We visit the Bristol suburb where homes are being sold like gold dust
It was 15 years ago I lived in Horfield. Paying £200 a month, I had a tiny bedroom within a Victorian terraced house on Muller Road which I shared with three friends. It was an exciting time. The house may have been shabby and there was mould on the walls, but it was our first rented property after leaving university. And we were in good company. The suburb was melting pot of students, graduates and families who’d lived there for years.
I remember our go-to place for cheap beers and live football was The Anchor on Gloucester Road. Our greasy spoon was the brilliantly-named Yum Yum’s. And when Rovers were at home, The Wellington and the Queen Vic were a ritual for many for pre-match pints. Opposite where we lived was the tucked-away Muller Road Recreation Ground where we’d start our own 11-a-side football team.
Returning a decade and a half on, the place certainly feels different. Parking up near The Anchor pub - filled with people watching The Lionesses in the World Cup final - I take a stroll up Gloucester Road, and I’m struck by the prominence of food and coffee shops. Last year there was a string of new openings; including up-market Pinkmans Bakery, Jean’s Asian Seafood and a cafe called Burra. This year, Pret A Manger opened in the closed Queen Vic. Welcome to Horfield’s new cafe culture.
Change is in the air - and for good reason. Put simply, Horfield is becoming more and more popular with home-buyers. Figures released by Rightmove showed 77% of homes in the surburb listed for sale so far this year had sold - only St George (80%) and Bishopston (79%) had a higher proportion in the country. Average price of homes in Horfield have also risen 23% from 2020, up to £457,676. So fast are the homes coming off the market that I was unable to find any ‘for sale’ signs on a 20-minute tour of the residential streets.
“People with money are moving into the area - and shops are changing to suit their needs,” says Sam Grinstead, who is manager of Cave wine bar, which opened three year ago, replacing the greasy spoon cafe Yum Yum’s. The wine bar recently brought in well-known chef Charlie Hearn to run its open kitchen - and is doing well, according to Sam.
“I think a place like Horfield is popular because other spots like Clifton and Cotham aren’t affordable anymore. A place like here is a good second option, and people like Gloucester Road and its shops; it’s an attraction,” says Sam. “It does mean things change, and people change. Properties become more expensive and some can’t afford to stay here. We see it’s happened elsewhere in the city, and now it’s happening here.”
Like in Fishponds, the word gentrification isn’t spoken freely, but it’s there for everyone to see. A high density of artesan and rising house prices doesn’t have to be a bad thing, however. Micropub The Drapers Arms is an independent alehouse which opened nine years ago in Horfield - and it’s also doing well. It is a hub of the community with a loyal group of regulars living nearby. The pub’s also planning a street party event in the near future.
Pub manager Zee Gillespie jokes that Gloucester Road used to be known for hippies living in squats. Now she says there’s money, and shops are benefiting with a wide variety of retailers opening along the famous road, not just coffee shops. “Horfield is great,” she says. “It has that feel of a small village. I know the butcher, I know the bakers and I know the people from the local schools. We then also have our friendly group of regulars too.”
It is a local community you can sense. At Horfield Parish Hall an amateur dramatics group is rehearsing an upcoming performance. The nearby Manor Farm Boys Club advertises day-long childcare with plenty of family activities during the school break. And on a notice board close to Horfield Leisure Centre, there a note about a survey being launched for an area business plan.
But it’s not all plain sailing for the ward - some areas within in it have levels of deprivation, including Horfield Common and Sheridan Road neighbourhoods. According to a ward profile published by Bristol City Council in April, 17% of children are living in low income families, and crime levels are slightly higher than the Bristol average, although just over one in four say antisocial behaviour is problem locally.
Tim Franklin knows Horfield as well as anyone. He has run his pool and snooker shop on Gloucester Road for 35 years. At one point he had a shop with 100 tables in stock, but now, with the rise of internet sales, he sells accessories with tables mainly traded online from a warehouse out of the city. Mr Franklin has also been the landlord at The Royal Oak pub in Horfield.
“It’s more about food and coffee shops, and nail salons along here now,” he says. “It used to be Whiteladies Road, now it’s coming here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.” He adds: “I like the way there is everything I need from Gloucester Road, and so many different restaurants to try. We also have free parking too. But could they expand the Clean Air Zone? That would be bad for here.”
Change is happening in Horfield - but it appears the area’s businesses, at least, are embracing the new arrivals, even taking advantage. As for those pushed out of the area by rocketing house prices, the adjourning neighbourhoods of Southmead and Lockleaze offer some breathing space. This is Bristol now - we’re used to it.