The capital of the South West and a lively trading city which originated in the 10th century.
By the middle ages it was a flourishing port, second only to London and became home to explorers such as John Cabot a replica of whose ship, the Matthew, is based in the inner city harbour.
Bristol benefited from the wealth of its merchants who endowed the city with schools, churches, almshouses and hospitals. Much of this wealth emanated from the proceeds of the notorious slave trade with which the city is still coming to terms.
When this trade moved to Liverpool many new industries were established by Quaker families such as the Fry’s and Cadbury’s. Bristol has always had a tradition for religious tolerance and became one of the most important centres of early Methodism. John Wesley built his New Room in the heart of Bristol and much later, in 1994, Bristol cathedral became the first church in which women were ordained.
One name closely associated with the city is that of Isaac Kingdom Brunel, the great Victorian engineer who built the Great Western Railway and the first iron hulled steamship, the SS Great Britain, now restored to her former glory and berthed in her original dry dock next to the Matthew.
Brunel was also responsible for Bristol’s most prominent landmark, the Clifton Suspension bridge.
Clifton developed in the 18c becoming home to the rich merchants who built their fine mansions high above the city and away from the squalor of the central dock area. It was described by John Betjeman as ‘ the handsomest suburb of Europe’.
Today Bristol continues to thrive as an important financial, administrative, shopping and regional centre. The city centre and inner docks have been redeveloped with housing, marinas and social facilities and its world famous Old Vic Theatre is in the process of being upgraded.
For the visitor there is much to explore around the city centre and harbourside. Take a water taxi for a trip around the harbourside and further afield or a guided walk in the central area tracing the city’s trading history from the middle ages contrasting the old with the new. Be sure to visit St.Mary Redcliffe Church – a parish church with cathedral like proportions and beauty described by Queen Elizabeth I in 1574 as the "fairest, goodliest, most famous parish church in England".