THE TOURIST CITY OF BRISTOL IN SOUTH WEST ENGLAND
Bristol is a city, unitary authority and county in South West England with an estimated population of 442,500 in 2015. It is England's sixth and the United Kingdom's eighth most populous city, and the second most populous city in Southern England after London. Bristol is one of the eight largest regional English cities that make up the Core Cities Group. People from the city are known as Bristolians.
Iron Age hill forts and Roman villas were built in the area around the confluence of the Rivers Frome and Avon, and it became known as Brycgstow (Old English "the place at the bridge") around the beginning of the 11th century. Bristol received a royal charter in 1155 and was part of Gloucestershire until 1373, when it became a county. From the 13th to the 18th century, Bristol was among the top three English cities after London (with York and Norwich) in tax receipts. Bristol was eclipsed by the rapid rise of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham during the Industrial Revolution. It borders the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire, with the historic cities of Bath and Gloucester to the southeast and northeast, respectively. The city has a short coastline on the Severn Estuary (which flows into the Bristol Channel).
Bristol's prosperity has been linked with the sea since its earliest days. It was the base for the early voyages of exploration to the New World: On a ship out of Bristol in 1497 John Cabot was the first European since the Vikings to land in North America; and in 1499 William Weston, a Bristol merchant, was the first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America. The Port of Bristol has since moved from Bristol Harbour in the city centre to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock.
Bristol's modern economy is built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city-centre docks have been redeveloped as centres of heritage and culture. The city has two universities and a variety of artistic and sporting organisations and venues. It is well connected to London and other major UK cities by road, rail, sea and air including the M5 and M4 (which connect to the city centre by the M32), Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway mainline rail stations, and Bristol Airport.
Bristol is one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations. It was selected in 2009 as one of the world's top-ten cities by international travel publishers Dorling Kindersley in their Eyewitness guides for young adults, was named the best city to live in Britain in 2014 by The Sunday Times, and won the EU's European Green Capital Award in 2015.
Located on the River Avon, Bristol is often referred to as the "Capital of the West Country" and the Britain's eighth largest city. Famous for its historic port, Bristol's former docklands and warehouses have been regenerated to provide a wonderful waterfront area of historic attractions, cafés and restaurants while shipping is now conducted seven miles downstream at the newer Royal Portbury Docks at Avonmouth.
Although badly damaged during World War II, this maritime city has some wonderful Georgian and Victorian architecture. Characterful merchants' houses and pubs dating back to the 1650s and the remains of the old city walls can be explored along King Street, which was named after Charles II.
Visitors will find an abundance of maritime history, street art, independent shops, engineering marvels such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and a ready supply of museums, art galleries, theatres, parks, festivals and family attractions in this pleasant city.
After dark, Bristol's nightlife keeps the Harbourside humming to the beat of underground music and reggae in one of Britain's most musical cities.
- Areas to Explore: Bristol's Old Port, known as the Floating Harbour, is the main area for visitors. Restored wharves and warehouses house cafés, museums and attractions including the Lifeboat and Industrial Museum, the Maritime Museum and SS Great Britain.
The University District includes the City Art Gallery and Museum.
The steep-sided Avon Valley at Clifton is worth visiting to see the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Observatory and Caves, or enjoy walks in nearby Leigh Woods.
The Historic District around King Street and Queen Square was laid out in 1680 and has many historic properties displaying various architectural styles.
- Things to Do: Self-guided walking tours along the Bristol Heritage Trail or the Slave Trade Trail are available for a nominal charge from the Tourist Information Centre at Harbourside. They provide a fun way to explore Bristol and learn about its fascinating history.
Historians and those with an interest in ships should not miss the SS Great Britain, built in Bristol by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843 and now preserved as a museum in the Great Western Dockyard. It was the first iron-hulled steam-driven passenger ship ever built and makes an interesting attraction.
Take a boat trip around the harbour and see the historic sights from the water – a wonderful perspective.
The Georgian House Museum on Great George Street is a fine example of an 18th century home built for plantation owner John Pinney in 1790. It provides a fascinating insight into life as a merchant and as a servant.
St Mary Redcliffe Church, built from local red sandstone, was visited by Elizabeth I in 1574 who declared it "the fairest parish church in England". This fine example of mediaeval ecclesiastical architecture is well worth visiting to see the black Purbeck marble columns, 1200 gold roof bosses, Chaotic Pendulum and the model of John Cabot's ship The Matthew. Look out for the whale bone above the north doorway which was presented to the church by John Cabot in thanksgiving for his safe return from his expedition to discover North America.
Bristol Cathedral stands on College Green and dates back to 1140 when it was founded as an Augustinian monastery. It has a Norman Chapter House, Abbey Gateway and some grotesque Gothic gargoyles decorating the extensive facade.
After walking across the world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, go down to river level and visit the Clifton Observatory and Giant's Cave. Housed in a former windmill, the Observatory includes England's only surviving Victorian "Camera Obscura". The nearby viewing platform has stunning views of the Avon Gorge.
Archaeological finds, including flint tools believed to be 60,000 years old made with the Levallois technique, indicate the presence of Neanderthals in the Shirehampton and St Annes areas of Bristol during the Middle Palaeolithic. Iron Age hill forts near the city are at Leigh Woods and Clifton Down, on the side of the Avon Gorge, and on Kings Weston Hill near Henbury. A Roman settlement, Abona, existed at what is now Sea Mills (connected to Bath by a Roman road); another was at the present-day Inns Court. Isolated Roman villas and small forts and settlements were also scattered throughout the area.
- Middle Ages: The town of Brycgstow (Old English "the place at the bridge") appears to have been founded by 1000; by about 1020, it was a trading centre with a mint producing silver pennies bearing its name. By 1067 Brycgstow was a well-fortified burh, capable of resisting an invasion sent from Ireland by Harold Godwinson's sons. Under Norman rule, the town had one of the strongest castles in southern England.
The port began to develop in the 11th century around the confluence of the Rivers Frome and Avon, adjacent to the original Bristol Bridge and just outside the town walls. By the 12th century Bristol was an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland (including slaves). In 1247 a stone bridge was built, which was replaced by the current Bristol Bridge during the 1760s; the town incorporated neighbouring suburbs, becoming a county in 1373. During this period, Bristol became a shipbuilding and manufacturing centre. By the 14th century Bristol, York and Norwich were England's three largest medieval towns after London, but one-third to one-half the population died in the Black Death of 1348–49. This checked population growth, and Bristol's population remained between 10,000 and 12,000 for most of the 15th and 16th centuries.
- 15th century: During the 15th century Bristol was the second most important port in the country, trading with Ireland, Iceland and Gascony. It was the starting point for many voyages, including Robert Sturmy's (1457–58) unsuccessful attempt to break up the Italian monopoly of Eastern Mediterranean trade. Bristol merchants then turned west, launching voyages of exploration in the Atlantic by 1480 in search of the phantom island of Hy-Brazil. These Atlantic voyages, also aimed at China, culminated in Venetian John Cabot's 1497 exploration of North America and subsequent expeditions to the New World, underwritten by Bristol merchants and King Henry VII until 1508. A 1499 voyage, led by merchant William Weston of Bristol, was the first English-led expedition to North America.
- 16th century: During the 16th century, Bristol merchants concentrated on developing trade with Spain and its American colonies. This included the smuggling of prohibited goods, such as food and guns, to Iberia during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). Bristol's illicit trade grew enormously after 1558, becoming integral to its economy.
The Diocese of Bristol was founded in 1542, with the former Abbey of St. Augustine (founded by Robert Fitzharding in 1140) becoming Bristol Cathedral. Bristol also became a city and county that year. During the English Civil War in the 1640s the city was occupied by Royalists, who built the Royal Fort House on the site of an earlier Parliamentarian stronghold.
- 17th and 18th centuries: Renewed growth came with the rise of England's American colonies in the 17th century and the rapid 18th century expansion of England's role in the Atlantic trade in Africans taken for slavery to the Americas. Bristol and Liverpool became centres of the triangular trade. In the first side of the slavery triangle, manufactured goods were shipped to West Africa and exchanged for Africans; the enslaved captives were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas in the Middle Passage under brutal conditions. In the third side of the triangle, plantation goods such as sugar, tobacco, rum, rice, cotton and a small number of slaves (sold to the aristocracy as house servants) returned across the Atlantic. Some household slaves eventually purchased their freedom in England. At the height of the Bristol slave trade from 1700 to 1807, more than 2,000 slave ships carried a conservatively-estimated 500,000 people from Africa to slavery in the Americas. The Seven Stars public house, where abolitionist Thomas Clarkson collected information on the slave trade, is still operating.
Fishermen from Bristol (who had fished the Grand Banks of Newfoundland since the 15th century) began settling Newfoundland permanently in larger numbers during the 17th century, establishing colonies at Bristol's Hope and Cuper's Cove. Because of Bristol's nautical environment, maritime safety was an important issue in the city. During the 19th century, Samuel Plimsoll (known as "the sailor's friend") campaigned to make the seas safer; shocked by overloaded vessels, he successfully fought for a compulsory load line on ships.
In 1739 John Wesley founded the first Methodist chapel, the New Room, in Bristol.
- 19th century: The city was associated with Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London Paddington, two pioneering Bristol-built oceangoing steamships (the SS Great Britain and the SS Great Western), and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The new railway replaced the Kennet and Avon Canal, which had fully opened in 1810, as the main route for the transport of goods between Bristol and London. Competition from Liverpool (beginning around 1760) and disruptions of maritime commerce due to war with France (1793) and the abolition of the slave trade (1807) contributed to Bristol's failure to keep pace with the newer manufacturing centres of Northern England and the West Midlands. The tidal Avon Gorge, which had secured the port during the Middle Ages, had become a liability. An 1804–9 plan to improve the city's port with a floating harbour designed by William Jessop was a costly error, requiring high harbour fees. By 1867, ships were getting larger and the meanders in the river Avon prevented boats over 300 feet (91 m) from reaching the harbour resulting in the loss of trade. The port facilities were migrating downstream to Avonmouth and new industrial complexes were founded there. Some of the traditional industries including copper and brass manufacture went into decline, however the import and processing of tobacco flourished with the expansion of the W.D. & H.O. Wills business.
Bristol's population (66,000 in 1801), supported by new industry and growing commerce, quintupled during the 19th century. This resulted in the development of new suburbs such as Clifton and Cotham which provide examples of the developments from the Georgian to the Regency style, with many fine terraces and villas facing the road, and at right angles to it. In the early 19th century, the romantic medieval gothic style appeared, partially as a backlash to the symmetry of Palladianism, and can be seen in buildings such as Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Royal West of England Academy, and The Victoria Rooms. Riots broke out in 1793 and 1831; the first protested against the renewal of tolls on Bristol Bridge, and the second against the rejection of the second Reform Bill by the House of Lords.
- 20th century: In 1901 Bristol's population was about 330,000, and the city grew steadily during the 20th century. Its docklands were enhanced during the early 1900s by the Royal Edward Dock. Another new dock, the Royal Portbury Dock, opened during the 1970s. With the advent of air travel, aircraft manufacturers built new factories in the city during the first half of the century.
Bristol's educational system was boosted in 1909 by the formation of the University of Bristol and again in 1925, when the university's main building opened. A polytechnic university opened in 1969, giving the city a second institute of higher education which became the University of the West of England in 1992.
Bristol was heavily damaged by Luftwaffe raids during World War II; about 1,300 people living or working in the city were killed and nearly 100,000 buildings were damaged, at least 3,000 beyond repair. The original central market area, near the bridge and castle, is now a park containing two bombed churches and fragments of the castle. A third bomb-damaged church nearby, St Nicholas, has been restored and is a museum housing a 1756 William Hogarth triptych painted for the high altar of St Mary Redcliffe. The museum also has statues of King Edward I (moved from Arno's Court Triumphal Arch), King Edward III (taken from Lawfords' Gate in the city walls when they were demolished about 1760) and 13th century statues of Robert (builder of Bristol Castle) and Geoffrey de Montbray (who built the city's walls) from Bristol's Newgate.
The rebuilding of Bristol city centre was characterised by 1960s and 1970s skyscrapers, mid-century modern architecture and road improvements. Since the 1980s some main roads were closed, the Georgian-era Queen Square and Portland Square were restored, the Broadmead shopping area regenerated and one of the city centre's tallest mid-century towers was demolished. Bristol's road infrastructure changed dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s with the development of the M4 and M5 motorways, which meet at the Almondsbury Interchange just north of the city and link Bristol with London (M4 eastbound), Swansea (M4 westbound across the Severn Estuary), Exeter (M5 southbound) and Birmingham (M5 northbound).
The 20th century relocation of the docks to Avonmouth Docks and Royal Portbury Dock, 7 miles (11 km) downstream from the city centre, has allowed the redevelopment of the old dock area (the Floating Harbour). Although the docks' existence was once in jeopardy (since the area was seen as a derelict industrial site), the inaugural 1996 International Festival of the Sea held in and around the docks affirmed the area as a leisure asset of the city.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT
- Boundaries: Bristol's boundaries are defined in several ways, depending on whether they are those of the city, the developed area or Greater Bristol. The narrowest definition of the city is the city council boundary, which includes a large section of the western Severn Estuary up to (but not including) the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm. A slightly broader definition used by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) includes developed areas adjoining Bristol but outside the city-council boundary, such as Whitchurch village, Filton, Patchway and Bradley Stoke, excluding undeveloped areas within the city-council boundary. The ONS has defined a Bristol Urban Area, which includes Kingswood, Mangotsfield, Stoke Gifford, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Almondsbury and Easton in Gordano. The North Fringe of Bristol, a developed area in South Gloucestershire between the Bristol city boundary and the M4 and M5 motorways, was so named as part of a 1987 plan prepared by the Northavon District Council.
- Greater Bristol: Greater Bristol, used by the Government Office of the South West (now abolished), the Office for National Statistics and others, is the city and portions of the three neighbouring local authorities (Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire— an area sometimes called the "former Avon area" or the West of England Partnership (WEP) area, and jocularly as CUBA (the County which Used to Be Avon). Greater Bristol does not include Bath or Weston-super-Mare, which are included in the WEP area. The Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FOSBR) conflates the terms Greater Bristol and Suburban Bristol.
- Physical geography: Bristol is part of a limestone area running from the Mendip Hills in the south to the Cotswolds in the northeast. The rivers Avon and Frome cut through the limestone to the underlying clay, creating Bristol's characteristically hilly landscape. The Avon flows from Bath in the east, through flood plains and areas which were marshes before the city's growth. To the west the Avon cuts through the limestone to form the Avon Gorge, aided by glacial meltwater after the last ice age. The gorge, which helped protect Bristol Harbour, has been quarried for stone to build the city and its surrounding land has been protected from development as The Downs and Leigh Woods. The Avon estuary and the gorge are the county boundary with North Somerset, and the river flows into the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth. Another gorge, cut by the Hazel Brook (which flows into the River Trym), crosses the Blaise Castle estate in northern Bristol.
- Climate: Located in southern England, Bristol is one of the warmest cities in the UK with a mean annual temperature of approximately 10.5 °C (50.9 °F). It is among the sunniest, with 1,541–1,885 hours of sunshine per year. Although the city is partially sheltered by the Mendip Hills, it is exposed to the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel. Annual rainfall increases from north to south, with totals north of the Avon in the 600–900 mm (24–35 in) range and 900–1,200 mm (35–47 in) south of the river. Rain is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, with autumn and winter the wetter seasons. The Atlantic Ocean influences Bristol's weather, keeping its average temperature above freezing throughout the year, but winter frosts are frequent and snow occasionally falls from early November to late April. Summers are warm and drier, with variable sunshine, rain and clouds, and spring weather is unsettled.
- Environment: Bristol was ranked as Britain's most-sustainable city (based on its environmental performance, quality of life, future-proofing and approaches to climate change, recycling and biodiversity), topping environmental charity Forum for the Future's 2008 Sustainable Cities Index. Local initiatives include Sustrans (creators of the National Cycle Network, founded as Cyclebag in 1977) and Resourcesaver, a non-profit business established in 1988 by Avon Friends of the Earth, and the city received the 2015 European Green Capital Award, becoming the first UK city to receive this award.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRY
Bristol has a long history of trade, originally exporting wool cloth and importing fish, wine, grain and dairy products; later imports were tobacco, tropical fruits and plantation goods. Major imports are motor vehicles, grain, timber, produce and petroleum products. Since the 13th century, the rivers have been modified for docks; during the 1240s, the Frome was diverted into a deep, man-made channel (known as Saint Augustine's Reach) which flowed into the River Avon. Ships occasionally departed Bristol for Iceland as early as 1420, and speculation exists that sailors from Bristol made landfall in the Americas before Christopher Columbus or John Cabot. Beginning in the early 1480s, the Bristol Society of Merchant Venturers sponsored exploration of the North Atlantic in search of trading opportunities. In 1552, Edward VI granted a royal charter to the Merchant Venturers to manage the port. By 1670 the city had 6,000 tons of shipping (of which half was imported tobacco), and by the late 17th and early 18th centuries shipping played a significant role in the slave trade. During the 18th century, Bristol was Britain's second-busiest port; business was conducted in the trading area around The Exchange in Corn Street over bronze tables known as Nails. Although the Nails are cited as originating the phrase "cash on the nail" (immediate payment), the phrase was probably in use before their installation.
The city's economy also relies on the aerospace, defence, media, information technology, financial services and tourism industries. The Ministry of Defence (MoD)'s Procurement Executive, later known as the Defence Procurement Agency and Defence Equipment and Support, moved to its headquarters at Abbey Wood, Filton in 1995. This organisation, with a staff of 7,000 to 8,000, procures and supports MoD equipment.
In 2004, Bristol's gross domestic product was £9.439 billion. Its per capita GDP was £23,962 ($47,738, €35,124), which was some 40% above the national average, the third highest of any English city (after London and Nottingham) and the fifth highest of any city in the United Kingdom (behind London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Nottingham). Bristol's March 2007 unemployment rate was 4.8%, compared with four percent for South West England and the national average of 5.5%.
Although Bristol's economy no longer relies upon its port, which was moved to docks at Avonmouth during the 1870s and to the Royal Portbury Dock in 1977 as ship size increased, it is the largest importer of cars to the UK. Until 1991, the port was publicly owned; it is leased, with £330 million invested and its annual tonnage increasing from 3.9 million long tons (4 million tonnes) to 11.8 million (12 million). Tobacco importing and cigarette manufacturing have ceased, but the importation of wine and spirits continues.
The financial services sector employs 59,000 in the city, and 50 micro-electronics and silicon design companies employ about 5,000. In 1983, Hewlett-Packard opened its national research laboratory in Bristol. As the UK's seventh-most-popular destination for foreign tourists, the city has nine million visitors annually.
During the 20th century, Bristol's manufacturing activities expanded to include aircraft production at Filton by the Bristol Aeroplane Company and aircraft-engine manufacturing by Bristol Aero Engines (later Rolls-Royce) at Patchway. Bristol Aeroplane was known for their World War I Bristol Fighter and World War II Blenheim and Beaufighter planes. During the 1950s they were a major English manufacturer of civilian aircraft, known for the Freighter, Britannia and Brabazon. The company diversified into automobile manufacturing during the 1940s, producing hand-built, luxury Bristol Cars at their factory in Filton, and the Bristol Cars company was spun off in 1960. The city also gave its name to Bristol buses, which were manufactured in the city from 1908 to 1983: by Bristol Tramways until 1955, and from 1955 to 1983 by Bristol Commercial Vehicles.
Filton played a key role in the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner project during the 1960s. The Bristol Aeroplane Company became part of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC); Concorde components were manufactured in British and French factories and shipped to final-assembly plants in Toulouse and Filton. The French manufactured the centre fuselage and centre wing, and the British manufactured the nose, rear fuselage, fin and wingtips; manufacture of its Olympus 593 engine was divided between Rolls-Royce (Filton) and Snecma (Paris). The British Concorde prototype made its maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford on 9 April 1969, five weeks after the French test flight. In 2003 British Airways and Air France decided to discontinue Concorde flights, retiring the aircraft to locations (primarily museums) worldwide. On 26 November 2003 Concorde 216 made the final Concorde flight, returning to Bristol Filton Airport as the centrepiece of a proposed air museum which is planned to include the existing Bristol Aero collection (including a Bristol Britannia).
The aerospace industry remains a major sector of the local economy. Major aerospace companies in Bristol include BAE Systems, a merger of Marconi Electronic Systems and BAe (the latter a merger of BAC, Hawker Siddeley and Scottish Aviation). Airbus and Rolls-Royce are also based at Filton, and aerospace engineering is an area of research at the University of the West of England. Another aviation company in the city is Cameron Balloons, who manufacture hot air balloons; each August the city hosts the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, one of Europe's largest hot-air balloon festivals.
In 2005, Bristol was named by the UK government one of England's six science cities. A £500 million shopping centre, Cabot Circus, opened in 2008 amidst predictions by developers and politicians that the city would become one of England's top ten retail destinations. The Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, focused on creative, high-tech and low-carbon industries around Bristol Temple Meads railway station, was announced in 2011 and launched the following year. The 70-hectare (170-acre) Urban Enterprise Zone has streamlined planning procedures and reduced business rates. Rates generated by the zone are channelled to five other designated enterprise areas in the region: Avonmouth, Bath, Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emersons Green, Filton and Weston-super-Mare.
Bristol has 51 Grade I listed buildings, 500 Grade II and over 3,800 Grade II buildings in a variety of architectural styles, from medieval to modern. During the mid-19th century Bristol Byzantine, a style unique to the city, was developed and several examples have survived. Buildings from most architectural periods of the United Kingdom can be seen in the city. Surviving elements of the fortifications and castle date to the medieval period, and the Church of St James dates back to the 12th century.
The oldest Grade I listed buildings in Bristol are religious. St James' Priory was founded in 1129 as a Benedictine priory by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of Henry I. The second oldest is Bristol Cathedral and its associated Great Gatehouse. Founded in 1140, the church became the seat of the bishop and cathedral of the new Diocese of Bristol in 1542. Most of the medieval stonework, particularly the Elder Lady Chapel, is made from limestone taken from quarries around Dundry and Felton with Bath stone being used in other areas. Amongst the other churches included in the list is the 12th century St Mary Redcliffe which is the tallest building in Bristol. The church was described by Queen Elizabeth I as "the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England."
Secular buildings include The Red Lodge which was built in 1580 for John Yonge as a lodge for a larger house, which once stood on the site of the present Colston Hall. It was subsequently added to in Georgian times and restored in the early 20th century. St Bartholomew's Hospital is a 12th-century town house which was incorporated into a monastery hospital founded in 1240 by Sir John la Warr, 2nd Baron De La Warr (c. 1277–1347), and became Bristol Grammar School from 1532 to 1767, and then Queen Elizabeth's Hospital 1767-1847. Three 17th-century town houses were then incorporated into model workers' flats of 1865, and converted to offices in 1978. The round piers predate the hospital, and may come from an aisled hall, the earliest remains of domestic architecture in the city, which was then adapted to form the hospital chapel. St Nicholas's Almshouses were built in 1652 to provide care for the poor. Several public houses were also built in this period, including the Llandoger Trow on King Street and the Hatchet Inn.
Manor houses include Goldney Hall where the highly decorated Grotto dates from 1739. Commercial buildings such as the paired Exchange and Old Post Office from the 1740s are also included in the list. Residential buildings in the Georgian Portland Square and the complex of small cottages around a green at Blaise Hamlet, which was built around 1811 for retired employees of Quaker banker and philanthropist John Scandrett Harford, who owned Blaise Castle House. The 18th century Kings Weston House, in northern Bristol, was designed by John Vanbrugh and is the only Vanbrugh building in any UK city outside London. Almshouses and pubs from the same period intermingle with modern development. Several Georgian squares were designed for the middle class as prosperity increased during the 18th century. During World War II, the city centre was heavily bombed during the Bristol Blitz. The central shopping area near Wine Street and Castle Street was particularly hard-hit, and the Dutch House and St Peter's Hospital were destroyed. However, in 1961 John Betjeman called Bristol "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England".
CLIFTON SUSPENSION BRIDGE
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge, which opened in 1864, spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, England. Since opening it has been a toll bridge. The income from the tolls continues to provide funds for its maintenance. The bridge is built to a design by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw, based on an earlier design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It is a grade I listed building and forms part of the B3129 road.
The idea of building a bridge across the Avon Gorge originated in 1753. Original plans were for a stone bridge and later iterations were for a wrought iron structure. In 1831, an attempt to build Brunel's design was halted by the Bristol riots, and the revised version of his designs was built after his death and completed in 1864. Although similar in size, the bridge towers are not identical in design, the Clifton tower having side cut-outs, the Leigh tower more pointed arches atop a 110-foot (34 m) red sandstone-clad abutment. Roller-mounted "saddles" at the top of each tower allow movement of the three independent wrought iron chains on each side when loads pass over the bridge. The bridge deck is suspended by 162 vertical wrought-iron rods in 81 matching pairs.
Two men were killed during the bridge's construction; since opening it has gained a reputation as a suicide bridge. It has plaques that advertise the telephone number of The Samaritans and above the railings on the bridge there are anti-climb barriers. The Clifton Bridge Company initially managed the bridge under licence from a charitable trust. The trust subsequently purchased the company shares, completing this in 1949 and took over the running of the bridge using the income from tolls to pay for maintenance. The bridge is a distinctive landmark, used as a symbol of Bristol on postcards, promotional materials, and informational web sites. It was also used as a backdrop to several films and television advertising and programmes. It has also been the venue for significant cultural events such as the first modern bungee jump in 1979, the last ever Concorde flight in 2003 and a handover of the Olympic Torch relay in 2012.