The Underfalls

Although we’ve lived here for the past fifteen years, and I’ve had connections going back much longer from when my parents lived here, and I went to school here for a couple of years, we are always discovering areas we haven’t been, and things we haven’t explored and interesting places we haven’t explored. Our nearest big city is Bristol, and going there from Bristol we go over the new Cut and along by the River Avon, it was only yesterday that we deviated off our normal route into the city and went down by the harbour and boatyard.

We were on a mission; my husband takes his art group out to places to do some sketching, drawing and painting, and he wanted to go down by the harbour where he had heard there was still a boatyard, the Underfall Yard. Someone who works there is a regular in the pub and we were introduced to him and he told us where to go and who my husband should see about wandering around the yard.

So off we set, yesterday, up to Bristol and parked by a pub called the Nova Scotia, a nineteenth century listed building, which was originally a coaching inn. We wandered along and round to the Underfall yard, which is just the most interesting and amazing place! We had driven past so many times, noticing the pub, but never looking to see what was behind it, including a massive red brick-built chimney and elegant Victorian industrial buildings.


Because of the tides in Bristol, a Floating Harbour was constructed in 1809 so that ships would always be afloat and not stranded on the mud when the tide went out; the River Avon carries lots of silt which obviously ends up in the Floating Harbour,settles and eventually makes it difficult, if not impossible for ships.

An  Overfall – for the water to fall over, (I think) was built which allowed the water to flow into a new drainage channel called the New Cut and there were sluices adjacent to it which helped get rid of the silt, although most of it had to be dug out by labourers. The harbour would be emptied and men would go in with their shovels and dig out the mud… what a dreadful job and how dangerous. By the 1830’s, thanks to the genius, Isambard Kingdom Brunel,  the sluices were redesigned, the underfall sluices,  and dredgers began to be used…

We had a most exciting day; the Underfall Yard is somewhere we are going to return to many times, and if anyone is going to Bristol on a visit I really recommend dropping off there… also there is a great café with wonderful cakes!


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