Session seven - Heritage

To celebrate Heritage Open Days and Bristol Doors Open Day, we decided to make the focus of the September Shape My City session – heritage.

After a summer break the city shapers were joined by Pete Insole, Historic Environment Officer for Bristol City Council. The session kicked off with the group sharing heritage buildings that they liked – these ranged from Trooper’s Hill chimney to Acton Court, the Bristol harbourside to Guadi’s La Pedrera. 

Next the group looked at a diverse range of photos of heritage 'listed buildings’ from around the UK – these included a Victorian gentlemen’s urinals, a rural duck pond, a thatched bus stop, iron railings, a prison, a crane, a bus depot, some Banksy public art, a power station, a concrete block of flats, some cobbles and the zebra crossing on Abbey Road (featured on a Beetles album cover). The group were asked to think about why the buildings were considered ‘significant’ enough to be listed – the activity highlighted that reasons for listing were both social and architectural.

Pete explained about the listed building system and how the Fairbairn steam crane featured on one of the images, and located on the Bristol harbourside is so significant it is designated as ‘scheduled ancient monument’-  the highest form of listing. Pete told the group that there are over 4,000 listed buildings in Bristol and a third of the city is a conservation area. 

Pete shared his career path with the group, from studying history and archaeology at Bangor University to volunteering for Bristol Museums on archeological digs including one in Queen Square.  Pete became an archaeologist just at the time when history/archaeology became an important part of the planning process and for over 10 years he worked as an archaeologist for BARAS. Pete then started working for Bristol City Council on the Historic Environment Register.   

Pete now works as part of the council's City Design Group, with colleague Nat (an urban designer) who also attended the session. As well as advising on heritage buildings, Pete has developed the Know Your Place website and app – a fantastic resource that reveals historic maps, paintings and photographs of Bristol as well as  local list nominations and oral histories contributed by local residents of the city. Know Your Place currently has over 1,000 objects listed on the community layer and is a fascinating way of exploring Bristol’s past.

Pete is really keen for anyone in the city to share places in their neighbourhood that are important to them through Know Your Place. He is also passionate about getting everyone involved in the heritage built environment and placemaking, and works with school and community groups through an initiatives such as Local Learning and Heritage Schools.

Pete explained to the group that everything we see around us in the city is there as a result of a decision someone made in the past. He discussed the importance of heritage-led regeneration in cities like Bristol, and the group went out on the Harbourside and Queen Square to find out about the layers of history that have shaped what these places look like now. The group were surprised to hear that up until 2000 a dual carriageway ran through Queen Square and that it was the scene of violent riots in 1831. 

The heritage workshop helped the city shapers get a real sense of how the landscape of the city is always changing and how decisions made now about which buildings get demolished, and the style/ quality of new buildings being constructed, will have a big impact for many years to come. 

Pete highlighted that urban designers and architects shaping cities now, need to consider the existing heritage and the heritage of the future that they are creating.

Other useful heritage links:
Festival of Archaeology