Bristol is known for 3 great men. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Cabot and Edward Colston.
I will not even try to write a potted history on Brunel. He was an incredible man and the things he designed were amazing. He is well known all round the country but in Bristol he is renowned for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain, the Great Western Railway and Temple Meads station. Here are a few personal facts about him.
Brunel was born on 9th April 1806 in Britan Street, Portsea, Portsmouth. On 5th July 1836, Brunel married Mary Elizabeth Horsley, who came from an accomplished musical and artistic family, being the eldest daughter of composer and organist William Horsley. They established a home at Duke Street, Westminster, in London. In 1843, while performing a conjuring trick for the amusement of his children, Brunel accidentally inhaled a half-sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe. A special pair of forceps failed to remove it, as did a machine devised by Brunel to shake it loose. At the suggestion of his father, Brunel was strapped to a board and turned upside-down, and the coin was jerked free. He recuperated at Teignmouth, and enjoyed the area so much that he purchased an estate at Watcombe in Torquay, Devon. Here he designed Brunel Manor and its gardens to be his retirement home. He never saw the house or gardens finished, as he died before it was completed. Brunel, a heavy smoker, suffered a stroke in 1859, he died ten days later at the age of 53.
|Isambard Kingdom Brunel|
John Cabot was born in Venice around 1450 but was made bankrupt in 1488 and went to Spain and finally to Bristol in 1495 and it was from there that he discovered America on 24th June 1497. His ship was the Matthew which was owned by Richard Amerike who was a wealthy Anglo-Welsh merchant, royal customs officer and sheriff of Bristol. It is thought that Cabot named America after him. Henry VII sponsored Cabot to make a further voyage to America in 1498 and a fleet of five ships set sail fr om Bristol at the beginning of May. No records have been found (or at least published) that relate to this expedition; it has been assumed that Cabot's fleet was lost at sea. However is now thought that maybe Cabot and his expedition returned to England in the spring of 1500 after an epic two-year exploration of the east coast of North America, into the Spanish territories in the Caribbean. Further evidence shows that Cabot was back in London by May 1500 – but nothing about him since.
Edward Colston was born in Bristol in 1636. He was an English merchant and Member of Parliament. Much of his wealth, although used often for philanthropic purposes, was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves. He endowed schools and almshouses and his name is commemorated in several Bristol landmarks, streets, three schools and the Colston bun! A statue, designed by John Cassidy, was erected in the centre of Bristol in 1895 commemorating Colston. In 1998, however, someone scrawled on its base the name of one of the professions in which he made his fortune: SLAVE TRADER. He is widely viewed as an inspirational figure for the city, due to his donations of money to schools and other causes. There is a concert hall in Bristol named after him and even today there are some artistes who won’t play there. He died in 1721.
Archaeological finds show that Bristol could be 60,000 years old. Bristol was first chartered as a city in 1155, and became a separate county by order of Edward III in 1373, the first provincial town to receive this honour.
By the 12th century Bristol was an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland, including slaves.
By the 14th century Bristol was one of England's three largest medieval towns after London, along with York and Norwich.
In the 15th century, Bristol was the second most important port in the country.
At the end of the 1600s, Bristol merchants broke into the lucrative Africa trade, transporting trade goods, including cooking pots and guns, to West Africa, exchanging these for enslaved African people and carrying them to the West Indies and America. There they were sold to buy sugar, tobacco and other luxury goods grown on plantations.
After the creation of the Floating Harbour in 1809, Bristol continued to grow as a port, but declined in overall importance – other places expanded more quickly because they benefited from the development of industry in the north of England.
|The Victoria Rooms now used by the University of Bristol Music Department|
By 1901, some 330,000 people were living in Bristol. Bristol suffered badly from Luftwaffe air raids in World War II, claiming some 1,300 lives of people living and working in the city, with nearly 100,000 buildings being damaged, at least 3,000 of them beyond repair.
In 1377 records say that the population of Bristol was 9,518 whereas in 2010 it was 441,300!