Archives and local history

Bristol has long been acknowledged as one of the foremost historic cities in Europe. It's long and diverse history dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.  A settlement, known as Brigstowe (a place of settlement by the bridge), grew up between the Rivers Avon and Frome.

It was the diversion of the River Frome in the 13th century, giving extra quayside space, which increased Bristol's capacity as a port. There was considerable direct trade with Europe as well as the english and welsh coastal towns. This helped launch Bristol as England's second city .

John Cabot

John Cabot's 1497 voyage in the Matthew and his landfall on mainland America was apparently predated by Bristol fishing boats sailing to Newfoundland's Grand Banks.

City status

In 1542 prosperous Bristol was granted city status by Henry VIII.  The church of the dissolved St Augustine's Abbey became  Bristol's cathedral.

Industrial revolution

During the 17th and 18th centuries Bristol's maritime industry boomed.  The city continued to grow during the industrial revolution thanks to its developments in:

  • railways
  • engineering
  • manufacturing
  • commerce and
  • communications.

Historic maps

Our Know Your Place website allows you to explore your neighbourhood through historic maps, images and linked information.


The legacy of the long colourful history of the city includes:

Brunel 200

Bristol's Brunel 200 celebrations included:

  • arts projects
  • publications
  • exhibitions
  • festivals and
  • community events.

Abolition 200 legacy

Bristol played a part, together with other British cities, in the transatlantic slave trade.  This flourished during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The Abolition 200 programme commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. 

Go to the Port Cities website for more information.

Related links