12 Photos Of Bristol Centre Throughout The Years


Changing face of Bristol’s centre

1. Back in the late 1800s & early 1900s when the trams still ran it was known as the ‘Tramway Centre’

bristol centre 1800S
Via Paul Townsend

2. The river Frome being filled in back in 1893

river frome filled in
Via Paul Townsend

3. In 1911 with the Frome river still running

Bristol centre 1911
Via Paul Townsend

4. Work starts in 1936 on creating new roads through the centre

Bristol centre 1936
Via Paul Townsend

5. Here in 1941 machinery dig up the Bristol centre to provide a pedestrian area

bristol centre in 1941
Via Paul Townsend

6. In 1946 when it was being used as a car park

bristol centre
Via Paul Townsend

7. In the 1950s it becomes known as the ‘Centre Gardens’

Bristol centre in the 1950s
Via Paul Townsend

8. During the Queen’s coronation in 1953

Bristol centre in 1953
Via Paul Townsend

9. There was little traffic back in 1957

Bristol centre in 1957
Via Paul Townsend

10. Much more colourful in 1967

bristol centre in 1967
Via Paul Townsend

11. Even more colourful in the 1970s

Bristol centre 1970s
Via Paul Townsend

12. 1999 more developments start taking shape

bristol centre in 1999
Via Paul Townsend

Will the future changes currently being worked on restore some of the Bristol centre’s lost beauty?

All photos by the brilliant Bristol historian Paul Townsend. You can learn more about the Bristol centre’s history by checking out this album.

Bristol’s History at your Fingertips


Bristol’s History at your Fingertips

Life moves pretty fast these days. Everyone seems concerned about rapid download speeds, 4-foot televisions, sleek laptops and the latest hot gadgets. Do you ever wonder what life was like before all these things took up our time?

What if I mentioned there’s a place within a 30-minute stroll of central Bristol which holds manuscripts, prints, records, video and images on everything from medieval royal charters and 17th-century trading routes to Victorian criminals and iconic Bristol businesses from bygone days?

Electing Bristol’s Mayor in the 15th century.

electing bristol's mayor in 1500
Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref CC/2/7

… Somewhere you could travel back to the Middle Ages, when studious scholars made the first attempts of mapping the city. Or to a time when cranes hauled exotic goods from far-flung corners of the globe, when Bristolians huddled in air-raid shelters as WWII Luftwaffe bombs fell from the skies. A time when the harbour heaved with the hustle and bustle of trade and industry, or when Bristol bounced to reggae and dancehall hits from Jamaica during the annual St Paul’s Festival…

The Bristol Record Office

The Bristol Record Office takes pride of place at the Avon River end of the Chocolate Path — on the western end of Spike Island — and holds treasured memories of all these times and more.

Unloading timber at the City Dock.

uploading timber to bristol dock
Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref 40826/DOC/43

Tucked inside the ‘B’ Bond Warehouse, neighbouring the Create Centre, lie over 10 miles of securely protected shelving holding records of Bristol’s heritage dating back to the Middle Ages — and it’s all open to the public, free of charge.

Ten Centuries of Records

Until 26th August 2016 the Bristol Record Office is holding an exhibition entitled ‘Ten Centuries of Records’, in which a thousand years of Bristol history is brought to life. Fittingly for an organisation with such strong record-keeping traditions, the exhibition showcases the Record Office’s stunning collection, and brings centuries of economic and social change to a brand new audience.

A woman sits in the bomb-damaged ruins of her house.

women bombed out
Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref 41969/1/75

Further reading:

Urban Legends of Bristol


Bristol’s Unusual Urban Legends

Crocodiles, millionaire Bristol Zoo parking attendants and unusual hums. There’s some very interesting urban legends in Bristol.

Bristol Hum

During the 1970s, Bristol residents would complain of an unusual noise only heard at night. Stopping in 1979, reports are back of this strange phenomena.

Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant

One of the most famous Bristol urban legends. The Bristol Zoo car park was supposedly manned by a single person for 23 years. Charging £1 for cars and £5 for coaches, one day he didn’t turn up for work and the Bristol Zoo called the council to get them to send a new parking attendant, yet they had no idea who this man was. Rumours persists that he’s sitting on a Bermudan beach with about 7 million in the bank

Aliens in Bristol

In 2013 this unusual alien creature was spotted in the Bristol harbour. Sadly this turned out to be an elaborate stunt from the TV channel – Watch.

Bristol loved Betamax

Remember Betamax? The HD DVD of it’s generation. Rumour had it Bristol was one of the last places in the UK to stop using Betamax. The tapes and players came in from Avonmouth and the rumour is the dock workers ‘took’ them and distributed cheaply around Bristol.

Bristol Crocodile

This one has been coming up for years after being ‘spotted’ in the River Avon with sightings all the way up to Portway.

There’s only Bristol Uber Driver

Have you ever tried to get an Uber in Bristol? You’ll usually have to strike it pretty lucky to find one that is free…

Society of Merchant Venturers holding all the power in Bristol

A ‘charitable and business networking group’ with a lot of business links in Bristol. Rumours state that little happens within Bristol without the Merchant Venturers say so. George Ferguson also used to be a member… make of that what you will – like this guy.

Door of the Hatchett is made of human skin

One of the oldest pubs in Bristol dating from 1606. Legend has it beneath the paint of it’s front door you’ll find human skin.

Ghost in the Odeon

odeon bristol old
Via Cinemapping

Back in 1947, the Odeon’s manager was horrifically murdered. The perpetrator was never caught and his case was closed unsolved after 30 years. This place has seen strange goings on ever since, with the Reverend Lionel visiting the Odeon to conduct an exorcism in the 1990s.

That was a few of Bristol’s famous urban legends. Have you got any that we’ve missed?