Over a thousand years ago Bristol's harbour developed around the lowest bridging point of the River Avon. The exceptional tidal range of the Severn Estuary and Avon carried laden ships into the city and scoured the river of silt.
Local trade flourished between Bristol, South Wales, the Severn ports and Ireland. During the Middle ages the port grew in prestige, trading with the Atlantic seaboard, Iceland and the Mediterranean. The American colonies brought more opportunities for Bristol merchants including the notorious slave trade to the West Indies.
As ships became larger and trade increased the quay space became overcrowded and when the water drained away at low tide the ships lay grounded in the mud. Finally the Bristol Docks Company adopted the proposals of engineer William Jessop to create a non-tidal harbour.
The 'Floating Harbour', constructed between 1804 and 1809, trapped the water behind lock gates allowing ships to remain floating at all times.
A memory shared byon Dec 5th, 2009.
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