Bristol has a reputation for rows of colourful terraced houses, like those on Clifton Terrace:

multicoloured houses

Nobody seems to know where and why is started:

Nobody’s entirely sure when or why houses in the neighbourhood started being painted…

This website list a bunch more streets this paint scheme can be seen on.

Is there any record of when this began, where and why the trend was started?

1 Answer 1


There is no definitive answer to this, all there are is theories.

Theory 1

One theory is that sailors returning from sea painted their houses for maratime purposes.


One is linked to Bristol’s maritime history. It’s said that sailors returning from sea, painted their houses distinctive colours so they could chart home in the fog.

Theory 2

The second theory is that Bristol's previous mayor bought a property in Cliftonwood and painted it red to prevent it from being demolished, though I am unable to provide an answer as to why painting a building red would stop a city council from demolishing buildings.


another popular story concerns our previous mayor, George Ferguson, who back in the 1970s is said to have clubbed together with student friends to buy a house in Cliftonwood. To save it being from being demolished, the story goes, they painted the house red. The house was saved and slowly all the houses in the terrace followed suit.

Theory 3

Another theory is that a painter and decorator offered cheap house painting to make use of paints he had acquired.

Angie Parker Textiles

Another rumour is that this trend started in Totterdown, where a local decorator offered cheap house painting to make use of the free coloured paints he’d acquired.

  • 1
    Ferguson's appearance is striking because of his red trousers. Sounds like a myth to me. Also as you note painting as house doesn't stop anyone knocking it down. Theory 1, Bristol is quite a few miles upstream from the sea - doubtful that a sailor would be able to get that close to home and then fail to find it just because of a little inland fog. Number 3 is somewhat plausible, but needs documentation.
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 27, 2022 at 15:26
  • Theory 2 making no sense is ironicly, from a source criticism point of view, a point in its favor (since its less likely to have been made up in its current form than the others).
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 28, 2022 at 14:21
  • They all sound like the kind of total rubbish a news outlet writes when they need copy don't have the resources to do actual journalism.
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 31, 2022 at 23:42

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