Stokes Croft Bristol – The insider guide to the Bristol street art Scene, a soulful story

Stokes Croft Bristol – The insider guide to the Bristol street art Scene, a soulful story

Pin for Street art in stokes croft in Bristol with an image of a mural saying 'we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars'
Bristol street art, in the independent district of stokes croft.

Lucas Antics, Burning Candy and of course Banksy – all synonymous with the vibrant and sometimes controversial Bristol Street Art scene. And all have roots linking them to cultural quarter; Stokes Croft, Bristol.

Stokes Croft and neighbouring Montpelier have always been the underdogs of the city. Although in recent years, have had a bit of a resurgence. Every Bristolian knows Stokes Croft, the good and the bad bits, however, under its gritty facade, the area is one of the more soulful parts of Bristol.

For starters, Stokes Croft in Bristol is home to a group of activists called The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) who back community-based projects with the goal of keeping the soul of Stokes Croft alive for the people who reside in the area.

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain

Bristolians have seen Stokes Croft and Montpelier evolve over the years and over the last decade has seen a boom in independently run businesses crop up. Cafes, restaurants and shops and selling locally made and sourced products. Stokes Croft in Bristol is also the home to the highest concentration of street art in the City. The most iconic artist on the Bristol street art scene is Banksy, you’ll spot his work all over Bristol, including Stokes Croft,

Everyone has their opinion of the Stokes Croft & Montpelier, including property developers and investors. They see some of the buildings as opportunities to create modern hipster-style accommodation (pricing out the local residents) and to redevelop parts of Stokes Croft to get rid of the gritty appearance of the area and to make it more attractive for a new swathe of non-locals to the area and in turn, destorying Stokes Croft soul.

It’s the people of Stokes Croft which have make Stokes Croft unique. It’s easy to fall in love with the curiosity of this diverse, artsy, slightly quirky soulful little gem of a place.

If you are visiting the City of Bristol, I highly recommend you head to Stokes Croft, Montpelier and Gloucester Road. Check out the uniqueness of the areas, each very different, but each home to locals who live and work there, all three areas still hold on to their community feel as well as being refreshingly non-commercial.

So let’s go… read on to find out Stokes Croft, Bristol, and the stories and street art around here.

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Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Outside the PRSC showing the 'news' wall and murals. This allows anyone who doesn't have access to a TV or Radio, such as the homeless, to have access to the latest news.

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STOKES CROFT BRISTOL - THE BRISTOL STREET ART SCENE AND SOULFUL STORIES

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Stokes Croft is just a single road, however, over the years its affectionally evolved to become the name of the area that spans all the way from ‘The Bear Pit’ (don’t worry, there aren’t actually any bears here!), heading out of the City centre up to where Cheltenham Road starts.

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
'The Little Shop' on the junction where Stokes Croft and Cheltenham Road meet. The shop features artwork by Lucas Antics

Getting under the skin of Stokes Croft

Local photographer, and guide for the day, Colin Moody, became fascinated with the range of characters and people who reside or work in Stokes Croft and Montpelier.

Initially taking photographs of ‘classic’ Bristol (think Balloons, the Suspension Bridge, The Downs), he branched towards people as his subject.

Colin’s aim is to capture the story behind the character and documenting this in his photos, he’s driven by the stories behind the people and delves beyond what you would see on the surface.

‘I wanted to represent 80 different walks of life’ says Colin who spent over a year following, talking, and understanding the people who feature in his book.

It was through images of this on his Instagram account that he commissioned for his book; ‘Stokes Croft and Montpelier’.

With such a knowledgeable guide, it’s fair to say I was in pretty good hands to discover the soul of Stokes Croft and what makes it tick.

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
The PRSC provide equipment and materials for Street Artists
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Murals written on the walls of the PRSC
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
'Beauty from Ashes'

A very brief history of Stokes Croft

The areas of Stokes Croft and Montpelier have always fallen outside of the main city of Bristol. Up to the mid-1800s, the area was nothing much more than fields. Then from 1850s Victorian Britain, the area saw a boom in development, and the city started to spread.

However, it was always an area of miscellany having been dubbed an area where ‘…a surprisingly diverse range of tenants…’ reside, way back in the 1800s – not much has changed!

During World War 2, the area was badly damaged. This lead to a post-war redevelopment of social housing, some you will see in the streets around the Stokes Croft area.  

The area fell into dilapidation with shops and businesses closing down. With little money being pumped into the area, the abandoned buildings became a bit of a haven for graffiti artists who would use the area as their playground. And voila! the Bristol street art scene was born.

So how did Stokes Croft and Montpelier become so vibrant?

With the absence of new developments from big corporations, the value of property in the area stayed affordable. This gave the perfect opportunity for small businesses and artists to move into the area due to cheap rent, and so Bristol’s cultural quarter was born.

In more recent years, this surge in independent style and hipster culture has meant that Stokes Croft is THE place to be in the city. As a consequence, it’s pushing up property prices making housing unaffordable to the locals (a bit like what happened with Spitalfields in London).

The people are the soul to the area, so the PRSC (Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft) are billing hard to keep the property developers and commercialism out.

Frequently political graffiti will line the streets and buildings. The iconic artwork on abandoned Westmoreland House is donned with the work of Rowdy (Crocodile) and Toof (Skull) and is flagged for redevelopment which locals worry will change the area.

Update: Since writing this article, the developers won and Westmoreland House was demolished.

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Westmoreland House clad with scafolding awaiting its fate
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Large skill by street artist Toof which was painted on Westmoreland House

Unapologetically Stokes Croft

Stokes Croft isn’t pretending to be anything it’s not, it’s unapologetic honesty showing its warts and all.

The haters of the area will say it has ‘major problems with crime and drugs’ (the infamous ‘Crack Alley’ aka Hepburn Road is situated here). True, parts of it are very run down and crime including stabbings and muggings are higher here compared to other parts of the city. However, these are still very isolated incidents.

The lovers of Stokes Croft will argue that it’s the only area in Bristol which encourages freedom of expression in terms of speech, imagery and music, where people can communicate openly about local and worldwide issues. This is what’ lead to the area becoming the Cultural Quarter of the city – it’s blissfully vibrant, a stimulus for the senses (and that’s nothing to do with the smell of weed in the area!).

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Hepburn Road gained its name 'Crack Alley' after appearing on a TV show

AREAS OF INTEREST IN STOKES CROFT BRISTOL

      • Turbo Island – To most, this is nothing more than a little triangular patch of grass in Stokes Croft. Prior to the WW2, a shoe repair shop stood here, after the war, it was never rebuilt. The quirky name of this patch of grass apparently comes from the super strong cider that homeless people could be seen drinking here. For many, it’s the central area of Stokes Croft, you will often see street art donning the wall here with political messages. Sometimes there are pop up stalls and bands playing too!
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Turbo Island neat to the PRSC is at the heart of Stokes Croft, the frequently changing murals often have political statements in them.
      • Hamilton House & The Canteen – Once an office block, but now a hub for anything artsy or community-based. Inside there’s a wall covered in community notices of up-and-coming-events ranging from talks, meetings, local services, poetry readings, yoga classes etc. If it not on the board, it ain’t happening. Hamilton House is also home to resident artists, a gallery and a shop selling all things locally made. The Canteen, situated on the ground level, is a lively bar and eatery. Outside, on the decked area you’ll find two of Bristol’s more iconic murals; one of Jesus and the iconic ‘Mild Mild West’ by Banksy.
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Inside Hamilton House is a galler, this piece was by local artist, Lucas Antix
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Giant Jesus mural outside of Hamilton House
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Bristols most famous street artists, Banksy has work all over the city. Thhe Wild Wild West is on a wall outside Hamilton House
      • Picton Street – Just a stones throw from the main highstreet is Picton Street. Home to cute and colourful houses, yoga studios, artist galleries and THE best Italian deli in town.
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Colourful houses and murals along Picton Street
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
'We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars' quote by Oscar Wilde, mural by Lucas Antix
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
The studio, gallery, shop of Lucas Antix is at the end of Picton Street
      • Picton Lane  – Just off Picton Street head down the little alleyway aptly called Picton Lane. Keep walking down this lane to discover the ‘practice area’. The walls along this little lane and alley are covered in smaller murals and motifs and is where street artists have practised their trade. It’s constantly changing and frequently artwork is painted or tagged ove
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Picton Lane is full up with colourful murals,
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
The playground for street artisits, artwork is frequently painted over
      • The Old England, Pub – Tucked away in a corner of a street near to Montpelier Health Centre you’ll find the oldest pub in the area.   
      • Stokes Croft China – Selling straight-to-the-point, tongue-in-cheek and kitsch china items. Often with quotes summing up the whole freedom of speech and throughts which the PRSC encourages. Locally designed and made on site. 
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Stokes Croft China sell kitsh Bristol themed china items made of site
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Items also have the ethos of the PRSC on the freedom of speech and thought decorating their products

BRISTOL STREET ART SCENE AROUND STOKES CROFT

You won’t get far in Stokes Croft and Montpelier without seeing some outstanding street art. The PRSC provide materials and equipment to local artists to make it accessible to everyone. 

Stokes Croft Mural News is written high up on a wall so it’s visible from the street. Part of the reasoning behind this is so that homeless people in the area can access local and international news. Lots of the content is politically based and the content on the wall changes every few weeks.

Look out for the….

  • Giant Skull (Rowdy) and Crocodile (Toof) on Westmoreland House (Update: Now demolished)
  • Mild Mild West by Banksy on Hamilton House
  • Jesus on Hamilton House
  • Hepburn Road aka Crack Alley – a mixture of street art, tagging and stickers
  • Lucas Antix – On numerous building facades in the area.
  • Picton Lane – Just off Picton Street, the walls along this lane and alleyway are covered in smaller murals and images.
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Colourful artwork can be found all over Stokes Croft
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Different styles of street art in Stokes Croft
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Cartoon style street art in Stokes Croft

SOULFUL STORIES OF STOKES CROFT & MONTPELIER

If you want to find out more about the stories surrounding the people of Stokes Croft, check out Colin Moody’s photobook. His subjects come from all walks of life ranging from the homeless, local artists, refugees, musicians, people who work in the area and residents who have lived in Stokes Croft and Montpelier for their whole lives.

‘…connecting with new people and places is more important than ever, and photography has the power to take us out of our comfort zone and to challenge us to look deeper into our communities.’

Colin Moody

As you page through the book, you’ll quickly see that it’s not just about Bristol Street Art. ‘Stokes Croft and Montpelier’ is full of images celebrating the people of the area; social documentary photography.

Some of the notable images in the book are of a photo montage from all the staff who work at the Montpelier Health Centre, ‘End Austerity’ Protest March preparations from the PRSC yard and the tongue in cheek Graffiti conversation. The book is full of thought-provoking images.

The photobook by Colin Moody, titled ‘Stokes Croft & Montpelier’ can be purchased at The Arnolfini Gallery, Waterstones or Foyles in Bristol. Alternatively, it can be bought online directly through The History Press or this link to his Stokes Croft and Montpelier book

If you are interested in finding out more about the people and the stories surround Stokes Croft, as well as checking out some of the amazing street art, Colin Moody is available for talks and tours of the area. 

Contact Colin directly to arrange a tour via Instagram  or Twitter .

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Colin Moody, local photographer and knowledgeable guide
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Colin's book 'Sokes Croft & Montpelier'

Travelling around the U.K? Here are some other great articles to help plan your trip.

Pin it for later

If you loved this post, or know someone that will, then please like and share. Or if you’re planning a trip to Stokes Croft, Bristol, then why not pin it for future reference?

Have you checked out the Bristol Street Art scene before? Did you see any amazing pieces of work which are no longer there? I’d love to hear about it. 

Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain
Discover the Cultural Quarter of Bristol to see the stunning street art and learn about how Stokes Croft Bristol has become the City's Hippest area and why the Bristol Street Art scene is so important here. #Bristol #StreetArt #VisitBritain

Stokes Croft Bristol - The insider guide to the Bristol street art Scene, a soulful story 1

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

This Post Has 9 Comments

    1. A perfect excuse to come back again one day then 😉

  1. What a neat place! I had no idea Bristol was so much cooler than me. Love the street art and would love to explore Hamilton House. Such a neat place.

    1. Yes – Bristol is super cool! I’m going to do more posts on my home town over the next few months, there are so many more cool little areas 🙂 Watch this space!

  2. This sounds really fascinating, been wanting to visit Bristol for a while but never heard about this area before. Learnt something new today!

    1. It’s only a short walk from the main centre of Bristol – you will notice the change in vibe immediately 🙂 it’s got a whole lot more character than Bristol City Centre – you’d love it!

  3. Ooh now I need to go to Bristol. I’m a huge street art lover. And love that giveaway that you are doing!!

    1. If you’re a lover of street art , then yes, put Bristol at the top of your to-do list. If you’re into street art, check ut the Up-Fest event that happens in the summer – basically a street art festival! The city is alive with it!

  4. I love street art so Bristol has been on my radar for a while. I should definitely make the journey. Especailly after reading your article and seeing the pictures!

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