Cabot Tower, Bristol. Inspiration for Artists

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From time to time we like to take a look at the Bristol icons that inspire our artists and designers and this time it’s the turn of Cabot Tower, situated on Brandon Hill and a feature of many Bristolian memories.

Cabot Tower was built in the late 1890s, towards the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s journey from Bristol to Newfoundland aboard The Matthew (a replica of which is today one of Bristol’s most popular tourist attractions, moored alongside M Shed on Prince Wharf and operating a regular sailing programme).

Built on the site of a former chapel and windmill, the Tower, which is 105 feet (32m) tall, was designed by architect William Venn Gough, whose work in Bristol also includes Colston’s Girls’ School and Trinity Road Library as well as the Port of Bristol Authority Docks Office, now Queen Square House. Paid for by public subscription, it was built by Love and Waite of Bristol.

The original plans included a lift but it was never built, allowing us all to experience that wonderful feeling of achievement (and breathlessness) when we have climbed our way to the top.

In 2007 Cabot Tower was closed to the public, the viewing platform having become unsafe due to cracked stonework, caused by corrosion of the reinforcing steel in its floor. Following a £420,000 refurbishment, for which planning permission was granted in 2010, it opened again in August 2011 with the final stage of restoration completed two and a half years later when a light spelling out Bristol in Morse code was reinstated.

It is free to enter and should be on every visitor and resident’s “must do” list.

A quick search for ‘Cabot Tower’ on The Bristol Shop website illustrates how fond our artists are of the landmark with Lou Boyce, Emily Ketteringham, Jenny Urquhart, thr3equartersdesign, Sheona Beaumont and Naomi Wilkinson all featuring it in their work.


Lou Boyce

Emily Ketteringham

Jenny Urquhart

Sheona Beaumont

Naomi Wilkinson

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