The Bristol Folk House is a special place, dedicated to providing a community space for education and it has survived many trials and tribulations since it started in 1920.
The Folk House is the oldest education centre in Bristol, with its origins dating back to 1887 in a docklands area of poverty and social deprivation. It has seen many changes since then. The school began with the aim of supporting access to education for the community. The Bristol Folk House has a very interesting history and you can read the full story below...
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 1919 a meeting was called to discuss the future of the club and, in 1920, the Folk House was established with a programme of activities and classes supported by Bristol University, WEA and Bristol City Council. Its 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.
1990’s - Present
In 1995, when all government funding was withdrawn, the Folk House needed to become a totally self-funding organisation to survive. Committed to encouraging a communal spirit of equal opportunity 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. Since this time 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.
These photographs illustrate the lively and colourful history of the Folk House. If you have any of your own to add, please contact us.