Photographs of Bristol back in the day 6



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I was born and brought up until I was twenty three, in the city of Bristol, in the south west of England. Bristol was a famous place in mediaeval times, once the largest port in England, despite being nearly forty kilometres from the sea and the centre of much historical action, including being the port from which John Cabot sailed when he discovered mainland North America in 1450. During its long and famous history, the old city grew from a tiny village sheltering on the confluence of two rivers, the Avon and the Frome to the greatest city of its time, and many terrific buildings were built there, some grand and some built to house the common populace, decidedly NOT grand!

Such is the diversity of these old structures that I thought it might interest readers to see some of what the place was like, from mediaeval times right up to the second World War, when sadly nearly all the buildings you are about to see were destroyed by German bombing, Bristol still being an important target at that time. So, hold on to your hats, we’re about to go time travelling!

Photo 1. This photograph shows the very centre of Bristol, actually called The Centre, in the days when the River Frome ran right down the middle of it. For many years the river has been culverted and built over, but this photo shows how the place looked for centuries beforehand, even to the sailing ships tied up at the wharves.

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Photo 2. This is one of the main thoroughfares leading away from the Centre, and important shopping street for many years, though somewhat less grand today than it was when this picture was taken. Interesting to see the horse drawn vehicles, people walking about in the middle of the street, (you’d be daft to try that today!), and even a flock of sheep being driven up the hill, to some nearby paddock I guess, or the slaughter-house!

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Photo 3. This is a “then & now” scene of what was Castle Street, Bristol’s main shopping area until the Germans wiped it out. The same street, (right), is now open parkland; I’m not sure which I like best.

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Photo 4. This is another view of Castle Street, you can see how busy it was. The shop on the extreme right, called Garlick’s, is where my father worked, until the bombing!

Bristol 4

Photo 5. One of the quaint streets in the heart of the city, built long before any idea of town planning was envisaged. Like most other pictures, another victim of the bombs. (In fact, to save repeating myself too often, you can take it all the buildings I show you suffered this fate, unless I state otherwise).

Bristol 5

Photo 6. A typical high class funeral taking place in the city, this one for Mr Fry of Fry’s Chocolate fame!

Bristol 6

Photo 7. We’re back to the top of Castle Street, Dad’s workplace visible again on the left foreground.

Bristol 7

Photo 8. Another example of the old streets of Bristol, before building regulations! Note the cobbled street surface and the over-hanging upper stories of the buildings.

Bristol 8

Photo 9. This is a modern photograph, of one of the lovely old buildings which survived the war, and has been carefully looked after ever since, as a pub.

Bristol 9

Photo 10. Another modern photo, this time one I’ve chucked in because it’s the Grammar School I went to before going to Art College. A typical piece of school architecture from the years between the wars.

Bristol 10

Photo 11. This is a contemporary drawing of a typical house in Bristol in about the eighteenth century, place and artist unknown.

Bristol 11

Photo 12. This appears to be of one of the more disreputable buildings in the old city, a pub but one somewhat grand then we tend to expect today. Note the constable on duty there – I wonder if he’s on the lookout for drunks?

Bristol 12

Photo 13. This is another area not too proud of itself, by the looks of things. The building on the right appears to be a post office, and I’m afraid I just can’t make out what the shop in the centre is. Is there anyone good at deciphering old, blurred photos?

Bristol 13

And finally, photo 14, another ’then and now’ shot of one of the major city centre junctions. You can tell the two were taken from pretty well the same spot, by the church steeple seen in the background.

Bristol 15

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, especially any of you who were, like me, brought up in Bristol. I still enjoy looking at them. I would like to acknowledge the fact that these pictures were extracted by me from the web site “Bristol Then And Now”, a site I follow avidly, nearly every day!

Have you visited Bristol?

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Brian Lee

  1. Hi Brian, thank you for the photos. Although I was born and raised in Hampshire and Sussex, never got to Bristol but Hastings where I worked until migrating to New Zealand @ 24 years of age, has similar old buildings which did survive WW2. I too was born in 1935 so we probably had similar experiences during and after the war years. Kind regards and the hope you are enjoying life to the full as I am.

    1 REPLY
    • Born in Bristol myself 1959 what the bombs didnt get the developers did my dad worked down the centre as we used say and i have memories of the back streets and laneways around the christmas steps i left bristol in 1980 having completed my apprenticeship at bush&wiltons bitton now gone i stiĺl return home as much as possible and appreciate more now now than i did back then its a wonderfull city thats reinventing itself year after year not all good but going in the right direction like brian i now live in Australia

  2. Visited Bristol a fortnight ago as part of a tour of south east England and delighted to find the building in Stokes Croft where my great grandfather George Fry operated his butchery before emigrating to Tasmania in 1840 survived the WW2 bombing.

  3. Pictures were great. I was born in Bristol in 1946, in Pendennis Park, Brislington and left in 1952 with my parents and settled in a little country town called Eskdale in Victoria Australia. My Mother took me and my sister back for a visit in the mid 70s and I visited the house I was born in. Had a great holiday and will remember it till I am no longer here.

  4. Hi, great pictures. I was born in Bath but maternal grandma from Bristol so visited Bristol many times to see relations but can particularly remember visiting an Aunt Polly Powell, who lived near the docks, and walking up steps similar to picture 8. What a shame the building on the last picture has no character at all.

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