Introduction to the area
This district sits on a hilltop ridge northwest of the city centre. It takes its name from the seven roads that radiate out from the hub of ‘The Dials’.
The housing in the area is mainly mid to late nineteenth century with some enclaves of interwar ‘tudorbethan’.
Seven Dials had a typical ‘urban fringe’ existence in the nineteenth century, being home to agriculture (market gardens), food processing (a range of windmills), industry (brickfields), services (a large open air laundry run by a Mrs Watts…Mr Watts was a coal merchant!) and new housing developments.
Upwind of the smoke
After the opening of the railway in 1841, the area’s location, upwind of the smoke, ensured it had a rosy middle class future. The breezy ridge with its sandy clay surface saw pines planted, and substantial terraces and villas built across brickyards and laundry drying grounds. Windmills were moved, grammar schools were opened, and parks were laid out; by a tortuous route the horse bus network linked the area to the rest of the town.
During the interwar period and after, some parts of the district fell into disfavour. St Michaels Place became a byword for racketeering landlords; Vernon Terrace was used as a DHSS ‘holding area’; student bedsit land was established along Montpelier Road; and heavily increased road traffic made the Seven Dials area seven times more polluted.
By the 1980’s, things were changing with the rapid growth of house prices in the city. Whole blocks were ‘done-up’ for private sale, the area acquired delis, a wine bar,a gallery, a flower shop, a smart restaurant, cafes, and “LifeStyle” shops. Like much of the city, there is an easy mix of trendy and suburbia, private ownership and rented sector, bedsit and Victorian villa.