The Dutch House was a large timber-framed building situated at Nos 1 and 2, High Street Bristol, England. It was a well-known local landmark until its destruction in 1940. The Dutch House (often given the prefix ‘Old’) was built or rebuilt as a private residence in 1676, and dominated the medieval crossroads of High St, Wine Street, Broad Street and Corn Street in the heart of ancient Bristol. Sitting on top of medieval vaulted stone cellars, which also ran out under Wine Street, the more prominent part of the structure was No. 1 High St. This was of rectangular plan, two bays by one, and originally five stories tall; an attic storey was added later. This building had facades on both Wine St and High St. The Wine St façade was two bays wide and consisted of a square bay window to the full height of the original building (except the ground floor), with a flat façade to its right. The High St façade consisted of a bay window, narrower than that on the Wine St façade and with splayed sides, but similar in all other respects. Both facades were ornately carved.
The adjoining house at No.2 High St was incorporated into the premises at some point before 1860. This four-storey gabled house was considerably less ornate than No.1 and may have hinted at the design of No.1 before 1676. It consisted of full-width square bays to the first and second storeys, and a smaller square bay offset to the left on the third storey. The third storey bay was rebuilt at some point between 1847 and 1866 to make it symmetrical, and the façade of this building was changed by exposing and embellishing its frame to unify it with the rest of the building. In 1810 the Dutch House became the Castle Bank, and subsequently had a succession of retail and office uses. By 1866, under the auspices of hatter Mr T.W.Tilly, it had gained fake battlements with cannon, a weather vane, a flagpole and a Grenadier Guardsman sign (now in the care of the City Museum). It seems likely that Mr Tilly was also responsible for altering the façade of No.2. A watercolour drawing of The Dutch House by Bristol-born artist Blanche Baker (painter) was exhibited at Bristol in 1885. The battlements, incongruous on a timber-framed building, had been removed by 1917. . . . On Sunday, 24 November 1940 the Dutch House was almost completely consumed by the fire from incendiary bombs which fell in the 5-hour air raid of over 135 German bombers, part of the Bristol Blitz which destroyed much of Bristol’s pre-war shopping area.
This our third walk shall be down High street towards the south. The singular building upon our left, known as the Old Dutch. House, is one of two structures that, having been framed in Holland, were taken down, shipped, and re-erected in Bristol. The site of these premises (supposed to be that of a church) and the house upon it belonged to Alderman Whitson, the founder of the Red Maids’ school. The existing structure is the most ancient banking building in Bristol, John Vaughan, a goldsmith and banker, having lived there in 1718. This John Vaughan swore both in private and before the magistrates that his family were so terrified at the prospect of the old High Cross falling upon these premises in stormy weather, that he ultimately prevailed upon the Corporation to have it removed. For many years the premises were known as “The Castle Bank,” and were afterwards occupied for a considerable period by Stuckey’s Banking Company
“How to See Bristol: A Complete, Up-to-date, and Profusely Illustrated Guide to Bristol, Clifton and neighbourhood”, James Williams Arrowsmith, 1906
There is a danger of this interesting and well-known house being destroyed, for the purposes of street widening, which, the Committee considers, could be effected without its removal. The following resolution was forwarded to the Town Council:
“The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings having long watched with interest and admiration the Old Dutch House at Bristol, and understanding that its fate is shortly to be decided, begs respectfully to urge the Corporation to let no consideration stand in the way of its preservation.”
The question of the preservation of the house was referred to a Committee of the Town Council for consideration, and a report upon the whole matter is shortly expected.
“The Society for the Protection Of Ancient Buildings. The General Meeting of the Society; Twenty-Ninth Annual Report Of The Committee”, June 1906, p.10
In the last report it was stated that there was a danger of this interesting and well-known. house being destroyed for the purposes of street widening, and that the Society had petitioned the Town Council in favour of its preservation. _ It is with much satisfaction that the Committee is able to report that the Town Council have decided to preserve the house. The ground floor will be set back to a new line of street, and the upper floors, which will not be interfered with, will be allowed to project over the pavement and be carried on columns. The Committee considers this to be a practical way of dealing with the building, for not only will the street widening be possible, and modern requirements thus met, but no old work will be destroyed, for the ground floor is at present filled with a modern shop front.
“The Society for the Protection Of Ancient Buildings. Thirtieth Annual Report Of The Committee”, June 1907, p. 15
It was thought advisable by those determined to save the property to issue a strong appeal to the members, and a letter, as follows, bearing autograph signatures was posted to every councillor the night prior to the meeting : —
“We feel bound to draw your attention to the importance of the vote at to-morrow’s Meeting of the City Council, when the absolute fate of this interesting property is to be decided. With deference, we should like again to point out that the Old House is a typical specimen of the Ancient domestic architecture of Bristol, and by virtue of its prominent position– standing as it does in the very heart of the City, at the junction of the four cross streets–it possesses a distinctive value to the community, which it is impossible to over estimate ; far too many examples have already been needlessly swept away. This Structure forms an historic link with an in- teresting and dignified past such as is possessed by few cities, and which will be an even more valuable asset in generations to come.
We make a personal appeal to you, to assist by your vote, to retain this building, which we would point out can be preserved without conflicting with the interests of sanitation or public improvement, and without interfering with the proposed street widening. Besides, by the scheme placed before the Council, preservation in this case would be a considerable financial gain! The Old Dutch House when once gone, will be gone for ever! It is hoped that nothing will prevent your remaining until the end of the Meeting in order to support this, movement.
. . .
The final vote was taken on March 10th, in one of the fullest Council meetings on record, and the old house was then saved by one vote! This is not the only instance of the fabric being in danger, for it was apparently doomed about fifty years ago, 1 when Stuckey’s Bank removed from that corner of High Street to its present site. The work of reparation was put in hand immediately, and this has been continued as rapidly as possible.
As to the building itself, the exterior is well known to everyone, but few have any idea of its interesting cellars. The roof of the larger one still retains traces of the groining, and two of the quadrangular corbels from which it springs– which can be seen at the east and west angles on the south side– and one of the centre bosses of the roof, carved in leaf design, which was found built into one of the walls, have been carefully preserved.
It was this compartment which apparently led the Rev. John Evans, 2 author of one of the minor histories of Bristol, into the conjecture that a church, which he called St. Andrew’s, once stood on this spot — a myth long since dispelled.
. . .
The views of the corbels and moulded ribs are from photographs kindly taken by our member, Mr. Moline, in May last, just after the flooring of the shop had been removed, when light first poured into the cellar.
“Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society”, 1908, p.293