A Brief History of Bristol

Bristol has long been acknowledged as one of the foremost historic cities in Europe. It’s long and varied history dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, when a settlement, known as Brigstowe (a place of settlement by the bridge), grew up between the Rivers Avon and Frome.

It was the diversion of the River Frome in the 13th century, giving extra quayside space, which increased Bristol’s capacity as a port. By the 14th century the city was trading internationally. Ships also left Bristol to found new colonies in the New World. John Cabot set sail in 1497 from Bristol, in his ship the Matthew, hoping to find a passage to the Eastern Indonesia. In the mid 18th century Bristol became England’s second largest city. During this time Britain was flooded with goods imported via Bristol including sugar cane, tobacco, rum and cocoa, all of which were products of the slave trade.

Bristol's Clifton suspension bridge at duskBy the 19th century the success of Bristol’s port was beginning to decline. However, the arrival of a new chief engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, helped to attract further investment into the area. Brunel did more than anyone to modernise Bristol, his legacy includes the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain, and Temple Meads Old Railway Station. Much of Bristol’s original architecture remains including the area around King Street, Queen Square, Christmas Steps and St Michael’s Hill, as well as Clifton village.

The aerospace industry has been based in Bristol since George White founded the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton in 1910. In the mid 1960s Concorde was built and tested at Filton, which is also the home of Rolls Royce. Bristol is now the largest city in the South West hosting a large commercial centre and one of the most popular UK cities for business relocation.