Bristol City Docks

A Thousand Years of History

Living on Bristol City Docks, or what these days is referred to as ‘Harbourside’, has left me fascinated by its long and colourful history. I have tried to discover how it has evolved over the last thousand years starting with the first known map which dates from 1066.

Bristol in 1066

The next stage was to scour the internet, books and Bristol Library and Museum for information to piece together the evolution and history of the docks up until the present day. To date this has been a very imperfect job because there are many sources which cover different fractions of the whole, often with gaps and contradictions. The information will therefore include plenty of omissions and errors which I would be pleased to add and correct if anybody draws them to my attention.


Undoubtedly Bristol Docks have been constantly changing over time but, what the significant changes were and, how many ages there were, is a matter of conjecture and opinion. So the following is a gross simplification trying to portray the evolution over history. This page divides the history the Bristol Docks into seven eras.

The Seven Ages of Bristol Docks

The maps of the waterways between the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Totterdown lock are hand drawn from a number of sources so should be regarded as representations rather than properly surveyed maps. Inevitably older maps will be less accurate than modern ones.

Over the thousand years the shape of Bristol Docks has been constantly changing see

The Changing Shape of Bristol Docks

Also the infrastructure bridges, railways has changed see

Building Bridges

Finally the names of parts of the Bristol Docks have been under constant change see

What’s in a Name?

Each of these main pages are linked to other pages which contain information and pictures about particular areas of Bristol City Docks. There are 28 sections of the docks listed below – each linked to the relevant page.

A Chronological List of Key Events in the History of Bristol Docks

Albion Dockyard

Ashton Avenue Bridge

Baltic Wharf



Bristol Bridge

Bristol Frome

Castle Green

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Cumberland Basin

Finzels Reach

Great Western Dockyard

Hanover Quay

Mardyke Wharf

Pooles Wharf

Porto Quay

Princes Wharf

Redcliffe Wharf and Bridge

Spike Island

St Augustines Reach

St Phillips Marsh


Temple Meads

The Grove


Underfall Yard

Wapping Railway Wharf

Welsh Back

A number of the wonderful pictures in these sections come from the Reece Winstone collection. Reece Winstone FRPS (1909–1991) was an English photographer from Bedminster, Bristol.

He published 36 books of photographs of Bristol dating from the birth of photography up until 1988. Copies of his books and photographs can be obtained from his son John via the website:



SS GB 2011 s
SS Great Britain in Great Western Dockyard where it was originally launched in 1843