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Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Friday, 24 September 2010 10:19 UK
Bristol sherry bottle uncorks fascinating story

Hotwells entrance, WWII shelter, sherry bottle
Parts of the railway are being restored by volunteers

A bottle which lay hidden in Clifton Rocks Railway since the 1940s has a story to tell about Bristol.

The dusty artefact once contained a pint of sherry, a drink the city has been associated with since the turn of the 19th Century.

Sherry importers Harveys' was founded in Bristol in 1796 and the firm developed Bristol Cream - the world's first cream sherry.

This bottle, though, contained sherry produced by Bristol wine and spirit importers Spackman and Gosling.

It was brought to the attention of A History of the World by Maggie Shapland of Clifton Rocks Railway.

Public transport

Clifton Rocks railway top station
The railway holds open days for the general public

The 500m funicular railway operated from 1893 to 1934.

It was the brainchild of Victorian publishing magnate Sir George Newnes and later bought by Sir George White, founder of the Bristol Tram Company and the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

The railway was part of the development of Bristol's public transport system.

Engineers blasted through the solid rock of the Avon Gorge to connect lofty Clifton and Hotwells, which is at the bottom of the gorge.

During its opening year of 1893 more than 427,000 people used the service, but this was its peak.

Numbers continued to decline when, in 1922, the Hotwell Road was widened, restricting access to the lower station, the Portway was built and part of the city's railway system, including the Hotwells terminus, was closed.

The railway soon found itself in dire financial straits and it closed in 1934.

World War II

Six years later, the Ministry of Works and Buildings leased part of the tunnel and created shelter number 1898.

Kettle found in the wartime BBC studios
A BBC kettle is among artefacts found in the old studios

The appropriately-named Curfew sherry was drunk in the safety of the railway tunnel by Clifton residents shielding from the Blitz.

The bottle came to light when volunteers refurbishing the disused railway discovered it under a ledge.

It's one of several types of bottle left in the tunnel during the war, including beer, milk, medicine and coffee.

A couple of disappointed youngsters also left behind toys including a lead soldier and ball.

Another "resident" of Clifton which sought refuge within the thick walls of the tunnel was the BBC in 1941.

The corporation, which had established studios in Whiteladies Road in 1934, set up a wartime studio in the safety of Clifton Rocks Railway.

A transmitter, studio and control room - and an "ozoneator" to combat the smell of the river - were all concealed there.

London was able to quickly switch to broadcasting in Bristol - sometimes mid-news bulletin - when the capital was under attack.

Refurbishment of the railway is ongoing.

Sections occupied by the BBC and other organisations during the war are still largely unexplored.

Who knows what other fascinating artefacts will be unearthed in this underground treasure trove...




SEE ALSO
A history of BBC Bristol
03 Sep 10 |  People & Places
Alfred the gorilla remembered
02 Sep 10 |  People & Places
New tunnel found in rocks railway
21 May 06 |  Bristol

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