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St Mary Redcliffe and SS Great Britain

Renowned as Queen Elizabeth’s favourite church, St Mary Redcliffe’s beauty has stayed with it for almost eight hundred years. A staggering exemplar of Gothic architecture, it stands as the tallest building in Bristol and is an essential part of that great city’s skyline. In the old days, St Mary Redcliffe was used by sailors out at sea to help guide them home back to Bristol harbour. The sailors would pray to the high-pointing steeple and hope that they would not succumb to shipwreck. The church suffered a good deal of damage after being struck by lightning in 1446 but its spire was finally fixed in the Victorian period. The famous poet Thomas Chatterton was born next door to it. Today, the church is highly regarded for its tan-hued Purbeck Marble columns which support a north-side porch and hexagonal, North African-inspired ceiling. Sadly much of the medieval stained glass was destroyed in the English Civil War, although the sections located higher up have survived, requiring a certain amount of repair.

The SS Great Britain is perhaps Bristol’s most important maritime sight. As a feat of engineering, the SS GB is peerless, having combined an ironclad design with a propeller system, the latter feature has been effectively restored and is amazing to behold. It made many transatlantic journeys that took approximately 2 weeks, as well as trips to Australia after the discovery of gold in 1851. Ultimately this fine vessel was scuttled and abandoned in the Falkland Islands before a group of eccentric millionaires funded a daring attempt to tow the SS Great Britain back to Bristol where it has been ever since, winning awards for its excellence as a museum. Its reconstructed interior is divided into the sumptuous private quarters, saloons and dining rooms of the rich passengers and the pen-like areas used by the working-class passengers. The bottom deck is devoted to an edifying interactive museum exploring the science and history of this most splendid ship. No visit to Bristol is complete without a visit to the SS GB.

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