Built between 1876 and 1878 by Joseph King, a self-taught architect, entrepreneur and builder, it was a Victorian version of the shopping mall. The Clifton Arcade was originally known as King's Arcade, or the Clifton Bazaar.
In 1873 he had built a row of Italianate shops in Whiteladies Road. His grand scheme for Boyce's Avenue was two separate buildings, the shopping arcade itself, in King's Road and in Boyce's Avenue, a reception and entrance way to the arcade, with a space in the middle for carriages to drive inside the complex. In front of his arcade was a pleasure ground matching the one already laid out in the front of Boyce's Buildings.
According to a contemporary plan, the lawn had an entrance opposite Rodney Place, another in King's Road. There were seven large trees standing where W.H. Smiths and the row of shops are now.
King's Clifton Bazaar and Winter Garden opened on April 7th, 1879. It was an instant flop - it became known as King's Folly. There were no takers and he went bankrupt. It was already for sale by July 1879.
The present owners Moorpoint Ltd acquired the arcade and undertook the restoration of those parts of the building that could be saved.
By 1998 the terrace on Kings Road had been rebuilt in the similar Bristol Venetian style as the original, where you will find the eclectic mix of shops and Primrose Café today.