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The Old City, St Nicholas Markets, Corn Street and The Nails

Bristol City grew up in Saxon times where the rivers Avon and Frome converged. A bridge was built in what was then known as Brigstow and people settled there. Bristol was an important port for hundreds of years. The layout of the mediaeval city is much the same today as it was then.

The city, about a mile across, was once surrounded by a defensive city wall. The last remaining part of the wall, St Johnís Gate, which is a fortified gateway, can be seen in Broad Street. The niches contain the figures of Brennus and Belinus who are the legendary founders of Bristol. Originally a single gateway the side passages were pushed through in 1820. St Johnís Conduit nearby was originally built to supply water from Brandon Hill to a Carmelite friary. The parishioners were allowed to use the overflow from the system and this water supply was used by the people of Bristol during the Second World War. There were four main roads: High Street, Corn Street, Broad Street and Wine Street with many entrances leading to small alleys, yards and courts. Taylorís Court remains today. The High Cross stood at the junction of these roads. Niches were carved into it containing statues of those who contributed to Bristolís expansion and trade and the cross was painted and gilded.

Bristol Castle on Castle Green was built by the Normans and demolished in 1650 by Act of Parliament on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. There is little left of the castle and only a few fragments remain of the Keep which stood above the great Dungeon.

Built of Caen stone around 1120, the foundation walls are reputed to have been 25ft thick. Part of the porch entrance to the King's Hall, a sally port and some walls can also be seen in Castle Park. After the castle was demolished, several streets of houses were built. These streets were severely bombed during the Second World War and a new shopping centre was laid out in the adjoining area of Broadmead.

The Guild of Merchant Taylors was set up by Charter of Richard II in 1399. The Guild's Hall was erected in Tailors' Court in 1740. Traders originally set up their market stalls in High Street and Broad Street until the Exchange was built in Corn Street. Before the Exchange was built merchants used to conduct business in the street.

Four flat topped pillars called the Nails are still in Corn Street today. Merchants would strike one of the Nails when a transaction was agreed giving rise to the expression ďto pay on the NailĒ. St Nicholas Market was built next door to the Exchange in 1743 for the sale of fruit and vegetables. The banks have since moved out and the buildings are now bars, restaurants and cafes. 

The Exchange has now become part of St Nicholas Markets selling arts and crafts, books, bric a brac, jewellery, and a variety of exotic foods as well as fruit and vegetables.

There were 17 parish churches within the old city, St Mary Redcliffe being the most famous. Queen Elizabeth I entered the city through St Johnís Gate in 1574. She is said to have proclaimed the Parish Church of St Mary Redcliffe to be the "fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England.Ē St Mary Redcliffe Church is one of Bristolís most historic and beautiful buildings with its magnificent exterior of flying buttresses, pinnacles and spire. Bristol Cathedral, a perfect example of a Hall Church and dating back to the 12th century is near College Green. Queen Square, the first large square to be laid out in Bristol, was once the finest place to live and very popular amongst merchants who made their living on the harbour. The Theatre Royal in King Street is Britains oldest continually worked Theatre and is said to be haunted by two ghosts. The Llandoger Trow, the Hole in the Wall and the Rummer all famous old Inns are situated here as is the Customs House, which is still in use today. Bristol is steeped in history and full of many historic buildings many of which have survived to this day.



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