Interesting Facts About Bristol

Find out more about Bristol in these articles...

Bristol is a vibrant, diverse and innovative city and has managed to rack up many interesting stories - but how many of the facts below did you know before?

Let us know if you have any other interesting trivia about the city, and we'll add it to the list!


Where is Bristol?

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  • Bristol is located just 120 miles west of London and is the largest city in the south west of England
  • Bath is about 12 miles to the east of the city, and 45 miles away across the Bristol Channel is Cardiff in Wales.
  • The city is situated on the River Frome and River Avon.
  • Bristol lies at one end of the Great West Way, a 125 mile long touring route between here and London.




Bristol Statistics

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  • Today, Bristol is a buzzing, multicultural university city of an estimated 479,000 people.
  • There are at least 287 ethic groups in the city, at least 45 religions, more than 185 countries of birth represented and at least 91 main languages spoken in Bristol.
  • Bristol is the 8th largest city in England and Wales.
  • Bristol has two universities with over 54,000 students.




Bristol Accolades

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  • Bristol was voted Best City to Live in Britain in the Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide.
  • Bristol was named most artistic city in the UK by a survey from Premier Inn, considering the number of museums, theatres, amount of live music gigs and the quantity of street art.
  • Bristol is a Fairtrade city, which sees us trading fairly with nearly five million workers in 58 developing countries



A few Bristol History Facts

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  • Bristol began life as a town called Brigg stow, which means the meeting place at the bridge in the old Saxon language. The original town was listed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1051.
  • The city played an important role in England's maritime trade in tobacco, wine, cotton and more.
  • From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, Bristol was involved in a massive slave shipping industry.

Find out more about Bristol History

Find out more about Bristol and the USA




Bristol People

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  • Pero's Bridge is named after Pero Jones, who was the African servant of a plantation owner.
  • Hollywood legend Cary Grant (Archibald Leach) was born in Horfield, Bristol. Grant's first role in theatre was working at The Bristol Hippodrome.
  • Graffiti artist Banksy is from Bristol, his work can still be seen at sites across the city - he occasionally pops home to do a new one too!
  • One of history’s most groundbreaking engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, found his home in this forward-thinking city and created some of his most memorable masterpieces here, including Brunel’s SS Great Britain and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
  • One of the greatest cricketers and sportsmen of all time, WG Grace was born in Downend, just a short distance from central Bristol. 
  • Blackbeard (Edward Teach), the world's most famous pirate is thought to have been born in Redcliffe, near Bristol Harbourside, around 1680.
  • In 1899, 13-year-old schoolboy, A.E.J. Collins scored the highest ever recorded cricket score of 628 not out, playing in a junior school house cricket match at Clifton College.
  • Darth Vader is a Bristolian. David Prowse was an English bodybuilder and actor best known as portraying the physical form of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.
  • Agatha Christie was married on the afternoon of Christmas Eve 1914 at Emmanuel Church, Clifton, Bristol

Find out more about famous people from Bristol





Weird and wonderful Bristol

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  • The Exchange building on Corn Street which shows two times - the black minute hand shows London time (now GMT), and the red hand shows Bristol time! This was before time was standardised across the UK to accomodate railway schedules.
  • Outside The Exchange are four brass pillars, or columns, known as the Bristol Nails.  They were once used by merchants to seal their business deals and count their money.  The raised edge of each circular pillar prevents coins rolling on to the pavement.  It is said that the Bristol Nails led to the coining of the phrase ‘Pay on the Nail’.
  • The first ever bungee jump took place from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1979, with members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club.
  • Built in 1606, The Hatchet is the oldest pub in Bristol and its ancient door is said to be covered in the skins of executed criminals.
  • There's a bit of Bristol in Lower Manhattan - the 'Bristol Basin' was built using rubble from the city after the Second World War and has a plaque to commemorate its origins.
  • Like New York, Bristol is both a city and county.
  • At St Mary Redcliffe Chuch there is a small stone plaque with a dedication to “Tom The Church Cat”. Tom was a tabby cat who was found scratching at the door to the church during a rainstorm in 1912 and soon became a resident of the church, chasing down mice and occasionally sitting near the altar during services. Tom was such a beloved member of the congregation that upon his death in 1927, he was given a full funeral service and buried in the ground close to where he had once been found. Find out more facts about Bristol's oldest churches here.
  • Bristol Zoo was the 5th oldest zoo in the world and since then has helped over 175 species from extinction including one of the most poisonous animals on Earth, the golden poison frog. It closed in September 2022.
  • The phrase 'Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion' relates to Bristol's high tidal range. Ships moored in the harbour would be aground at low tide and, because of their keels, would fall to one side. If everything was not stowed away tidily or tied down, the results were chaotic and cargo could be spoiled.
  • There’s a book bound with human skin on display in M Shed.
  • Bristol has its own ‘leaning tower’. Temple Church leans at 2.7 degrees, which is just one degree less than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • Bristol’s Fire Station is built on the location of an ancient 12th Century Knights Templar garrison and is said to be haunted. Since the first year of opening in 1975, experienced fire crews have reported seeing odd characters in the building and on one occasion the Cook chased a figure out of the kitchen.
  • Highbury Vaults was the pub where prisoners went for their last meal, before they were hung at the Gallows at the top of St. Michael’s Hill. It is now claimed to be a haunted building.
  • You may have heard of the Bristol Stool Scale or Bristol Stool Chart, which was actually developed in Bristol at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in 1997 to classify the form of human poo into seven categories - what a claim to fame!



Made in Bristol

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  • Every British Concorde made their maiden flight from Filton Airfield in Bristol and now you can visit Concorde Alpha Foxtrot at Aerospace Bristol. She was designed, built and tested in Bristol, and was the final Concorde to be built and the last to fly.
  • Aardman Animations are based in Bristol, and create well-loved classics including Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and Pirates!
  • Bristol is the world's biggest manufacturers of hot air balloons with Cameron Balloons based in the city.
  • Ribena was invented in Bristol at the National Fruit and Cider institute and marketed as a health drink due to its high concentration of Vitamin C.
  • BBC Bristol produce a whopping 25% of all the world's nature documentaries - many of them featuring the legendary Sir David Attenborough. You can do tours of the BBC Bristol Studios to find out more.
  • Fry's Chocolate in Bristol was the first company in the world to manufacture chocolate bars, and one of the first to make chocolate Easter eggs too.
  • The city used to be one of the most important glass-making centres in Europe, thanks to its distinctive Bristol Blue Glass which dates back some 300 years.

Find out more about Bristol inventions





Film, TV and Literature

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  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous book Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol, which you can discover on the Treasure Island Trail.
  • Bristol has been used as a filming location in many popular TV programmes and films, including The Outlaws, Only Fools and Horses, The Young Ones, Skins, Sherlock and many more.
  • Author J.K. Rowling was born and brought up in Chipping Sodbury, just a few miles from Bristol. It is claimed that she drew inspiration for her famous character Harry Potter after meeting a young boy in Bristol.
  • The Victoria Rooms, built in 1841, were host to many a literary icon. Charles Dickens and his friend Wilkie Collins performed two plays here in 1851, and Oscar Wilde also spoke at the Victoria rooms at great length on aesthetics.
  • Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is the alma mater of many international recognised theatre, film and TV stars including; Olivia Colman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Irons.
  • Bristol is home to Bottle Yard Studios, the largest dedicated film and TV studio facility in the West of England. Many recognisable productions are filmed here including Poldark, Wolf Hall, Sherlock, Fortitude, The Crystal Maze, Trollied, Hellboy, Broadchurch and Galavant.

Find out more about Bristol Film and TV

Find out more about Literary Bristol



The oldest, original, biggest and best!

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  • Europe’s biggest street art festival, Upfest, is held in Bristol.
  • The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English speaking world.
  • The Red Lodge Museum on Park Row includes a room which was once the first school in England to educate girls.
  • Gloucester Road, for a time, contained the longest unbroken chain of independent retailers in all of Europe.
  • Royal York Crescent in Clifton, built between 1791 and 1820, is the longest terrace in Europe. As a nod to superstitious, there is no number 13, just 12a and 12b.
  • Vale Street in Totterdown has been officially recognised as Britain's steepest street. With an average incline of 22% (and an even steeper initial climb)
  • Built in 1861, and now in the possession of the M Shed, the Mayflower tugboat is not only the oldest working boat in the harbour, it is also the oldest Bristol built boat still in operation and the oldest tugboat in the world.
  • Queen Square is the largest Georgian residential square in England.
  • The first women ordained as Church of England priests were ordained at Bristol Cathedral on 12 March 1994.



Everything else...

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  • Bristol is famous for trip-hop and drum and bass, due to local music acts Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size among others.
  • Across the world there are 35 cities, towns and other places named Bristol, all of which are believed to be named after the original (and best) Bristol, UK. 29 of them are in the USA alone, making it one of the most popular place names in America.
  • Avon comes from the Celtic word 'Afon' meaning river, so the River Avon actually means 'River river'
  • The Avon Gorge, near Clifton is one of the most important botanical sites in the UK. The gorge has 27 incredibly rare plants and is home to some specimens of tree that are not found anywhere else in the entire world including the Bristol Whitebeam tree. Rare breeds of bats and falcons are also frequently spotted at the gorge.
  • With a height of 89 meters, the tallest building in Bristol is St Mary Redcliffe, it is also the third tallest parish church in the UK and Queen Elizabeth I once called it 'the fairest, godliest, and most famous parish church in England'
  • Flying to over 115 destinations, in over 34 countries, handling over 8.2 million passengers Bristol Airport is the fastest growing regional airport in the UK
  • St Nicholas Market was named as one of the ten best markets in the UK, and is home to the largest collection of independent retailers in Bristol

Find out more about Bristol...

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