Bristol, England.Population: 399,633 (1998)
For most of its long history the medieval city of Bristol has been a trading and shipping centre. This west coast port is located 8 miles (13 Kilometres) from the broad Severn Estuary, at the junction of the Frome and Avon rivers, in the county of Avon. The city docks are no longer used for commercial shipping. They now provide long and short-term moorings in the heart of Bristol, and can be accessed either by sea at the western end or by the Kennet and Avon Canal at the eastern end. Full details of moorings and charges can be obtained from the Harbour Master's Office, Underfall Yard.
The docks at Royal Portbury and Avonmouth are operated by the Bristol Port Company which took over from the Port of Bristol Authority in 1991.
Bristol is a lively city, with a very interesting and rich history. In about 1000 AD a Saxon settlement began to grow up on the site of Bristol. By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 it had reached considerable size and importance. Bristol was incorporated as a town in 1055, and the harbour was created in 1247. From the time of King Edward III, who ruled from 1327 to 1377, the city has been active in trade . Wool from Ireland and wine from Spain and Portugal were imported in return for the export of woollen cloth. In 1497 John and Sebastian Cabot sailed from Bristol to the New World. This Journey was commemorated in 1997 when a replica of John Cabot's Matthew sailed across the Atlantic for the 500th Anniversary.
Click herefor a picture I took, when the Matthew was docked in Bristol, before it left on it's journey across the Atlantic. The ship is back in Bristol after touring the world, and is docked next to the ss Great Britain in the Great Western Dock..
Later, between 1698 (when London's monopoly of slave trading was broken) and when parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807, Bristol became a major player in the slave trade. By the 1750s Bristol probably overtook London, and became the chief slaving port in England. Bristol made a huge amount of money from slavery; so much that the Corporation of Bristol and the Society of Merchant Venturers endorsed the trade as"the great support of our people at home, and the foundation of our trade abroad".This horrific trade saw between seven million and ten million (although no accurate records were kept) Africans shipped across the Atlantic to colonies in the Americas. It was commonplace for a slaveship to lose a quarter of her cargo before reaching port (doing the mathematics means around two million Africans died on English slave-ships), the corpses would have been thrown overboard.
The great attraction to slaving , for many Bristolians (and indeed others), was the triple profit that it offered. Ships sailing from Bristol to West Africa would carry cargo such as brassware, cotton, gin, and muskets, which could be sold, or bartered at a profit, for slaves and ivory; the middle passage from West Africa to the American or West Indian colonies, where the slaves were sold, again at a profit; the journey back home brought a final profit by transporting molasses or tobacco and ivory to Bristol, were it could be sold.
The slave trade was enormous, and reminders of it can be seen throughout Bristol. The statue of Edward Colston c.1895 (who invested in the slave trade, and made considerable profit) in Colston Avenue idealises him as a revered Bristol benefactor, but silent about his role as a member of the Court of Assistants to the London based Royal African Company, which held the monopoly on the slave trade until 1698. Colston's tomb is in All Saints' Church.
Number 43 Park Street was the site of the school for young ladies (now demolished) which Hannah More, anti-slavery campaigner, playwright and religious writer ran with her sisters. Hannah was friends with both William Wilberforce (whose bill to abolish slavery was defeated in Parliament in 1791) and Thomas Clarkson (Quaker and anti slavery campaigner). She spoke out openly against the slave trade. The West India House is another reminder of the former connection of the city with the West Indies and the notorious "triangular trade". The most recent reminder is Pero's bridge, which was designed by Ellis O'Connell. It crosses St. Augustine's reach and has a plaque commemorating the life of a slave named Pero. He was brought back to Bristol, from the Caribbean island of Nevis in 1783. Pero was a servant to the Pinney family. If you are interested in the story of Pero and the Pinney family, there is a small display in the georgian house in great george street. The georgian house, which is now a museum, was built and owned by John Pinney.
In 1815 Bristol's roads were improved by the engineer John Loudon McAdam (from who the road surface Tarmac takes it's name) with his technique of laying raised stone surfaces. These roads became the model for road improvements throughout Great Britain.
Bristol was the launching point for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western in 1838, the second steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She had a chequered career. For a while she worked out of Liverpool, on the route to New York. Later she was used as an emigrant ship to Australia. At the end of her varied career she was beached in the Falklands, and eventually brought back to Bristol in 1970. Much of Brunel's work was carried out in Bristol, including the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge , mentioned later.
The railroad came to Bristol in 1841, followed by dock extensions at nearby Avonmouth and Portishead, led to a revival of the city's trade --mainly in meat, bananas, tobacco, and wine.
Bristol was also a great financial centre. Corn Street, in the centre of the city owes its distinguished buildings to its role as the centre for eighteenth and nineteenth century finance. The street still holds many banks today ( although some are now trendy wine bars ). Another interesting feature of Corn Street are the brass nails, outside of what was once the Bristol Exchange. Before the exchange was built payments would be made on the nail, and so the origin of the expression "pay on the nail" is in Corn Street.
The city has many beautiful buildings and landmarks that recall Bristol's former glory. Among them are:
St. Mary Redcliffe (built in the 13th century),of which Queen Elizabeth I, when she visited Bristol in 1574, commented:"The fairest, the godliest, and the most famous parish church in England"The cathedral, on college green, once an abbey of St. Augustine, goes back to 1142. Other historical buildings are the New Room in Broadmead, built by John Wesley, the first Methodist chapel in the world; Broadmead Baptist Chapel; and the Theatre Royal built in 1766.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge at a height of 245 feet above the high water mark, is a beautiful example of Brunel's engineering skills. It was in fact the first contract in Bristol that he won; although it wasn't finished until after his death. The design draws from Egyptian styles, and was originally going to be decorated and adorned with sphinxes and other Egyptian symbols. The decorations were not added in the finished bridge in order to cut back on costs.
The Wills Memorial Building, which is part of Bristol University was a gift from the Wills family. The Wills family made their fortune from the tobacco trade. In the 18th century the tobacco trade was important to Bristol. Tobacco was brought back from the tobacco plantations in Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas.
Bristol has for a long time been an educational centre. Among its schools are the Bristol Grammar School, The Cathedral School, and Queen Elizabeth's Hospital,all founded in the 16th century; and Colston's School founded in 1708.
The University of Bristol,founded as University College in 1876, was established in 1909. The University of the West of England,is also based in Bristol, and has campuses all around the city. The Ex-Bristol Polytechnic gained university status in 1992, and the University's history can be traced back as far as the foundation of the Merchant Venturers' Navigation School in 1595.
Bristol is traditionally associated with the wine trade, and the world-famous firm Harvey's. The firm provides an excellent wine museum in the cellars beneath the city centre. Many wine importers still have administrative offices in the city centre. Perhaps for this reason Bristol is also the home of the World Wine Fair which takes place on the city's exciting waterfront which has also become established as a major venue for events such as the World Wildlife Film Festival, Showing that Bristol is a city rich in culture.
The waterfront is also the location of the Watershed, Britain's first media centre and the home of one of a number of independent cinemas in Bristol. The Arnolfini Gallery is also very close, on Narrow Quay.
The 18th century Theatre Royal in nearby King Street is the home of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company which was founded as an offspring of the famous London Old Vic and which is now the only company entitled to that honoured name. The Bristol Hippodrome provides opera and ballet, featuring major British companies and hosts visits by Britain's National Theatre. Classical music and rock concerts are given at the Colston Hall.
Every year, in autumn, the city is host to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Hot air balloons come from the world over to participate in the fiesta which takes place at Ashton Court. Nightglow is a particularly impressive and beautiful part of the display, where the burners are lit at night.
The city has a strong tradition of music, and the city is home to many current bands, including Massive Attack, and Portishead.
In and around Bristol a number of modern industries have developed, including sugar refining, tobacco processing, cocoa and chocolate making, wine bottling, and the making of fine glass, porcelain, and pottery. Many big names have chosen the city as their base.
British Aerospace, a major aerospace and engineering group, and one of the world's leading defence and aerospace companies built its Sowerby Research Centre in Filton in 1982. Aircraft are designed and constructed here, including the British-French Concorde supersonic airliner. The company is committed to research and innovation and has continued to bring improvements to the world's aircraft. British Aerospace was responsible for the first plane capable of flying nonstop across the Atlantic, the Vickers Vimy. The many other firsts achieved by BAe include Viscount, the worlds first turbo-prop airliner service; Concorde, the first and only operational Supersonic Transport; Vulcan, the first delta wing jet bomber; Harrier, the first Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) fighter; and Seawolf, the first anti-missile missile to defeat a 4.5 inch shell.
British Aerospace has always been committed to partnerships. Continuing this tradition is Eurofighter which is intended to meet Europe's air defence needs well into the 21st century, and is expected to be exported elsewhere.
Many of the engines for British Aerospace's aircraft, including the Olympus 593, which powers Concorde are designed and built by Rolls Royce, who also have a aerospace base in Filton.
Another major company in the Bristol area is Hewlett Packard, who chose to build there Research and Development laboratories in Bristol (the first outside of the United States).
Undoubtedly the city of Bristol has had a lively and interesting past and has been one of Britain's leading Cities for at least 900 years. There are many more aspects of the city that I could not hope to cover here. I urge you to explore and discover the many facets of the city, you will not be disappointed. Hopefully this beautiful city will continue to prosper in the coming years, whilst also keeping its historical interest.
Places of interest in Bristol.This is a short list of places to visit in Bristol, some of which are mentioned in the above text. Obviously the following list reflects my personal tastes, and is only a small sample of what Bristol has to offer. I'll try to keep the list up to date, and will add new attractions as I become aware of them.
ARNOLFINI GALLERY, Narrow Quay.
Telephone: (0117) 929 9191
Arnolfini is one of Europe's leading centre's for the contemporary arts. The gallery has exhibition space not only for visual arts, but also for performance arts, dance and music. It also has a cinema, an art book shop, and cafe/bar. Best of All though is that entrance to the gallery is free!
BRISTOL CITY MUSEUM & ART GALLERY, Queens Road, Clifton.
Telephone : (0117) 922 3571
The Museum has a large collection , including exhibitions on Cabot's Bristol, Egyptology, and natural history. It also has a small collection of prehistoric fossils, and art gallery mixing sculpture, paintings and a small collection of modern art. The museum regularly has exhibitions. A past exhibition was entitled "A Respectable Trade?" and detailed Bristol's involvement in the slave trade. Again Admission is free.
THE BRISTOL GUILD OF APPLIED ART, 68/70 Park St.
Telephone: (0117) 926 5548
The Guild was founded in 1908 by local members of William Morris' Arts & Craft movement to promote their work. Over the years the Guild has steadily grown in both reputation and size. Locally, the Guild is known for unusal gifts, which are sold from the ground floor shop. On the first floor the traditions of the guilds founders are maintained with its selection of contemporary British Crafts, whilst on the second floor the Guild Gallery holds regular exhibitions of work by West Country artists and craftspeople.
BRISTOL TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE, St. Nicholas Street.
Telephone : (0117) 9260767
Fax : (0117) 9297703
URL : http://tourism.bristol.gov.uk/
As well as holding many leflets and information, the information centre also sells souvenirs, books, maps and guides. They offer unbiased accomodation advice, and can even book hotels for you.
BRISTOL ZOO GARDENS, Clifton.
Telephone : (0117) 973 8951
The Zoo supports conservation projects in the wild, both here and abroad. It is also committed to raising awareness of the problems faced by wild animals close to extinction. A new elephant enclosure was built in 1997, along with Gorilla Island, which aims to give a more natural environment to the gorillas.
CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE VISITOR CENTRE, Bridge House, Sion Place, Clifton
Telephone: (0117) 974 4664
The visitor centre houses an exhibition showing the history of the construction of the suspension bridge. Featured in the exhibition are a selection of photographs and postcards, an intricate scale model of the bridge. Facts, figures, and details of how the bridge works are also a part of the display. An interactive model of the bridge gives children the chance to discover the basic enginneering principles behind a suspension bridge.
HARVEY'S WINE MUSEUM, Denmark Street.
Telephone : (0117) 927 5036
The admission fee entitles you to a short film, and a complimentary glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream (over 18s only), followed by a tour through the cellars beneath the streets of Bristol, which have virtually remained unchanged since the 18th Century, and house the museum.
JOHN WESLEY'S CHAPEL, 36 The Horsefair.
Telephone: (0117) 926 4740
The chapel is the oldest Methodist Chapel in the world. Entry is free, and the chapel can been seen as it was in the 18th century. You can also visit the rooms above the chapel, where John Wesley stayed.
ROYAL WEST OF ENGLAND ACADEMY, Queen's Road Clifton.
Telephone: (0117) 973 3171 URL http://www.rwa.org.uk/The Bristol Fine Arts Academy was established by Ellen Sharples in 1844. It was officially opened as Bristol's First Fine Art Gallery in 1858. The RWA has been host to fine exhibitions, including such artists as: Bonnington, Degas, Gauguin, Nolan, Picasso and Turner.
SS GREAT BRITAIN, Great Western Dock.
Telephone: (0117) 929 1843
URL: http://www.ss-great-britain.com/The ss Great Britain has been restored since her return to Bristol in 1970. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, she was the largest ship to be built of iron and was powered by a huge steam engine. There is an admission charge, but the one ticket will allow access to both the ss Great Britain and the Matthew.
WATERSHED MEDIA CENTRE, 1 Canon's Road.
Telephone : (0117) 927 6444
There are free exhibitions seven days a week. The independent cinema has an excellent selection of films. The centre also offers a fully licensed cafe/bar and a shop, where cards, posters, videos, stills and other gifts can be bought.
Telephone : (0117) 915 5000
at-Bristol is located in the heart of Bristol's harbourside, and is the result of an immense £97 million project. It includes the only IMAX® Theatre in the South West.
"a unique destination bringing science, nature and art to life".
Festivals & Events
Harbour Festival, Harbourside
The annual Bristol Harbour Festival held in July kicks off a summer of first class entertainment in the city and provides a great opportunity for everybody to celebrate Bristol's inspirational maritime heritage and enjoy the city's lively and attractive harbourside at its most colorful.
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
URL: http://www.bristolfiesta.co.uk/The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta has grown to be one of the largest outdoor events in the country, attracting thousands of visitors for what is now a four-day festival of fun and flying - and it's all FREE!
Stella Screen Film Festival, Queen's Square
URL: http://www .stellascreen.co.uk/
The annual Stella Screen Film Festival will see Queen's Square come to life under the glow of the giant screen early in August, check the site for actual dates.
The evenings commence around 6.30 pm for a showing at dusk.
Bristol Doors Open Day 14th September 2002
Telephone: (0117) 922 3719 (Doors Open Hotline)
URL: http://www.bristol-city.gov.uk/tourism/doorsopen_intro.htmlBristol Doors Open Day - now in its ninth year - is the day when many of Bristol's most significant contemporary and historic buildings open their doors to the general public.
Entry to all buildings is completely free. Buildings will be open Saturday 10am-4pm unless otherwise stated. In addition, all the City Museums will be open until 5pm. For a few buildings you need to pre-book to go round and will be turned away if you haven't. Others offer regular tours with no pre-booking. Most have open access. Please check the individual entries for details. Participating buildings should have long banners showing you where to enter.
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