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Bristol Ferry Boats facts for kids

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Brigantia heading down St. Augustine's Reach towards the City Centre landing stage

Bristol Ferry Boats is a brand of water bus services operating around Bristol Harbour in the centre of the English city of Bristol, using a fleet of distinctive yellow and blue painted ferry boats. The services were formerly owned by the Bristol Ferry Boat Company, but are now the responsibility of Bristol Community Ferry Boats, a community interest company that acquired the fleet of the previous company.

The company operates scheduled ferry services, along with educational and public boat cruises and private hire of boats. Scheduled services operate on two routes linking Bristol city centre to Temple Meads railway station and Hotwells, serving 17 landing stages throughout the length of the harbour, including one at Brunel's famous SS Great Britain. Services are provided on a commercial basis without subsidy and are subject to competition.


Bristol harbour arp 750pix
Emily passes the Welsh Back landing stage, with Bristol Bridge in the background

City Docks Ventures, a non-profit making conservation group in Bristol, started the initiative in 1977, with the purchase of the ferry boat Margaret, to be skippered by Ian Bungard. In 1978, Ian Bungard bought Margaret and started to build up the business. In 1980 Margaret was joined by Independence. The ferry service offered all year round leisure, sightseeing, and commuting, as well as private hire, and typified the transformation of Bristol's Floating Harbour from cargo trading vessels to leisure. In 1984 Royal Mail chose an image of Margaret to feature on one of its special edition 'Urban Renewal' stamps; the yellow and blue painted boats had become a well known brand.

In 1992, the company acquired Emily, their first enclosed launch. In 1997 this was joined by Matilda, another enclosed launch and the first vessel purpose built for Bristol Ferry Boats.

In 2002 Ian Bungard sold the business to Rob and Jane Salvidge. From 2002, the company operated additional commuter services to Hotwells and Bristol Temple Meads that were subsidised by, and under contract to, Bristol City Council. In 2004, a cross-harbour shuttle ferry was introduced between SS Great Britain and Capricorn Quay was introduced on the same basis. In 2006, the launch Brigantia joined the fleet, to a design based on that of Matilda. However, in 2007, the contract for the subsidised services was lost to Number Seven Boat Trips, who operated the commuter service until it ceased in 2011 and continue to operate the cross-harbour ferry. Bristol Ferry Boats continued to operate their main commercial services.

In November 2012, the Bristol Ferry Boat Company went into liquidation, with debts of over £10,000 owed to Bristol City Council for navigation and mooring fees, and for office rent. Supporters of the company, including Ian Bungard (the original owner), bought back the fleet at the receivers' auction. In 2013, the campaign to transform the company into community ownership was well oversubscribed. Bristol Community Ferry Boats Limited is the result, now owned by its 871 shareholders from all around Bristol.

Scheduled services

Bristol port
Matilda alongside the City Centre landing stage at the head of St. Augustine's Reach

Bristol Ferry Boats operate 364 days a year, with a single through route linking Temple Meads railway station and Hotwells via Bristol city centre. Services operate every 40 minutes. The following landing stages are served:

# Landing stage For
1 City Centre The Centre, Watershed Arts Centre, Bristol Cathedral, College Green and City Hall
2 Cannons Marsh Millennium Square and At-Bristol
3 Harbour Inlet
4 Mardyke
5 Hotwells-Pumphouse Hotwells and Clifton Suspension Bridge (20 mins uphill walk)
6 Hotwells-The Nova Scotia Cumberland Basin and Underfall Yard
7 Hotwells-The Cottage
8 Marina Bristol Marina
9 Great Britain Preserved Brunel steamship Great Britain
10 Wapping Wharf
11 Prince Street Bridge Arnolfini Art Gallery, Queen Square, M Shed and Bristol Harbour Railway
12 Bathurst Basin Bathurst Basin
13 Welsh Back Welsh Back, Bristol Bridge, Llandoger Trow and St Nicholas Market
14 Redcliffe Back
15 Castle Park Castle Park and Broadmead shopping district (with Cabot Circus and Galleries malls)
16 Temple Bridge Cheese Lane Shot Tower
17 Temple Quay Bristol Temple Meads railway station


The fleet of the Bristol Ferry Boats comprises the following vessels:

Name Built Acquired Passenger Capacity Notes Image
Brigantia 2006 2006 50 Steel hulled enclosed launch. Purpose built for Bristol Ferry, based on the design for Matilda but equipped with a retractable wheelhouse and a wheelchair lift. Bristol Harbour Ferry leaving The Cottage landing stage - - 1599169.jpg
Emily 1927 1992 48 Wooden hulled enclosed launch. Built in Bideford, and previously used at Scarborough and in Gloucester Docks. Bristolferry.jpg
Independence 1927 1980 46 Wooden hulled open launch. Previously used on the Severn and Wye, and on the Erewash Canal. Bristol Ferry Boat Independence.jpg
Margaret 1952 1977 28 Wooden hulled open launch. Built in Appledore for service in Lynmouth to replace a vessel wrecked in the flood of 1952, and later used as a ferry across the Avon between Shirehampton and Pill. Bristol Harbour 2016-05-34.jpg
Matilda 1997 1997 50 Steel hulled enclosed launch, with a length of 14.02 m (46.0 ft) and a beam of 4.61 m (15.1 ft). Purpose built for Bristol Ferry Bristol MMB «T5 Docks.jpg

The Matilda and Brigantia are licensed to operate on the tidal Avon downstream from Bristol through the Avon Gorge to Avonmouth, as well as throughout Bristol Harbour and on the Avon upstream to the city of Bath. The other vessels are restricted to Bristol Harbour and the upstream Avon. Margret is the original yellow and blue ferry boat operating since 1977. She is a true west country survivor.

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