.
The building hosted a nightclub named The Granary, with a name representing its purpose of construction between 1968-88. It was originally a jazz club opened by Ted Cowell. Then, regular rock nights were organized. After 1978, it completely reverted to the rock concept. Many popular rock bands of that period gave concerts here. Like Genesis, Status Quo, Motörhead, and Iron Maiden. Finally, the building was converted into housing as a result of the competition. This building is an English Heritage II protected building.
3. Brown’s Restaurant
This building belonging to Bristol Byzantine architecture was built between 1861-1871. It was designed by Foster and Ponton. This building used to host the museum and the library. It is one of the buildings that were defeated by the Second World War. The building has been largely destroyed, including many original details. It was rebuilt in 1950. After its reconstruction, it was used as a university cafeteria for a while. Now it houses a reputable restaurant.
4. Robinson’s Warehouse
Located in Floating Harbor in Bristol, this structure was designed as a warehouse building. It was designed by Williaö Bruce Gingell in 1874 and completed in 1875. We see the Bristol Byzantine style in the use of red and yellow bricks and Moorish arches. It has Venetian Gothic influences. Its first purpose is to be used as an oilseed manufacturing tank.
In 1981, the facade was preserved and the back was rebuilt. It is now used as offices and squash courts. This structure is an English Heritage II protected building.
5. 35 King Street, Bristol
An example of Bristol Byzantine style, this building is a mushroom store built around 1870. Red brick with limestone flooring is used. It attracts attention with its arches extending from the ground to the second floor. The windows of the first two floors are located inside the arches. There are zigzag patterns above the arches.
It is thought to have been designed by Henry Masters or WB Gingell, although it is not certain. This structure continues its life as an office and an Indian restaurant today. This structure is an English Heritage II protected building.