Portishead, which lies near the mouth of the River Avon just eight miles from Bristol, was a fishing port during a previous existence dating from the 14th century. There are still iron rings visible in the High Street where the boats used to moor. Later, in 1497, Portishead played a key part in the discovery of the New World when the navigator John Cabot sailed from here in a small caravel called The Matthew bound for North America. A replica of TheMatthew can be seen in Bristol; I had the pleasure of seeing it in action on a recent visit, taking passengers on a trip around the harbour. Another chapter in Portishead's history came with the establishment of the Docks, which were used to service coal-carrying ships which were too large to enter Bristol Harbour. During the war Portishead Radio, a station which existed from 1928 to 2000, played an important part in maintaining communications with British merchant vessels and with patrol aircraft in the North Atlantic.
The Docks are now gone, and the present-day Portishead is largely a commuter town for people working in Bristol. The focal point nowadays in the Marina with a variety of bars, restaurants and cafes surrounded by residential apartments. Residents and visitors alike have at their disposal a Victorian High Street, a Boating Lake and and open-airswimming pool in the summer months, while a walk out to the the Portishead Point Lighthouse at Battery Point offers stunning views across to Wales. The lighthouse was built in 1931 and is a mere 9 metres high. Nearby attractions include the Gordano ValleyNational Nature Reserve and the Clevedon Coast Path.
Music lovers may have heard the name Portishead before: one of the bands typifying the 'Bristol Sound' (see previous post) named themselves after the town when they formed in 1991 and they also bestowed the name on their second album. The Portishead scene is enlivened by a number of events through the year, including a carnival, a flower show, a raft race and a Victorian Evening in the run up to Christmas.
Map of the area.
|Portishead Point Lighthouse. Photo by Roger Cornfoot, via Wikimedia Commons|