Naming the Docks

Many names are associated with the docks in the centre of Bristol, often used interchangeably.

Bristol Harbour was the general term until the beginning of the 19th century, when the Floating Harbour was created. Nearly two miles of the tidal river was impounded to allow ships to remain afloat at all stages of the tide, whilst the tidal water was diverted into a New Cut.

After this, there are increasing references to Bristol Docks or the City Docks, generally (but not always) intended to encompass the Floating Harbour, its Feeder Canal and the New Cut. The Bristol Docks Company operated the Floating Harbour until 1848, when the City Corporation Docks Committee took control. Private companies opened new docks at Avonmouth (1877) and Portishead (1879) but both came under Corporation control in 1884. From then, the term City Docks was commonly used simply to differentiate Bristol’s central dock system from those at the river mouth.

In recent years the marketeering term Harbourside has been applied to, strictly, the regeneration area of Canon’s Marsh and Wapping, but now more generally the whole waterside area.

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