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Bristol | Place Names | Legends, Pre-history and the Romans | Birth of the City | 1100 Onwards | Voyages | 1450 Onwards | 1650 Onwards | 1700 Onwards | Riots | The Blitz (Page 1), (Page 2) | The Castle (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5), (Page 6) | Blaise Castle (Page 1), (Page 2) | Castle Green (Page 1), (Page 2) | Union Street | Broadmead | The Old City (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4) | Christmas Steps (Page 1), (Page 2) | St. Mary Redcliffe (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | College Green (Page 1), (Page 2) | King Street (Page 1), (Page 2) | Clifton (Page 1), (Page 2) | Avon Gorge (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Hotwells (Page 1), (Page 2) | City Docks (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Bedminster (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5), (Page 6), (Page 7) | Old Market (Page 1), (Page 2) | St. George (Page 1), (Page 2) | Temple (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Arno's Vale Cemetery (Page 1), (Page 2) | Brislington | @ Bristol | Oldest House | I. K. Brunel (Page 1), (Page 2) | Ma Pugsley | Yeamans | Boundaries (Page 1), (Page 2) | Photography | Exhibition (Page 1), (Page 2) | Lead Working | Historical Perspective | Virtute et Industrial | Other Sites | Bibliography (Page 1), (Page 2) | Help Wanted (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3)

Bristol - Bedminster 2

In 1841 the Bristol and Exeter Railway opened as far as Weston-Super-Mare bringing with it even more industry. The Malago provided the water supply for the factories. In the 1840's Capper Pass opened a factory near Mill Lane. The factory extracted solder, tin and lead from zinc slag. Capper Pass himself lived in Richmond Road, now Cotswold Road, the first street to be built on Windmill Hill. The factory, which employed around 180 men, lasted until some time after 1966 when it moved up north to a site on the River Humber. People grew so accustomed to the noise of the steam hammers that after a while, it was only commentated on if they stopped.

The population of Bedminster expanded enormously in the 19th century. People were attracted by the prospect of work in the coalfields and other industries, such as engineering, tanneries, glue making, paint factories and glass works, that grew up. The following figures are taken from the Bristol Mirror dated Saturday 7th August 1841:-

 

Male

Female

Total

1801

3,287

1821

3,830

4,149

7,979

1831

6,239

6,891

13,130

1841

8,698

9,164

17,862

1851

19,421

By the mid 1880's the population had quadrupled again. From around 3,000 in 1801 the population was 78,000 in 1884. In the 1880's Robinsons, the paper bag manufacturers, and W. D. and H. O. Wills, the tobacco business, moved into the district from Redcliffe.

To give some idea of the scale of the population at the time, in 1801, Bristol was the second largest city in the country with a population of 61,153.

Such a boom, over a relatively short period, brings a price. The priority was housing and this is why the districts of Windmill Hill and Totterdown were built on such outragious slopes. Summerhill in Totterdown has a gradient of 1 in 4!

Totterdown from the Bath Road

This is Totterdown from the Bath Road

Vale Street, Totterdown

This is Vale Street, Totterdown

To go driving around here you need good brakes and a good clutch.
If you walk then you need the heart and lungs of a horse.
This photograph was taken by Patty Waltermire, who finds this as unnerving as I find the miles of flat land in her home state of Indiana, USA.

The new districts of Windmill Hill, Totterdown, Southville, the Chessels and Bedminster Down, all built before the 1870's, were either enlarged or created. When the older houses in Bedminster were built not much attention was paid to the cleanliness or health of the occupants, these soon turned to slums and during the cholera epidemics of 1830 and 1846 more deaths occured in Bedminster than anywhere else in the city. In 1849 another epidemic killed 226 in the area, mostly from the old courts and alleys around Bedminster Parade.

Wills factory and Brightbow Cottages - 1890

Wills factory and Brightbow Cottages ~ 1890

In 1886, W. D. & H. O. Wills moved their tobacco business from Redcliffe to Bedminster. Pictured above and below is their No. 1 factory in East Street. It was built on the site of the old St Catherine's Hospital. The Brightbow cottages next door were always subject to flooding from the Malago which passed under East Street at this point. They were first condemned and then demolished after an outbreak of smallpox in 1890.

East Street - 2001

East Street ~ 2001

No 1 factory was extended and Factories Nos. 2, 3 and 4 were opened in the area throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but in 1988 the factories closed. Many people still remember their time at Wills, and it was generally considered one of the best employers in Bristol. East Street felt the loss of so many working people sharply and went into a decline it has never really recovered from. Most of the factories were demolished as was a large part of No 1 factory, but a large part of the facade was kept and the general style copied by the large supermarket that now covers the site.

Wills No 1 factory

Wills No 1 factory

Around 900 people once worked in this building alone. Will's once employed thousands of people in South Bristol.

Detail from colonade entrance

Detail from the colonade entrance - Will's No 1 factory - East Street

Bristol | Place Names | Legends, Pre-history and the Romans | Birth of the City | 1100 Onwards | Voyages | 1450 Onwards | 1650 Onwards | 1700 Onwards | Riots | The Blitz (Page 1), (Page 2) | The Castle (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5), (Page 6) | Blaise Castle (Page 1), (Page 2) | Castle Green (Page 1), (Page 2) | Union Street | Broadmead | The Old City (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4) | Christmas Steps (Page 1), (Page 2) | St. Mary Redcliffe (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | College Green (Page 1), (Page 2) | King Street (Page 1), (Page 2) | Clifton (Page 1), (Page 2) | Avon Gorge (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Hotwells (Page 1), (Page 2) | City Docks (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Bedminster (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3), (Page 4), (Page 5), (Page 6), (Page 7) | Old Market (Page 1), (Page 2) | St. George (Page 1), (Page 2) | Temple (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3) | Arno's Vale Cemetery (Page 1), (Page 2) | Brislington | @ Bristol | Oldest House | I. K. Brunel (Page 1), (Page 2) | Ma Pugsley | Yeamans | Boundaries (Page 1), (Page 2) | Photography | Exhibition (Page 1), (Page 2) | Lead Working | Historical Perspective | Virtute et Industrial | Other Sites | Bibliography (Page 1), (Page 2) | Help Wanted (Page 1), (Page 2), (Page 3)

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This page created 4th February 2001, last modified 5th May 2005