Along the Harbour 2
Junction Lock to Prince Street Bridge
17. The swing bridge was installed in 1925 to replace an earlier bridge. John Lysaght & Co, a major Bristol based structural steelwork company, built it. It bridges the Junction Lock, which links the Basin to the Harbour. It is rarely used as a lock today, but does house the stop gates, which are closed when the tide in the river is expected to rise higher than the Harbour level. These are an essential part of Bristol’s flood defence system.
18. The Pumphouse housed the original hydraulic pumping system for operating the lock gates and bridges of the 1870s locks. It was superseded by the Underfall Yard system in the late 1880s. Continue with the water on your right towards the next bridge.
19. Notice the brick remains of the railway swing bridge that crossed the lock at its inner end, bringing the Bristol Harbour Railway from Ashton swing bridge to Canon’s Marsh. Just beyond is the inlet for the entrance to the now-filled Merchants Dock. This was built in 1768 by William Champion as Bristol’s first wet dock and was operated for many years by the Merchant Venturers.
20. The next bridge crosses the former dry dock of the shipyard that was on the site, now called Poole’s Wharf. Established by Hilhouse in 1772, it was later occupied by some of Bristol’s more pioneering shipbuilders, including GK Stothert. Shipbuilding finished here in 1904, but repair continued until the 1930s, after which the area became a coal-importing yard and then the final home of Bristol’s sand-dredging fleets. After they left in 1991, the area was redeveloped with housing. Continue past the housing here and onto the Mardyke.
21. The Mardyke was traditionally a waiting area for ships when berths in the city centre were occupied. It was built up in the 1860s and became the mooring for the Royal Naval Reserve drill ships Daedalus, and Flying Fox. Continue to Capricorn Quay.
22. Capricorn Quay is the modern name for a residential development on the site of the Lime Kiln Dry Dock. The grass area between the two blocks shows its outline. The dry dock closed in 1903.
23. The old roofless large stone buildings at the end of Capricorn Quay are the last remaining structures of Canon’s Marsh Gas Works. This was Bristol’s first gas works, initially making gas from whale oil in the 1820s but later converting to coal gas. The works remained active until the mid 1960s when natural gas arrived. Continue round the harbour inlet and on to Canon’s Marsh as far as the tower with a weathervane on it – about 500m.
24. Transit sheds close to the water and a railway goods yard behind once occupied this heavily redeveloped area. None of it existed before 1900 – the quaysides and railway yard were part of a major expansion of facilities at the turn of the century. In the 1920s, huge concrete bonded warehouses for tobacco were constructed in this area too. These were blown up spectacularly in 1988 for the construction of the Lloyds Bank headquarters to begin.
25. The amphitheatre in front of Lloyds takes its radius from the stone tower. This was originally the base for a steam crane, scrapped in 1969. The weather vane and turret were rescued from a demolished building elsewhere in the city and placed here in the 1970s.
Head up the ramp close to Lloyds and past the four square columns into Millennium Square.
26. The concrete building with the silver sphere attached to it is the remodelled Great Western Railway goods shed, one of the earliest surviving reinforced concrete buildings in the UK. It houses the hands-on science centre Explore @t Bristol. Round the corner to the right is Anchor Square. The stone building on the right was Rowe Bros lead works, built here in the late 1890s to take advantage of the railway that was about to arrive here. Continue toward the footbridge over the Harbour.
27. The bridge is called Pero’s Bridge for an enslaved African boy who was brought to Bristol as a servant for the Pinney family in the 1740s. He was one of very few Africans that came here; most were shipped directly from Africa to the West Indies to be exchanged for plantation crops like sugar which was brought to Bristol for processing, a triangular trade on which much of the city’s wealth was based. At this point you can cross the bridge moving on to 30 in the itinerary. OR you can turn left along the quayside to the end of the water.
28. This stretch of water is called St Augustine’s Reach, after the abbey church of St Augustine (now Bristol Cathedral). The Reach was the course of the river Frome, diverted into this man-made trench in 1247. The water once remained open for another 400 metres through what is now the city centre (you can still find the end where the road is called Quay Head) but was covered over in stages from the 1890s to the late 1930s, initially to create a terminus for Bristol’s electric tramways system.
29. The last transit shed along the Reach, E Shed, (now home to the Watershed complex) has a very ornate end wall, designed to make the vista from the city centre more interesting when it was completed in 1896. Right up to the 1960s, cargo ships tied up on this stretch of water, making the port very much part of the life of the city. Cross to the far side of the Reach and continue down the opposite side to Pero’s Bridge.
30. This side of the Reach is called Narrow Quay. Together with Broad Quay (now landlocked to the north) this was the main trading wharf of the port for centuries. It was constructed alongside St Augustines Reach in the 1240s. It remained Bristol’s principal wharf until the major expansion of quaysides on Wapping in the 1860s. Continue towards the end of the Quay.
31. The Architecture Centre is housed in one of the few buildings that date from the time of the Floating Harbour’s construction.
32. The last building on the Quay is the Bush warehouse, home to the Arnolfini art gallery. Originally built in about 1833 as an anchor warehouse and offices by the major Bristol engineering company Acramans, it was expanded in the mid 1830s in expectation of the tea trade coming to Bristol (although it never did).
33. Prince Street swing bridge replaced a drawbridge in 1878. It is operated by water hydraulic power and swings regularly during the summer months. It is the lowest bridge in the Harbour. Before the Floating Harbour was built, there was a ferry across the tidal river at this point.