Place:Bedminster, Somerset, England

TypeAncient parish, Civil parish
Coordinates51.439°N 2.604°W
Located inSomerset, England
See alsoHartcliffe with Bedminster Hundred, Somerset, Englandancient hundred in which it was located
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmunicipal borough into which it was absorbed in 1835
the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Bedminster was once a small town in Somerset. It was absorbed into Bristol when the city became a municipal borough in 1835. Despite the fact that most of Bristol was located north of the River Avon in Gloucestershire, Bedminster is always considered to be in Somerset.

The town's origins seem to be Roman, centred on the present East Street and West Street. Finds here have been interpreted as an enclosed rural farmstead, dating between the 2nd and 4th centuries, but with possible Iron Age origins. The river Malago, which runs through Bedminster to join the River Avon, was an early Christian place for baptisms — the old word for which, beydd may be the origin of Bedminster's name.

By the late Anglo-Saxon period Bedminster was a manor held by King Edward the Confessor in the 11th century, and in the Domesday Book of 1086 it was still in royal hands. The Royal Manor of Bedminster comprised all the land south of the Avon, from the Avon Gorge to Brislington, and in the Domesday Book had 25 villeins, 3 slaves and 27 smallholders. In 1154 it was given to the Lords of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, who kept it for 300 years. In 1605 it was purchased by the Smyth family of Ashton Court who remained the Lords of the Manor until the 19th century.

The parish of Bedminster was part of the hundred of Hartcliffe with Bedminster (or, simply, Hartcliffe).

In 1644, during the English Civil War, Bedminster was sacked by Prince Rupert (nephew of King Charles I}. When John Wesley preached there in the 1760s, it was a sprawling, decayed market town, with orchards next to brickworks, ropewalks and the beginnings of a mining industry.

Open cast coal mining had been done on a small scale since the 1670s, but in 1748 the first shafts were sunk by Sir Jarrit Smyth at South Liberty Lane. By the end of the century there were eighteen coal-pits operating in the Bedminster and Ashton Vale coalfield.

Between 1804 and 1809 the New Cut was excavated through the northern part of the parish from Temple Meads to Hotwells, providing a new course for the River Avon, enabling the original course to be held at a constant level so that shipping could stay afloat in Bristol Harbour, now known as the Floating Harbour. In addition to removing the tides, the new cut also helped with reducing silting in the harbour. It is now the boundary between Bedminster and the City centre.

In 1840 the shipbuilder Acramans, Morgan and Co opened the Bedminster Yard on the New Cut, to build a number of steam ships including two large vessels for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, the Avon and Severn were completed by 1842. In 1862 John Payne Ltd took over the yard, then known as the Vauxhall Yard, and continued to build coastal cargo ships, and small craft such as tugs. They closed in 1925, and the site was taken over by Bristol Metal Welding and Spraying Company, who are still in business there today.

The population of Bedminster increased rapidly, from 3,000 in 1801 to 78,000 in 1884, mostly as a result of the coalfield and industries such as smelting, tanneries, glue-works, paint and glass factories. In the 1880s two major employers moved there – E. S. & A. Robinson (paper bag manufacturers) and W.D. & H.O. Wills (cigarette and cigar makers). The population overflowed to the communities of Windmill Hill, Totterdown, Southville, the Chessels and Bedminster Down. During this time, churches, public houses, shops and businesses were built, some of which still survive.

In World War II, Bedminster was one of several areas of Bristol that were heavily bombed during the Bristol Blitz. Post-war town planning relocated most of the heavy industry to the rural areas to the south of the parish, and new estates grew up in Withywood, Hartcliffe and Highridge.

Research Tips

  • GENUKI page on Bedminster.
  • The Somerset Heritage Centre (incorporating what was formerly the Somerset Record Office and the Somerset Local Studies Library) can be found at its new location at Langford Mead in Taunton. It has an online search facility leading to pages of interest, including maps from the First and Second Ordnance Survey (select "Maps and Postcards" from the list at the left, then enter the parish in the search box).
    The Heritage Centre has an email address:
  • Three maps on the A Vision of Britain through Time website illustrate the changes in political boundaries over the period 1830-1945. All have expanding scales and on the second and third this facility is sufficient that individual parishes can be inspected.
  • Somerset Hundreds as drawn in 1832. This map was prepared before The Great Reform Act of that year. Note the polling places and representation of the various parts of the county.
  • Somerset in 1900, an Ordnance Survey map showing rural districts, the boundaries of the larger towns, the smaller civil parishes of the time, and some hamlets and villages in each parish
  • Somerset in 1943, an Ordnance Survey map showing the rural districts after the changes to their structure in the 1930s
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Bedminster, Bristol. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.