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Story last updated: 01 Apr 2004 1821 BST Printable version of this page
Industrial Museum on Bristol dockside
Industrial museum viewed over  docks  

The hustle and bustle of Bristol city docks, with its colourful mix of maritime, leisure and industry, is the perfect setting for the Industrial Museum.
The old cranes dominate the Bristol skyline

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2003, the museum is situated in an old loading shed on Princes Wharf.

Still surrounded by the old working tram lines, steam machinery and working boats, the museum is locked in a visual time warp of industrial heritage.

Huge steam and electric cranes standing tall on the dockside are a well-known landmark in the city and an important part of the museum's working exhibits.

Most summer weekends see them brought to life along with the museum's two tugs and fire boat - all of which were Bristol-built.

View of quayside and museum under crane legs
The museum's biggest exhibits are brought to life in the summer

Rail enthusiasts can enjoy a train ride along the dockside in one of the two steam-operated locomotives.

For a real treat, visitors can take the steam train to the ss Great Britain - Brunel's landmark iron ship - and make the return journey by ferry boat.

Inside the museum the exhibits are laid out over two floors in five main sections.

Road and rail

The transport gallery displays a selection of Bristol-built vehicles and many others including the world's first holiday caravan.

You can see the Lord Mayor's state coach and a Lodekka bus, which is still used to carry visitors to the City Museum on "Sunday fundays".

The history of Bristol docks and the development of the port of Bristol are told with models, paintings and fascinating objects.

Find out about Bristol's famous ships - John Cabot's Matthew, famous for its Atlantic crossing to New Foundland in 1497. A replica built 500 years later which made the same voyage in 1997, is sited five minutes' walk along the docks.

And moored next to it is Brunel's first iron ship the ss Great Britain, which has its own display.

The Industrial Museum also has information about Bristol's historic links to the slave trade and how the city profited from it.

Visitors can trace the triangular trade between Britain, Africa and the Caribbean, from its start in 1698 to abolition in 1807.

Other exhibits include Bristol's aerospace industry's mock-up flight deck of Concorde and "print and pack" - the story of the print industry.

There are regular hands-on printing activities at weekends and holiday times.

Museum of Bristol

And the museum is set to expand, thanks to a £10.3m boost from the the National Lottery.

It is to be adapted to become a new Museum of Bristol which will "tell the story of the city and its people."

The funding includes £853,000 to transform the Industrial Museum's present site into a new attraction to house exhibits already in storage.

The museum's curator of industrial and maritime history, Andy King, says the money will help transform the Industrial Museum, giving a wider range of subject and expanding its material.

The building itself will also be growing, with plans to make the most of the museum's panoramic location.

Part of the building will be given an upper floor and the plans also include making the most of its current space.

It is hoped that the Museum of Bristol, which will cost more than £18m in total, will open in 2009.

Opening times

Meanwhile the Industrial Museum is open throughout the year on Saturday to Wednesday, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Opening hours are 10am - 5pm.

Entry to the museum is completely free to everyone.

The museum has wheelchair access, parking and toilets.

Getting there

By foot

The museum is a five minute walk from Bristol's city centre, next to Princes Bridge.

By public transport

The museum is well served by local bus routes and by the river ferry, which stops at Princes Bridge.

By car

Car users should leave the M5 at junction 18 or 19 and follow signs for the city centre. If approaching from the M4, exit at junction 19 and follow the signs for M32 and city centre.

As you enter the city follow the signs for the ss Great Britain and then pick up the brown visitor signs for the Industrial Museum.

Pay-and-display parking is available at the rear of the museum.


Industrial Museum

ss Great Britain

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