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Bristol – Sightseeing Tours

The name Bristol, originates from the old English word Brigstowe. Meaning ‘Place at the bridge’. It is thought the town dates back around 1,000 years.  In the 11th century a port began to develop just outside the town walls and around the junction of two  rivers the Frome and Avon.

Bristol was an important port, through which most of Englands trade with Ireland, including slaves, was moved. The original ‘Bristol Bridge’ was built in 1247, this was replaced by the existing bridge in the 1760’s.

By the 15th century Bristol was one of the most important ports in England. In 1497 John Cabot sailed from Bristol in his ship The ‘Matthew‘ on a voyage of exploration to North America.

Bristol’s growth continued during the 17th century as England colonized the Americas, also with the expansion of England’s involvement in the Atlantic trade in Africans taken for slavery in the Americas
The slave trade reached its peak between 1700 and the early 1800’s. In Bristol over 2000 ships were fitted out to carry an estimated 500,000 Africans to slavery in the Americas

There is a public house called the Seven Stars, which still exists where Thomas Clarkson the abolitionist collected information about the slave trade

Bristol already had a strong sea going heritage and by the 17th century large numbers had settled in Newfoundland.

Fishermen from Bristol had fished the Grand Banks of Newfoundland since the 15th century and began settling Newfoundland permanently in larger numbers in the 17th century establishing colonies at Bristol’s Hope and Cuper’s Cove. Bristol’s strong nautical ties meant that maritime safety was an important issue in the city. During the 19th century Samuel Plimsoll, “the sailor’s friend”, campaigned to make the seas safer; he was shocked by the overloaded cargoes, and successfully fought for a compulsory load line on ships.

Competition from Liverpool from c. 1760, the disruption of maritime commerce caused by wars with France (1793) and the abolition of the slave trade (1807) contributed to the city’s failure to keep pace with the newer manufacturing centres of the North of England and the West Midlands. The passage up the heavily tidal Avon Gorge, which had made the port highly secure during the Middle Ages, had become a liability which the construction of a new “Floating Harbour” (designed by William Jessop) in 1804–9 failed to overcome, as the great cost of the scheme led to excessive harbour dues. Nevertheless, Bristol’s population (66,000 in 1801) quintupled during the 19th century, supported by new industries and growing commerce. It was particularly associated with the noted Victorian engineer,Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London Paddington, two pioneering Bristol-built ocean going steamships, the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. John Wesley founded the very first Methodist Chapel, called the New Room, in Bristol in 1739. Riots occurred in 1793 and 1831, the first beginning as a protest at renewal of an act levying tolls on Bristol Bridge, and the latter after the rejection of the second Reform Bill.

Bristol suffered badly from Luftwaffe air raids in World War II, claiming some 1,300 lives of people living and working in the city, with nearly 100,000 buildings being damaged, at least 3,000 of them beyond repair. The original central shopping area, near the bridge and castle, is now a park containing two bombed out churches and some fragments of the castle. A third bombed church nearby, St Nicholas, has been restored and has been made into a museum which houses a triptych by William Hogarth, painted for the high altar of St Mary Redcliffe in 1756. The museum also contains statues moved from Arno’s Court Triumphal Arch, of King Edward I and King Edward III taken from Lawfords’ Gate of the city walls when they were demolished around 1760, and 13th century figures from Bristol’s Newgate representing Robert, the builder of Bristol Castle, and Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances, builder of the fortified walls of the city.

The removal of the docks to Avonmouth Docks and Royal Portbury Dock, 7 miles (11.3 km) downstream from the city centre during the 20th century has also allowed redevelopment of the old central dock area (the “Floating Harbour”) in recent decades, although at one time the continued existence of the docks was in jeopardy as it was viewed as a derelict industrial site rather than an asset. However the holding, in 1996, of the first International Festival of the Sea in and around the docks, affirmed the dockside area in its new leisure role as a key feature of the city.

 

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