History

Before 1804 – the Malago River runs into Treen Mill Pond. Source: FrANC
After 1809 – Bathurst Basin links with Floating Harbour and New Cut. Source: FrANC. Click images for large versions.

Bathurst Basin takes its name from a Bristol MP in the early 19th century, Charles Bragg, who changed his name to Bathurst in 1804. It was built on an area of an old mill pond, the Treen (or Trin) Mill Pond (images above courtesy of the Friends of the Avon New Cut). The pond was supplied by the River Malago, from Bedminster to the South. It lost its water supply as the New Cut was created in 1809, running to the south of the enlarged Floating Harbour and catching the flow of the Malago.

Bathurst Basin in 1934 (courtesy of Britain from Above, www.britainfromabove.org.uk)

Access to the basin was through two sets of locks: one between the Floating Harbour and the second into the New Cut. The second connection enabled smaller vessels to bypass the main entrance locks in Cumberland Basin. From 1865 a deep water dock with a stone quay front was built. The basin used to be an industrial dock with warehouses and numerous shipyards at the adjoining Wapping Shipyard and Docks, including Hilhouse, William Scott & Sons and William Patterson.

On its north-western quay, Bathurst Parade is part of the Merchants Landing estate, built in the early 1980s. When the Bristol General Hospital (on the eastern side of the Basin) closed its doors in 2012, City and Country converted it into residences. The ground floor of the General now houses two Michelin-star restaurants. In addition to the hospital renovation, City and Country built The Iron Works, named after the Acraman Iron Works that occupied this site in the 19th century. The ground floor of the Iron Works houses a dental practice and gym.

The night before the 1831 Queen Square riots, hundreds of sledge hammers were ‘borrowed’ from the Acraman’s Iron Foundry, situated on the eastern quay of the Basin. These hammers were used during the riots to break down the doors of the four prisons in Bristol. The day after the riots, all but two of these hammers were returned. This fact, at the time, was used as evidence of prior planning by the ‘mob’.

Historical sites and events around the Basin


Word War 2 Bombing
On Sunday, 24 November 1940, German bombers targeted Bathurst Basin. Bombs fell in the area but none hit the Basin’s key structures. Nevertheless the raid killed 171 individuals and a further 174 were injured. Read more… 

 


Redcliffe Tunnel
A rail link from the main harbour to Bristol Temple Meads passed to the north of the Basin. The line passed over a bascule bridge close to the Ostrich and through the Redcliffe tunnel, the entrance of which is visible today. Read more


Lower Guinea Street Bridge
The old bascule bridge across the north entrance to Bathurst Basin was removed in 1964. In the early 1980s it was replaced by a pedestrian swing bridge to allow movement of tall vessels in to and out of the Basin.  Read more


The John Sebastian Lightship
The lightship is currently the home of Cabot Cruising Club. Built in 1885 in the same dock as the SS Great Britain, she was never meant to be grand or glamorous. She was responsible for saving hundreds of seamen in her hard-working life. Read more


The General
In 1858 work began on the Grade II listed buildings you see now on the eastern quay of Bathurst Basin. The land had become available on the closure of Acraman’s Ironworks. The date of the original founding (1832) is the one inscribed on the outside of the octagonal tower facing the Basin. Read more


The Ostrich Inn
At the entrance to Bathurst Basin from the main harbour, the Ostrich Inn was built around 1745. In 1793 the inn was listed as the ‘Ostrich, Trimm Mills’ because of its location close to the Treen Mills pond. The external appearance of the Ostrich has changed little over time. Read more


The Louisiana
First called The Bathurst Hotel, the Louisiana was built near the southern lock of Bathurst Basin in 1809. When first built, guests of the hotel would look over the green fields of Bedminster to the south and west and Bathurst Basin to the east. Read more


Explosion on Bathurst Basin
On the morning of 21st November 1888 a schooner, the “United”, was moved from her overnight berth outside the “Ostrich” to a position just inside the basin itself. She was loaded with 300 barrels of naphtha, a highly flammable product. Just after 11 a.m. a tremendous explosion occurred in the United. Read more


Historic Maps of Bathurst Basin

Click to view larger images