The Goldney family's influence in Bristol can be traced back as far as 1637 when Thomas Goldney I was sent, by his father, to Bristol from Chippenham in Wiltshire to serve as an apprentice for seven years.Thomas Goldney II, born 1664, purchased a majority of the current Goldney Estate, complete with manor house, for a fee of £100 in 1705. The lease documents from this time are available online and can be viewed here.
In 1724 the earlier house was partially demolished to be replaced by a grander building, possibly built for Goldney by George Tully, a Bristol merchant who was a partner of William Champion in the Coalbrookdale Works. The Goldney family were Quakers, however their beliefs did not prevent them developing a significant range of enterprises; ventures included:
Providing a significant proportion of the capital for Captain Woodes Rogers voyage on The Duke and its sister ship The Dutchess. Rogers' crew rescued the real-life Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, from Juan Fernandez island.
Investment in the Coalbrookdale Iron Works, which led to Thomas Goldney III becoming the majority owner of the works.
Co-founding Goldney, Smith and Co., one of the first banks in Bristol and now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The gardens and orchards were designed by Goldney’s son Thomas Goldney III. The house was recased, altered and extended in 1864–65 by Alfred Waterhouse, who also designed the Natural History Museum. The house later passed down to other wealthy Bristol families – The Wills and the Frys. Lewis Fry (1832–1921) who was a member of the prominent Bristol Fry Family and became the Liberal MP for Bristol and first chairman of the University of Bristol University Council.
The current house was built in 1724, is a listed building and occupies a hilltop position overlooking the city of Bristol and Brandon Hill. The landscape garden is used for weddings and receptions.
The main house is a Grade II listed building. Other facilities in the main house include a bar, library, common room and dark room. The house also contains an ornate mahogany parlour complete with original wooden panelling dating back to 1725 which is reserved for meetings and special events.
When the hall was gifted to the University of Bristol in 1953, the house was converted (completed in 1956) to accommodate 19 female students and was a catered hall. This was reverted with the development of the new blocks.
The student accommodation blocks, built on a paddock within the gardens, were completed in their original form in 1969. This original development consisted of nine stand alone blocks in a quadrangle arrangement. A major award winning refurbishment was completed in 1994 after a benefaction from Lord and Lady Sainsbury through the Linbury Trust]. The design was that of Bristol architects Alec French. Improvements to the site included:
Building additional study bedrooms, kitchens and fire escape stairwells onto the original blocks.
Construction of Linbury Court, consisting of 24 en-suite rooms and student study facilities.
Creation of a small on-site car park.
The hall now comprises 11 blocks, 2 of which have en-suite facilities. The hall can accommodate 267 students in addition to three flats for staff located within the main house.
A sixth folly, the Octagon, consisted of a two story summer house located where L block stands today. While the exact date of the removal of the Octagon is not know, it is missing from plans which date to 1864. The garden also features a canal.
The hall has an orangery, attached to the main house and facing out onto a canal feature. The glass roof of which was replaced with tile at some point in the early 1900s.
The gothic tower, to the south of the main house, was built in 1764 to house a Newcomen steam engine. The opening through which the beam of the steam engine would have passed can still be seen today on the north face of the tower. The steam engine, constructed using a boiler supplied by the Coalbrookdale works, is supposed to be the first used for non-industrial purposes in the world. It was used to draw water from a 120 ft well shaft directly in front of the tower. The water was used to supply a fountain in the canal and the cascade in the grotto.
The ground include a statue of Hercules which is Grade II* listed and is suspected to be a second hand purchase by Thomas Goldney III, predating everything else on the site. The mock bastion provides a mystery, appearing for the first time on a map dating to 1748 but will no other surviving documentation of its construction.
It was built between 1737 and 1764 (dated 1739) and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. It is decorated inside with shells, quartz and rock crystal and inside is a pillared hall with fountains, rock pool, statue of Neptune and a Lion's Den. In 1762-5 Thomas Paty was employed in "grinding, gooping and laying" tiles for the grotto.
The grotto was built as the centerpiece of the gardens by Thomas Goldney III. It is the only Grotto in Britain with both a shell room and running water.
The grotto is approximately 36 ft (11 m) long by 12 ft (3.6 m) wide and consists of 3 chambers, divided by pillars encrusted with quartz crystals. The central chamber houses a life size plaster of paris lion with a lioness sitting in a den behind. Another chamber hosts a seated river god with water running from an urn over giant clams into a pool. It is lined with over 200 species of shell brought back from such locations as the Caribbean, and African waters. The roof of the central hall is composed of closely fitting block of Bath stone carved into pseudo-stalactites. On a panel on the door is the portrait of a lady, thought to be Ann Goldney (1707–96), the younger sister of Thomas Goldney III.
The grotto is opened to the public during Garden Tour days organised by the University's Conference Office and to students at various points through the academic year.
Goldney Hall is one of the smaller halls of residence at the University of Bristol and is located away from the main grouping of halls in Stoke Bishop. As a result the hall has a strong individual identity and close knit community. The arts are strongly promoted with theatrical and musical events for students to become involved in through the year. The hall also promotes academic events as well as the wide range of social events expected of any hall of residence. The hall also fields a number of sports teams including football, netball and rugby.
The hall's motto is Honor Virtutis Præmium ("Honour is the Reward of Virtue").
Goldney Hall FC have dominated the Bristol University Intramural Accenture League 4 for over 3 seasons. The 09/10 and the 12/13 Season saw Goldney Hall FC win the title.
The Goldney Ball is an annual event held in the grounds of Goldney Hall to mark the end of term and the summer exam period for students in the Bristol area. The event attracts over 1000 students, and is well renowned for being an event not to be missed. Previous artists to headline and perform at the Ball include Hot Chocolate (1998), Ronnie Size (1999), Shy FX, DJ Hype, BodyRockers, Ninja Tune, former Squeeze musician Jools Holland and the Scratch Perverts as well as illusionist Derren Brown. Profit from the event is donated to local, national and international charities.