Category Archives: 04 Medieval

Castle Park

Castle Park probably has the most varied history of any part of Bristol. The area has been host to a medieval castle, the busiest shopping street in Victorian times, a Second World War bomb site and a gigantic car park while the council made plans for a civic centre and museum before it became the park we see today.

Bristol Castle Keep. Image courtesy of Bristol Library, Braik. VII.i.8
Bristol Castle Keep. Image courtesy of Bristol Library, Braik. VII.i.8

Local Learning have worked with several schools to explore this varied history and ran a Council for British Archaeology funded Archaeology in the Park event in 2007. We involved actors to take audiences through time to the sallyport providing castle courtiers with an escape route, to peer inside the 18th century houses that once stood on Bridge Street and to join the queues for one of the first talkies showing at the Regent Cinema.

In 2012, Local Learning collaborated on the Lost Cinemas of Castle Park with the University of the West of England, where members of the public helped to create a series of Top Trump cards depicting the many picture houses that had once existed in this area.

Most recently, Bristol City Council have commissioned Local Learning to create new interpretation materials to help tell the story of Castle Park.

The Old City

Tudor resources

Bristol has been known as a place by the bridge for over 1000 years. By the beginning of the Tudor period it was one of the largest towns in Britain. Bristol merchants became rich exporting cloth and importing wine as they traded with other European ports.

Visiting the Nails on a Tudor Trail
Visiting the Nails on a Tudor Trail

In 2006, Local Learning secured Heritage Lottery funding to recreate a day in the life of Tudor merchant, John Pryn. Primary schools across the city joined Pryn in an interactive tour as he searched for his ship, the Mary James docked in December 1581 with its cargo of wine. During the trail, Pryn and his primary school associates could be found on Corn Street, bartering with the vintner, at the harbour, whispering with the ship’s captain about the wine that hadn’t been declared, at the gate to the city conversing with the constable.

A virtual Choose your own Tudor Adventure allows visitors to our website to continue to be able to explore the Tudor Bristol, meet the characters that Pryn encountered on his walk and make decisions that could result in either a day of successful financial transactions or being robbed and abandoned on Canon’s Marsh.

Stokes Croft

Victorian resources (these were created for St Michael-on-the-Mount Primary School, but contain generic content that can be applied elsewhere).

Stokes Croft is one of the oldest routes in to Bristol. It will have originated as a track between fields certainly by about 1000 years ago if not earlier. By the 1100s it was probably being regularly used by travellers coming to markets in Bristol, particularly St James’s Fair.

The route became the boundary of the new parish of St Pauls as the city’s population increased. This invisible line runs right through what is known locally as the Bearpit, indicating the parish boundary between St Pauls and St James.

The Bearpit Heritage launch event, 2015
The Bearpit Heritage launch event, 2015

With funding from Heritage Lottery, Bristol City Council and Historic England, Local Learning have worked with a number of primary and secondary schools, colleges and the wider community on a variety of long term projects. Our activities covered the area’s 1000 year history, ranging from Year 3 students’ graphic novel, piecing together the story of one of the monks buried with a jet amulet at St James’ Priory to City of Bristol Art and Design students’ architectural drawings of Avon House North that bridges Stokes Croft like a concrete gate to the city.