Is it something in the water? I had no idea how talented Bristol is and has been throughout history! Many innovations hailing from this intriguing city have literally changed our view of the world, made our lives easier and given us great joy.
I love history. Do I consider myself an expert in the field? No. However, I am an educator and have a natural desire to enhance my own education and pass on what I know. The past is so easily forgotten with the excitement and business of the present and future. I rarely stop to think about how all of these things that I take for granted came about. I have charted 1000 years of Bristol’s history through illustration, making it accessible to the young, middle aged and old alike; I have been amazed by my discoveries of this city and an understanding of how Bristol was made has spurred me on to do the same for other cities around the world. Hence Memory Maze was born! There is so much that I want to share that cannot be squeezed into one illustrated timeline and I love the fact that I can share these things here.
So, here they are. My personal top 5 World Changing Innovations that catapulted themselves out of Bristol:
1. SS GREAT BRITAIN – Brunel:
An ingenious man whose innovations, creativity and determination gave us much to be grateful for. In his relatively short life (he died at the age of 53) Brunel was responsible for the first propeller – driven transatlantic steamship and iron ship. His carefully designed temporary hospital in Scutari saved countless lives during the Crimean War – Florence Nightingale referred to his prefabricated buildings as ‘those magnificent huts’ which provided ventilated, hygienic space for troops to be treated. Many bridges and tunnels still used today are testament to the outstanding achievements of this great man. The SS Great Britain is one of the most important ships in the world. An ‘experiment’ that literally ‘changed history’. This ship marked the beginnings of international passenger travel and world communications.
2. TARMACADAM – John Loudon McAdam:
The greatest advance in road construction since Roman times was developed by a Scottish man John McAdam whilst living and working in Bristol. His ‘Macadam’ roads (crushed stone bound with gravel on a bed of large stones – almost sounds like a descriprion for a recipe!) revealed the abuse of road tolls by many Turnpike Trusts which got him into hot water with some very disgruntled, and might I say unscrupulous ‘Toll profiteers’. His method of road surfacing quickly spread across the world and remember, there was no sign of cars in the 1820s.
3. THE MOVING PICTURE – W.Friese-Greene.
Who would have thought that the one and only inventor of the moving picture served his apprenticeship in Bristol? There is even a plaque on Queen’s Rd to mark the site where he worked from 1869 – 1875. He developed and patented a two-colour moving picture system in 1905 following on from his first moving picture camera which was patented in 1889. William’s passion and obsession with experimenting with moving pictures cost him his photography business; he was made bankcrupt three times, jailed once and died in poverty. It seems, until recently, that his contribution to the development of cinema has been all but lost. Hopefully his contribution to cinematic history will soon be celebrated again.
4. PENGUIN PAPERBACKS – Allen Lane Williams.
Perhaps not such an obvious choice for a “world changing innovator’ but never the less, Allen Lane Williams provided a very different and important way of changing the world. He is the man who brought literature to the masses. He was a founder member of Penguin books and revolutionised children’s literature through the publishing of the Puffin Story books. Allen Lane Williams was born and educated in Bristol.
5. MASS PRODUCED CHOCOLATE BARS – Joseph Fry
Not everyone likes chocolate, granted and perhaps many might not see it as ‘world changing’ but I just couldn’t resist! We take it for granted these days; just pop a bar in the basket on the way to the checkout. Joseph Fry invented the world’s first solid chocolate bar in 1847. He discovered a way to mix cocoa powder, sugar and cocoa to create a paste that could be pressed into a mould. J.S Fry & Sons also manufactured the first ever Easter egg in England in 1875, after having introduced the first chocolate Easter Egg to Britain in 1873. Fry’s Chocolate features in the Memory Maze of Bristol because it supported the war effort in 1914 by sending boxes of chocolates for the troops.