|Area: 110 km˛|
Bristol is a city, unitary authority and ceremonial county in South West England, 115 miles (185 km) west of London and located at 51°27'14?N, 2°35'48?W
With a population of 400,000, and metropolitan area of 550,000, it is England's seventh, and the United Kingdom's tenth, most populous city, and one of England's core cities. It received a royal charter in 1155 and was granted county status in 1373. For half a millennium it was the second or third largest English city, until the rapid rise of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham in the Industrial Revolution of the 1780s. It borders on the unitary districts of Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and has a short coastline on the Bristol Channel.
Bristol is one of the main centres of culture, employment and education in the region. From its earliest days, its prosperity has been linked to that of the Port of Bristol, the commercial port, which was in the city centre but has now moved to the Bristol Channel coast at Avonmouth and Portbury. In more recent years the economy has been built on the aerospace industry, and the city centre docks have been regenerated as a centre of heritage and culture. The city is famous for its unique music and film industries, and was a finalist for the 2008 European Capital of Culture.
There is evidence of settlement in the Bristol area from the palaeolithic era, with 60,000-year-old archaeological finds at Shirehampton and St Annes. There are iron age hill forts near the city, at Leigh Woods and Clifton Down on the side of the Avon Gorge, and on Kingsweston Hill, near Henbury. During the Roman era there was a settlement, Abona, at what is now Sea Mills, connected to Bath by Roman road, and another settlement at what is now Inns Court. There were also isolated villas and small settlements throughout the area.
The town of Brycgstow (Old English, "the place at the bridge") was in existence by the beginning of the 11th century, and under Norman rule acquired one of the strongest castles in southern England. The River Avon in the city centre has slowly evolved into Bristol Harbour, and since the 12th century the harbour has been an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland. In 1247 a new bridge was built and the town was extended to incorporate neighbouring suburbs, becoming in 1373 a county in its own right. During this period Bristol also became a centre of shipbuilding and manufacturing. Bristol was the starting point for many important voyages, notably John Cabot's 1497 voyage of exploration to North America.
By the 14th century Bristol was England's third-largest town (after London and York), with perhaps 15-20,000 inhabitants on the eve of the Black Death of 1348-49. The plague inflicted a prolonged pause in the growth of Bristol's population, with numbers remaining at 10-12,000 through most of the 15th and 16th centuries. The Diocese of Bristol was founded in 1542, with the former Abbey of St Augustine becoming Bristol Cathedral. Traditionally this is equivalent to the town being granted city status. During the 1640s Civil War the city suffered through Royalist military occupation and plague.
Bristol Bridge seen across the HarbourRenewed growth came with the 17th-century rise of England's American colonies and the rapid 18th-century expansion of England's part in the Atlantic trade in Africans taken for slavery in the Americas. Bristol, along with Liverpool, became a significant centre for the slave trade although few slaves were brought to Britain. During the height of the slave trade, from 1700 to 1807, more than 2000 slaving ships were fitted out at Bristol, carrying a (conservatively) estimated half a million people from Africa to the Americas and slavery. Fishermen who left Bristol were long part of the migratory fishery to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and began settling that island permanently in larger numbers around this time. Bristol's strong nautical ties meant that maritime safety was an important issue in the city, In the 19th century Samuel Plimsoll, "the sailor's friend", campaigned fearlessly to make the seas safer. He was shocked by the scandal of overloaded cargoes and successfully fought for a compulsory loadline on ships.
Competition from Liverpool from c.1760, the disruption of maritime commerce through war with France (1793) and the abolition of the slave trade (1807) contributed to the city's failure to keep pace with the newer manufacturing centres of the North and Midlands. The long passage up the heavily tidal Avon Gorge, which had made the port highly secure during the middle ages, had become a liability which the construction of a new "Floating Harbour" (designed by William Jessop) in 1804–9 failed to overcome. Nevertheless, Bristol's population (66,000 in 1801) quintupled during the 19th century, supported by new industries and growing commerce. It was particularly associated with the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London, two pioneering Bristol-built steamships, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. John Wesley founded the very first Methodist Chapel, in Bristol in 1739.
Clifton suspension bridgeBristol's city centre suffered severe damage from bombing during World War II. The original central shopping area, near the bridge and castle, is now a park containing two bombed out churches and some tiny fragments of the castle. A third bombed church nearby, St Nicholas, has been restored and currently houses private city council offices despite containing a triptych by William Hogarth, painted for the high altar of St Mary Redcliffe in 1756. Like much British post-war planning, the rebuilding of Bristol city centre was characterised by large, cheap tower blocks, brutalist architecture and expansion of roads. Since the 1980s this trend has changed with the closure of some main roads, the restoration of the Georgian period Queen's and Portland Squares, the current demolition and rebuilding of the Broadmead shopping centre and, in 2006, one of the city centre's tallest post-war blocks was torn down.
The removal of the docks to Avonmouth, seven miles (11 km) downstream from the city centre has also allowed substantial corporate redevelopment of the old central dock area (the "Floating Harbour") in recent decades, although at one time the continued existence of the docks was in jeopardy as it was viewed as a derelict industrial site rather than a potential asset.
The last ever flight of any Concorde, 26 November 2003. The aircraft is seen a few minutes before landing on the Filton runway from which she first flew in 1969.