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Bristol’s History at your Fingertips



Bristol’s History at your Fingertips

Life moves pretty fast these days. Everyone seems concerned about rapid download speeds, 4-foot televisions, sleek laptops and the latest hot gadgets. Do you ever wonder what life was like before all these things took up our time?

What if I mentioned there’s a place within a 30-minute stroll of central Bristol which holds manuscripts, prints, records, video and images on everything from medieval royal charters and 17th-century trading routes to Victorian criminals and iconic Bristol businesses from bygone days?

Electing Bristol’s Mayor in the 15th century.

electing bristol's mayor in 1500

Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref CC/2/7

… Somewhere you could travel back to the Middle Ages, when studious scholars made the first attempts of mapping the city. Or to a time when cranes hauled exotic goods from far-flung corners of the globe, when Bristolians huddled in air-raid shelters as WWII Luftwaffe bombs fell from the skies. A time when the harbour heaved with the hustle and bustle of trade and industry, or when Bristol bounced to reggae and dancehall hits from Jamaica during the annual St Paul’s Festival…

The Bristol Record Office

The Bristol Record Office takes pride of place at the Avon River end of the Chocolate Path — on the western end of Spike Island — and holds treasured memories of all these times and more.

Unloading timber at the City Dock.

uploading timber to bristol dock

Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref 40826/DOC/43

Tucked inside the ‘B’ Bond Warehouse, neighbouring the Create Centre, lie over 10 miles of securely protected shelving holding records of Bristol’s heritage dating back to the Middle Ages — and it’s all open to the public, free of charge.

Ten Centuries of Records

Until 26th August 2016 the Bristol Record Office is holding an exhibition entitled ‘Ten Centuries of Records’, in which a thousand years of Bristol history is brought to life. Fittingly for an organisation with such strong record-keeping traditions, the exhibition showcases the Record Office’s stunning collection, and brings centuries of economic and social change to a brand new audience.

A woman sits in the bomb-damaged ruins of her house.

women bombed out

Image courtesy of Bristol Record Office, ref 41969/1/75

Further reading:



Born and raised on the banks of the Norfolk Broads, Chris made his way through Yorkshire, Normandy, Champagne, Asia, South America and London, before falling head-over-heels for Bristol’s vibrant street art and food scenes. Chris writes for fun, for the creative buzz and for a living, and loves waxing lyrical on Bristol’s diverse culinary offerings. You’ll find him spinning through the Mendip Hills by bike, sharpening his squash skills, swimming in local lakes and rivers, or slurping fine zider on Bristol Harbour with his wife.


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