Floating Harbour and Docks, Bristol
In order to be competitive for the tobacco trade during the 18th Century, Bristol made plans to restructure their water navigation systems as the current ones then were insufficient for demand. Construction of the floating harbour began in May 1804 where a number of dams and locks were built to equalise the waterways levelling and accommodate vessel traffic between the basin and the River Avon. Following this intensive work, the floating harbour opened in May 1809.
The Floating Harbour served the trade business during the 18th and 19th Centuries but trade declined during the 20th Century and where the Portishead and Avonmouth Docks were used mainly for the arrival and departures of vessels. The port officially closed in 1975. Since then, intensive regeneration around the Floating Harbour took place during the late 20th Century where a number of attractions have sprung up such as At-Bristol Science Museum. Also, listed buildings lining up the harbour have been refurbished and reused for residential and commercial purposes.
The Floating Harbour is the hub for a variety of celebrations and events throughout the year such as the Bristol Harbour Festival held every July and a celebratory event was held in 2009 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Floating Harbour.
There is a lot more information on this useful website (please click on the link)
The Floating Harbour was opened in 1809. It covered 80 acres of tidal river and allowed visting ships to stay afloat all the time. The harbour became a busy port and continued until its closure in 1975.
Now regenerated the harbour is home to business and leisure as well as property.
In the heart of Bristol, England is the infamous "Bristol Harbour". This is a historic city center area that covers approximately 70 acres and has existed since the 13th century. Its 19th century style was affected by the installation of lock gates on the tidal stretch from River Avon to City Centre and providing a tidal by-pass for the river. It is now a "Floating Harbour" as the water level remains constant and not affected the river's tidal fluctuations. Netham Lock is the eastern upstream limit of the harbour beyond which is a junction - one arm the navigable RIver Avon that continues upstream to Bath, and on the other a tidal River Avon. The First mile of floating harbour downstream from Netham Lock is an artificial channel known as the feeder canal while the tidal River Avon follows its original route. Between Bristol Temple Meads railway station and Hotwells, the harbour and the River Avon run parallel at a distance of approximately .65 miles apart. At the railway station the Floating Harbour occupies the original bed of the River Avon and meanders through Bristol's city centre, Canon's Marsh, and Hotwells. To the south the River Avon flows through the artificial channel known as "New Cut". The separation of the floating harbour and the tidal River carries currents and silting into the harbour that prevents flooding. In Hotwells, the floating harbour rejoins the river through a series of locks and flows into the Avon Gorge. This Harbour is also the original Port of Bristol but has turned to much smaller ships as modern ships and cargo are too big for this small harbour being re-routed to the docks at Avonmouth and Portbury 3 miles downstream at the mouth of the River Avon. The harbour is now a shopping and tourist attraction with museums, galleries, exhibitions, bars, and nightclubs. It has become a city cultural center with highlights such as the Arnolfini art gallery, Watershed media and arts centre, Bristol Industrial Museum, Museum of Bristol, At-Bristol science exhibition center, and fashionable apartment buildings. Museum boats are permanently berthed in the harbour including Isambard Kingdom Brunel's SS Great Britain, the first iron-hulled and propeller driven ocean liner. A replica of the Matthew in which John Cabot sailed to North America in 1497 also sits in the harbour. The historic vessels of the Industrial Museum, which include the steam tug Mayflower, firefloat Pyronaut and motor tug John King, are periodically operated. The Bristol Ferry Boat operates at the harbour, serving landing stages close to most of the harbour-side attractions and also providing a commuter service to and from the city centre and Bristol Temple Meads railway station. Bristol was a village that grew up along the banks of the Rivers Avon and Frome. Somewhere around 1240, an artificial deep channel called the "Saint Augustine's Reach" was built to flow into the River Avon and became the heart of Bristol's docks with quays and wharfs. Beginning in the 13th century, the rivers became modified for use as docks including the diversion of the River Frome. Since the River Avon inside the gorge mixed with the River Severn can have tides fluctuating 30 feet in between high and low water made the river easily navigable during high-tide but difficult to get through during low tide, stranding ships - first utilized to unload when the tides went down and deliberately stranding ships. This gave term to the phrase "shipshape and Bristol fashion" to describe boats that could handle repeatedly being stranded. 1420 there were vessels from Bristol regularly heading out to Iceland with rumors that sails from Bristol had already made landfall in the Americas before Christopher Columbus or John Cabot. When Cabot came to Bristol, he propositioned the king that he could reach Asia by sailing west across the north Atlantic and that it would be shorter and quicker than Columbus' southern route. He got agreement and funding. 1670 the City had 6,000 tons of shipping of which half was used for importing tobacco and later heavily for the slave trade. Since the 1980's millions of pounds have been invested in re-working the harbourside. By 1999 the Pero's footbridge was finished and linked the At-Bristol exhibition with the tourist attractions. 2000 saw the opening of the At-Bristol center over the semi-direlict land at Canon's Marsh and some of the Grade 2 listed buildings became refurbished and re-utilized. Over 44.3 million pounds from the National Lottery and another 43.4 million from the Bristol city council and partners invested in revitalizing the area. Construction of theaters, retail buildings, new flats, homes, and watershed offices. Today there are many festivals held in this area - such as the Bristol harbour Festival every July where tall ships and all other boats come attracting over 200,000 visitors with live music, street performances, and entertainment. Since 1996 it has been the tromping grounds of various festivals including the first International Festival of the Sea. Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
After Brandon Hill we decided to walk along the harbour. What a great idea! The sun was shining brightly and we just stopped from time to time just to take pictures of small canoe(pic 2), of waters taxis or the famous SS Great Britain and Matthew ships (pic 3) before returning back to the city center (pic 5). I always liked the cities that have a river right in the middle and in Bristol this is Avon River. The floating harbour created at the beginning of 19th century so the ships to float without risking to get stacked in the mud.
There are two ships that worth to see. They are moored near Anchor Road so you have to pass the other side to take a close look but if you are not interested to go inside you can skip this step and just take free photos as you walk along the harborside and the dock area.
The SS Great Britain is an iron ship, actually the first of this kind and the largest of that era(about 98 meters long) designed by the famous English engineer Isambard Brunel in 1843 (he also designed the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the train station). After carrying millions of passengers around the world it now stands back in the dock where it was first built.
Next to SS Great Britain you can also see the Matthew, a replica of John Cabot’s Matthew, the ship he used back in 1497 for sail to America. It looks very small comparing to the SS Great Britain next to it but it was built 350 years earlier.
The entrance fee for both ships is £7.50.
The EDF Energy Bristol Harbour Festival is an interesting event with a mixture of boats and music. For a weekend in late July, different ships can be seen in the harbour, including many sailships. Some of them can be visited, but some are just companies promoting the trips they offer with their ships. Anyway, all of them are nice to see in the one or other way. Beside that, you will have the usual food/drink and promotion stands you will find at any similar event. In the late afternoon, entertainment starts in form of music, including a larger reggae concert.
The Bristol Harbour festival takes place every year. Unfortunately, the webpages I found are just giving information about the event in 2006.
St. Augustine's Reach is a central part of the floating harbour. Once a lively harbour, it was integrated into the concept of modern Bristol. Smaller boats dominate the area, together with beautifully restored warehouses where you will find cafés and restaurants. Close to St. Augustine's Reach, you will find many places where Bristol's cultural life takes place, including a futuristic looking place called @Bristol.
The "Horned Footbridge", built in 1999, connects both sides of St. Augustine's reach.
St. Augustine's Parade is a street which saw major changes during the last decades. First a part of the harbour, it became a ring road after WWII. In the second half of the 20th century, the southern part of the ring was closed and later the middle was redesigned. Fountains were installed simulating a river which flows southwards into the harbour. The street became less car-oriented and so a new kind of pedestrian zone was created. Especially in summer, St. Augustine's parade is a popular area with its fountains and several places to sit down and enjoy the day. It it not as youth-oriented as College Green and not as shopping-oriented as Broadmead, but must look sad in winter when the fountains are not in function.
Let's face it - this is what a lot of Bristol is all about: maritime history and industry. The Floating harbour houses the Industrial Museum which you can see in the picture and which is full of vehicles and maritime models. If you still want more, there is the Maritime Heritage Centre further out, with gives the background to Bristol's maritime history and the ships you find moored out here, such as Matthew and s/s Great Britain. The first being a replica of the boat that John Cabot sailed to America in and the second is the first propeller-driven, ocean-going iron ship in the world.
Next, I would continue exploring Bristol a bit further...Walked over The Redcliffe Bridge & stumbled myself upon The Floating Harbour.
I could see some small ships & buildings by the side of Avon River...
By the end of the 18th Century, an urgent remedy was required or Bristol's trade would suffer. So, in 1803, the river was dammed in two places - at Cumberland Basin and near Temple Meads. This formed a Floating Harbour, a section of river that was maintained at a more or less constant water level, allowing ships to permanently float without risk of grounding on the muddy bottom. The remainder of the river flowed into the New Cut.
After a nice walk in the center, why not stay at the waterfront and enjoy the sunset...
You must agree with me that this sunset is brilliant!!
The picture was taken by my boyfriend while he was at the Arnolfini (thats another tip to come) last summer.
It's a long time now since serious sea-borne traffic came up the Avon to the City Docks, but the maritime flavour of the city is very much alive. You could spend a whole day quite easily just wandering around the wharves and walkways.
One of the charms of Bristol is that, being a lop-sided sort of town, open countryside is never far away even in the centre, and the harbour vistas are enriched by the backdrop of rolling green hills.
A lot of statuary has sprouted in the last few years. Here's that well-known Bristolian, Giovanni Cabotto (John Cabot) of Venice (or Venezial as the locals call it), gazing out and wondering whether to discover Newfoundland or not.
The harbour is interesting as there are a variety of watercraft.
Perched up on the cliffs are numerous houses which give a pleasant view over the harbour.
Another view of The Floating Harbour...
The sun was shining brightly, what a mighty fine weather. Stopping for a while on the bridge, enjoying the sights around me...Felling good !