Bristol has a rich and varied past, but walking around the city today, it can be easy to forget that there have been people living here for 60,000 years. Of course, with a history this long, it’s not surprising that a number of significant events have happened in the city, so today we’re delving into Bristol’s past to discover the some of the major events in its long history.
A home for explorers
Thanks to its port and its position on the Avon, Bristol was a major trading hub for hundreds of years. But it wasn’t just merchants who did their seafaring out of the city – a number of explorers started their expeditions here too. The most famous of these, John Cabot, departed from Bristol to explore North America in the 1490s. Before that, in 1481, other explorers set off from the city to find the mythical island of Hy-Brasil. They didn’t succeed, but a club in Bristol does now bear its name!
The slave trade
Of course, there’s no talking about Bristol’s history without mentioning its heavy involvement in the slave trade. There were three main parts to the slaving ‘triangle’, which started in the late 1600s and continued until the 1800s: these were ports in Africa, America and England. At the height of the slave trade, Bristol was England’s main slaving port. Some of the first anti-slavery campaigners came from Bristol, and the terrible practice was finally outlawed in the UK in 1833.
Launch of the SS Great Britain
The passenger ship SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched from Bristol in 1843. It was a grand event – crowds lined the harbour waving flags, and Prince Albert came to give the ship his royal seal of approval. SS Great Britain used a number of cutting-edge technologies for the time to run a passenger service between Bristol and New York. Today it is moored in Bristol’s dry dock, so you can go and see it for yourself!
Bristol Bus Boycott
We’re all familiar with the bus boycotts of the American Civil Rights Movement, but did you know that Bristol had its own bus boycott in 1963? At the time, Bristol’s leading bus company refused to employ Black or Asian staff, and so Bristolians began to boycott the company, organised by a youth worker called Paul Stephenson. The boycott worked, and the general manager of the Bristol Omnibus Company announced the end of the company’s employment discrimination on the same day that Martin Luther King gave his world-famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
In World War II, Bristol was heavily bombed by the Nazis because it was such a significant transport and technology hub for the country. In one air raid, in November of 1940, 10,000 bombs landed in the heart of the city, causing extensive damage to buildings and hundreds of tragic deaths. You can still see signs of the Bristol Blitz today, such as the ruins of the church in Castle Park, which has been maintained as a memorial to those who died in the bombings.
If you’re interested in living in this fascinating city, Gough Quarters can help you find a home here. Contact us today to find out more.
Cover image by João Silas on Unsplash
SS Great Britain by CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=136591