5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bristol’s History

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Un divertimento de cromaticom. avatar- M. Eichel

Bristol is renowned for its history, from its links to Isambard Kingdom Brunel to the disastrous effects of the World War Two bombings. There are a few points, however, about Bristol’s diverse history that are still widely unknown. Here are 5 obscure facts about the History of Bristol.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Bristol's History

Home to the first chocolate bar.

Up until 1847 chocolate was regularly consumed as a drink. This was until the Bristol based Joseph Fry & Sons found a way to use the excess cocoa butter to produce a thin paste that could be moulded into eating chocolate, creating the first chocolate bar. The Fry’s Cream Stick became the first industrialised and affordable chocolate bar in 1853, now no longer simply a luxury for the rich. Twenty years later Fry’s went on to produce the first British Easter egg. Much of the advertising for the products stated the nutritional benefits of both drinking and eating chocolate. If only that were true.

Advertisement for Fry's Pure Concetrated Cocoa

Photo Credit: Wellcome Images

Stalin’s Daughter Lived in Clifton

Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin left Communist Russia in 1967 and fled to the United States. After moving between Russia and the US for several years, Svetlana, also known as Lana Peters, settled in Clifton, Bristol. Little is known about her stay in the city but she is believed to have remained in Clifton throughout the 1990s.

First World War Hospitals

The First World War witnessed previously unseen levels of wounded soldiers returning from the front. Such soldiers needed effective treatment, and Bristol’s Hospitals were an important centre for medical care. Southmead Hospital cared for 37,397 patients, aided by Bristol Lunatic Asylum in Fishponds, which was converted into Beaufort War Hospital in 1915. Some of Bristol’s upper class families also opened their homes to become hospitals to deal with the influx of patients arriving in the city. The Smyths of Ashton Court, the Caves at Cleve Hill in Downend and Mr and Mrs Bush at Bishop’s Knoll all converted their homes into military hospitals.

St. Michael’s Hill Fortress

In 2009 archaeologists discovered a fortress, located on St. Michael’s Hill, that was crucial to the defence of Bristol during the English Civil War. The second largest port in England, Bristol was a main target for Royalist forces. In 1643 Prince Rupert and his troops captured the city and began to construct fortifications. An engineer named de Gomme designed the ‘Royal Fort’ on St. Michael’s, replacing the Parliamentarian Windmill Fort. The stronghold became Prince Rupert’s headquarters and acted as a safe-haven for troops retreating from a siege as they did in 1645.

Image of St. Michael's Hill in modern day.

St. Michael's Hill. Photo Credit: Nick.

During the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s forces bombed many anti-fascist republican regions. Thousands of Spanish children and their teachers were evacuated to various countries including Britain. Bristol’s mayor agreed to house 100 child refugees. However as a result of public backlash, only 51 were evacuated to stay with families in Bristol in 1936. In addition, four Bristolian men went to Spain to fight against Franco’s forces, and a plaque situated in Castle Park commemorates their efforts.