The City of Bristol
Background and overview
With a population of around 400,000, Bristol is the largest city in the
south of England after London and the largest shipping port in England.
Although Bristol suffered from extensive bombing during World War II and
more recently, a steep decline in its manufacturing industry, it has
remained a prosperous city thanks to an influx of commercial investments.
The port of Bristol grew up in mediaeval times around the confluence of
the rivers Avon and From, requiring ships to navigate the tidal and
precipitous Avon Gorge that flows out into the Severn Estuary at
Avonmounth. It was from this tidal harbour that John Cabot set off in 1497
in his ship Mathew and became the first European to discover America.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this tidal port was turned
into the enclosed Floating Harbour by the construction of locks and the
New Cut (an overflow channel for the River Avon). Because of way this was
done, the floating harbour winds its way through the city center in quite
a different manner to the way most enclosed docks turn their backs on
their host city.
With the advent of larger ships the tricky passage of the Avon Gorge
became too much of a liability and Bristol's commercial shipping long
since moved downstream to modern docks at Avonmouth and Portbury. But the
floating harbour lives on as a real unique selling point for Bristol,
providing mooring for leisure craft and preserved ships, a home for the
city's industrial museum and a setting for numerous bars, restaurants,
apartment complexes and offices.
Although it's often
overlooked as a tourist destination, Bristol has a lot to offer of its own
and is also an excellent base for exploring the West Country, with
relatively inexpensive accommodation compared to some of the main 'tourist
traps' (such as nearby Bath) and a huge choice of bars, restaurants and