Cumberland Basin


Graces Guide to Cumberland Basin Bridges

Cumberland Basin Samuel Jackson C1828

Hotwell from Rownham Hill – WH Bartlett – c1840
SS_Great_Britain_by_William Talbot April 1844 Wickipedia
SS Great Britain at Cumberland Basin April 1844 by William Henry Fox Talbot

According to Wickipedia this is the first known photograph of a ship.

Screenshot-2018-2-26 The Cumberland Basin by E T Dolby, 1850s
Cumberland Basin in 1850s by ET Dolby
'Mary Ann Peters' 31 March 1857
The ‘Mary Ann Peters’ awaiting the tide just outside Cumberland Basin 31 March 1857 – Reece Winstone

The buildings behind the ship in the picture above were lost in 1873 when Howards Lock was built.

Cumberland Basin between 1858 and 1873
Brunels Lock between 1858 and 1873 with Rownham Ferry in original position – Reece Winstone
Juverna c 1867 – Bristol Museums Keen Collection 619

Juverna arriving from Ireland with tug Alert with passengers for Rownham Ferry assembled at new place upstream to allow new entrance to Floating Harbour to be constructed.

Brunels Lock from Rownham between 1843 and 1873
Brunels Outer Lock 1844 to 1873 – Reece Winstone

Cumberland Basin before 1873 improvements - Reece Winston

Cumberland Basin C 1870 jpg
Cumberland Basin C 1870
Cumberland Basin 1865 to 1870 Paul T
Brunels Lock 1865 to 1870 from Rownham


Modifying the Quay Wall for Howards Lock 1872 - Reece Winstone
Modifying the Quay Wall for Howards Lock in 1872 – Reece Winstone
Possibly Howards junction lock 1873
Possibly Howards Junction Lock 1873 – Bristol Archives
Rownham Ferry c 1875 R W
Rownham Ferry 1875 – Reece Winstone
Cumberland Basin Merimac Pleasure and Tug Boat 1880s R W
SS Merrimac pleasure steamer and tug 1880s – Reece Winstone
Cumberland Basin Tug Peri 1880s R W
Tug Peri at Cumberland Basin 1880s – Reece Winstone
Isambard Brunel’s first iron steam vessel 1832 a dredger which used a blade like structure to scrape mud away from the quaysides- Bristol Museum Keen Collection 8-135
Howards inner junction lock at Cumberland Basin
Howards inner junction lock to Cumberland Basin
PABX3331 c1890 Water rushes through the sluice gates of the dam built about 1890 to close off Brunel’s lock, Cumberland Basin.

The funnel and masts of a steamship can be seen in the Basin beyond. To the left are the houses of Hotwells, and above the lock footbridge the clock tower of the Harbour Master’s house can just be seen.

Rownham Ferry Ashton Meadows Fair 1890s R W
Rownham Ferry Ashton Meadows Fair 1890s – Reece Winstone
Steam Tug Star beside Howards Junction Lock 1871 Behind Pump House Cattle sheds and slaughter house c 1900 – Bristol Museums Keen Collection 7-51
Cumberland Basin from Rownham Hill circa 1900
Rownham Ferry 1906
Rownham Ferry c1906 with Ashton Avenue Bridge nearly built. The ferry had moved South by 1973 as part of the opening of Howards Entrance Lock. It eventually ceased operating in 1932.
Steam tugs in “Upper end Cumberland Basin” . By S Loxton, 1912. Bristol Central Reference Library.
Steam tugs in Upper end Cumberland Basin By S Loxton  – 1912 – Bristol Central Reference Library.
Cumberland Basin 1929 Paul T

PBA545 Aug 1935 Seen from the outer end of Brunel’s entrance lock, ss ‘Montreal City’ is leaving the City Docks with m.t. Volunteer as stern tug. The lock gates are shown open in the photograph. The Clifton Suspension Bridge can be seen in the background, as can the houses of Hotwells and Clifton. At far left is Wellington Cottage; demolished in the 1950s, this was the last surviving dwelling on the Rownham side. – Bristol Museums Galleries and Archives

PBA487 Aerial view of the Cumberland Basin July 1934  – shows houses and churches, bridges and roads, as well as the cargo berths and fixed and movable bridges and entrance locks.
Holland Steamship Co. “Vechstroom”entering City Docks.
Dock Cottages at Brunels Junction Lock 1930s - Bristol Archives
Dock Cottages at Brunel’s Junction Lock 1930s – Bristol Archives
PBAN9647b The greek vessel Panagiotis 9 on the gridiron at Cumberland Basin
PBAN3414, Norwegian coaster Lindhaug in Cumberland Basin in deep ice outbound under tow from John King.
Cumberland Basin 1946 Paul T

To the left of the middle of this picture you can see Merchants Dock, built in 1768 as Champions Dock. Its entrance was blocked off in 1965 and it was built over in the 1980s for the Rownham Mead housing development.

Above it is Hotwell Dock built in 1770 as Stotherts Shipyard and now Pooles Wharf Marina.

PBAN4685 22 April 1965 Mooring bollard bearing Society of Merchant Venturers – Bristol on the top. Evidently little used by the time of this photo – Merchants Dock


Cumberland Basin from Rownham Hill 1950s - Bristol Archives
Cumberland Basin from Rownham Hill 1950s – Bristol Archives
Dock Masters House 1858 to 1964
The Dock Masters House, built in 1858, had to be demolished in 1964 to build Brunel Way and Plimsoll Bridge
cumberland basin 1949 rw
Cumberland Basin 1949 – Reece Winstone
PBA2003 Shipping held up in Cumberland Basin, City Docks owing to fog. 20/21 January 1953  -Tug “Sea Prince” vessels “Longboat”, “Spaarnestroom“ & “Pluto”.
PBAN6794 The tug John King towing the submarine Grampus towards the Cumberland Basin lock.

Clifton Suspension Bridge in the background and bust of Samuel Plimsoll to right of picture.

PBAN1697 Admiralty Diving Bell YC466, built by Charles Hill, being towed from Bristol for Gibraltar – entrance lock.

The Georgian building in the background (beyond the Ladies’ Waiting Room) was originally the Lower Assembly Room, a fashionable meeting place in the heyday of the spa at Hotwells. At the time of this photograph it was a school, soon to be demolished for the Cumberland Basin road scheme.

PBAN8943AThe 1962 bust of Samuel Plimsoll alongside the Portway at Hotwells , near the Cumberland Basin entrance lock. A small coaster, “Arlingham”, is passing by.
PBAN3317 Holland Steamship Co. vessel Vechtstroom outbound, passing the bust of Samuel Plimsoll at Hotwells 1963
PBAN3572,Russian training cargo ship mv “Zenit“ entering lock at Cumberland Basin. C1960
PBAN2313 From Rownham Hill of Cumberland Basin and City Docks entrance lock with Ystroom outbound.
PBAN3189 Lord Mayor unveiling bust of Samuel Plimsoll alongside Portway at Cumberland Basin lock. 1962

Plimsoll was born in Colston Parade, Redcliffe in 1824 and was MP for Derby 1868-1880. He died 1898. His untiring efforts to improve the safety of ships led to the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1875 and 1876, which made load-lines compulsory.

The bust is now at Porto Quay.

PBAP2298 1972 National Dock Labour Board training school at Avon Quay, Hotwells – dockworkers learning to handle cargo gear
Cumberland Basin 1962 - Reece Winston
Cumberland Basin 1964 – Just before Brunel Way – Reece Winstone
Building Brunel Way 1964 RW
Building Cumberland Basin Bridges 1964 – Reece Winstone
Cumberland Basin Swing Bridge with Howards 1870 bridge in foreground 1964 RW
Cumberland Basin Swing Bridge with Howards 1870 Swing Bridge in foreground  1964          Reece Winstone
PBAX 2628 c1964 Cumberland Basin Road Scheme under construction. Bristol Gate below on the left, Cabot Way flyover on the right. Rose of Denmark pub visible.
PBAX 2630 c1964 Cumberland Basin Road Scheme under construction. Bennett Way at left, curving towards the Portway from the future Plimsoll Bridge (behind camera). Bristol Gate below,
heading for the city. Former Stork Hotel (18th century) at far left, a remnant of old Hotwells; Lady Haberfield’s Almshouses on the right.
PBAX 2632 c1964 Cumberland Basin Road Scheme under construction. Cabot Way rises from the left, Humphry Davy Way from the right
PBAX 2637 c1964 Cumberland Basin Road Scheme under construction. Bennett Way ahead, curving toward Hotwell Road.

The Cumberland Basin Scheme was constructed between February 1963 and April 1965 and was officially opened to traffic on 14th April 1965. The overall cost of construction of the scheme was £2,650,000.

Cumberland Basin Road system 1966
Cumberland Basin Road System 1966 – Reece Winstone
PBAN8710C Sir Winston Churchill in the entrance lock at Cumberland Basin
PBAN8710D Sir Winston Churchill leaving the entrance lock and moving into Cumberland Basin

Sir Winston Churchill schooner

Brunels Old Bridge 1849 2s
The wrought iron bridge – known as Brunel’s other bridge – was built in 1849 to take traffic over the lock at Cumberland Basin. In 1872 Howard was authorised to adapt Brunel’s bridge and install it to cross the north (Howard’s) Lock. The bridge needed to be shortened by 10 ft, and the counterweights adjusted. The lock was opened for traffic on 19 July 1873. At some point the bridge was converted to hydraulic operation. The bridge is owned by Bristol City Council and was decommissioned in 1968 after the construction of the Plimsoll Bridge. It remains on the dock under Plimsolls Bridge.

The bridge is listed Grade ll* and is on Historic England’s Register of Structures at Risk. In 2019 it was announced that Brunel’s Bridge is to be “saved” with a £62,000 grant from Historic England.

Find out more about the bridge at Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society (BIAS)

PBAN10428 Brunel’s old bridge at Cumberland Basin in its swung position
PBAN10429 The fixed bridge spanning Brunel’s entrance lock at Cumberland Basin
PBAN1999 View of Brunel lock with bridge.1960s
Brunels South Lock blocked off under Brunel Way s
The bridge now permanently closed across the sealed south lock (Brunel’s Lock) under Plimsolls Bridge (known as the ‘Replica Bridge’) is the same bridge that was installed there in 1875-1876.
Looking out to the Avon from Brunels Junction Lock
Former Entrance to Merchant Dock Rownham Mead
Entrance to former Merchants Dock at Rownham Mead



Part of original Junction Dock Gate from 1870 at Princes Wharf

Howards Junction Lock at Floating Harbour level 2
Howard Junction Lock
Howards Junction Lock at Floating Harbour level
Howards Junction LockHowards Junction Lock at River Avon level

Howards Junction Entrance Lock approaching from East under Plimsoll Bridge

Howards Lock from South

Howards Junction Entrance Lock approaching from West

Plimsoll Bridge from Cumberland Basin
Plimsoll Bridge opened in 1965

Plimsoll Swing Bridge open

Plimsoll Bridge opening

Cumberland Basin late 1970s –  Jane Fewtrell
Novia Scotia Yard and Brunels Junction Lock
Novia Scotia Yard and Brunels Junction Lock
Merchants Road Bridge from South 2012
Merchants Road Swing Bridge and Pump House

Merchants Road swing bridge, was built by John Lysaght in 1925.

The Pump House 2014
The Pump House 2014

The Pump House was built in 1873 by Thomas Howard as a Hydraulic Pumping House to provide power to the bridges and machines of Bristol Harbour. It was replaced by the hydraulic engine house at Underfall Yard in the 1888. It became a Pub in the early 1980s.

In 2018 the City Council referred to the Cumberland Basin area as ‘Western Harbour’ and launched a development proposal covering 15 to 20 hectares of land, 75% of which is already owned by the council. The white line on the photograph below shows the land in question which includes the 1960 road system which would have to be replaced.

western harbour development land

western harbour model

The land would be used for leisure and housing as depicted in the council model above.

Harbour Hopes

Public consultation as of Spring 2022:

Cumberland Bridge 2023

September 2023

Councillors have approved more than £4.2m of work on a swing bridge and road network after fears it could suffer a “catastrophic failure”.
A report said the Cumberland Basin in Bristol was “no longer approved in the UK for any new proposed highway structures” due to high safety risks.
Bristol City Council members approved the funding to carry out inspections and maintenance work.
Repairs are expected to last five years. The Cumberland Basin carried two-and-a-half times the volume of traffic anticipated when it was built, the report added.