Monday, May 04, 2009

More from Bristol

Last week's trip to Bristol and Birmingham was arranged around the concerts reported on in the last post but there were other things to see and do. We spent three days in Bristol and I took my camera along with me.There are many beautiful buildings and fascinating things to see in the city but they are so closely packed together, or overshadowed by newer buildings, that it is easy to miss them and hard to take photographs of them with my standard point-and-click digital camera.

Old markets are always interesting and Bristol boasts the beautiful St Nicholas Markets, where you can find everything from the freshest of farm produce to stunning works of art. The buildings themselves are works of art but this is the best I can offer of the stuccoed frieze and door frames. The market stalls are too closely packed to get a better view and, though I spent several hours searching the bookshops, I couldn't find a pictorial guide to the markets. If anyone knows of one that I could buy, I would love to hear about it.

One of the market halls is called the Nails Market. Outside it, on Corn Street, are four bronze pillars, or nails, which were used by local merchants when transacting business before the Exchange was built in the early eighteenth century.
Tradition has it that a bargain was struck when money was placed on the nail, thus giving rise to the saying "paying on the nail". I hope that this innocent seeming nail was only used to seal sales of corn and played no part in Bristol's more sinister trading history.
Above the entrance to the Nails Market is the Bristol Clock. If you look closely, you will see that it has two minute hands; at the time I took this photo, the clock read both 09:55 and 10:06.
The clock dates to the Victorian era and the development of the railways. Bristol, like all major cities, set its clocks according to when the sun reaches its zenith in that particular place. Bristol being 2 degrees and 36 minutes west of Greenwich, Bristol time was 11 minutes later than Greenwich time. This was not a problem when journeys were undertaken on horseback or in carriages, but the trains ran according to London time, so the Bristolians were forever arriving 11 minutes too late to catch them. The Mayor of Bristol, being a true business man, had this clock made to show both London time and Bristol time and the good people of Bristol have never been known to miss a train from that day to the present. (GMT was adopted by Bristol in 1852.)
One man who spent a great deal of time travelling was John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Banned from preaching in Anglican churches, he built his first dedicated chapel in the Horsefair, in 1739. Again, I had difficulty in taking photographs as the narrow chapel and yard are overshadowed by more modern buildings.
These are just a few of the treasures that historic Bristol has to offer. I'm a country girl at heart but I always enjoy a few days in Bristol and discover something interesting on each visit.


  1. I've always avoided Bristol, in case I run into the ghastly step-family, an experience I would wish on no-one, but your photos make me realise that I should overcome my reluctance and head up the motorway.

  2. Maureen
    Rediscovered St. Nick's myself last summer - great fun but hard to capture in a photo. Also like the new Zero Degrees bar and microbrewery overlooking top of Christmas steps.
    You must let me know next time you come up!

  3. This is somewhere I've never been. Loved your post and all the facts. (I do like interesting facts...) I like the odd trip to the city; nice and anonymous. Round here everyone knows each other, which can make a quick trip to the shop take half the day- not always convenient.

  4. D, it really is a great city to visit. When the son was a student, we used to explore the Clifton area. We loved to walk down Whiteladies in the evenings - so full of young people having real fun without any 'bovver'. We did the museums and art galleries then.

    Now we are concentrating on the water side area and I am determined to go back soon to see more of the mediaeval city.

  5. Ali, we found some great places to eat and drink but not that particular bar - next time, for sure.

    My next planned visit will be for the birth of the grandbaby, so no exploring, but I'll let you know when I am coming for my next city break. It would be good to meet up and to see the places visitors usually miss.

  6. RattlingOn, I know just what you mean - there is no such thing as nipping out for a pint of milk here, either. I love these short city breaks but I am past wanting to live in one. I got it all out of my system about 40 years ago!

  7. Maureen, I've just begun a book on Betjeman's radio shows, and in the introduction there's a lot about Bristol. Stephen Games, the editor says: It was with some prescience that Betjeman described Bristol, in the first of his 1937 talks, as 'always a pioneer city in movements that sweep the rest of the country.'

  8. Nan, I can believe that Bristol is a leader of fashions in many areas. I look forward to reading your book report.

  9. Maureen, I gave it up. There were just too many references to buildings and places I didn't know.

  10. That's a shame, Nan. I was hoping to learn about it from you, now I'll have to wait until the moratorium on more books is over!


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