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Bristol’s oldest buildings to see by balloon

21/07/2021 Mark Features

Those fascinated by architecture are often drawn to Bristol. Home to a multitude of man-made masterpieces, it is known for its well-built buildings that have been designed to endure. To gain a fresh perspective on Bristol’s architecture, a hot air balloon ride over the city can be ideal.

Hot air balloons take off from right inside the city when the weather conditions are right and can attain heights of between 500 to 2,500 feet. From this lofty vantage point, buildings can be seen in plain view, revealing how they are laid out while showcasing some of their topmost features, which are seldom seen by those at ground level.

In the following sections, we’ll explore some of the city’s oldest buildings that date back to before 1500 that you can see with a bird’s eye view on a hot air balloon flight across Bristol.

St James Priory

Built in the year 1129, this priory was constructed at a time when Bristol had only a few thousand dwellers, and was what today we consider a small town in size, rather than a city. Today, it stands in front of Bristol Bus station, but it once stood beyond the city walls. A landmark building of its time, it was built as a priory for Benedictine monks.

Bristol Cathedral

Founded back in 1140 before being consecrated in the year 1148, Bristol Cathedral was built outside the city’s walls, alike St James Priory. Initially, the cathedral was constructed as a massive abbey. Originally entitled St Augustine’s Abbey, it was renamed Bristol Cathedral after King Henry VIII dissolved the country’s monasteries with the creation of the Church of England.

The Great Gatehouse of Bristol Cathedral

A key part of the aforementioned St Augustine’s Abbey, yet in its own right a separate building, the Great Gatehouse now faces Bristol’s College Green, but was once the main entranceway to a monastic precinct, providing access to the courtyard. It can be identified between Bristol Central Library and the cathedral.

Holy Trinity Church

English Heritage states this church was originally erected in 1194, but it has seen many rebuilds over the years. Older than Bristol’s well-known St Mary Redcliffe Church by around two decades, this site has hosted a Saxon-era church and a Benedictine priory, before becoming a parish church of importance in the 1200s.

Lord Mayor’s Chapel

Finally, tucked neatly away and opposite College Green, this beautiful church often escapes passing pedestrians’ notice. Originally built in 1230, the church is now famous for being one of only two churches in the UK that are privately owned, while still functioning as an active church. Once called St Mark’s Church, it now has the esteemed title of the Lord Mayor’s Chapel and is the private property of Bristol’s city council.

From stately gatehouses to priories, churches and chapels, these venerable buildings of Bristol have withstood changing time and wars. The next time you take to the air in a hot air balloon above Bristol, see how many you can spot from your passenger basket.

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