Bristol Avon – Severn to Sea Walls


Bristol Avon from Severn to Sea Walls
View towards the Severn from Durdham Down – Nicholas Pocock – 1781

The winding Avon from the mouth at the River Severn down to the Port of the City of Bristol has always been both the blessing and the curse for Bristol. Blessing because it was easier to defend and sheltered; curse because of the massive tidal range and the sharp bends. It was why Bristol City Docks moved from important international port to City Centre leisure and housing as commercial shipping got too large for the river. See Seven Ages of Bristol Docks.

HMS Formidable

Panorama of the River Avon to Portishead (1902)

This journey down the Avon gorge was filmed from the riverbank, from a boat and from the Portishead railway. Among views of the estuary, the cargo ship Vera and the fine wooden warship Formidable (then a training ship), Portishead docks and the entrance to the Clifton Rocks Railway. This underground funicular railway linked the town to the riverbank just below the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Fans of Bill Morrison’s Decasia will appreciate the haunting beauty of the decayed nitrate, which makes HMS Formidable appear like a ghost-ship, shrouded in a mysterious white fog.

British Film Institute – Recommended by Simon Boddy

SS Ettrick aground at Horseshoe Bend 1924 – Reece Winstone

On the banks of the River Avon stands the Old Powder House. It was built in 1775-6 to store gunpowder, which was not allowed into Bristol docks lest it ignite by accident in the crowded Bristol docks, thereby setting fire to every ship in the city! It is a grade II listed building.

The Old Gunpowder House Shirehampton

Avon Gorge looking over Clifton – Francis Danby
Sea Walls and River Avon from the Downs
Avon Gorge from beneath Sea Walls-Francis Danby 1820
Rail and Road Bridges at Sea Mills 2014
The Avon from Sea Walls – Alfred Oliver Townsend
The Avon Gorge – Francis Danby

PBAN6454 The River Avon from below St.Vincent’s Rocks from a drawing by S C Jones. – c1850
PBA394. ‘Erling Lindoe’ outward bound with s.t. Bristol Scout acting as stern tug.

PBAN3593 Bristol Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. MV Apollo rounding Horseshoe Bend.
PBA777 SS Toronto City outward bound under tow from tug John King ahead and tug Volunteer at stern
PBA1703 SS Starling coming up river and SS Hervor Bratt outward bound
PBAN7865 Russian ship Verkhoyansk on its way from the City Docks
PBAN5113 Historical picture of the cutter Bristol Pilot 4 anchored in Pill Creek. In the background is the Rowles boatyard with a hull on the slipway and Customs House – by Emma Millicent Canby

Crockerne Pill Placard to John Ray 1497 – PBA N6787

Pill was called Crockerne Pill up until 1828.

Lamp Lighters Inn ferry operated until 1974 from Pill to Shirehampton – PBA P1404
Bob Brown Last Ferryboat Owner

In 1968  Mr Bob Brown (? local licensee) took the ferry over until it closed after the Avon Bridge had been opened and people could use their cars in a more direct route to Avonmouth. Mr Sharp took the last boat across at 10.20p.m. on 1st November 1974.

See Pill Ferry.

Bristol Ferry Boats –Margaret

Margaret was built in 1952 by Hinks of Appledore, North Devon to replace a passenger launch wrecked along with 9 others in the devastating Lynmouth flood of August 1952. She was originally used to transport passengers from the North Devon Beach to the pleasure steamers anchored offshore.

As the pleasure steamer trade declined Margaret made her way to the River Avon where she became one of the Lamplighter / Pill ferries taking dock workers across the river between Shirehampton and Pill.

The Avonmouth Motorway Bridge opened in 1974 and Margaret was in danger of being left to rot on the mud. As the potential for a revived passenger ferry service in Bristol was realised she was bought by the City Docks Venturers in 1977 – rescued and renovated she became the first of Bristol’s famous Yellow and Blue Ferry Boats.

Pill Hobblers – PBA N 5112

Pill Hobblers History