Bill Fairney, Chairman of Bristol’s Long John Silver Trust, reveals some surprising history from the city's Treasure Island Trail... 

Image - On the Treasure Island Trail 

What do Bristol Docks, Treasure Island and a village in South Gloucestershire have in common? A lot, actually.

In 1032 a 24-year-old man named Wulfstan was sent from the Diocese of Worcester to be priest at the church of St Mary’s in Hawkesbury, a Cotswold village a few miles north of Bristol.

A very devout man, he was mortified when the aroma of a goose being roasted by his scullion distracted him from his devotions. In repentance he vowed never to eat such meats again and became largely vegetarian, eating only fish for nourishment.

Wulfstan went on to become the Bishop of Worcester and served as confessor to King Harold. After 1066 he was kept as bishop by William the Conqueror and was his confidant.. 

The slave trade in Britain did not start in the 17th century. Many Saxon rebels against the Normans were sold as slaves to Ireland and Wulfstan used to stand on the dockside in Bristol on Sundays exhorting the slave-traders to cease the practice. Eventually William relented and put a stop to the trade.

Wulfstan went on to perform many miracles and 200 years after his death he was made the Patron Saint of Vegetarians.

Image - The Hole in the Wall on the Treasure Island Trail 

Bristol Harbourside is home to the Treasure Island Trail, established to celebrate the city’s maritime, cultural and literary heritage through the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Several scenes in the novel are set in Bristol, and that loveable villain Long John Silver owns the Spyglass Inn which was reputedly based on The Hole in the Wall. The Trail consists of eight planter barrels, each holding a palm tree and several plants and herbs to give a visual and sensory description of a chapter from the book. 

The Long John Silver Trust was set up in 2006 by Mark Steeds, Bristol historian and landlord of the Beaufort Arms in Hawkesbury Upton. Back in 2008, 1,000 years after the birth of Wulfstan, Mark, our Deputy Chairman, proposed that a memorial to him should be placed in St Mary’s Church. A stained glass window was commissioned from a local artist and was consecrated by the Bishop of Gloucester in 2011.

Image - The Treasure Island Trail on Bristol Harbourside

The window shows many aspects of St Wulfstan’s life, including the broken chains of freedom, the goose and many vegetables. It also shows the ship which featured in one of his miracles. The ship had set sail from Bristol to Dublin when it was struck by a violent storm which lasted for three days. A member of the crew entreated the sailors to pray to St Wulfstan whom they all highly respected. Immediately the storm abated and the ship made safe harbour.

There is yet one more, albeit tenuous, link with Treasure Island. In 1939 Alfred Hitchcock made the film Jamaica Inn and one of the locations was Home Farm in Hawkesbury Upton. One of the leading characters shown in the farmhouse was played by Robert Newton who, in 1954, went on to star as Long John Silver in the famous Disney film of Treasure Island! His son, Nicholas Newton, is one of the Long John Silver Trust’s patrons.

You can download the Treasure Island Trail map here. To find out more about the Long John Silver Trust go to www.longjohnsilvertrust.co.uk.

Related

Treasure Island Trail
Walking Tour
Treasure Island Trail

The Treasure Island Trail is a fun, family-friendly trail and app that guides you round Bristol’s historic Floating Harbour to discover Bristol’s literary connections, maritime history and tales of piracy!