Following my last post featuring the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I’ll stay in Bristol for a couple of days.
This vintage illustration, dating from 1904, shows Brunel’s masterpiece looming over the river Avon at Hotwells with several excursion paddle steamers berthed at the landing stages. A scene buzzing with activity before the steamers retreat down river with the tide.
In complete contrast, here is a photograph of the same area as it appeared from the bridge in 2007.
The old wooden stages sit abandoned and rotting alongside Hotwell Road. If you aren’t familiar with Bristol, you may wonder how this area got it’s name. The curved building on the left, known as the Colonnade and built as a shopping arcade in 1786, holds the answer in a plaque mounted on the wall – “Out of the river mud near this spot rose the famous hot spring that brought many visitors here in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries in search of health and entertainment. Two pump rooms stood near here. The first was demolished in 1822 and its successor in 1867.” Find more detail in Mark Gee’s informative article about Hotwells’ Georgian history.
In the bottom left corner of the photograph, beside the Colonnade, you can see the concrete-reinforced facade of the Clifton Rocks Railway, opened in 1893.
A group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers has been working to retrieve the history of this unique piece of industrial heritage from rubble filled tunnels. Check their progress on their web site and maybe become a ‘friend’ of the organization. It’s been a registered charity since 2008.