Bristol – Balloon and Brunel

Bristol – Balloon and Brunel

This matching balloon adds an unexpected element to this iconic image of Bristol You can’t escape the influence of Brunel in this world famous city’s landscape.

The Avon gorge suspension bridge.

In a recent poll Bristol was ranked as Britain’s most sustainable city based on its environmental performance. It received the 2015 European Green Capital Award. The BBC’s Natural History Unit is based here, as well as Bristol Zoo, with the University Botanic Garden nearby. The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live. As a one-time resident I agree.

Many balloons on the city skyline

As the city wakes on a warm, calm mid August morning, there is expectation in the air. It is the start of the annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the largest balloon event in Europe.

The ‘early risers’ will be at Ashton Court to watch the balloons being inflated ready for take off. On a day like this, the opportunity for ideal weather conditions must not be missed. At the other end of the city we and our children watch as we see the first balloons rise above the city skyline followed by over a 100 others – a splendid sight. Some will be passing overhead silently, except for the occasional blast of flame to keep the balloon airborne. Inevitably some others will have to make a forced landing in rather unsuitable locations!

John Cabot's ship 'The Matthew'
‘The Matthew’ with the ‘Great Britain’ just visible behind.

All Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

Another must-see item on the tourist’s programme will have to be a visit to Brunel’s  ‘SS Great Britain’ and to the replica of John Cabot’s ship ‘The Matthew’. In this tiny vessel he made that historic 1497 journey across the Atlantic to be the first European to land on the N American continent. From this port, Bristol ships plied the trade with the developing American colonies. Over the years, these docks have been full of activity with ‘all hands on deck’ getting ships ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, ready to set sail for exploration or trade.  Today with the coming of larger vessels the docks have moved to Avonmouth, the Avon river proving unnavigable for larger vessels.

A Dark /Bright Past – the bad and the good

Sadly Bristol also has a dark past, its involvement, along with Liverpool, in the appalling slave trade until Wilberforce’s act in 1807. On a much happier note we remember the leading role the city played in the great religious awakening that stirred England so deeply in the 18th century.

Far better than the grim slave trade, Bristol has, through those early ‘Methodists’, been exporting the Good News of God’s love, bringing hope and freedom through Jesus Christ. When George Whitefield began to preach in Bristol in 1737 vast crowds came to hear. John and Charles Wesley joined Whitefield and the first ‘Methodist’ chapel was established, ‘The New Room’, in the centre of the city (see photo above). Whitefield travelled across the Atlantic 7 times on his visits to preach in New England, carrying the revival fires to America. Later John and Charles Wesley  began to travel across England preaching and establishing new churches. These were amazing days and they made a large impact on the English- speaking world at the time.

It was men influenced by this 18th century religious awakening who eventually persuaded parliament to pass Wilberforce’s  abolition of the slave trade bill.

As always, thank you for joining me.

Top Featured Photo -© Copyright Nigel Mykura  – Creative Commons.

6 thoughts on “Bristol – Balloon and Brunel

  1. Very interesting, Richard. Thank you. I visited Bristol once in the late 90’s. The hotel where I stayed was evacuated after a bomb threat and we had to flee. But I enjoyed the city and it’s good to learn more about it.


  2. Thank you for this tour of Bristol Richard, I’ve never been there but it looks as though it has much to recommend it. The balloons must be a real spectacle, though I’m not so sure I’d want to travel over that very high bridge!


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