Bristol is a modern, thriving city rooted in its past. The uncrowned capital of the West Country peninsula. Its history can be traced back to Saxon times and a settlement at the meeting place of the rivers Avon and Frome. It was then known as Brigstow. Through the passage of time and the local dialect habit of adding an "L" to the end of a word this changed to Bristol.
After the Norman conquest the port of Bristol gained in status. Trade flourished in the 14th century as brave sailors set out on epic voyages of exploration. It was with a Bristol crew that explorer John Cabot left the port in 1497 to discover Newfoundland.
And Bristol was the birthplace of the world's first iron-hulled steam-driven sailing ship, the SS Great Britain. Designed and built by Victorian engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel the restored ship is a major tourist attraction in the historic City Docks. Brunel also designed the city's best known landmark, the Clifton suspension Bridge. It spans the 250ft deep beauty spot Avon Gorge. A key feature of Bristol's maritime heritage was its growth as a major importer of wine, sherry and port. Much of its wealth in the 18th century also depended its participation in the infamous slave trade.
Major planning schemes after the Second World War changed much of the character of the blitzed city. Futuristic housing and entertainment developments now, however, sit comfortably alongside relics of the maritime past.
And the spirit of adventure which spurred early adventurers on epic journeys lives on today in the bustle of commerce and industry which marks the western city as a premier shopping venue and an international financial centre. Major national organisations, including banks and insurance companies have relocated to the cathedral city.
Bristol is also recognised as a flourishing arts centre catering for every taste from theatre, film, opera and ballet to jazz, classical and folk music. And there is a large variety of entertainment complexes, pubs, clubs and wine bars.
Situated at the so-called "crossroads of England" the city is blessed with an excellent network of motorway, rail and air connections. London's Heathrow airport is about 90 minutes away by road and the capital itself is easily accessible by frequent road, rail and air rail services.
The surrounding countryside affords a wealth of opportunity for relaxation and entertainment. The elegant Georgian city of Bath is a near neighbour and other leading tourist spots include England's smallest city, Wells, the world-famous Cheddar Gorge and its mysterious limestone caves, the city of Gloucester, and the mystical town of Glastonbury. Wales too is only a short journey away, with road travellers having the choice of two major bridges over the Severn Estuary.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, had strong links with Bristol. He regularly preached to miners in fields in the Kingswood and Hanham areas. He was frequently barred from pulpits because he was too outspoken. His first church, the New Room, is still open in the heart of Bristol's shopping area close to the city centre.
In the courtyard of the preserved building is a statue of Wesley on horseback as he frequently rode out to preach at open air meetings. It is yet another reminder of the city's links with its historic past.
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