Fascinating facts for every day of the year
Eugene Byrne leafs through a little book with an interesting fact about Bristol for every day of the year
TODAY is July 5 (if you’re reading this on the day of BT’s publication), and so is the 186th day of 2022. Here is a fact for today:
There are three “Brunel bridges” in Bristol.
Brunel’s “Other Bridge”, as it has come to be known, was a swing bridge used in the Cumberland Basin between 1849 and 1968. It is located near Plimsoll Bridge which now carries traffic over the basin via the A370.
Although the “Other, Other Bridge” is less well-known, if you use the Great Western Mainline, you may have crossed it more often than the Suspension Bridge itself. The Avon Bridge is a Gothicinspired masonry railway bridge which carries the mainline over the River Avon into Temple Meads.
Described by Grace’s Guide as an “under-appreciated Cinderella of a bridge, a fine masonry structure hidden by two ugly sisters”, it is one of Bristol’s 100 Grade I listed structures.
❝ I got a bit carried away and ended up writing quite an extensive history of the house I was living in, which revealed all sorts of unexpected twists and turns I had known nothing about before. Off the back of that, I started this book
That’s from Know Bristol: A compendium of 365 Bristol Facts by local history enthusiast Ashley Coates, whose day job is with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Ashley grew up in Bristol and has lived here all his life apart from university and six years as a journalist in London.
Returning to Bristol with a medical condition three years ago, he tells BT that he was “really determined to get the know the city better and I found that really absorbing.
“I got a bit carried away and ended up writing quite an extensive history of the house I was living in, which revealed all sorts of unexpected twists and turns I had known nothing about before. Off the back of that, I started this book.”
(For the house history, see ahousehistory.com – it’s well worth a look!)
“Some of the stuff in there falls into the category of ‘quirky local trivia’ but there is also content every Bristolian ought to know. I’m struck by how many people don’t realise that Castle Park used to be a shopping and residential district and that the park came about after the area was bombed during WWII. I wanted to make that sort of information really clear for people, without over-simplifying it too much. I hope that has been achieved.”
Aside from the house history, Ashley Coates has a lot of other previous form as a historian. As a teenager in the early noughties he ran a campaign to raise awareness of historic buildings in Bristol that were at risk. He also raised a few eyebrows (and laughs) some years ago by putting out excerpts from Queen Victoria’s diaries on Twitter each day.
Know Bristol is easy reading, best suited perhaps to those who know little of the city’s history but would like to find out more.
Of course, there will be a few things in it that even serious students of Bristol’s past didn’t know. For instance: “A Leigh
Woods resident built a room for boxing matches with local Gypsies” …
What’s the thing that Ashley Coates finds most interesting?
“The one that still amazes me was finding out that the city council seriously considered filling in a very large section of the Floating Harbour. “People often focus their displeasure at what the council does but sometimes we need to be grateful for what they don’t do. In their defence, the plan for a Central Road System would have gone a long way to alleviating the city’s traffic woes, and the docks were losing a lot of money at the time, but can you imagine the city without the docks?”
» Know Bristol: A compendium of 365 Bristol Facts by Ashley Coates launches on July 19 and will be free on Amazon Kindle for five days and discounted in paperback. The launch date was chosen to line up with the launch and return of the SS Great Britain.
It will also be available from the Waterstones website and other online retailers as well as from selected local bookshops in the coming months.