Sit back and have read of some of our favourite Bristol Urban Legends, from crocodiles and bungee jumping to pirates and graffiti, we are sure you’ll find out something new about our beloved city!
1. Banksy’s Real Identity
Banksy is a now a household name, with an apparent net-worth of over $50 million. But he started out on the streets of his native Bristol, working under cover of darkness like any other graffiti-artist, evading police, security guards and property-owners. Many of his early works are still visible around the city.
Despite his global success, this Bristolian bandit is STILL anonymous to the public. Though – local rumour has it -the real Banksy has appeared in interviews about himself, smirkily speculating as to his own identity. And he’s not one of the members of Massive Attack… That’s all we’re going to say.
There’s all kinds of Banksy-related things you can get up to on VisitBristol
2. The Bristol Crocodile
*(not the Bristol Crocodile)
There is – allegedly – a crocodile in the River Avon, and it has been sighted several times, swimming under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Such was the excitement around this rogue reptilian that it made the national news, inspiring writers and filmmakers.
An opportunistic local business, hoping to cash in on the exposure, erected a triangular ‘crocodile warning’ sign on the riverside. The water was searched more than once by authorities.
Unfortunately, no crocodiles were found.
3. The Bristol Hum
*(not the Clifton Suspension Bridge)
A strange and inexplicable humming sound has been reported by residents of the Avon Valley since the 1970s.
Many sensible explanations have been offered- traffic, industrial noise, electrical pylons, tinnitus- along with some wackier suggestions. But no-one seems able to explain why the sound is heard only some of the time.
Nevertheless, the Hum is now a feature of Bristol’s popular culture. It was even adopted as the name of a local experimental dance music festival in 2017.
4. The Redcliffe Caves: Cap’ns, Pirates and Press Gangs
The Redcliffe Caves are actually quarries, dug into sandstone cliffs in the Middle Ages. By the great nautical age of the 18th century, they had grown into a vast network of tunnels under the city, that were used to conceal all manner of pirating, smuggling and other misdeeds.
Just across the river is the Hole in the Wall Pub. This ancient drinking den was once home to the real-life character that inspired the famous fictional pirate Long John Silver. The pub gets its name from a spy-hole that boozing sailors used – to look out for roaming press gangs. These were groups employed by the navy – or pirates – to take men to sea against their will. Sometimes local would wake up from a night of heavy drinking to find themselves already out at sea, aboard a war (or pirate) ship with no choice but to work their way home!
Tour guide Pirate Pete has all the stories here.
5. Blackboy Hill / Elephant and Castle / Royal Africa
There’s a well-known urban legend that Clifton’s Blackboy Hill is named after a slave market that used to operate there, selling African captives to the Bristolian gentry. Many historians state this rumour is untrue. There was no slave market there and the hill was supposedly named after a pub and a nickname for King Charles II.
However, a later name for that same pub WAS a reference to the slave trade. The name ‘The Elephant and Castle,’ like the London tube stop, came from the logo of the Royal African Company. You can imagine what their business was. And who founded it? Charles II.
6. Bristol: The Birthplace of Bungee Jumping
*(Also not the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Or the Bristol Crocodile)
Watch out for crocs!
On April Fool’s Day 1979, four members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club, tied elastic cables to their ankles and leapt from the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This is widely regarded the Bungee Jump.
The dare-devils made no secret of having got their idea from the Land Diving tribesmen of Vanuatu Island in the South Pacific, who practice the death defying leap as a rite of passage. You can see footage of the Clifton bungee jumps here. (Basically, Bristol ‘Columbused’ Bungee jumping.) But it did invent Ribena… and Easter Eggs.
And There’s More…
If you can’t get enough of this Urban Legend stuff, there’s plenty more where that came from! Check out our 5 Most Haunted Places to Visit in Bristol for more local stories. Or if you’d like to visit somewhere that doesn’t have a shady past, and isn’t infested with Pirates, why not give us a visit? We have special offers and a great atmosphere every day of the week, fantastic Sunday Roasts and Free Venue Hire, what’s not to love?