Get us in your inbox


Ten things you never knew about Bristol

Written by
Tiffany Daniels

From a monkey skeleton, hidden treasure and a pub on wheels to disobedient gardeners, blankets and a Methodist preacher. Bristol has a secret history that’s rich with weird and largely unknown facts. Below, we list ten of the best. Think we’ve missed something out? Tell us in the comments!

1) The excavation of the sally port in Castle Park produced one surprising result. 



When archaeologists excavated the sally port (an old term for a gateway, in case you were wondering) in Castle Park in 1970, the most important discovery was the skeleton of a monkey.

2) The medieval causeway leading to the Watching Brief has been reconstructed.

Heather Cowper


As the name suggests, Castle Park was once the site of Bristol Castle. The Watching Brief was the area used by castle guards to oversee imports/exports, in this case from the port. In 1971, council gardeners were asked to clear an area of the park ready for an archaeological dig. In doing so, they moved some cobbled stones to a rockery in St Agnes Park. The supervisor quickly realised his mistake, and recreated the Watching Brief’s medieval causeway that same day. No one ever knew – until now.

3) The brass cannons from Brandon Hill are buried under Jacob’s Well.

During the Second World War, brass was collected to melt down into weapons. However, the supervisor of Brandon Hill was having none of it so he hid the brass cannons surrounding Cabot Tower in a pit under Jacob’s Well, where they remain to this day.

4) The Llandoger Trow pub is on wheels.

Charlie Marshall

Forget Defoe and Stevenson – the Llandoger Trow pub in the city centre has a much more interesting story to tell. It was built on wheels to accommodate the then-floating harbour.

5) Brunel built two bridges in Bristol.

Sam Saunders

Everyone knows Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous Suspension Bridge, but what about its lesser cousin? The Swivel Bridge pales in stature, but is nonetheless a Grade II-listed spectacle to behold off the Cumberland Basin. 

6) A Bristolian invented blankets.


Legend has it that Bristolian wool merchant Edward Blanket invented the humble blanket. The trader is buried alongside his wife in St Stephen’s Church on Colston Avenue.

7) The first Methodist preacher was a Bristolian.

Andrew Gustar

When John Wesley preached a sermon from Hanham Mount to local miners in 1739, he created a whole new religion: Methodism. The New Room, the first Methodist chapel, was built on The Horsefair that same year.

8) Ribena was invented in Long Ashton.

Scientist Vernon Charley created Ribena during the Second World War as an important alternative vitamin source. Nowadays the brand is owned by Japanese company Suntory.

9) Twenty-five per cent of the world’s natural history films are made here. 

David Stanley

Thanks to the BBC’s extensive archives and natural history department, we can claim rights to a quarter of the world’s natural history shots.

10) We invented chocolate as you know it. 

Alex Liivet

The first bar of chocolate was created in Bristol by Joseph Fry, who worked out how to make solid bars from the stuff. Before then you had to drink it.

Hunt down Bristol's most unusual beer.

Latest news