History of the Folk House
The Bristol Folk House is the oldest education centre in Bristol. In 1870 the Tyndale Baptist Church started a mission in Lower College Green in a docklands area of poverty and social deprivation.
In 1887 the original Folk House was built on Deanery Road and in 1903 a ‘men’s club’ was established to provide local men with a place where they could spend their leisure hours learning to read and write rather than frequenting pubs. An early mission statement read:
‘We meet those who have learned to take care of their hard earned wages; who have become sober and thrifty; who today are good husbands and fathers – respected because they are respectable members of society. Sober, honest, industrious men who use their brains and are good citizens. The club is also exceedingly helpful to young fellows by providing for them healthy amusement and useful instruction.’
In August 1920 a meeting was called to discuss the future of the club and, in 1921, the Folk House as we know it today was established. The first programme of activities was produced for the academic year 1920-1921.
In 1960, under a Ministry of Education scheme, the Bristol Folk House became a registered charity. The current site on Park Street was purchased in 1958 and the foundation stone was laid by the Lord Mayor of the time in 1963. The building was completed in 1964 and the Folk House was formally opened by The Minister of Education, Sir Edward Boyle MP.
In 1995, when all government funding was withdrawn, the Folk House became a totally self-funding organisation. In 1996 the Folk House Co-operative was formed with a mandate to run the centre on a day-to-day basis whilst operating under the license from the charity, the Council of Trustees.
As a demand-led education and social centre, the ethos of the Folk House encourages a communal spirit of equal opportunity. We aim to provide ‘learning for pleasure’ courses that engage the local community and allow them to learn new skills in a safe and welcoming environment. The café provides a venue for teachers and students to get together before and after classes. It is also open to the public and the perfect place for those seeking a relaxed and friendly place to spend an hour or two. The café also plays host to regular art exhibitions and music events.
The Bristol Folk House receives no funding from central government, the city council or any other institution and our income is wholly derived from course fees, venue hire and fundraising events. If you would like to become a Co-op member or get involved in any other way please contact us on 0117 926 2987.
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Folk House memories
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We would love to hear from you if you have your own recollections to add to the Folk House history. Maybe you even have photos from yesteryear to add to the collection.