Bristol Industrial Museum

Contact Details

Bristol Industrial Museum
Princes Wharf, Wapping Road

Tel: 0117 925 1470

The Bristol Industrial Museum features exhibits documenting Bristol's maritime history, and includes outdoor exhibits along Prince's Wharf on the Floating Harbour, including the Bristol Harbour Railway and a small fleet of preserved vessels.

Fireboat "Pyronaut" and steam tug "Mayflower” The museums indoor exhibits are housed on the two floors of a former quayside transit shed. On the lower floor is the transport gallery, which houses various land transport exhibits with a particular Bristol slant. Exhibits include what is believed to be the world's first purpose-built holiday caravan to be compared with a 1950s equivalent, the Grenville steam carriage, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, carriages and buses.

On the upper floor the aviation gallery tells the story of Bristols involvement in aircraft manufacture and contains a collection of Bristol-made aero engines, a Bristol built helicopter, a mock-up flight deck of Concorde and scale models showing the many aircraft built in the city. On the same floor the story of the Port of Bristol is told with models, paintings and other exhibits.

The adjacent Print & Pack gallery tells the story of one of Bristol's biggest industries with machinery and products. Elsewhere in the museum, the Bristol and Transatlantic Slavery gallery tells the story of Bristol's involvement in the trans-atlantic slave trade between the UK, Africa and the Caribbean, from its early days through abolition to today's legacy. Normally moored in front of the museum, the collection of historic vessels include a fireboat "Pyronaut" and two steam tugs John King and Mayflower, which was built in 1861. Prince's Wharf and Wapping Wharf are designated as a grade II listed building.

The museum is due to close on October 29, 2006, to be replaced by a new "Museum of Bristol" opening on the same site in summer 2009. A grant of UK£10.27 million has been obtained from the National Lottery, contributing to the estimated UK£18.6 million of the change. The current exhibits "will be moved into storage in other parts of the city and elsewhere in the UK", according to the Bristol Evening Post.

Tourist train on the railway on the quayside outside the museum can be found several persevered dockyard cranes and one terminus of the harbour railway. The railway, which reopened in 2000, was a branch of the Great Western Railway and operates on selected weekends between the Museum and the SS Great Britain on standard gauge track for half a mile.

The railway is currently in use as far as the Create Centre, a mile from the museum. Cranes at Bristol Industrial Museum at the height of the harbour's industrial use, the Bristol Harbour Railway had branches on Prince's Wharf on the south and Canons Marsh on the north side of the harbour.

The reinforced concrete goods shed on Canons Marsh is now a listed building and houses At-Bristol. Little else of the railway on the north side of the harbour remains, and the railway bridge at the Cumberland Basin has been demolished.

On the south side of the harbour the railway crosses Spike Island, the narrow strip of land between the Harbour and the River Avon, and clings to the side of the river as far as the junction with the northern branch at the Cumberland Basin. Here the railway turns and crosses the river, merging first with the Portishead Railway and then the Great Western main line.

The bridge is an iron swing bridge that was, before the construction of new main road nearby, a double-deck bridge carrying a road carriageway above the railway. The top deck has now been dismantled and one of the tracks lifted to make way for a footpath and cycleway, while the other track has become overgrown.

Fairbairn Steam Crane in front of the museum is a Fairbairn Steam crane, which was built in 1878 to load and unload ships and railway wagons with cargoes up to 35 tons. It was in regular use until 1973, and has now been restored and preserved in working order.

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