64 Brilliant Facts About Bristol

Interesting and fun facts about Bristol, England, United Kingdom

This article contains a wide range of fun facts about Bristol, or Bristle/Brizzle, as the locals call it. Bristol is one of England’s most historically rich and culturally vibrant cities, with nearly 1,000 years of port history. Wondering what else Bristol is known for? Let’s dive right in.

General Bristol Facts

  • With a population of about 500,000 (or 700,000 in Greater Bristol), Bristol is the largest city in southwest England and 11th most populous in the UK.
  • Bristol is bordered by the ceremonial counties of Gloucestershire to the north and Somerset to the south. It is on the River Avon, which empties into the Bristol Channel 10 km (6.2 mi) away.
  • Locals from Bristol are known as Bristolians.
  • One of the most unique things about Bristol is its dialect. Not only is Bristolian English rhotic (meaning they pronounce the r sound in words like card, unlike many other parts of England), but they also add an L sound to the end of words ending with a vowel.
  • Legend has it that, based on the above-mentioned fact, ‘Bristol’ was originally named ‘Brigstow.’
  • Bristol’s name is likely a direct translation from the archaic Welsh phrase “fort on the chasm.” In old English, this was translated to “Brycgstow.”
Bristol Coat of Arms
The Bristol Coat of Arms (the city does not have a flag)
  • Bristol was named the best city in Britain in which to live in 2014 and 2017 for a large number of reasons, from culture and history to arts and food.
  • Bristol is one of the greenest cities in Europe, having won the European Green Capital Award in 2015. It was named the UK’s most environmentally friendly city in 2017.
  • Bristol was one of England’s most important ports for nearly 1000 years, with many important explorers taking off from there.

Random Interesting Facts

  • 36 towns and cities around the world are named after Bristol, 29 of which are in the US.
  • Before Britain took up GMT as their standard time, Bristol had its own time zone which was 10 minutes later than London. Needless to say, their train schedule was a mess!
Bristol pound notes
Bristol’s own pound notes
  • Bristol had its own currency! Made in 2012 to support local businesses, the Bristol pound was equal to the Pound sterling and was the most successful local currency in the UK. It was discontinued in August 2020.
  • Bristol is responsible for an idiom that points to its history as a major port of England: “Shipshape and Bristol fashion,” which means something is in neatly organized and/or secure. It is actually a combination of what were originally two separate phrases.
  • Bristol has over 400 parks and gardens in its 110 km². No wonder it’s considered one of the greenest in the country!
Green grass of Brandon Hill Park in Bristol with residential buildings behind it.
Brandon Hill Park, one of around 400 parks in the city
  • It was also named the World Vegan Capital by Chef’s Pencil for its vegan community, food, and even scenery. It was also found to have the most online searches related to veganism of any city and has a dedicated Vegan and Wellness Market.
  • Bristol was also crowned the Best Culinary Destination by the World Food Travel Association in 2019.
  • The Colston bun is a local Bristol specialty named after merchant and slaver Edward Colston.
A fancy dessert on a table at Casamia restaurant in Bristol
Fine dining at Casamia in Bristol (“Blood orange, rosemary – Casamia – Bristol” by myfrozenlife is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
  • Bristol is also know for its film industry, bringing in over £140 million per year. UNESCO named it a City of Film after the city’s bid for the title in 2016.
  • Some of the biggest names in the UK film industry were/are Bristolians, including Cary Grant, Russell Howard, and pornstar Cathy Barry.
  • The ultimate movie database, IMDb, was created by the Bristolian Col Needham. After the booming success and Amazon’s acquisition of the website, its offices were moved to Seattle. The founder still operates from his office in Bristol.
  • Three of the cast members of the ground-breaking show, Game of Thrones, were born and raised in Bristol. They are Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), and Hannah Murray (Gilly).
Three Bristol actors/actresses from Game of Thrones
Three Game of Thrones stars from Bristol
  • J.K. Rowling, writer of the Harry Potter series, was born in Yates, just outside of Bristol.
  • David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films, was from Bristol.
  • Famous bands and musicians from Bristol include Massive Attack, Roni Size, Portishead (actually from the town of the same name near Bristol), Eats Everything, Nick Sheppard (from the Clash), and punk legends Vice Squad.
  • The largest street art festival in Europe, Upfest, is held in Bristol every August.
  • Some of the most popular graffiti artists in the world are from Bristol, including Banksy, Inkie, and Cheo.
Famous street mural called Well Hung Lover by Banksy in Bristol.
Banksy’s street art can be seen all over Bristol, including “Well Hung Lover”
  • One thing Bristol is still struggling to improve to this day is its issues when it comes to equality. The county ranked 7th out of 348 districts in England on the Index of Racial Inequality in education and employment.
  • Bristol is home to the biggest producers of hot air balloons in the world, Cameron Balloons. It also hosts one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals around the world, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
  • Bristol Zoo is the 5th oldest in the world, open since 1836 (it is only surpassed by zoos in Vienna, Paris, London, and Dublin). Since opening, it has saved over 175 species from extinction. If you do the math, this equates to almost one species a year!
The leaning tower of Bristol behind a street scene
Bristol’s own leaning tower (“Bristol: Temple Church (Holy Cross Church)” by michaelday_bath is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)
  • Bristol has its own leaning tower, West Tower of Temple Church, with only one degree less inclination than the leaning tower of Pisa. It is leaning due to bomb damage from WWII.
  • Bristol’s Avon Gorge is home to some of the rarest, most incredible plants, trees, animals, and birds around the world. It has eight trees that exist exclusively in the county, such as the Bristol Whitebeam tree.

Historical Facts

  • Neanderthal tools have been found in the area of Bristol dating to as early as 300,000 years ago.
  • In the Iron Age, forts were built on hills near Bristol.
Exterior of Bristol Museum
Bristol Museum, established in 1823, covers the early history of the area, among many other exhibits.
  • In the Roman period, a Roman settlement called Abona was built in the modern Bristol suburb of Sea Mills and was connected to Bath by a Roman road. There was also a Roman fleet stationed in the nearby Bristol Channel.
  • By around the year 1000, Bristol was a fortified settlement and minted its own silver pennies.
  • Following Norman invasion (1066), Bristol had one of the largest castles in southern England.
  • Around this time, the Port of Bristol was also built, at the confluence of the Rivers From and Avon, just outside of the fortified settlement.
  • Bristol Cathedral was established in 1140, but has been rebuilt and added to many times over the centuries.
  • There was an important Jewish community from the late 12th to late 13th centuries, until all the Jews were expelled from England.
Ruins of St. Peter Church in Castle Park, Bristol
St. Peter’s Church in Castle Park has a foundation going back to 1106.
  • Near the port, Bristol Bridge was built over the Avon in 1247. The bridge was rebuilt in the 1760s and remains to this day,
  • By the 1300s (medieval period), Bristol was one of the largest towns in England after London.
  • In 1348-1349, 30-50% of Bristol’s inhabitants died from the Black Death plague.
  • Bristol was the second biggest port in England in the 15th century, with trading routes to France, Iceland, and Ireland.
  • John Cabot, a merchant and an explorer, sailed from Bristol in 1497 and ended up in Newfoundland, Canada and settled there. He got funding and supplies for his journey from the merchants of Bristol, who continued to support the new settlement for years to come.
Bristol Harbour today
Bristol Harbour, where many famous explorers sailed off from
  • America may have been named after the Bristolian voyager and sheriff, Richard Amerike. He had a huge part in funding Cabot’s expedition. In fact, Amerike’s coat of arms even contained the iconic stars and stripes.
  • In the 1500s, trade of illicit items such as guns was a big part of Bristol’s economy.
  • If you’ve heard about Blackbeard, the world’s most notorious pirate, then you already know some Bristolian history. Born as Edward Teach or Thatch (1680–1718), Blackbeard was born in Bristol before becoming a world-famous pirate.
  • The first methodist chapel was founded by John Wesley in Bristol in 1739. He was also one of the first prominent figures to demand the abolition of slavery.
  • Unfortunately, Wesley’s attempts were unsuccessful, especially because of how much Bristol’s economy depended on the slave trade. It’s modestly estimated that 500,000 Africans went through Bristol’s port between 1700 and 1807.
Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol
Clifton Suspension Bridge was first opened in 1864.
  • The high tidal range of the Avon river in the 1800s meant that low tides grounded the ships in the port, which made them lie on one side.
  • In the 1800s, Bristol engineers built the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London Paddington, famous steamships SS Great Britain and SS Great Western, and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which has become a symbol of Bristol.
  • Bristol’s population grew by five times in the 1800s, leading to the growth of several suburbs.
  • As ships grew larger, the Port of Bristol on the River Avon was no longer feasible. Starting in 1877, the Port of Bristol began relocating to the Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Docks on the Bristol Channel. The original Bristol City Docks (also called the Floating Harbour) have since been converted for residences and leisure activities.
  • In the early 1900s, Bristol became a center of aircraft manufacturing.
Car driving past Wills Memorial Building in Bristol at night
Wills Memorial Building
  • A part of New York City was built with stone from Bristol. During WWII, Bristol suffered some heavy damage which resulted in a lot of rubble. This rubble was used by American ships to stay balanced on their trip home, and later used to build the Bristol Basin in New York City.
  • Bristol was bombed by the IRA in 1974 and 1978.
  • On June 7, 2020, a statue of Edward Colston, who was heavily involved in the slave trade, was removed and thrown into Bristol Harbour. It was later recovered and will be put in a museum.
  • In 2022, Bristol introduced a Clean Air Zone to combat air pollution in the city.

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