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About Bristol

Strategically located at the mouth of the River Avon where it meets the Severn Estuary, Bristol has always been an important port. A 'floating harbour' was constructed in the early nineteenth century. This was achieved by the introduction of lock gates on what was a tidal stretch of the river. This mechanism maintained the water in the harbour at a constant level; hence it was described as 'floating'. Many of the city's most important buildings are located in this area and although the working harbour has been replaced by more modern docks at Avonmouth and Portbury this has now become a popular tourist attraction with shops, galleries and bars and is the site of permanent berth of Brunel's SS Great Britain.

Architecturally Bristol is quite diverse, with interesting examples of Tudor mansions, Georgian Squares and utilitarian Victorian buildings. Generally the buildings are of red brick with timber sash windows or metal casements. The city underwent substantial rebuilding in the 1960's following bomb damage in World War 2, the development at this time however, was not sympathetic and traditional materials were ignored to the detriment of the character of the city. However, it is the industrial, trade and public buildings and structures which are the most interesting.

A unique architectural style was developed known as Bristol Byzantine. With a mixture of Byzantine and Moorish influences, it is characterised by the horizontal and vertical grouping of window openings and archways and the decorative use of red, yellow, black and white bricks. The bricks were made locally at Cattybrook brick pit which is now disused, but has been designated a SSSI for its unique deposit of fossil plant remains.

One of the most impressive landmarks is Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge which elegantly spans the River Avon. The bridge can be seen from the railway just after leaving another of his other magnificent construction Bristol Temple Meads Terminus, which is a cathedral of a station and still serves those wishing to visit this dynamic city.