Avon Stories podcast 11: How Bristol nearly lost the Harbour, and other Planning stories

One of the main features of Bristol is the Floating Harbour that meanders through the city, lined with boats, from tatty barges to three-masted sailing boats, right up to floating nightclubs and restaurants.  But did you know that in the late 1960s there was a plan to close the Harbour to navigation, and build giant roads over it? And that a City Docks Act was passed in Parliament to make it possible, and it was only the global recession of the 1970s that prevented it?

Richard Holden worked in the Planning Department at Bristol City Council for 36 years, and he told me all about that, what would have happened if the road plan had happened, and more of the stories about the Harbour, including how the M Shed cranes were saved.

We also talked about the good, the bad and the ugly in Planning, how some of the developments came about, and how the best Planning work is essentially invisible.  He also told me about the current threats to the Harbour – nothing as extreme as a giant road, but developments that really do risk destroying some of the wonderful things that are emblematic of the city.  Scroll down for what everything can do to try to prevent these, and other, threats.

Richard sent me some photos of what parts of the Harbour looked like before redevelopment, and I’ve put them on this map, under the red icons, along with pictures I took about places we talked about, which you can also see in this flickr album.

Of course, you can find all kinds of other photos of the Harbour in the past on the Know Your Place website, and there’s more about that in my first Avon Stories podcast.

If you want to help shape the future of Bristol’s infrastructure and planning, there are things you can do:

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Avon Stories #4: Medieval Bristol part 2 – who were the Bristolians, and how did they live?

This is the second part of a conversation with Dr Peter Fleming, a professor at the University of the West of England, who specialises in Medieval History.

In Part 1, we talked about how Bristol became a superstar city, one of the most important in Western Medieval Europe. This time we talked about the people who lived in the city, from the Icelandic slaves to the Knights Templars, the Jewish communities, how women lived, and more; and how the city responded to the huge events of the era, including Plague and war.

Peter also told me about where the local seats of power were, and what Bristolians did for fun, including plays, sport and how Bristol has always been home to innovative music.

The map of the city, with photos of how sites we talked about look today, is here – and there are links to the Medieval maps in the post for Part 1 of the podcast.

If you want to know more about Peter Fleming, his UWE staff page is here, including the list of his articles and books he’s written and contributed to.   You can find more articles he’s written here, with links to read them.  And you can also follow Peter on his twitter.

We talked about books Peter has written, including:

  • Discovering Cabot’s Bristol: Life in the Medieval and Tudor Town, with Kieran Costello, which is out of print, but available in libraries and online retailers
  • His illustrated version of The Maire of Bristowe is Kalendar, written by town clerk Robert Ricart between 1480 and 1508, which you can buy from the Bristol Record Society.  Read more about it, with some of the amazing illustrations, on this blog by Peter.
  • Later this year, Peter’s latest book, Time, Space and Power in Fifteenth Century Bristol, will be published by Brill – tell your library to order it!

If you’d like to take a walk around Medieval Bristol, Bristol Old City has a Heritage Trail map with information about things you’ll see along the way, which Peter was involved in producing.  There’s also more information about Bristol’s town walls on Gatehouse.

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You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up to the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes, to make sure you hear all the future stories.  Make sure you’re also following on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the river.

Avon Stories #3 – Bristol and the Medieval Avon, part 1 – the City and the Rivers

This is the first of a two-part podcast where I met with Dr Peter Fleming of the University of the West of England, who told me all about Bristol in Medieval times, and how the River Avon and the River Frome were integral in making it one of the most important cities of the time in England and Western Europe.

In Part 1, we talk about the physical city and the infrastructure, how the geography made Bristol so important, as well as how people lived, who had the power, and what the city would have looked (and smelled) like.

Part 2 looks at how Bristol survived some of the big sweeping events of the time, with more about who lived and worked in the city, including the Knights Templars, the Jewish communities, women in Bristol, and Icelandic slaves.  We also talked about what Bristolians did for fun, including music, plays, sport and drinking.  Listen to that one here.

Of course, I have maps to give you an idea of what things looked like, with lots more links below.  First, my own map, with my rough approximations of where the city walls were, as well as the path of the River Frome as it runs through Bristol.  All errors are my own!  I’ve also added photos of what the places look like now, and you can also find these in my flickr albums of walking the Frome line, walking the inside of the Medieval Wall, and what’s left of the Bristol Castle.

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Avon Stories Podcast #2: The Portishead to Bristol railway

For this Avon Story, I travelled 20 miles outside of Bristol, to find out about the railway line that runs up the Avon Gorge to Pill and the Royal Portbury Dock, and used to continue on to Portishead, on the Bristol Channel.

Dave Chillistone of the Portishead Railway Group told me about how the issues that made the Avon so difficult for shipping in Victorian times resulted in the railway being built, the impact on the town, why it was closed, and why the PRG are campaigning for it to be re-opened.

Dave took me for a walk around the key places we talked about, and you can follow that walk, with photos of where we stopped, on this map – and scroll down for more photos, and lots more information about Portishead, the railway, the PRG and the plans for the railway’s return.

You can download the podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up to the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes, to make sure you hear all the future stories.  Make sure you’re also following on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the river.

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Avon Stories podcast #1: Know Your Place, with Pete Insole

One of the things I’ll be doing through my Avon Stories project is to interview as many people as I can, about all kinds of different aspects of the River Avon in Bristol, from historians, to experts on different places along the river; to artists making work based on or inspired by it, to people who work on and around the river, whether directly, or just because that’s where they’re based.

And where better to start, than with Pete Insole, who runs the Know Your Place website for Bristol City Council?

Pete is a Historic Environments Officer, and Know Your Place is an incredible repository of information about the city.  It has maps dating back to the early eighteenth century, that you can overlay on top of each other, and on top of present-day maps and aerial photography, to get a feeling of how it has changed, but that’s just the beginning.  You can access layers of paintings, drawings, photographs and information from Bristol’s museums, archives and the Council’s departments, and see exactly where those photos are taken.  Or maybe you want to see where bombs hit the City in World World Two, or hear stories form Bristolians about how different parts of the city have changed.  And finally, on the Community Layer, anyone can add their own photos to the map, whether of the past or the present, enabling people to add their own stories to the City’s records.

Pete told me all about how and why Know Your Place was developed, how it has expanded across the whole of South West England, and how it helps us understand some of the key aspects of the city’s history, including, of course, the River Avon.

Listen here, or download it from Soundcloud, and you can sign up to the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes, to make sure you hear all the future stories.

If you want to explore Bristol through Know Your Place, start here.  And if you want to see what else it contains for the wider West of England, the Know Your Place West website is here, with all sorts of excellent tutorials that will help everyone.  There’s also the Know Your Place West twitter to follow for regular information, tips and new updates to the website.

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