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Bristol - England
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England. It is England's sixth and the United Kingdom's eighth most populous city - one of the group of English Core Cities and the most populous city in South West England. Historically within Gloucestershire, the city received a Royal Charter in 1155 and was granted County status in 1373. From the 13th century, for half a millennium, it ranked amongst the top three English cities after London, alongside York and Norwich, on the basis of tax receipts, until the rapid rise of Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester during the Industrial Revolution in the latter part of the 18th century. It borders the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire, and is also located near the historic cities of Bath to the south east and Gloucester to the north. The city is built around the River Avon, and it also has a short coastline on the Severn Estuary, which flows into the Bristol Channel.
Bristol is the largest center of culture, employment and education in the region. Its prosperity has been linked with the sea since its earliest days. The commercial Port of Bristol was originally in the city center before being moved to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth; Royal Portbury Dock is on the western edge of the city boundary. In more recent years the economy has depended on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city center docks have been regenerated as a center of heritage and culture. There are 34 other populated places on Earth named Bristol, most in the United States, but also in Peru, Canada, Jamaica, Barbados, and Costa Rica, all presumably commemorating the original in England.
Archaeological finds believed to be 60,000 years old, discovered at Shirehampton and St Annes, provide evidence of human activity in the Bristol area from the Palaeolithic era. Iron Age hill forts near the city are at Leigh Woods and Clifton Down on the side of the Avon Gorge, and on Kingsweston Hill, near Henbury. During the Roman era there was a settlement, Abona, at what is now Sea Mills, connected to Bath by a Roman road, and another at the present-day Inns Court. There were also isolated Roman villas and small Roman forts and settlements throughout the area. The town of Brycgstow appears to have been founded in c.1000 and by c.1020 was an important enough trading centre to possess its own mint, producing silver pennies bearing the town's name.
By 1067 the town was clearly a well fortified burgh that proved capable of resisting an invasion force sent from Ireland by Harold's sons. Under Norman rule the town acquired one of the strongest castles in southern England. The area around the original junction of the River Frome with the River Avon, adjacent to the original Bristol Bridge and just outside the town walls, was where the port began to develop in the 11th century. By the 12th century Bristol was an important port, handling much of England's trade with Ireland, including slaves. In 1247 a new stone bridge was built, which was replaced by the current Bristol Bridge in the 1760s, and the town was extended to incorporate neighbouring suburbs. It has been suggested that between a third and half of the population were lost during the Black Death of 1348–49. The plague resulted in a prolonged pause in the growth of Bristol's population, with numbers remaining at 10,000–12,000 through most of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The city is famous for its music and film industries, and was a finalist for the 2008 European Capital of Culture, but the title was awarded to Liverpool. Bristol is home to one of the seven national Foodies Festivals, taking place 13th-15th July 2012, and including masterclasses from Levi Roots and Ed Baines, as well as city beaches, restaurant tents, pop-up cinemas and burlesque shows. The city's principal theatre company, the Bristol Old Vic, was founded in 1946 as an offshoot of the Old Vic company in London. Its premises on King Street consist of the 1766 Theatre Royal with 607 seats, a modern studio theatre called the New Vic with 150 seats, and foyer and bar areas in the adjacent Coopers' Hall built in 1743.
The Theatre Royal is a grade I listed historical building and is the oldest continuously operating theatre in England. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which had originated in King Street is now a separate company. The Bristol Hippodrome is a larger theatre with 1,951 seats, which hosts national touring productions. Other theatres include the Tobacco Factory with 250 seats, QEH with 220 seats, the Redgrave Theatre at Clifton College with 320 seats, and the Alma Tavern with 50 seats. Bristol's theatre scene includes a large variety of producing theatre companies, apart from the Bristol Old Vic company, including Show of Strength Theatre Company, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and Travelling Light Theatre Company. Theatre Bristol is a partnership between Bristol City Council, Arts Council England and local theatre practitioners which aims to develop the theatre industry in Bristol. There are also a number of organisations within the city which act to support theatre makers, for example Equity, the actors union, has a General Branch based in the city, and Residence which provides office, social and rehearsal space for several Bristol-based theatre and performance companies.
Bristol has 51 Grade I listed buildings, 500 Grade II* and over 3,800 Grade II buildings, in a wide variety of architectural styles, ranging from the medieval to the 21st century. In the mid-19th century, Bristol Byzantine, an architectural style unique to the city, was developed, of which several examples have survived. Buildings from most of the architectural periods of the United Kingdom can be seen throughout the city. Surviving elements of the fortified city and castle date back to the medieval era, also some churches dating from the 12th century onwards. Outside the historical city center there are several large Tudor mansions built for wealthy merchants. Almshouses and public houses of the same period still exist, intermingled with modern development. Several Georgian-era squares were laid out for the enjoyment of the middle class as prosperity increased in the 18th century. During World War II, the city center suffered from extensive bombing during the Bristol Blitz.
The central shopping area around Wine Street and Castle Street was particularly badly hit, and architectural treasures such as the Dutch House and St Peter's Hospital were lost. Nonetheless in 1961 Betjeman still considered Bristol to be the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England. The redevelopment of shopping centres, office buildings, and the harbourside continues apace. Bristol is home to two major institutions of higher education: the University of Bristol, a redbrick chartered in 1909, and the University of the West of England, formerly Bristol Polytechnic, which gained university status in 1992. The city also has two dedicated further education institutions, City of Bristol College and Filton College, and three theological colleges, Trinity College, Wesley College and Bristol Baptist College. Bristol has two principal railway stations. Bristol Temple Meads is near the center and sees mainly First Great Western services including regular high speed trains to London Paddington as well as other local and regional services and CrossCountry trains. Bristol Parkway is located to the north of the city and is mainly served by high speed First Great Western services between Cardiff and London, and CrossCountry services to Birmingham and the North East.
There is also a limited service to London Waterloo from Bristol Temple Meads, operated by South West Trains. There are also scheduled coach links to most major UK cities. Public transport in the city consists largely of its bus network, provided mostly by First Group, formerly the Bristol Omnibus Company – other services are provided by Abus, Buglers, Ulink - Operated by Wessex Connect for the 2 Universities, and Wessex Connect. Buses in the city have been widely criticised for being unreliable and expensive, and in 2005 First was fined for delays and safety violations. Private car usage in Bristol is high, and the city suffers from congestion, which costs an estimated £350 million per year. Bristol is motorcycle friendly; the city allows motorcycles to use most of the city's bus lanes, as well as providing secure free parking. There are also three park and ride sites serving the city, supported by the local council. The central part of the city has water-based transport, operated by the Bristol Ferry Boat, Bristol Packet and Number Seven Boat Trips providing leisure and commuter services on the harbour.
Bristol's principal surviving suburban railway is the Severn Beach Line to Avonmouth and Severn Beach. Rail services in Bristol suffer from overcrowding and there is a proposal to increase rail capacity under the Greater Bristol Metro scheme. Bristol was named England's first 'cycling city' in 2008, and is home to the sustainable transport charity Sustrans. It has a number of urban cycle routes, as well as links to National Cycle Network routes to Bath and London, to Gloucester and Wales, and to the south-western peninsula of England. Cycling has grown rapidly in the city. The city is served by Bristol Airport (BRS), at Lulsgate, which has seen substantial investments in its runway, terminal and other facilities since 2001.
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