How have the Bristol Docks changed over time?

Through a series of five questions, pupils will learn how Bristol Docks have changed from prehistoric times to the present day. Each question has a PowerPoint presentation of information plus a series of supporting enquiries and activity sheets to help pupils discover more about Bristol’s history and embed their learning.


Teaching ideas

By investigating the development of the docks chronologically, pupils will be able to look for similarities, differences, and changes over time throughout the whole history of the area. They will gain an understanding of how the city they live in today has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, by the place itself and the people who have lived in it. Each of the following questions is designed to enable pupils to use enquiry techniques to discover for themselves how their local history relates to the national history of Britain.

The Bristol Docks Local History Teaching Overview describes the specific learning outcomes for each of the activities listed below. You can also download our ‘Essentials’ for extra resources that can be used with all five questions, such as word mats, a glossary and much more.

Question 1 - What do we know about the origins of Bristol?

  • How did Bristol begin - PowerPoint Presentation
  • Where to Build Bristol Castle Activity
  • Mapping Medieval Bristol Activity

Extended Task: Can you find out more about how the Medieval town of Bristol was laid out?

Question 2 - Why did Bristol become a centre for trade?

  • The Rivers and Trade - PowerPoint Presentation
  • Bristol Bridge Chronology Activity
  • The First Seal of Bristol Activity

Extended Task: Could you design a seal that represents Bristol today?

Question 3 - How do we know about what Bristol traded?

  • Trade in Bristol - PowerPoint Presentation
  • Bristol Exports Analysis Activity
  • Bristol World Trade Map Activity

Extended Task: What can you find out about Queens Square?

Question 4 - How did the Bristol docks develop over time?

  • Bristol’s Docks - PowerPoint Presentation
  • William Jessop Floating Harbour Comprehension Activity
  • Diamond of Significance Activity

Extended Task: Can you find out more about how Brunel’s plans for improving the Floating Harbour worked?

Question 5 - What are Bristol docks like today?

  • Bristol Docks Today - PowerPoint Presentation
  • Celebrating our city – Bristol Harbour Festival Activity
  • Timeline of Bristol Docks Activity

Extended Task: Can you find out about the history of one of the buildings that is linked to Bristol’s Floating Harbour?

Learning aims and outcomes

  • To learn about changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
  • To make inferences from archaeological & historical evidence
  • To investigate aspects of local history and how it relates to a national story
  • To develop a sense of pride in where they live
  • To develop skills in chronology using timelines and historical information
  • To create reasoned and evidentially supported judgements
  • Establish clear narratives within and across the periods studied

Prior knowledge

  • No prior knowledge is required, all information is provided.

Extended learning and useful links