Bristol is a large commercial centre, one of the most popular cities for business relocation and a major focus for media industries.
Its success is due to the fact that Bristol offers a quality of life far above many other major cities.
The harbour area continues to be developed, the old city is substantially restored and Clifton remains charming and elegant.
After the Roman invasion of AD 43, a small port, Abonae, was constructed where the River Trym joins the Avon at Sea Mills and traces of Roman occupation can still be seen. The Romans also built a road across the Clifton Downs and utilised an Iron Age camp as part of their fortifications.
In Anglo-Saxon times, a settlement grew up between the Rivers Avon and Frome in what is now Castle Park. Known as Brigstow, or 'the place of a bridge', the settlement traded with Ireland, ports in South Wales and along the River Wye. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, Bristol grew in importance. A Motte and bailey castle was erected by 1088 and a castle superseded this with a mighty keep in the 1120s. By this time, Bristol was under the control of Robert, Earl of Gloucester (an illegitimate son of Henry 1), who also constructed the Benedictine priory Of St James. Some of the original building remains as part of St James'Church, just off the Broadmead Shopping Centre.
When civil war between King Stephen and Matilda (daughter of Henry 1) split the country, Bristol became a stronghold for Matilda, and her son, the future Henry 11, spent time here. Bristol became a wine-importing centre and, as trade grew, the existing port became inadequate. In 1239, a cut was excavated to divert the course of the River Frome. Completed in 1247, this marked the beginning of Bristol's prosperity.
The 14th century saw trade flourish. Bristol was granted a charter and obtained county status in 1373. Many buildings were erected at this time. Merchants built large houses near the quays and churches were embellished. The city was by now trading with Portugal, Spain, the Mediterranean and Iceland and in the late 15th century voyagers set sail from Bristol to discover 'The Isle of Brasylle' and the Far East.
In 1497, John Cabot, an Italian financed by Bristol merchants, set out from Bristol in his ship Mathew (or Matthew) to find a passage to the Spice Islands. He actually discovered Newfoundland and the Grand Banks, with their rich stocks of fish. (On his return, Cabot was awarded £10 and a pension of £20 a year to be provided from the customs revenue of Bristol. Cabot disappeared on a second voyage in 1498 and his son, Sebastian, continued the exploration in 1509 with a voyage to the Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay.
Ships continued to travel from Bristol to found or support existing colonies in the New World. The severe Newfoundland winters caused many of the colonies to fail, and Bristol trade became more dependent upon links with Europe than the New World.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII conferred a bishopric on Bristol and the town became a city in 1542. By the 17th century Bristol was an important centre for nonconformist. Quakers erected a meetinghouse in 1670 and this building still exists, tucked behind Broad mead Shopping Centre. John Wesley, the Methodist leader, had a chapel, or 'New Room' built in 1739, which remains today, the oldest Methodist building in the world. It was from Bristol that Methodist preachers left for the New World, perhaps conferring on Bristol the title of the birthplace of Methodism. Francis Asbury, one of the founding Methodist Bishops Of America, left Bristol for the New World in 1771. The city continued to expand, and much original architecture from this period remains, including the area around King Street, Queen Square, Christmas Steps and St Michael's Hill.
Bristol boomed in the 18th century. Bristol merchants funded privateers to plunder Spanish shipping off the coast of the Americas and built beautiful houses throughout the city from the proceeds. The 18th century also saw the rise of the slave trade. Ships sailed from Bristol to the coast of Africa carrying goods, which would be exchanged for slaves. The slaves were then shipped to the colonies of America and the Caribbean. Ships returned to Bristol laden with goods from the New World, including cane sugar, tobacco, rum and cocoa.
Other 18th-century industries included pottery, glass, brass, soap and zinc. Fuel was provided by coal from the extensive coalfields to the east and south of the city.
In the late 18th century the elegant suburb of Clifton began to expand, helped, in part, by the very popular spa at Hotwells. The Romantic poets of this period are also associated with Bristol. Southey was born in the city and Coleridge and Wordsworth spent time here.
The Theatre Royal opened in King Street in 1766 and the city entered a more elegant and cultured era.
By the late 18th century, the harbour had become a problem. The huge rise and fall of the Avon caused ships to become dangerously marooned at low tide, and the idea of a Floating Harbour was launched. Work began in 1804 with the construction of a two-mile New Cut for the Avon, and the old route of the Avon became a harbour at permanent high tide with lock gates at one end and a feeder canal at the other to keep the water level constant.
Unfortunately, the cost of building the harbour was so high that dock dues forced shipping to other ports and, as ships increased in size, the bends of the Avon made navigation more and more difficult and Bristol, as a port, began to decline. Bristol also suffered violent riots in 1831. Ignited by a mixture of desire for nationwide political reform and dissatisfaction with Bristol's local government, the riots saw the destruction of many buildings and the death of at least 12 rioters.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed some of Bristol’s best-loved features. Examples of his work include the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain and Temple Meads old station, terminus for the Great Western Railway. He also constructed a series of sluices for clearing the harbour of silt and a dredger, the BD6, which was still in use in the 1960s. Ironically, his two great Bristol-built ships, the Great Western and Great Britain, were too large to navigate the Avon with safety and sailed from Liverpool on their transatlantic voyages.
New docks were built at the mouth of the Avon in the 1870s, and Bristol continued as an industrial centre with coal, cotton spinning, soap, tobacco and chocolate the main products. The construction of aircraft in Filton, to the north of the city, escalated throughout World War I and became an important post-war industry.
Parts of Bristol were decimated by World War II bombing. The historic city centre was badly damaged and many old buildings lost. After the war, Bristol embarked on a major rebuilding plan. The docks at the mouth of the Avon were expanded and a new city centre built. The aircraft industry continued to thrive with Filton at the forefront of Concorde's development.
Bristol Sights, sightseeing, culture:
Bristol - Culture
The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is the largest Balloon festival in Europe and provides a unique opportunity for something completely different in corporate entertaining.
Entertain your guests in the exclusive pavilions situated in the main arena offering unrivalled views of the balloons during the early morning and evening launches or the spectacular Night Glow.
The Night Glow takes place on Thursday evening the 5th August when tethered balloons illuminated by the flames from their burners light up the night sky to waves of music, culminating in a spectacular firework display. Prior to the 'Glow' there will be an open-air concert.
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