Trade and Transport Links
Bristol lies on one of the UK's lesser coalfields, and from the 17th century collieries opened in Bristol, and what is now North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Though these prompted the construction of the Somerset Coal Canal, it was difficult to make mining profitable, and the mines closed after nationalization.
At the end of the nineteenth century the main industries were tobacco and cigarette manufacture (led by the dominant W.D. & H.O. Wills company), paper and engineering. The port facilities were migrating downstream to Avonmouth and new industrial complexes were founded there.
Bristol City Council built over 15,000 houses between 1919 and 1939, enabling clearance of some of the worst slums in the city centre. The new estates were at Southmead, Knowle, Filwood Park, Sea Mills and Horfield. The city boundaries were extended to north and south to accommodate this growth. In 1926, the Portway, a new road along the Avon Gorge built at a cost of around £800,000, was opened linking the floating harbour to the expanding docks at Avonmouth.
Traces of World War II
As the location of aircraft manufacture as well as a major port, Bristol was a target of bombing during the Bristol Blitz of World War II. Bristol's city centre also suffered severe damage, especially in November and December 1940, when the Broadmead area was flattened, and Hitler claimed to have destroyed the city. The original central area, near the bridge and castle, is still a park featuring two bombed out churches and some fragments of the castle. Slightly to the north, the Broadmead shopping centre and Cabot Circus were built over bomb-damaged areas.
As with other British cities, there was immigration from various Commonwealth countries in the post war years, which did lead to some racial tension. In 1963, a colour bar operated by Bristol Omnibus Company, which at that time refused to employ Black or Asian bus crews, was successfully challenged in the Bristol Bus Boycott. This set a precedent which was considered to have been instrumental in the eventual passage of the Race Relations Act 1968. In 1980 a police raid on a cafe in St Paul's sparked the St Paulís riot, which highlighted the alienation of the city's ethnic minorities.
Bristol aviation continued to develop in post war years. The Bristol Brabazon was a large transatlantic airliner built in the late 1940s, based on developments in heavy bombers during the World War, but it received no sales orders and never went into production. Concorde, the first supersonic airliner was built in the 1960s, first flying in 1969. The aircraft never achieved commercial success, but its development did lay the foundation for the successful Airbus series of airliners, parts of which are produced at Filton in the 21st century.
In the 1980s the financial services sector became a major employer in the city and surrounding areas. Business parks opened in the northern fringe in an area now referred to as Greater Bristol or the Bristol Urban Area. This area comprises the city, Easton-in-Gordano, Frampton Cottrell and Winterbourne, Kingswood, Mangotsfield and Stoke Gifford. High technology companies such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, Toshiba, and Orange, along with creative and media enterprises become significant local employers as traditional manufacturing industries declined.
Regeneration of the City Centre
Like much of British post-war planning, regeneration of Bristol city centre was characterised by large, cheap tower blocks, brutalist architecture and expansion of roads. Since the 1990s this trend has been reversed, with the closure of some main roads and the regeneration of the Broadmead shopping centre. In 2006 one of the city centre's tallest post-war blocks was torn down. Social housing tower blocks have also been demolished to be replaced by low rise homes.
The removal of the docks to Avonmouth, seven miles downstream from the city centre, relieved congestion in the central zone of Bristol and allowed substantial redevelopment of the old central dock area (the Floating Harbour) in the late 20th century. The deep-water Royal Portbury Dock was developed opposite Avonmouth Docks in the 1970s and following privatisation of the Port of Bristol has become financially successful.
At one time the continued existence of the old central docks was in jeopardy as it was seen merely as derelict industry rather than an asset to be developed for public use. Since the 1980s millions of pounds have been spent regenerating the harbourside. 1999 saw the redevelopment of the city centre and the construction of Pero's footbridge; which now links the At-Bristol science centre at Canon's Marsh, opened in 2000, with other Bristol tourist attractions. Private investors are also constructing studio apartment buildings. The regeneration of the Canon's Marsh area is expected to cost £240 million. Crest Nicholson were the lead developers constructing 450 new flats, homes and waterside offices, under the guidance of The Harbourside Sponsorsí Group which is a partnership between the City Council, developers, businesses, and public funders.