I'm afraid that this is a bit of a badly-curated wander, where I mostly just popped out to find out a little of the history of Underfall Yard and poke around the various open workshops, and, in hindsight, really didn't take pictures in any kind of coherent order. So there's a lot of pictures, but they don't really tell the story that, in hindsight, I seem to have been trying to tell, of the unusual electrical substation in Avon Crescent, the Bristol Electricity that predates the National Grid but is still in use, the history of the hydraulic power house... It's a bit of a mess.
But I suppose sometimes these wanders—always chronologically presented in the order I walked and took photos—simply will sometimes be a bit of a mess. Let's hope you still get something out of it, anyway...
It's very hard to get a decent look at this building. This is the top half of the back of it.
The poor place is much-neglected.
This building is, or was, an electrical substation. I heard an unconfirmed rumour that the building itself is now actually empty, and that the entire substation guts are now in these boxes. I have no idea whether that's true or not.
Here we've turned the corner onto Avon Crescent to see the front.
You can see this once apparently bright and airy building has had every window bricked up.
I understand that something in or around this building still supplies the odd electrical requirements (specifically, 360V "Bristol voltage") for some bits of Underfall Yard, which is our next stop, so more about that when we get there.
While it's not a listed building, is is notable: it's one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings in the UK, apparently, construction starting in 1905. I assume it was up by 1907, as that's when Undefall Yard installed their electric pumps.
This oddity of history predates the National Grid and was originally fed from Feeder Road power station (well, Avonbank, on Feeder Road, to be precise. We've seen a bit of that history before, as a line marker for the line from Portishead to Feeder Road.) It was connected to Feeder Road by 1906, with a 6,600V line.
I've added a couple of historic views of the building as the next two photos in the wander, but I'll also pop this link to a Loxton drawing of the Avonbank electricity works, 1908 here.
Via this Tweet and taken from KYP Bristol, showing the interior with a couple of Westinghouse rotary converters and a Peebles-La Cour motor converter, assuming this picture ties up roughly with this 1908 Institute of Mechanical Engineers' visit to works.
You can see a picture of similar Westinghouse converters to the two at the back in the Wikipedia rotary converter page and a Peebles converter that looks very similar to the one in the foreground on the cover of the Peebles motor converter catalogue in the sidebar of their entry in Grace's Guide. I'm guessing the additions on the ends of the Westinghouse converters were for different voltages? A rotary converter is basically a motor connected to a dynamo, so extra dynamos with different windings would give you different voltage outputs, I suppose, but I know very little about power generation.
And here's the Loxton picture of the exterior, from the Bristol Libraries collection. Seems such a shame to have bricked up those lovely windows.
26 Oct 2020
A dash around the harbourside to see if I can get to Mokoko and back in my lunch hour.
This was my first wander and I was still getting the hang of the technology. I managed to record only part of the way back on my GPS, by the looks of it, so I've had to bodge things a bit to pick up the photos, which is why there are photos in places the track doesn't reach!
I also need to fix a few technical things including managing my photo timezones more carefully. This wander was the day after the clocks went back for winter, and I think my camera may still have been in BST, which may not have helped me tie things up. Need to do a bit of research into how my cameras, Lightroom and the code I'm writing on this website handle BST and GMT, but at least I have until the last Sunday in March before things get urgent, I think...
29 Oct 2020
They're refurbishing (by which they seem to mean ripping almost completely apart and rebuilding) the Catherine in Underfall Yard at the moment. I like checking on the progress when I pass by the Patent Slip.
Most of the refit of the Catherine so far seems to have involved throwing increasingly large chunks of it away. I thought those chairs looked really comfy, though, apart from the fact they'd have been sopping wet from the rain. And who knows what else, given the Catherine's rather chequered past—apparently it was a brothel for a while, among other things.
03 Nov 2020
A very local exploration today, but there are still bits of the near field that I never need to walk down, so it didn't take me long to find somewhere I haven't been in a decade or more, the little enclave of smaller Victorian houses around Oldfield Road and Sandford Road. I'd really like to live in one of those houses, but I doubt I could afford it.
I think "refit" might mean "remove everything except the keel and build a new boat on top.
22 Jan 2021
Took myself around the harbour to Imagine That's horsebox cafe and treated myself to a flat white and a sourdough cheese toastie. On the way there and back I encountered some local flooding and various bit of graffiti, from some ugly tagging on someone's front windows to a large new piece being added to Cumberland Piazza in the ongoing attempts to cheer the place up.
10 Apr 2021
There's a bit of Southville that I've been meaning to get to for some time, where the streets seem to take some strong inspiration from London. There's a Camden Road that crosses with an Islington Road, and a Dalston Road, even an Edgeware Road. For me these names are more evocative than the rather more exotic names I passed by to get there—Sydney Row or Hanover Place, say, because I've actually been to the places in London. The last time I was in Islington I saw Monkey Swallows the Universe play at The Angel, and I can't think of Camden without remembering a gondola trip with my friend Tara where a cheery youth played Beatles music for us on a saz...
I really liked this little area, with its mostly well-kept pretty houses and hints here and there of the creative side of the residents. It's arty and down-to-earth at the same time, and I wouldn't mind living there, I think.
On the way there I got the chance to walk through Underfall Yard for the first time in a while, and on the way back I had my first take-away hot food for many months, grabbing some crispy fried squid from the excellent Woky Ko at Wapping Wharf.
Standing proud since 1888. Chimney of they hydraulic engine house.
This is the first time I've been able to walk through Underfall Yard in months; it's been closed during the lockdown, and it's really reminded me how much nicer the route around the harbourside is when it's open. Cumberland Road is just dull.
Apparently the electric motor that still winches ships up out of the water on this "heave-up" slip (patented 1819 by Thomas Morton of Leith) dates from 1924, when it replaced the previous hydraulic system. I've never been there to watch a ship be hauled up, but it regularly deals with things as large as the Matthew.
The listing has this to say:
Patent slip and quay walls. Mid C19, restored 1888. Granite and Pennant rubble. 1 in 14 inclined slip with rails and timber cradle on wheels, drawn by an electric winch. Quay walls extend approx 50m along frontage of the Underfall Yard. HISTORICAL NOTE: Built on land reclaimed behind Jessop's 1809 Overfall Dam, originally part of the c1850 Nova Scotia Yard, purchased by the Docks Committee in 1880. Capable of raising a load of 250 tons. (Lord J and Southam J: The Floating Harbour: Bristol: 1983-: 65).
Or it would be, if there were still decks...
Good to see some boatbulding in progress.
15 Apr 2021
Just a quick trip to Imagine That for a flat white and a date ball (they're really nice), snapping the general sights along the way. No new roads, as has rapidly become the default on my lunchtime wanders, but as I'm in the routine of this project it almost seems strange not to pop my wanders up on the site.
14 Jul 2021
As it turned out, I didn't manage to get a coffee on my lunchtime coffee trip, as Imagine That were briefly shut down by a Covid-19 exposure notification (false alarm, it seems.) On the plus side, my trip was made worthwhile by spotting a couple of people from the University of Bath Mechanical Engineering Department testing an autonomous body-finding catamaran, which isn't a phrase I was ever expecting to write...
I love peeking in to the big shed on the way through Underfall.
25 Jul 2021
The far east of the intersection of my one-mile radius and Bedminster, anyway. I was feeling a bit tired this morning, so I motivated myself to get out of the door by imagining one of Mokoko's almond croissants. That got me on my way, and I wandered across to Bedminster, through Greville Smyth Park, along most of the length of North Street (looking out for new Upfest 75-pieces-in-75-days artwork as I went) and then onto some new roads at the far end.
I only wanted to knock a few streets off my "to do" list, but by the time I'd diverted here and there to check out various bits of graffiti and other attractions and come back via the aforementioned purveyors of Bristol's finest croissants, I'd walked 7.4km. Not bad for someone who woke up tired, and at least I've done something with my day. I'm very glad the weather broke (we had tremendous thunderstorms yesterday), even if some of the pictures might've looked better with a blue sky. I was getting fed up with walking around in 29°C heat...
I'm not sure I've ever spotted this in the window of the Harbour Master's office. Clearly he goes in for traditional décor.
This boat's been under construction at Underfall Yard for quite some time. Here she is back in April. This is the first time I've seen it out of the boat-builder's shed, so I presume it's finished, or nearly so.
I really, really hope he's got another boat called Sea Airer.