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This is a hidden gem. It is the remains of a funicular-type railway that runs from near the Avon Gorge Hotel in Clifton down to the Portway, but carved through solid rock so that only the stations at either end are visible. It operated as a commercial business from 1893 until 1934, when it closed.
The outbreak of the Second World War saw the facilities quickly pressed back into service both as an air-raid shelter, and as a secondary transmitting station for the BBC.
A group of volunteers have recently set up a Trust to restore the site and make it accessible to the public. Currently, tours are only available by special arrangement with the Trust but they are well worth the effort, see their website for details.
Anyone who expects to find just the remnants of a crumbling railway will be disappointed. Parts of the old railway are certainly visible, particularly near the top, but the main parts visible today are those constructed in an atmosphere of what must have been sheer terror during a few brief months during 1940. The underground structures built in the tunnel to provide shelter for local people during bombing raids are in excellent condition to point where, indeed, one feels that the poor folk who took refuge here left but yesterday. It's easy to imagine what conditions must have been like for them, sleeping on specially constructed steps above the tracks of the railway in the dark, cold and damp.
The former BBC facilities occupy compartments troward the bottom of the hill, and are in an early stage of renovation.
A visit is a altogether a very moving experience and highly recommended.
The BBC calls this "Bristol's best-kept secret" - the Trust maintains a small museum dedicated to the work of George Müller, a Prussian evangelist who came to Bristol in 1834 and founded an orphanage on Ashley Down supported entirely by prayer and his faith in God. The museum, which contains artefacts from the orphanage and a great many photographs of life inside the homes, is housed in a Victorian villa in Cotham, a short walk from the city centre, with impressive gardens and a conservatory with a Pulhamite grotto. The museum is open from 10.00 to 16.00, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays) by prior appointment.