Bracken Hill House, on North Road, was built in 1886 for Walter Melville Wills, grandson of Henry Overton Wills, who founded the Tobacco firm WD & HO Wills. To complement the architecture, the estate was created, with beautiful Victorian pleasure gardens. Across the road from the original house was built a summer house, Rayne Thatch, which has some unique garden figures watching over the magical grotto and pond.
In 1959, the University of Bristol Botanical Gardens moved their garden and collection to Bracken Hill. In 2002, the University decided to relocate the botanic garden nearer to the University campus to its current site at Stoke Bishop.
As a result, the University sold the site of the former botanic gardens for redevelopment. Old buildings were divided and restored and new houses erected creating 15 homes.
The moving of the botanic gardens and redevelopment of the site
One of our Leigh Woods residents, Sally Sparks, visited the botanic gardens over a period of 5 years from 2008 to 2013 and wrote a diary about the changes to the old Botanic Gardens. Her diary, notes, photographs and sketches have now been incorporated in a book and she has kindly made this available for people to see.