Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Bristol - England (2)

Bristolians are inordinately proud of their City. It is by no means the largest in the United Kingdom, but it is lovely (in parts) and rich with history.

The name is derived from “Brig-Stowe” (the place of a bridge), and that place was settled at the confluence of the Avon and Frome Rivers.

Near the Avon, at a place called Sea Mills, are the foundations of a Roman Villa, though Bristol was never an important Roman settlement.

By 1373 the City was so prosperous, thanks to the export of wool, that it was given county status, separated from the neighbouring counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset.

A later prosperity was rooted in the Slave trade, a trade which Bristol merchants were reluctant to abandon.

The medieval heart of Bristol with its many parish Churches was still intact when my parents grew up. They would have seen St. Thomas’s, St. James’s (Horsefair), St. Stephen’s, Christ Church, All Saints, St. Nicholas, St. Johns-on-the-wall, the Temple Church and St. Peter’s – all within one square mile.

That heart was devastated by German bombing
When I was a lad the chief industries were chocolate and tobacco, reflecting Bristol’s heritage in the triangular (slave) trade. Those industries were being surpassed by the Aircraft industry in north Bristol (British home of the Anglo-French Concord(e) supersonic jet, and by insurance and banking interests.

(Bristol was also the English heart of the sherry and port blending endeavour. It gave its name to two types of sherry (Bristol Cream and Bristol Milk).

Many Americans know of “Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry”, formerly blended in Bristol.

Few realize that “Harvey’s” is the name of a Company, but “Bristol Cream” is a type of sherry. Other blenders also create “Bristol Cream” and “Bristol Milk”.)

The central City Docks were yet operative in my youth. But these Docks, 3 miles upstream on the tidal River Avon were becoming redundant in the face of larger container vessels.

Now that dock-land is alive as a recreational area – affording splendid boating, museums, galleries, footpaths, and restaurants in the heart of the City.

I wandered there on Sunday 17th May and was wonderfully astonished with the vitality of life and leisure.

My brother Martyn, his wife Wendy and their son Sam (with his buddy Mark) returned there on May 26th to enjoy some ferry boat rides giving us a wonderful view of our beloved City.

My visit home renewed my pride in being a Bristolian. That is not a parochial pride. For there are many Bristols in these United States – in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia/Tennessee , and indeed in Florida.
See the following for more information about Bristol.

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