Feeder Canal and River Avon
Temple Meads to Netham and back
At the bottom of the approach road ramp at Temple Meads turn left towards Bath Road Bridge and then left into Cattle Market Road. Go under the railway bridge (see 70) and continue until you reach the entrance to the derelict Post Office Parcels building. Turn in here and, keeping right, walk towards the water.
75. Here you can see the right-angled junction between the Feeder Canal, leading off in a straight line to the right and the Floating Harbour, off to the left beneath the railway bridge. The narrow junction once held stop gates that allowed the Feeder or the upper Harbour to be drained for maintenance. Turn back to the road. In the bushes on your left was once Calcraft (later Totterdown) Lock, which allowed barges and smaller vessels to lock in and out of the New Cut. You’ll see the remains of the lock at the end of this section of the trail.
Turn left onto Feeder Road and then left at the traffic lights into Avon Street. There’s a good view along the Feeder from the bridge.
76. Avon Street was traditionally associated with the heavier industries in Bristol and the Feeder Canal convenient extension of this after it was completed. There are many accounts of the smoky, choking atmosphere that surrounded this area throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th. On the corner of the junction was one of Bristol’s many soap works, neighboured by the Avon Street gas works, the first of Bristol’s coal gas production sites. This continued to operate until the 1950s.
Continue up Avon Street and turn right into Silverthorne Lane.
77. About 150 m along here you will be confronted by Lysaght’s Castle, a Victorian Gothic fantasy office building designed for John Lysaght, whose works occupied all of the land on the left that you have passed and more beyond. Lysaght made his fortune galvanising corrugated iron and shipping this from Bristol to the developing colonies for building. At one time this was the biggest galvanising works in the world. Before Lysaght, the Acraman family used the site for their Bristol Iron Works. This, too, was a major industrial undertaking, producing railway engines for the early Great Western Railway and sectional ships. It was described as the largest iron works in Europe (perhaps an exaggeration) in 1840.
Continue along Silverthorne Lane, which forks to the right at Lysaght’s Castle. In about another 150 metres, there is a signposted footpath on the right. This leads to a footbridge over the Feeder. Turn left off the bridge and follow the cycle lane along Feeder Road.
78. On the opposite bank of the canal, just after the railway bridge, was the site of the Great Western Cotton factory. The five-storey spinning mill was demolished in the late 1960s, but there are still remnants of the weaving sheds in the industrial estate. The factory was the biggest cotton factory outside the north-west and thrived from 1837 until the 1920s, employing about 1000 people from Barton Hill.
At Marsh Lane Bridge, cross the water and then turn right onto the footpath alongside the Canal.
79. On your left as you travel towards the lock is Netham Recreation Ground. Known locally as The Brillos, the park is the reclaimed spoil heaps of the Netham Chemical Works, where alkali products such as caustic soda and ammonia were made for a century after 1850. There is little evidence of it today.
80. On the opposite bank, occupying the whole of the area now filled by an industrial estate was John Lysaght’s structural steel works. Here many of the bridges that span the Harbour’s waterways, and many others elsewhere, were designed and built.
81. Netham Lock marks the end of the Feeder Canal. It plays an important role in Bristol’s flood defences; the lock gates here ensure that extreme high spring tides that come over Netham weir do not enter the city, and that flood water from the inland river in spate are similarly excluded.