The Bridging Bristol: Shaping a City map was designed to reveal lesser-known information about the built environment in the Harbourside area of the city. The map is aimed at getting young people to look at familiar buildings in different ways and give them further understanding of the heritage of those places.
We used Brunel to link many of the venues by celebrating his innovations in the city but we also want students to explore more than just the famous landmarks and introduce them to places they haven’t been before – like the Underfall Yard.
How to use our Shaping A City Trail
Follow the route marked in red on the map. On the reverse, you’ll find historical information about buildings along the route.
The ‘Q’ markers mean there is a question to answer. The information you need can be found on the inside or outside of buildings, so make sure they are open on the day you want to complete the trail.
Although the trail works both ways, we recommend you start outside the Watershed in the city centre and finish at the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre. Stop at the Underfall Yard Visitor Centre to learn more about the Harbourside.
Don’t forget that the Bristol Ferry Company offer regular trips along the harbourside if your legs get tired – and the No. 8 bus service will take you from the city centre up to Clifton Village.
The Underfall Yard is so important in the history of Bristol that it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument! That makes it as important to our heritage as Stonehenge! Since the creation of the Floating Harbour in 1809, Underfall Yard has been crucial to its operation and maintenance. Before this time, much of the site was under water: the original course of the River Avon ran through Underfall Yard.
Prince Street Swing Bridge
The location of the Prince Street Swing Bridge in Bristol was once home to just a ferry boat to cross the water. After the ferry boat, there was a drawbridge and then, in 1878, the drawbridge was replaced with the hydraulic water-power swing bridge that can be seen today. Bristol has many, many bridges. The Prince Street swing bridge is one of the city’s busiest in terms of river traffic and as it is the lowest bridge in the Floating Harbour it opens regularly to let boats pass!
The building that is now home to Arnolfini was known as Bush House or the Bush Warehouse. Originally built around 1833, Bush House was the office building of a major Bristol engineering company called Acramans. One strand of the company was called Acramans Bush Castle & Co and was set up just to ship tea! The building was extended in the mid-1830s with the intention of becoming a tea warehouse but the expected boom in the tea trade did not take off in Bristol as hoped and not one tea leaf was ever stored there!
This building’s importance architecturally and historically is recognised in its Grade II listing status which means it is protected and cannot be changed or removed. The building has been home to Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Arts since 1975 whose diverse range of exhibitions are open to the public throughout the year. The organisation’s choice of location inspired the cultural regeneration of Bristol’s formerly derelict historic docks. Arnolfini continues to play a critical role in Bristol’s cultural landscape showcasing and interpreting work by inspiring, playful, challenging and sometimes controversial artists and performers.
Pero’s Bridge in the Floating Harbour was named after Pero Jones, an enslaved African owned by a Bristol Merchant in the late 1700s. Pero Jones lived and died in Bristol. The bridge was named after him in memory of all men, women and children affected by the transatlantic slave trade. Visit MShed’s People Gallery to explore this topic further.
Pero’s Bridge was designed by Artist Eilis O’Connell, in conjunction with Ove Arup & Partners engineers. It was built in 1999 to provide a crossing point for pedestrians over Bristol’s Floating Harbour. The bridge is a ‘bascule bridge’ which means that the centre section lifts up to let boats pass in and out of the harbour. The distinctive horn-shaped sculptures are actually also counter-weights that enable the bridge to open up! Bridges can have many functions – Pero’s Bridge shows that this can vary from a crossing point for foot and/or vehicle traffic, gateways for maritime traffic to a memorial that lets us remember someone special or something special. The buildings and structures all around us tell many fascinating stories!
Brunel in Bristol Shaping a City Trail MapPDF File: 8.4 MB