The Cut – The New Course of the Avon from 1809 – Spike Island


Spike Island

“The land roughly resembles a hand-made ‘spike’, the term used for stout iron nails at least four inches long used in shipbuilding and in war to ‘spike the enemy’s guns’ by blocking the touch-ho;le of a cannon.” – Paul Elkin – Images of Maritime Bristol

New Goal was commissioned in 1816 – only the gate house on Cumberland Road remains

New Gaol 1880s RW
New Gaol in 1880s – Reece Winstone


New Gaol & Bristol Cut at Southville C1890 – Bristol Archives


John Payne’s Bedminster Shipyard

John Payne shipyard operated on the Cut 1859 – 1924.

Tug from John Payne shipyard heading down river – Bristol Museums York Collection 3672

Bedminster Shipyard

Wapping Wharf development preserving New Goal Gateway 2019



Demolishing Gaol Cumberland Road 1898 R W
Demolishing the New Gaol at Wapping 1898 – Reece Winstone

In 1895, the New Gaol was sold to The Great Western Railway. Most of the buildings were demolished and replaced with a coal yard and railway sidings.

Railway alongside Cumberland Road 1957


West from Vauxhall Bridge 2019
West from Vauxhall Bridge 2019


Chocolate Path Collapse Jan 2020

Report on BBC 15th March 2021.

“A beam supporting a riverside walking route is so corroded that it is at risk of collapse, with potentially fatal consequences, according to a report.

Bristol City Council will spend £1m on replacing the steel beam underneath the Chocolate Path beside Cumberland Road.

A report by the council’s cabinet said the collapse of the path could cause the loss of the city’s Floating Harbour and ‘pose risk to life’.

The Chocolate Path itself is currently closed due to subsidence.

Bristol City Council has identified the beam, which supports the Chocolate Path where it crosses over the sluice gates from Underfall Yard*, as one of nearly a dozen structures in the city’s man-made waterways in “critical” need of repair or replacement in the next few years at a cost of around £14.3m.

Work to stabilise Cumberland Road, which runs alongside the path, is also being carried out

The council is set to replace the beam next year and is monitoring other aging structures in the Floating Harbour, New Cut and Feeder Canal.

According to the cabinet report, the collapse of the Chocolate Path at that point would have serious implications.

“Probable resultant failure of this steel girder will potentially result in extensive damage to Underfall sluice outfall resulting in a flooding event or possibly the loss of the Floating Harbour, due to water loss into the New Cut river,” it said.

“Collapse of the structure poses risk to life, reputational risk, financial risk and loss of function of Underfall sluice gates,” it said.

If the bridge is not replaced then the Chocolate Path would be unable to reopen as planned in July 2022, according to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Work is under way on repairing the path and stabilising Cumberland Road, which is also at risk of subsidence.”

The Chocolate Path reopened in 2023

Chocolate Path 30 Sept


*It is possible that this was the beam put in by Brunel in 1834 when it was converted from an overfall.

Outlet from Underfall Yard to The Cut
The Underfall bridge into the Cut
East from Vauxhall Bridge 2019
East from Vauxhall Bridge 2019
Chocolate Path Feb 2022
Chocolate Path 23 August 2023


Vauxhall Bridge Old 2
Vauxhall Bridge was built in 1900 to replace the ferry. In this picture it is closed to shipping.

There is still a plaque on the bridge in 2019 saying it was built by Lysaght Ltd Engineers Bristol in 1900.

Vauxhall Bridge Old
Vauxhall Bridge Open – Bristol Museums – 1910
Vauxhall Bridge before 2023 Refurbishment 30 Sept
Gaol Ferry 1931 - RW
Gaol Ferry C 1930 – Reece Winstone


goal ferry 1934 - reece winston
Goal Ferry 1934 – Reece Winstone


starting work on goal ferry bridge 1935 rw
Starting work on Gaol Ferry Bridge 1935 – Reece Winstone


construction of goal ferry bridge 1935 rw
Constructing Gaol Ferry Bridge in 1935 – Reece Winstone


Gaol Ferry Bridge construction 1935 Corporation Granary in background – Bristol Museums 12698


Golferry Bridge Old
Gaolferry Bridge Built in 1935 to replace the ferry which had operated there since 1838.


Gaolferry Landing on Southville side 2019


Gaolferry Bridge from Southville-2019


Goalferry Bridge 2018
Gaolferry Bridge 2018

Goalferry Bridge from West
Gaolferry Bridge from the West
Gaolferry (Southville) Bridge

Temporary Closure Goalferry Bridge 2022

The £1m restoration project will see Gaol Ferry bridge shut for between six and nine months when work starts on 22 August 2022.Bristol City Council said the option of a temporary bridge was too difficult and expensive.It said the ornate suspension bridge, which opened in 1935, was in very poor condition and needed structural repairs. This will include replacing steelwork and rotten timbers and repairing the steel lattice work and some stonework.

Goalferry Bridge 5 July 2023

Work still proceeding at a snails pace in July 2023…until September

Gaolferry after refurbishment September 2023

View from Bedminster Bridge Old
View West from Bedminster Bridge before the 1930s


Refurbished New Gaol gateway May 2021
North Side of the New Cut from Gaolferry Bridge

Friends of the Avon New Cut (FrANC)

FrANC was formed in 2006 when a group of local people got together in order to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the Avon New Cut including its history, geology and wildlife and its role in the development of Bristol’s Floating Harbour. See FrANC