From shipping, sherry and tobacco to Brunel, bridges and the blitz, this programme explores the visual archives that document the history of Bristol.
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What you need is some real history! I'll show you round Bristol.
'Bristol. Gateway to the west.
'A great regional city of nearly half a million inhabitants.'
'Bristol, thriving throughout Britain's history on the marriage of sea and land.'
'One Saturday, in the middle of an English summer,
'the people of the St Paul's area in Bristol put on a parade of their first festival.
'It rained all day long.'
This is the Queen speaking from Bristol.
'They're fixing lights to the Clifton Suspension Bridge,
'working more than 250 feet above the River Avon.'
'To the casual eye, it's a huddle of roofs,
'a cluster of spires, a labyrinth of streets,
'but to the people of Bristol whom know and understand their city,
'these buildings and these streets, all these tell a story.'
'Joseph Fry's vanilla chocolate must've tasted good.
'Because 250 years later, they're still making chocolate with his name on it.'
'Here, cocoa from the Gold Coast and sugar from the West Indies
'meet the milk and the cream of the dairy farms of Somerset
'in the manufacture of cocoa and chocolate.'
'These are conches.
'Funny names, but effective machines.
'The chocolate submits from one to three days,
'whilst the flavour is developed and perfect smoothness obtained.'
'Now, how does the cream get in the chocolate? Very simple.
'Moulds are filled with molten chocolate
'and as they proceed, the cream centres are placed in.'
'Modern wrapping machines are amazingly clever.
'They handle the chocolate bars as dextrously as a conjuror and as gently as a woman.'
'Fry's also run an air service for urgent deliveries.
'This, by the way, is the famous aeroplane which accompanied the Mount Everest expedition.
'It flew to India for reconnaissance work.
'It also carried Fry's for the intrepid airmen
'who, for the first time, saw the summit of Everest below them.'
'Long ago, the girls were called Fry's Angels and outnumbered the men two-to-one.
'But the Angels of today are in the minority.'
It's like a monster, it just keeps coming. It goes on and on and on.
Sometimes you feel like... getting up and running out.
Run away from it all and forget it. But you don't.
You don't do that kind of thing.
'Yes, these are the boxes single ladies get
'that the married ones dream of.'
'For 2,000 years, give or take a few,
'ships have been coming to the mouth of the Avon from abroad,
'or, as the port men say, from foreign.'
'During the 18th century, Bristol was insulated
'from the murderous reality of the slave trade,
'though not from its profits.
'Ships left Bristol for Africa
'loaded with brass, guns and trinkets.
'They left Africa for the West Indies loaded with slaves,
'and they sailed from the West Indies back to Bristol
'with a full cargo of sugar and tobacco.
'There was a handsome profit to be made on every leg of the voyage,
'and in Bristol, hardly a whiff of the human misery
'that helped mint the money.'
SHIP'S HORN WAILS
'Of course, German reports of their operations differ from British.
'They claimed in one raid to have wiped out Bristol Docks.
'American journalists go to see for themselves
'and observe that the docks are not only still there,
'but quite a lot of shipping is using them.'
'It's often asked, "Why do the Germans issue such fantastic claims?"
'It's Hitler's principle that if you're going to lie, it'd better be a whopper.
'He believes you and I will say there must be some truth in it or they couldn't make such statements.'
'An extremely important arrival was the good ship Tilapa,
'coming from the West Indies
'with a cargo of about ten million bananas.
'This was the first consignment to reach Britain since 1940, so it was a big event.
'Very interesting to watch the bunches of bananas coming ashore.
'For so important an occasion, the Lord Mayor was there in person.'
They are the finest quality and they're very nice, too.
Isn't it lovely?
'She had eaten bananas before, but others hadn't,
'and the captain had to explain how to peel these strange fruit.
'Even then, some kids didn't seem to know how to eat them.
'Soon, we hope all young Britain will know how,
'for more banana ships are on the way.'
'Every docker in Avonmouth who hasn't got a job already
'has to go to the call stand to find work.
'This is where the employers choose their men.'
MEN SHOUT SIMULTANEOUSLY
Both the dockers and the employers say that
they don't really approve of this system.
But neither will set their faces against it,
and it's typical of Bristol that both should tolerate something that, in theory, they abhor.
I don't like it at all! I think it's degrading.
In this day and age, 1962, men have to stand in a pen like cattle and be selected,
I don't think it's right and I think most of the dockers resent it.
The quicker they do away with this type of selection of labour, the better for all of us.
Heights have never been a bother to me.
One of the first things you think of when you apply for the position
is, you know, up there.
Another thing is solitude. People can't stand that either.
They can't stand being up there on their own,
even though you're within shouting distance of someone.
When a job is going well, you do get a satisfied feeling
that, although you haven't got covered in dirt
like some of the jobs demand of the men in the ship's hold,
you do have a feeling of satisfaction,
because however much they've worked
and however much money they've earned,
they couldn't do it without you.
Every day is a different day.
You may not be working with the same people or doing the same job.
A lot of dockers that I know down there, it's their life. It's their life to be at work.
They prefer to be there than at home.
'Much of the tobacco that comes to Britain passes through Bristol,
'a cargo which could hardly go back farther than it does
'because here, Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have smoked the first pipeful in England.'
'2,000 cigarettes a minute are coming out of that machine.
'And the output of this one factory, if its cigarettes could be joined end to end,
'would go to the moon and back once every year.
'Each machine has a crew of four, a man responsible for operating
'and three girls to examine them as they're cleared into the slings.
'Nearly 40 million cigarettes go through this factory every day.
'The smoker will pay the taxman a mighty lot of money for the finished product
'now leaving the packing machines.'
'For the Bristol factories of this one firm,
'duty amounts to about three-quarters of a million pounds per day.
'The cheque has to be taken by hand each day to the customs office.
'No credit is allowed.
'The amount for Friday, May 29th,
'was £753,465, four shillings and sixpence.'
'Cargos from the New World, from the West Indies,
'from every shore of the North Atlantic,
'brought prosperity to Bristol.
'Rum, sugar, tobacco
'and the fine sherry wines for which the city is still famous.'
'800 years ago, Bristol was one of the busiest wine ports in the world,
'and it hasn't stopped ever since.'
'Bristol doesn't merely hand the wine on,
'as everyone who can read the label knows.
'Bristol firms are famous for the selection, blending and marketing
'of fine wines and spirits.'
Sherry is a very complex wine, made up of, perhaps, 100 different wines,
and those wines, in turn, contain many different years.
It's rather like an artist with his palette,
there are so many things to choose from.
It's our special expertise that has produced this unique wine,
which has been so successful all over the world.
I'm standing on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Bristol.
I've known the theatre for 17 years.
I consider it to be the loveliest theatre in the world.
A perfect theatre to play in and to see a play.
Simply, unless something is done immediately,
the whole place might just fall down.
The last time I came down this way was in 1957
in the pantomime Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
I was Mrs Ali Baba.
'As nightclubs spread across the region's towns and cities,
'they recorded the first to open specially for West Indians in St Paul's.
'The man behind it was Tony Bullimore,
'who was to become famous as a round-the-world yachtsman.'
From a sociologic point of view,
the West Indian in Bristol
feels that he's now more on an equal footing
to Bristolians, who have their own clubs.
They feel quite proud of that fact that the club is done out
the same as an English club.
And it takes away this inferiority complex -
"We haven't got anywhere to take our English friends." Now they can take them here.
Now here is a heap
of the most complicated antique stage machinery ever devised.
Some lunatic Georgian inventor was let loose! It doesn't function. It's useless.
I'll show you backstage. This way.
I used this dressing room for two years when I first came down here.
I shared it with Edward Hardwicke. It's a cosy little oven.
If one's playing Othello,
or another part which required body makeup,
one went home rather stickily.
But for the more fastidious,
there was a zinc bath and buckets of hot water provided in the boiler room.
We used to say, "If you can't do it here,
you can't do it."
"So would you please help us to keep on doing it?"
'A superb edition to the West Country entertainment world,
'within The New Bristol Centre, a new ABC Cinema.
'It is a brilliant architectural triumph, wonderfully equipped with all thoughts of tomorrow in mind.
'The up-to-date projection room and equipment
'will ensure fine picture and sound quality.
'Trumpeters sounded the fanfare.'
'Everybody present voted it the perfect cinema.'
-'Like most other cities,
'Bristol's heart has been eaten out,
'and yet, right in the centre, human life has come back again.
'Black life now, centred around the ancient game of dominoes.'
'But dominoes, you may insist, is essentially a British game.
'The West Indian version of dominoes is different. It's unique.
'It's faster, it's much noisier and it's full of sign language.'
Take your shot.
It's really a thrill to outwit the other person
by using your sign that he don't know.
That's where the fun is, the shouting and the noise.
It's all part of the game.
THEY BANG TABLE, SHOUT
'The Western Star Club is not just a hotbed of domino playing,
'although that is its focus.
'It's a social club for mainly first generation, middle-aged West Indians.
'It's not a ghetto. More a place where a community has refound itself
'and its own enjoyment.'
'Think what the West Indians did to the old stately game of cricket!
'Perhaps, all things considered, it's a good job they're not playing rugby league or Irish hurling.
'Heart attacks might count more naturally than score-points.'
-You shut up!
HE BANGS FIST ON TABLE
MUSIC: "Animal Magic" theme tune
You don't know it, but you're coming back to Bristol with me.
FRENCH ACCENT: "Bristol? Where is Bristol? Is it in France?"
No, it's in Angleterre.
"Angleterre? That will be jolly, eh?"
Yes, it will be very jolly.
Come on, then. Here's your collar.
Come and have your collar on, Lucy.
"I do wish I had an umbrella! I wish I had an umbrella!"
Well, wishes do come true sometimes.
HE HUMS A JOLLY TUNE
'Bristol Zoo seems to specialise in unusual babies.
'The latest edition to Daisy the giraffe, a six-foot daughter.
'Very small by giraffe standards, but doing well.
'The new arrival is still unnamed. Any suggestions for Bristol Zoo?'
BEAR: "Oh, come on, dear, it's time for you to meet the general public!"
CUB: "Who are the general public, Ma?"
"The general public, child, are neither you nor me."
"They are always other persons."
"Now, be careful along here, child. It does get a little slippery."
"I don't care, Ma..."
CUB SCREAMS, SOBS
"It's horrid stuff, water!"
I asked you not to do that, Christina.
I asked you not to spray the crowd.
Now, let me have the hose.
You mustn't take the hose away like that.
Oh, dear. I'm giving up, I think.
'To Willy and Stephanie, on August 25th at Bristol, a daughter.
'A happy event and a noteworthy one.
'Rhona is the first female African Black Rhino to be born in this country.
'Weighing around 60lbs at birth, baby is doing fine and so is Mum.
'3,500 weight of mother love.
'You can't disguise it, a rhino is an unlovely hunk of armour plating.
'Baby animals always have special appeal,
'and Rhona almost manages to look endearing.'
The excitement of this demonstration,
organised up here on an afternoon very much like this,
a rather dour November afternoon,
and my father brought me up, as a small boy of eight.
They then wheeled this thing out and they started up the engine,
and eventually they went.
And there was deathly silence through the whole crowd. There was a hush.
Absolute wonderment - he's flying!
He came past the gorge, up this side of the suspension bridge and landed again.
And it was really something which, as a small boy, I'll never forget.
I think it was pretty well the greatest day of my life.
'Third call is at Filton Aerodrome, Bristol,
'for the christening of the world's largest aircraft, the 126-tonne Brabazon 1.
'Dwarfing the swarms of spectators, the plane is officially named by Air Marshal Coryton.
'Now came the task of getting the giant into its hangar,
'which itself is large enough to house the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth.'
'No wonder the crowds rushed for a closer look at the giant prototype,
'destined to begin a new era in air travel.'
'Filton. Concorde 002 stands like a great bird in a massive cage
'at the British Aircraft Corporation's plant.
'But never has there been such an expensive bird before.
'Nor one which has been so reluctant to fly.
'Built jointly by Britain and France,
'our prototype number 002 already looks more like an aircraft.
'The nose of the plane can be tilted during takeoff and landing.'
'Working on this calls for extraordinary contortions.
'But then she's an extraordinary plane, over 180-feet long.'
'Visiting the British Aircraft Corporation factory at Filton, near Bristol,
'the Queen was to see for herself how the Anglo-French Concorde project was shaping,
'to the delight of the crowd.'
'Britain's Brabazon airliner leads the way with the revolution in air travel.
'After five years of exhaustive experiments,
'success crowns the work of the Bristol Aviation company.
'With the Brabazon ticking over and behaving like a textbook machine,
'there's a quick order over the intercom, "This is it, boys",
'and then Pegg lifts the Brabazon's front wheel after only a 400-yard run.
'Another hundred yards and the undercarriage slowly leaves the runway. Airborne!'
'The second production model of Concorde
'takes off from the British Aircraft Corporation's airfield at Filton on its maiden flight.'
'Jerry is here early tonight. The siren went five minutes ago.
'Yes, he's here all right.
'Some bombs are being dropped
'and a fire has started already to the east of us.
'I've got a nasty feeling in my tummy, too, at this moment.
'God grant it's going to be all right.'
'Pause for a moment in the middle of the city
'and you may count 11 churches without moving a single pace from where you stand.
'Though some now are only the shells and remnants of what they once were,
'for the bombing of Bristol fell with uncanny and almost diabolical precision
'on her most venerable buildings.
'But today the rubble is softened with wildflowers, with Buddleja and Rosebay willowherb,
'and the shattered windows and roofless pillars
'have a grave and silent dignity,
'like blinded giants.'
'It was the night of Bristol's first big blitz,
'and a time when many of the city's ancient churches were destroyed.
'Like St Andrew's, on top of Clifton Hill.'
CHOIR SINGS HYMN
'According to the official war diary,
'the air raid sirens wailed out their warning
'at 21 minutes past six that Sunday evening.'
'The enemy aircraft, about 60 of them, came in in twos and threes
'to empty their bellies of the destructive power of incendiary bombs and, later, high explosives.
'People did stay in their houses.
'Perhaps it was the feeling of security of being within your own four walls.
'These two ladies were lucky in their cellar.
'They, and five others, came out of a hole in the ground
'when the house above them collapsed about their ears.'
'Clearing up in Park Street at 11 o'clock the next morning,
'a veil of censorship attempted to disguise wartime Britain,
'"Walls have ears" was a familiar slogan,
'designed to prevent the enemy knowing the extent of the damage he had done.
'Yet remarkably, a lone cameraman walked through the rubble within hours of the raid
'to capture these scenes, never before shown.
'These walls had no ears.'
'Clifton...' CLASSICAL MUSIC
'High up on the Downs.
'Built in the 1790s.
'A place to live in, not just to stay in for a season.
'Where East India men returned from voyages.
'In some of the vaults below these Clifton terraces and crescents
'that hang above the Avon Gorge,
'the Bristol merchants stored their pipes of port.'
'In some way, Clifton has a very Mediterranean atmosphere about it.
'I suppose it's the balconies and the flowers
'and the coloured washes on all the walls.
'And Clifton's just a marvellous place for strolling around in, swinging a shopping basket.'
'I still can turn a corner here
'and get that small glow of pleasure and surprise,
'which one doesn't really expect
'in an environment which has become so familiar.
'I never fail to succumb to its charm,
'its Georgian buildings, the bridge,
'this camera obscura thing up here, for instance.'
'You are now inside one of the few remaining cameras obscura in the country.
'And if you look down into the dish, you will see,
'reflected by the giant lens at the top of this tower,
'a panorama of the city of Bristol.
'You are standing at the highest point of the city,
'more than 300 feet above the Avon,
'and overlooking Brunel's world-famous suspension bridge.
'Don't let that light touch fool you. This could be billed as the suspense story of the year.
'They're fixing lights to the Clifton Suspension Bridge,
'working more than 250 feet above the River Avon.
'Yet all the men engaged on this project are ordinary electricians. None is a professional steeplejack.
'Usually, these men hand each other bulbs from the height of a household ladder.
'They're specialists at inside installation, but they've worked on the chains of this bridge before.
'They illuminated it for the Festival of Britain.
'702-feet-long, the bridge needs six miles of cable for wiring.
'He looks pretty high, and some of us would have to be lit up ourselves
'before we tackled a job like that!'
MUSIC: "Safe From Harm" by Massive Attack
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Bristol has fascinated film-makers from the moment the camera was invented. From shipping, sherry and tobacco to Brunel, bridges and the blitz, this programme explores the visual archives that document this ancient city.