By Alex Rankin, Senior Visitor Assistant
It’s a question that often gets asked by visitors – what does the ‘M’ stand for? Many people think it stands for ‘museum’, which would certainly make sense, but the answer actually lies in the building’s history.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s, the harbour area around M Shed was a working dock. Boats would come in from all over to deliver goods such as newspapers, oranges and barrels of Guinness. These were then stored in warehouses ready for transportation. To keep things simple, the buildings were named alphabetically. As a former warehouse, the museum was called M Shed. The adjoining workshop and collections store is L Shed.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
If you ever happen to look up at the museum from across Queens Road, you’ll notice three female figures gazing down. These mysterious maidens are known as The Three Arts; Architecture, Painting and Sculpture. Each figure is defined by the objects they hold; Architecture studies a plan while resting her arm on a model temple; Painting holds a palette and Sculpture; a mallet, while looking at a damaged statuette. They were modelled by Edward Bramwell and carved on site by Bristol sculptor, William John Smith, so he must have a head for heights! Smith was also responsible for carving the Atlantes figures in the front hall and the lions perched on the staircase in the rear hall.
The Red Lodge Museum
If you visit The Red Lodge Museum this year, you will notice
that the garden is now open to the public. When the Red Lodge was first built, it’s thought that gardens spread all the way down the hill to the Great House (on the site of the Colston Hall). Following a restoration in the 1980’s, the present garden was redesigned in an Elizabethan knot style, to suggest how it might have looked when the house was built. The design was taken from the plasterwork on the ceiling of the master bedroom, which also offers a great view of the garden itself.
The Georgian House Museum
If you head down the stairs towards the kitchen, you’ll come across John Pinney’s plunge pool. Pinney was a firm believer in the health fad of the 18th century, cold water bathing. Water was probably taken from wells in the street in order to fill the pool, although it’s not known how often it was refreshed. Pinney took cold baths before he went to Nevis, and may have continued the habit in the Caribbean (though perhaps not as cold as in England), then had a plunge pool built in his new house. Cold water bathing was believed to cure many complaints, from cancer to depression, and to keep the person fit and healthy. Pinney may have been right about the good effects of a daily cold bath, as he lived to be 78.
Blaise Castle House Museum
When Blaise Castle House was built in the 1790’s, the Harford family employed Humphrey Repton, a reputed landscaper, to redesign the estate. He was a leading figure in the Picturesque style of landscaping, which was thought to use nature as an inspiration. Repton drew up detailed drawings of his designs along with notes on the effect he hoped to create for visitors to the estate. These are all contained in a red book, which until recently, was on display in the History Room at Blaise. Following a refit, it’s now available to view in our online collections database.