DIA Logo

100 Years of The Bristol Guild

The Bristol Guild of Applied Art, founded in 1908, was born out of the Arts and Crafts movement which had begun some twenty years earlier. William Morris led the movement that tried to swing the pendulum away from new-found industrial mass production, believing that individual hand-crafted goods were the only way of preserving good taste, good design and quality manufacture. Morris, inspired by the medieval guilds, set up workshops where everything - from wallpaper to furniture, pottery, glass, silver and even door latches - was hand-crafted.


In 1883 the Arts and Crafts Society was formed, and in 1888 it held its first major exhibition in London. This, together with the Guild of Handicrafts, which moved to Chipping Campden in 1902, created the climate for a similar organisation to be set up in Bristol...


Arnold Robinson became sole owner in 1929 and from this point the Guild was organised as a wholly commercial proposition and run like a conventional retail shop. With the criteria that designs must be original, functional and made to the highest standard, the range of goods was widened to include machine-made ware by some of the best known makers of the day. In November, 1940 Park Street was devastated by enemy action but although buildings on either side were demolished, the Guild survived more or less unscathed. By 1965, space was getting very tight; the Guild was bursting at the seams and ready for substantial expansion...


During the next decade the company took over three adjacent premises: in 1968, the wool shop at Number 68a; in 1972, the shoe shop at Number 70 was acquired, and a year later the semi-derelict Number 48 Park Row, which had been gutted by fire during the Blitz. With expansion, the store's departments - especially china and glass and kitchenware - were reorganised and enlarged, along side the introduction of a new department, featuring furniture and soft furnishings. 1988 was the 80th anniversary of the Guild's founding, and it was decided to celebrate in some style, with craft demonstrations and competitions and a major exhibition, 'Eighty Years On', featuring many of the products sold over the years.

Into the New Century

1990 saw the opening of a gourmet food department in what had been the first floor of Number 66 devoted to kitchenware. This has proved very successful. The final expansion took place in 1992, when the first floor of Number 72 was leased to provide more space for fabrics and prints. The Guild has played a major role in promoting the city's retail business, But most notably, it has encouraged the acquisition of craftwork and furniture of the highest standards of design and manufacture which have graced thousands of homes throughout the city. It has all the while - through thick and thin - been an iconic presence in Park Street, helping uphold the prestige of this famous Bristol thoroughfare.


Located on the first floor of the Guild, this airy, modern retreat serves favourites such as hot soups, chicken korma or pasta with roast Mediterranean vegetables and mozzarella. Almost the entire menu is home made each day, including quiches, scones, cakes, flapjacks and a wide range of sandwiches and salads. Opening Hours: 10:00am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday. 10:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday. Lunch is served from midday to 3pm.


A book is available from The Bristol Guild... "The book details the fascinating history of Bristol's finest independent retailer..." To receive a copy, the Guild History Book is available from either the Bristol Guild itself, by telephone: 0117 926 5548, or by emailing us at info@bristolguild.co.uk. All the Guild asks is that you make a small donation to St Peter's Hospice in return.