A lot of my work involves research, much of the time it’s done on the internet, or from books, but this time I wanted to return to Bristol, the place I grew up, and delve further into it’s history, especially how the city coped during world war two and its recovery.
The book I’m currently working on is called A Night of Thunder; a sequel to my historical fiction Among the Olive Groves. A Night of Thunder will be set in Bristol, Zakynthos in Greece, and on the Greek mainland during world war two and subsequent decades. So for me it’s essential that I immerse myself back in the city to help with writing the book.
My first stop was at M Shed. When I last visited Bristol this was an another museum called The Industrial Museum. Now it’s a light bright space full of history and information about Bristol; from how the city began, how it coped during various events such as world war two, and how the people of Bristol lived throughout the centuries. My reason for visiting was that I wanted to reaqquaint myself with the city, and learn more about it during the second world war. I really enjoyed my time at M Shed. There were lots of interesting and informative exhibits; but my favourites were the Anderson Shelter and the Fire Watch Shelter. Both were used in the city during the second world war and they are an excellent reminder of part of the city’s past.
After my visit to M Shed, I walked up to The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, somewhere I used to love to visit. I ate lunch there and had a quick look around some of my favourite exhibits. The museum has some wonderful artefacts including canopic jars, sarcophagi and wall reliefs in the Egyptian exhibit. There are also loads of great geological items such as crystals and fossils, many of which were discovered in the Bristol area. There are even some dinosaur skeletons on display too, which makes it a great place for both the young and old to visit and explore.
After leaving the The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery I went to visit two sites in Bristol which are small reminders of the damage inflicted on the city during the second world war. In Redcliffe stands Temple Church, (previously known as Holy Cross Church). It was reportedly built on the site of a church of the Knights Templar. It was bombed, and almost destroyed, on 24/25 November 1940 during the blitz, and is now a listed building owned by English Heritage.
On Castle Park in the centre of Bristol, are the bombed out ruins of another church, St Peters. The church is said to date from around 1106, it’s thought to be the site of Bristol first church; information that was discovered from excavations that took place in 1975. Sadly, like Temple Church, St Peter’s was bombed during the same blitz that almost destroyed Temple Church. On the front wall of the church there’s a plaque dedicated to civilians and auxiliary personnel who lost their lives during the war, and it’s great that the city chooses to remember them this way.
Walking around the two churches was very sobering. It was sad to see that only mere skeletons of buildings remained, it gave me a small glimpse into the awful destruction that took place during world war two, and what little remained after the bombs had stopped falling. Yes, the rubble that fell/landed inside the churches is now gone, the grass now grows covering any remaining scars on the ground, and the churches sit abandoned on the sidelines as the city continues to grow and live around them. But they are still ever present, they are still a reminder of what the residents of Bristol went though, and how we should always admire their incredible bravery during a time of great adversity.