The last ruins of the chapel, predating the Castle, were removed in the early part of the eighteenth century, when the estate was in the possession of the Smyth family of Ashton Court. The estate was sold in 1762 to Thom Farr, a sugar merchant who was to become Lord Mayor of Bristol in 1775. Possibly he regretted the removal of the ruins, for by the second half of the eighteenth century it was fashionable to have such picturesque adornments to one’s grounds. Rather than rebuilding the old manor house, he chose to spend £3,000 on a Gothic folly, the Castle, built in 1766 to the design of Robert Mylne. The Castle was built with carboniferous limestone, dolomite conglomerate, Lias Limestone and pennant sandstone which was mainly taken from the hill itself and the surrounding area. Bath Stone was also used for ornamental purposes and was probably shipped along the River Avon from Bath to Sea Mills where it was hauled up to the site.
Originally the castle had a first floor which was lavishly furnished with oak-panelled walls and suits of armour in the alcoves, while down below the servants would be roasting mutton and beef on spits over two open fires. There were separate spiral staircases for visitors and servants with one providing access to the roof and from there a ladder onto one of the turrets to reach the very top to provide an even better view.
As well as serving as an opulent Banqueting Hall, the Castle was intended as a retreat for meditation as well as a vantage point from which to enjoy the extensive views. It was visited in 1788 by John Wesley, the much-travelled founder of the Methodist Church, who described the view from the Castle as “a prospect all four ways nothing in England excels”. The op of the Castle also served as a vantage point for Thomas Farr to see his ships returning with their cargo of sugar from the Americas – the source of his fortune.
The Harford Family who later inherited the Castle made no discernible changes and in 1926 it was bought by the Bristol Corporation, now Bristol City Council. It remained pretty much intact until the 1950’s culminating in a disastrous fire that gutted the interior and destroyed the upper story and the spiral staircases. The exterior was partially restored but the fabric of the building continued to deteriorate until by the start of the 1980’s the Council prepared plans to demolish it. However, the local community protested and raised sufficient funds to save it and it is their efforts that we still have it today.
It was from this community protest group that the Friends of Blaise emerged who have ever since ensured visitor access and will do into the future.