Another of the fine houses in Hotwells
Hotwells from the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The image above shows some of the buildings discussed on these pages. The main road is the A4 or Portway which runs from Bristol to the industrial complex and port at Avonmouth. The old wharfs for the White Funnel ferries are on the river side of the road. From the cliff-face in the bottom left of the picture can be seen the the entrance to the old Clifton Rocks Railway. Between that and the white wall is the lower entrance to the Zig Zag which leads up to Clifton. Just beyond that can be seen the curving frontage of the building standing where the pump rooms used to be. As the road curves to the left, on the riverside is where the bust of Samuel Plimsoll is situated. Beyond that can be seen the first of the lock gates leading into the Floating Harbour. Beyond and above the lock gates is the Cumberland Basin road system and it's swing bridge. Beyond that are the massive, red brick bonded warehouses. These were built in the early 1900's and used to store tobacco. The tobacco stored here hadn't yet had customs duty imposed on it and so these warehouses were bonded to the Customs and Excise. The leftmost warehouse is named "B" and is now the home of the Bristol Records Office. The other two are used as storage facilities.
Walking alongside the river, at the entrance to the City docks, there is a bust of one of the sailors great benefactors, Samuel Plimsoll.
Samuel Plimsoll was born in Colston Parade, next to St Mary Redcliffe church, in 1824. He became the Member of Parliament for Derby in 1868 and campaigned to stop the practice of unscrupulous ship owners of sending grossly overladen or unseaworthy vessels out to sea. They often did this in the knowledge that they would be amply covered by insurance should the ship be lost. His load-line for ships, known as the Plimsoll Line, became part of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876. Once this act had been passed he resigned from his seat in Parliament but continued to pursue the issues affecting sailors until his death in 1898. This bust, in honour of him, was erected in 1963.
The Floating Harbour
By 1802 the city docks were losing trade and were badly in need of improvement, William Jessop proposed a bold scheme to try and reverse the dock's fortunes. He planned to turn the rivers Frome and Avon into a floating harbour with an area of 70 acres. The amount of work involved was huge. A basin, known as Cumberland Basin had to be dug for the actual docks, lock gates had to be installed at the entrance, a dam had to be built at Totterdown, a channel had to be dug for the Avon around the harbour, this was known as the New Cut, and the Feeder Canal had to be dug from the dam at Totterdown to the river Avon at St Annes. Work began in 1803, the cost was estimated to be £300,000, but by the time it was finished in 1809 the actual cost was £580,000. This still wasn't enough and in 1865 and in 1870 new, larger locks and wharves had to be installed and the facilities upgraded.
The entrance to the Floating Harbour from under the swing bridge at Cumberland Basin
One of the sluices holding back the millions of gallons of water of the Floating Harbour
The reason these sluices and the lock gates are so massive is that the river Avon has the second highest tidal range in the world of 50ft.
The highest tidal ranges are found in the Bay of Fundy.
For quite a while I've been trying to find roughly how many gallons of water the floating Harbour contains but without success, it doesn't seem to appear anywhere. Here's a rough estimate that I did...
Depending on what you read, the Floating Harbour covers an area of somewhere between 70 and 80 acres. An acre contains 43,560 square feet. Now suppose that only half of the area is actually water, the rest are docks, wharves etc. Lets say a total water area of 40 acres. That's 1,742,400 square feet of water area. The harbour has a depth of around 20ft, thats 34,848,000 cubic feet of water. Each cubic foot fo water contains 7.48 gallons of water. so, at a minimum the Floating Harbour contains 260,663,040 gallons of water.
Once you reach this point of the river, if you look back there is a magnificent view of the gorge.
The Avon Gorge from Cumberland Basin
The old gas works at Hotwells - now in the process of being demolished
The gas works was founded by the Bristol and Clifton Oil Gas Company in 1824 to produce gas from oil, mainly whale oil. The works expanded and the buildings which can be seen on the site today date to the 1870s.
This page created 5th May 2000, last modified 15th September 2011