The Ultimate Bristol Suburb Guide: Cotham & Kingsdown
Kingsdown and Cotham are affluent, leafy neighbouring suburbs of Bristol, located on the northern side of the River Avon and a short walk from the city centre.
Cotham is the larger of the two and is situated between Clifton and St Pauls. It is often compared to nearby Redland as they overlap in areas and are similar in character and architecture, featuring late Victorian and early Georgian properties, many in the neoclassical style. Cotham, in particular, has seen a lot of these large older houses converted into flats or used as hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation.
The Census of 2011 cites Cotham as having a resident population of 12,554, though this number has likely risen significantly as the area increased in popularity in recent years. Kingsdown is smaller and is often considered as part of the same area as Cotham, though the residents there will rightly dispute that due to the strong sense of community among the locals.
Cotham and Kingsdown Location in Bristol
Cotham and Kingsdown are located next to each other north of the city centre and the University of Bristol. The two suburbs are sandwiched between two railway stations, Redland and Montpellier, from either of which you can travel all around and in and out of Bristol.
Cheltenham Road borders the east side of Cotham from the St. James Barton Roundabout (known locally as the Bearpit roundabout) through Stokes Croft and up to where it becomes Gloucester Road.
The History of Cotham and Kingsdown
Cotham’s history has something of a dark spin to it, with the top of Saint Michael's Hill being the traditional location for hangings a few centuries ago. The local rugby club, Cotham Park RFC, even features a set of gallows in one-quarter of their club crest. This spot is also the place where three Marian martyrs were burned to death during the oppression of Protestant religious reformers during the middle of the 16th century.
Kingsdown is so-named because it was used to exercise horses that belonged to the King for the Royal Garrison of Bristol, back during the Middle Ages. The area had grown in importance by the 17th century when the 13-gun Prior’s Hill Fort was constructed in what these days is called Fremantle Square, in the build-up to the English Civil War.
Shopping in Cotham and Kingsdown
The shopping options for both Cotham and Kingsdown are greatly enhanced by their close proximity to both Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road to the east and north and Cabot’s Circus shopping quarter in Bristol’s city centre to the south.
Cotham is home to Madwag on Dove Street, an interesting clothing store offering all sorts of quirky fashionable items for women. Nearby at Kings Square is jewellery designer Jacks Turner who offers an array of beautiful silver items with or without gemstones.
Wonderland on Cotham Road is a cool place to pick up some antique furniture, while musicians would be well advised to visit Kinkade Guitars on Clevedon Terrace. The owner of Kinkade Guitars, Jonny Kinkade, has developed a great reputation among Bristolian musicians, with his prices kept as low as possible to make his guitars accessible to less affluent musicians in the city. There is also a newsstand called Tuck News and a handy convenience store called Monika’s, both located on Cotham Road.
Kingsdown has a Co-op supermarket for groceries at Clarence place, plus the St. Peter’s Hospice second-hand shop and the Well Kingsdown pharmacy on St. Michael’s hill.
Cotham and Kingsdown Bars and Restaurants
For relatively small suburbs, both Cotham and Kingsdown boast an impressive selection of bars and restaurants to enjoy. There are several traditional and gastro pubs in the area, such as the Kensington Arms on Stanley Road which offers a European menu for meals and a special Sunday lunch. The Cotham Arms on St. Michael’s Hill offers standard pub fare, while the nearby Green Man pub on Alfred Place serves local micro-brewery ales and stouts in a comfortable glass-fronted pub that also has a small garden.
Also on St. Michael’s Hill is the White Bear, a vibrant pub that features regular live music. Then there’s the Highbury Vaults which has a patio garden and serves real ales and snack-type food in a 19th-century building featuring atmospheric dark-wood panelling. Just across the road is Beerd, which offers handmade pizzas with a huge selection of draught and bottled craft beers on offer.
Stokes Croft and Cheltenham Road to the east of Cotham is host to a wider variety of places to eat and many places to drink. Stokes Croft, in particular, is known for its lively nightlife and late night clubs, some of which are open past 4am. These include the Social, Pipe and Slippers, The Crofters, Number 51 and the Love Inn. And of course, there’s the legendary Lakota and Blue Mountain clubs, two bastions of Bristol’s celebrated underground clubbing scene.
There are actually far too many excellent food and drink venues in this part of town to list them all here, but special mentions should go out to the Arts House Café where all-day food is served in an artistic space featuring exhibitions and a cinema. Rice and Things serving Jamaican favourites and homemade wines is always worth a look too.
Other Cotham and Kingsdown Places of Interest
To the northwest of Cotham is a park featuring a nice pathway called Lovers Walk. Kingsdown also has a couple of small green spaces which are mostly frequented by local residents living immediately in and around the area.