Long Fox Manor has an interesting past, being almost the first purpose built private asylum for the insane. Purchased in 1799 by Edward Long Fox(1760 - 1835), construction begun in 1804,on former common land close to the village of Brislington, and was opened 1806 called initially Brislington House. It cost about 35,000 pounds to build and equip and was designed as a group of detached houses (these were later joined together). Some detached houses on the estate were used for members of the nobility. Staircases, doors, joists and window frames were all constructed of iron to minimise the risk of fire.
Brislington House was part of a much larger estate than you can see today and designed with the patient's wellbeing in mind. What landscape they could see from various vantage parts of the estate, was considered important to the treatment of the patients. It stretched from Broomhill Road down to Hicks Gate and out to the cliff above the River Avon. Here there was a cliff top walk with stunning views down the valley and across the river. There was also a battery and summerhouse, which no longer exist. Elsewhere in the grounds there was a Grotto, on a raised area with a stone table, enclosed by a horseshoe-shaped bench. This is still there to this day and can be seen if you take a walk into the woods.
Once Brislington House was finished, a number of cottages were built around the estate. The Beeches was built to house the Fox Family, followed by the first of four cottages, Lanesborough Cottage in 1816. Carysfort Cottage (now known as Swiss Cottage) followed in 1819, Heath House in 1825 and finally Oakleigh cottage. Lanesborough cottage was built where the rugby fields are now located (off Broomhill Road, just up from the Beeches) and Heath Cottage just along from that. Swiss cottage was built to the right of Brislington House (behind the locked gates you can see up past the Chapel). Oakleigh Cottage is located and remains down towards Hicks gate (left side of the Bath Road). As well as the Beeches and Cottages, the Lodge or Wheelhouse was also built and this housed the mechanism for opening the gates.
Edward Long Fox was a Quaker physician at Castle Green and surgeon at Bristol Royal Infirmary. He is well known for starting new treatments at Brislington House. It was described as being delightfully and cheerfully situated, and with patients, little or no coercion was used. The benefits of occupation, amusement and exercise were stressed. Some female patients had silver pheasants and doves in their courtyards and greyhounds were kept for the patients amusement. Patients practised regular simple habits, took efficacious cold and warm baths, bodily exercise and mental recreation.
There were agricultural and horticultural pursuits, music, a library and regular Church of England services took place in the chapel, in spite of Dr Fox's strict Quaker beliefs.This humane non restraint system, contrasted with previous barbaric and cruel treatment of the insane.
Dr Fox had a large family and tragically his son died here during a fire, after a candle set alight his bedclothes. Naturally the parents were heartbroken and their child was buried in the grounds, after a little cemetery had ben created. Dr Fox died in 1829 and management of Brislington House passed to his two sons: Francis Fox MD and Charles Fox MD and by 1831 Brislington House had 124 patients. Francis stayed in control with his son until 1883, when another son, Bonville Bradley Fox became the sole proprietor. For his time in control, it was considered that Bonville did a magnificent job and was a great character. After his death, responsibility was passed to his widow, Annie Fox, who ran Brislington House until the start of the second world war. During her time, the fine grounds became the scene of garden parties, shows, fancy dress parades and charitable functions. After she died, her son Francis Elliott then took up the reigns until he died in 1947. His widow and son went on to remain at Swiss Cottage within the grounds.
With regret, Brislington House was sold in 1951 and the 70 remaining residents placed elsewhere. It was now in the ownership of Royal United Hospital as a Nurses Home. About 150 nurses moved in and in the last year several groups have returned 50 years on from their first days as nurses. The layout in some of the blocks (particularly D Block) was quite different with a good example being the basement where there was apparently a large hall and disco! In 1982 the home was closed before being renovated into a care home for the elderly. During this time, time they had open days for people to visit the gardens with brass bands playing. This continued until the 90's when it again became empty before being converted into luxury flats and renamed Long Fox Manor.