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Famous People of Bristol

Bristol has plenty to boast about when it comes to famous people, places and stories. Have a look at just some of the claims to fame below, and if you know of any that we might have missed, then please get in touch and we'll be happy to add it to the list.

Cary Grant Clifton Suspension Bridge

Through the ages

John Cabot (1450 - 1498)

Italian-born explorer who sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland on the Matthew in 1497. Local historians believe he lived in St Nicholas Street in Bristol's Old City. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of his voyage, the Cabot Tower was erected on Brandon Hill in 1897 and still stands today.

John Wesley (1703 - 1791)

Founder of the Methodist Church, Wesley worked and preached in Bristol. His statue can be seen outside the New Room in Broadmead - the first Methodist Chapel ever to have been built.

Hannah More (1745-1833)

Educator, writer and social reformer, Hannah More was born and raised in Bristol. She was also known for her writings on abolition and for encouraging women to join the anti-slavery movement.

John Loudon McAdam (1746-1836)

Scottish engineer John McAdam moved to Berkeley Square, Bristol in 1801 to help build and develop a new road system for the city. During his time with the Bristol Turnpike Trust, he developed a new process of road construction, which involved layering different types of crushed stone and gravel on top of one another, followed by a final layer of tar to make the road surface more durable. This method soon became known as tarmacadam (tar + McAdam), and was eventually shortened to Tarmac, which is still used on roads throughout the world today.

Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829)

Famous for discovering laughing gas (NOS) whilst in Bristol and inventing the miners' safety lamp, Sir Humphrey Davy had a laboratory in Dowry Square, Hotwells.

Princess Caraboo (1791 - 1864)

Princess Caraboo appeared in Almondsbury, near Bristol in 1817, speaking a strange and foreign language. The quest to identify her became a local sensation. A mystery visitor claimed she had identified herself as Princess Caraboo of Javasu, and had escaped from a ship to whose captain she had been sold by pirates. She was later exposed as being Mary Willcocks of Devon, a cobbler's daughter, and her life story was made into a major feature film, not surprisingly titled 'Princess Caraboo'.

Harvey's Bristol Cream

John Harvey started a wine importing business in Bristol in the 19th Century, before creating a new blend of sherry, Harvey's Bristol Cream, available today across the world.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 - 1859)

Brunel was not born in Bristol, but many of his most famous projects were completed in the city, from the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain through to the Old Passenger Shed at Bristol Temple Meads station, the Tubular Swivel Bridge in Cumberland Basin, and the sluice gates at Underfall Yard.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821 - 1910)

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol and was the first female to receive a medical degree in the United States. In 1859 she became the first woman to have her name entered in the British General Medical Council's medical register and she campaigned for the admission of women to medical degrees. In the US National Women Physicians Day marks her birthday on 3rd February.

Samuel Plimsoll (1824 - 1898)

Plimsoll was born in Colston Parade, Bristol. He campaigned against overloading ships with cargo, resulting in the introduction of the Plimsoll line on every ship to show its maximum load capacity.

Billy Butlin (1899 - 1980)

Butlin funded British holiday camps Butlin's in 1936 which sought to provide affordable holidays and entertainment for ordinary British families. He lived in Bristol as a small boy and attended St Mary Redcliffe school. Butlin returned to Bristol as an adult and had his first taste of entertainment for the masses when he opened a hoop-la stall in Lock's Yard, Bedminster.

Paul Dirac (1902 - 1984)

Born in Bishopston, Bristol in 1902, Paul Dirac was considered to be one of the greatest and most influential theoretical physicists of his time. He formulated the Dirac Equation, and was responsible for leading the way towards the discovery of antimatter. He was a close friend of Albert Einstein's, and during his life won a shared Nobel Prize in physics with Erwin Schrödinger.

Cary Grant (1904 - 1986)

Born Archibald Leach in Horfield, Bristol, Grant's first role in theatre was working at the Bristol Hippodrome. He made over 70 films and became one of the best-loved actors of all time. He remained a regular visitor to Bristol, usually staying in the Royal Hotel, now known as the Bristol Marriott Royal. In 2001, to mark the 70th anniversary of Grant's arrival in Hollywood, Bristol unveiled a new Cary Grant statue in Millennium Square by the harbourside.

Tony Benn (1925 - 2014)

Labour’s longest-serving MP and a pivotal figure in British leftwing politics in the second half of the 20th century.

Nick Park

Director, writer and animator. Nick Park joined Aardman Animation in 1985 and is best known as the creator of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

J K Rowling

Author and philanthropist famed for her novel series Harry Potter. She is the United Kingdom's best-selling living author and one of the most influential women in Britain. She was born in Yate and published the first of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in 1997.


Controversial and anonymous local grafitti artist who is famed throughout the world for his street art. Some of his pieces have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds, with Hollywood A-listers and celebrities being some of the top collectors of his work.

Other famous residents of Bristol (past and present)

  • Derren Brown (magician and illusionist)
  • Tony Robinson (actor, comedian, author, presenter and political activist)
  • Thomas Chatterton (poet)
  • Tony Bullimore (mariner)
  • Robin Cousins (competitive figure skater)
  • Beryl Cook (artist)
  • Damien Hirst (artist)
  • Keith Floyd (celebrity cook and television personality)
  • Robert Southey (poet)
  • Colin Pillinger (planetary scientist)
  • Johnny Ball (television personality)
  • Carol Vorderman (co-host of Countdown)
  • Blackbeard the Pirate (aka Edward Teach)
  • Noel Edmonds (television presenter)
  • Catherine Johnson (playright and creator of ABBA-inspired musical Mamma Mia!)

Actors and Comedians

  • Jeremy Irons (theatre and film)
  • Paul McGann (Dr Who)
  • James Redmond (Hollyoaks)
  • Stephanie Cole (star of tv and theatre)
  • Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • Dave Prowse (Darth Vader)
  • Hugo Weaving (The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings)
  • John Fortune (satirist)
  • Matt Lucas (Little Britain)
  • David Walliams (Little Britain)
  • John Cleese (Monty Python and Fawlty Towers)
  • John Challisn (Only Fools and Horses)
  • Mark Watson (stand up comedian)
  • Bill Bailey (comedian and musician)
  • Stephen Merchant (writer, director and comedian)
  • Lee Evans (stand up comedian)
  • Jon Richardson (8 Out of 10 Cats)
  • John Robins (stand up comedian)
  • Russell Howard (stand up comedian)
  • Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones)
  • Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones)
  • Hannah Murray (Skins and Game of Thrones)
  • April Pearson (Skins)
  • Mike Bailey (Skins)
  • Mitch Hewer (Skins)
  • Kathryn Prescott (Skins)
  • Lisa Backwell (Skins)
  • Laya Lewis (Skins)
  • Andy Day (CBBC presenter)


  • Massive Attack
  • Tricky
  • Roni Size
  • Portishead
  • Kosheen
  • Bananarama
  • Sean Moore (Manic Street Preachers)
  • Elizabeth Frasier (Cocteau Twins)
  • Russ Conway
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Dame Clara Butt
  • Beth Rowley
  • Andy Shepherd (Saxophonist)
  • Ben Gregory from Goldfrapp
  • Eats Everything

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