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Facts

BRISTOL

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FUN FACTS

Bristol is the 49th largest county or metropolitan borough in England.
Bristol has the 43rd highest population in England.
Bristol is in 2nd place for density of population.

  1. The Royal Connection
  2. I'm sure there are many royal connections with Bristol but I like this one as it's a bit quirky. The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 and in 1879 the first telephone exchange opened in England. This allowed people in one area to phone someone else in the same area. In January 1880 the first trunk line was opened which allowed people to make calls to a different area than that covered by their exchange. They would be connected by operators at each exchange. The first line was between Leeds and Bradford in West Yorkshire. This development meant that a circuit connected the two telephone switchboards in Leeds and Bradford, thereby allowing access to several extension lines at once. This was a method that would eventually be repeated across the country and was still in use in late 1950's, so yes, I experienced it.

    It then became automatic so people could dial direct to another area and operators were no longer needed to connect these calls. It was used by the Queen in 1958 when she made a call to Edinburgh from Bristol, a distance of over 300 miles. Her call lasted two minutes five seconds and cost 10d (4p in today's money). The system, known as Subscriber Trunk Dialling, was in use across the whole country by 1979. It meant that all areas had to have a unique code for people to dial and is the same system we use nowadays. From September 5th 1959 people were able to make these "trunk" calls from public call boxes and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Bristol phoned the Lord Mayor of London from a telephone box, apparently dialling the number himself. Who's a clever boy.

  3. Bristol Eats
  4. The Colston Bun was made in the ciy of Bristol and, traditionally, given out to children on 13th November. The buns are made of dough flavoured with dried fruit, candied peel and sweet spices. The bun comes into two sizes. The "dinner plate" size with eight wedge marks on the top, and the "ha'penny staver" which was an individual size bun.

    The idea was that the poor children of the Colston School would take the large bun home to share with their family while the individual bun could be eaten straight away, staving off their hunger.

    You can read a little more about my views on Mr Colston in the "Richard Remembers" section so let us just say here that he made numerous donations to schools and other good causes although much of his wealth was acquired from what I, and others, would consider were crimes against humanity. As someone who believes you can only apologise for something that happened accidently and not for something you did and knew was wrong, I'm not sure giving money to a good cause that was earned disgustingly is a way of putting things right.

  5. Bristol VIPs
  6. Seven random people who were born in Bristol in the last 100 years:-
    Damien Hirst (Artist), Maya Jama (TV and Radio Presenter), Dave Prowse (Actor - Darth Vadar), Jenny Jones (Olympic Snowboarder), Hannah Murray (Actor), Lando Norris (F1 Racing Driver) and Claudia Fragapane (Artistic Gymnast).

  7. Now That's Weird
  8. Time is a strange thing isn't it? This is known as a rhetorical question because I am not expecting an answer. I mean I once flew from Tonga to Samoa, left Tonga at 11.30pm on a Tuesday night and arrived in Samoa at 1.00am that Tuesday morning. I actually got there 22 hours before I left. To make things easy we regulate time around the world from the Greenwich Meridian which is an imaginary line running north to south down the globe and, so conveniently, going through Greenwich. It is also called the Prime Meridian.

    We knew, way back in the 17th century, that the earth turns 360 degrees every day. With 24 hours in a day, that means 15 degrees every hour (bit of simple maths there). Therefore every 15 degrees you go west, time moves back an hour and every 15 degrees you go east, time moves on an hour. We draw these lines every 15 degrees on a map and call them meridian lines. You can see this on the globes above.

    Imagine it's the year 1851. You live near Exeter and are going to catch the train to London. The train leaves at 9.30am. You pull out your pocket watch as you enter the station. It says 9.22am. Good, you think, I've made it. But as you get to the platform you find the train has gone although it did leave on time. How could this happen?

    Unfortunately, until 1880, every town or city in England set their own time. Down in Exeter you could be as much as ten minutes behind London time and the trains ran to London time. Obviously as the railways grew this had to change and so, in 1880, Parliament passed the Definition of Time Act. Everywhere in Great Britain would stick to London Time, called GMT or Greenwich Mean Time.

    In Bristol, at the Corn Exchange, they had, and still have, a clock with two minute hands. One would show the time in London, also known as railway time, and the other, the black one as you look at it, would show the time in Bristol. Weird.

  9. It Happened Here
  10. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a great engineer and designer of the nineteenth century. He designed many things in his time, bridges, viaducts and he designed ships for the Great Western Steamship Company. His most famous ship design was that of the SS Great Britain, built in Bristol.

    At the time of its launch in 1843 it was the largest ship in the world. Brunel also combined two features seen before but never together; namely the ship was made of iron and it had a screw propeller to drive it rather than paddle wheels which other steam ships had. The ship was 322ft (98m) long. It had four decks, accommodation for 120 crew plus 360 passengers and some masts for sails, just in case. In 1845 she became the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean taking 14 days 21hours, nothing special in time.

    However the ship was not a lucky one. At the naming ceremony the tug which would pull the ship away after the botltle of champagne had been smashed on the side started pulling too soon and the bottle missed. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband who was attending the launch, picked up another bottle and flung it at the ship's iron hull. Then the tow rope snapped and Prince Albert had left before the SS Great Britain had left the quay.

    In its second year in service the ship ran aground off the coast of Northern Island and the Great Western Steamship Company spent all their remaining money on refloating it and went out of business. In 1852 she was sold for salvage and repaired and then carried thousands of immigrants to Australia from 1852 until 1881. In 1861 she carried the first England cricket team to tour Australia. She was then converted to sail and retired to the Falkland Islands, used as a warehouse, quarantine ship and for storing coal before being scuttled (holes were made in the deck so it would sink) in 1937.

    In 1970 it was raised, brought back to Bristol, repaired and is now a visitor attraction and museum based in Bristol Harbour. I visited it on my second trip, I don't think the repair had been completed on my first journey. They had some replica menus from the dining room and a few other pieces of memorabilia and we gave these away as prizes in our poetry competition that we ran. More recently I visited again in 2019 and these are the picture you can see. I understand that next year, 2022, if things go to plan, you will be able to climb the mast again. Good luck if you want to try that but otherwise just join the 150,000+ visitors and take a walk around a piece of history.



  11. Richard Remembers
  12. Despite my three trips around the English coast, I only ever visited Bristol once, on my first trip. My main memory is of a visit to, and a drive across, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I may have mentioned, several times, that I don't like heights and this could be why I remember driving across. The bridge spans the Avon Gorge linking Clifton, in Bristol, to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. It opened in 1864.

    The bridge is 412 metres long, 9.4 metres wide and is just over 100 metres above the high water level of the River Avon. The build of the bridge is based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel although by the time it opened in 1864 Isambard had gone to the great kingdom in the sky. He died in 1859.

    The two towers at each end are not actually identical. The Clifton tower has side cut-outs while the Leigh tower has more pointed arches. The bridge deck is supported by 162 vertical wrought iron rods, 81 on each side. I would have preferred to check out each one but time did not allow so I just looked ahead and drove across. I may have missed some lovely views. Today the bridge is a toll bridge. You can also walk across if sanity is not a quality you possess

    The centre of Bristol has many waterways and a trip out on the River Avon is to be recommended. If nothing else you can look at the various waterfront restaurants and decide where you will have your evening meal.

    The one historical downside to Bristol is its involvement in the slave trade. From 1700 to 1807 more than 2,000 slave ships carried over half a million people from Africa to America. Recently a statue of Edward Colston, the man who gave his name to the bun in the "eats" section and who was a merchant in the city and made a fortune from the slave trade, was pulled down, defaced and pushed into Bristol Harbour. It was during the Black Lives Matter protest. I have two problems here. To me, all lives matter; black, white, brown, male, female, every human being matters. I find it hard to understand how we can put right a prejudice that has existed against certain groups of people who have been treated differently by making these people different. We should try now to treat every indiidual with equal respect regardless of their colour, beliefs, sex or race.

    Secondly I do not believe that we can correct history by destroying things which remind us of the wrongs done. The slave trade was abhorrent and inhuman but it happened. Standards were different then which is not in any way to excuse those standards. We talk a lot about equality so do we condemn Jesus for having no female disciples? What we should do is look at how we live our lives now and having reminders of the wrongs done in the past is a good way of not repeating them. I would have left the statue and put a plaque on it explaining how Colston made his money, how the slave trade was so wrong and maybe put some figures there on the plaque to emphasis the cruelty that was carried out. Or maybe just as the intelligent young lady has done in the photo below. Washing our hands of the past and removing it makes the wrongs that were done far less potent, far less of a reminder of how bad people can be. Sorry, just had to say that.



  13. Owlbut's Birdwatch
  14. You can see starlings all year round almost everywhere. There are nearly 2 million breeding pairs and large numbers arrive in the autumn to winter here. They are smaller than blackbirds and have a pointed head, triangular wings and a short tail.

    Although they look black, if you get closer you can see they have a glossy sheen which includes purples and greens. The feathers of young birds are black, brown and white. They all have brown and pink legs and a black, thin and powerful beak. They eat fruit and invertebrates, which are small animals without a back bone. Starlings spend a lot of time in flocks and can often be seen flying together. They are still one of the commonest garden birds although it is a red list species.

    Starlings are 21 cms in length, have a wingspan of between 37 and 42 cms and can weigh between 75 and 90 grams.

We have asked the local Tourist Board(s) for a small contribution (50 pounds) to the cost of running this project and, in anticipation of their agreement, we are providing a link to their site(s) for the next five years. I can assure you we won't see anywhere near everything when we are there, so, if you fancy taking a trip into Bristol check it (them) out for some great information. Apart from anything else it will get you out in the fresh air, walking around and one day you might be over 70 and still enthusiastically mobile.

All figures the latest available as at July 2020