Book celebrates 200 years of Bristol's Floating Harbour

Issue date: 11 May 2009


Bristol's Floating Harbour: the first 200 years Bristol's Floating Harbour: the first 200 years by Peter Malpass and Andy King
Published by Redcliffe Press
Book launch – Benjamin Perry Boat House, Phoenix Quay, at the entrance to Redcliffe Caves, Bristol Harbourside 18.00 to 20.00 Tuesday 19 May 2009

Bristol's Floating Harbour: the first 200 years will be launched at a special event at Benjamin Perry Boat House, Phoenix Quay at the entrance to Redcliffe Caves, Bristol Harbourside on Tuesday 19 May 2009 during celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the opening of the Floating Harbour on 1 May 1809.

Enlarged illustrations from the book will be displayed at different points around the Harbour in a public exhibition designed to enhance peoples understanding of the history as they enjoy a stroll. Sponsorship for this new way marked route has been donated by the Merchant Venturers, Crest Nicoholson and Clarke Willmott Solicitors.

Professor Peter Malpass from the University of the West of England, has spent much of the last three years researching the history of the Floating Harbour in the archives of the Record Office and City Library. Working with Andy King, curator of industrial & maritime history for Bristol's Museums, Galleries & Archives, he has produced the first new history of the port for a generation. The book is lavishly illustrated with images drawn from the huge picture archive held by the Bristol Museums Galleries and Archives.

Peter Malpass said, “Much has been written about the maritime history of Bristol but we wanted to put together an account that traced the Floating Harbour from its beginnings to the present day transformation of the area from a working dock to a residential and leisure focus for the City of Bristol. The task required spending a lot of time with dusty old files and I am tremendously grateful to the staff of the Record Office for their help in uncovering the wealth of historical material that has been used in the book.”

“In delving through the records and looking at old photographs it's fascinating to observe how the docks were once a focus for the very hardest kind of labour. Images of men loading boats and giant cranes and ship building yards contrast with the expensive flats and bars of the present day. The Floating Harbour we see today is just part of a long, continuing and evolving story.

The book not only brings the story of the Floating Harbour right up to date but also reassesses the contributions of William and Josias Jessop, who built the Harbour in 1804-09, and later engineers such as I K Brunel and Thomas Howard who modified and improved it. The role of early 20th century dockers' leaders Ben Tillett and Ernest Bevin is also discussed.

The original construction of the Floating Harbour took place between 1804 and 1809 transforming the tidal rivers into a harbour where ships could remain afloat right in the centre of the city. As the authors point out in his opening paragraphs, “The citizens who celebrated the opening of the Floating Harbour with a feast in 1809 could not have foreseen how a project carried out for the purposes appropriate to that time, could be recycled and reinvented for entirely different purposes in the 21st century.” In the same way we can only speculate about what will happen over the next 200 years.

Bristol's Floating Harbour: the first 200 years by Peter Malpass and Andy King
Published by Redcliffe Press
Softback, 160pp, with colour and mono illustrations. £14.95. Publication May 19, 2009

For more information about other titles from Redcliffe Press who specialise in Bristol's History see
http://www.redcliffepress.co.uk

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