I often walk along the River and the Harbour with my partner – it’s not the quickest way to town from home, but it’s a diversion to take photos and enjoy the city, and it usually adds layers of interest and fun to days that would otherwise be about chores… except sometimes it doesn’t.
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 official map of Medieval Bristol is here, and my map of the city, with photos of how sites we talked about look today, is below – 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.
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.
This week I went for a walk with Nikki Pugh, who makes really fantastic interactive art. We walked very slowly down the Chocolate Path, looking at the clouds of silt under the surface of the river, and the tide changing from coming in to sitting still at the change point, to watching what happens in the hour after the highest tide.
I also made a couple of small, quiet videos, of how the water was reacting before and after Vauxhall Bridge:
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!
UPDATE! There’s also the official Bristol City Council map of the Medieval city, overlaid on top of modern-day streets
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.
I’ve always loved how different the Avon mud looks, depending on the light, and especially how that changes on a day like today, when the clouds move so fast across the sky. To me, the mud by the disused lock at Cumberland Basin looks like landscapes in miniature, with rivers, ridges of hills, or sand-dunes, and I’m always fascinated at how the changing light makes different parts of it jump out at me.
After a week of intense, bright sunshine, and heatwave conditions, the breezes felt so good, and I’ve been waiting for a day like this to film on, and make something that’s a meditative piece for me. I should probably go back and film for longer, and make a long piece that I could have as part of a show/installation, but I wanted to see what it was like today.
Such a hot day, and of course I’m wishing I could take photos of rain on the surface of the river and the Harbour in the middle of a heatwave… But I went out to film and see how it all works in the sun.
First, the outflow, slowly letting water from the Harbour into the River. Here, two waters meet. 50mm lens on my Canon DSLR:
And here’s looking down at the outflow, using Tim’s GoPro Hero Session on a telescopic painting stick:
Here’s my set-up:
I’ve lived in Bristol for 17 years, and I’d never been on a Bristol Ferry trip on the Avon… until this week! It was very, very wet, so I’ve sped up the film so the raindrops on the lens don’t interfere too much, and so you can see my trip in 10 minutes
It was such a lovely thing to do. The lock from the Harbour to the River seems almost unnoticeable, very smooth. And then, although I’ve cycled up both sides of the river, and walked the Portway, I’d never been this low. I couldn’t believe the river is around 8 metres deep on the way back, as it doesn’t seem like it could be.
It was so meditative, especially once the rain drove everyone else inside, standing in this downpour, watching the water. I never knew herons lived in a colony, in trees, until it was pointed out on the commentary, and there’s something about the mud that I love. Everything was green and grey, with a bit of green, and I really want to do it again.
You can book your own Gorge trip on the Bristol Ferry Boats website. It costs £15, and it took around 2 hours and 15 minutes, but that depends on the tides (we were going against the tide going out, and much faster coming back).
Big thanks to Tim who lent me his GoPro Session, which the film is shot with.