Bristol Blitzed

18Jul10

I’m dead interested in the possibilities of these newfangled Google Map things, and have this grand ambitious plan to maybe one day make a sort of definitive map of Bristol weirdness.

In the meantime, and to help with something else I was working on, I thought I’d make a wee map of places of Blitz interest. It just kept getting bigger.

The Blitz is easily the most dramatic and traumatic thing to hit Bristol since the Civil War, but you’d never know it. Aside from a few books in the library and some teaching materials (don’t get me started on Hitler Studies teaching in schools), it’s as though there’s been a sort of collective will to forget the whole thing.

This is probably partly due to wartime censorship (Bristol’s sufferings were played down by official propaganda, unlike those of London or Coventry), and maybe also to the fact that people who were around at the time would rather forget the deaths of 1300 people, countless injuries and thousands of buildings destroyed, most of them over the bitterly cold winter of 1940-41.

And yet the Blitz completely re-shaped the city. A huge central area was laid waste – roughly where Broadmead, Castle Park and Cabot Circus are nowadays. Postwar Bristol’s centre of gravity moved with rebuilding, but bomb sites, always with clumps of buddleia growing on them, were a common sight into the 1970s.

And there are still many, many places where you can see evidence of the Blitz.

Map’s at bit.ly/aPcZl7 if you’re interested.

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8 Responses to “Bristol Blitzed”

  1. 1 Charlie Bolton

    There’s a guy I know who points out that bombed houses tend to be in a line, following the course of the plane dropping the bombs.

    So, in Southville, for example, you have the basic stock of Edwardian/Victorian houses. interspersed among thses are the occasional incongruous modern house.

    Mind you, it could all be down to crap planning decisions……..

  2. 2 Charlie Bolton

    I also heard a story of a bomibng somewhere near East St,where the shock wave killed a load of people in a shelter.

    No idea if it is true, mind – but if so, I always thoguht it should be commemorated in some way

  3. It’s quite easy to spot the way a “stick” of high explosive bombs fell in areas of terraced housing by the new houses. The majority of bombs were small incendiaries, designed to start fires, and so you find that with, e.g. Park Street, a lot of buildings were burned to shells, but they were rebuilt behind old facades.

    People in shelters being killed by shockwave is something that did happen. You get these ghastly stories of people entering shelters to find everyone sitting there silently, no blood or injuries – but they’re all dead.

    I believe this did happen at at least one public shelter in Bristol, but not sure where. I ought to find out.

  4. 4 Tom Phillips

    Another interesting air-raid shelter-related story here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n14/letters
    About London rather than Bristol but the letter’s from Derek Robinson so I guess that counts (scroll down past the Darwin letter and it’s the one called ‘March on Savoy’).

    • Derek Robinson knows his stuff, and the story is one that lefties and commies (which Derek isn’t) like to tell one another. The interesting side to this is that the CP tried to repeat it again after the war. A chronic housing shortage led to people squatting disused army camps (Bristol was big on this – blog or Venue article soon). Just as the SWP nowadays can’t see a bandwagon without trying to hijack it, the CP tried to extend movement which was squatting empty government property which arguably belonged to everyone, to squatting posh flats in the West End.

  5. There were a few articles in the Old Bristolians magazine with Blitz stories. I’ve got them filed under Miscellaneous in the big pile by my desk, so I can probably find them sometime this year.

    Or give the OBs a bell and they can probably send you copies.
    http://www.bristolgrammarschool.co.uk/Former-Pupils.aspx

    • Thanks James! Sounds well worth a look. I’m getting yea close to going off to spend weeks in Bristol Record Office studying Blitz minutiae if I can think of any possible economic justification for doing it.


  1. 1 Map of the Bristol Blitz | | James BarlowJames Barlow

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