Bristol Area Group

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
The blue plaque commemorating the Bristol meeting
The blue plaque commemorating the Bristol meeting

The Bristol Area Group is one of the area groups of the Ffestiniog Railway Society. It also welcomes members of the Welsh Highland Railway Society.


The meeting which is generally recognised as leading to the formation of the Ffestiniog Railway Society (FRS) and the revival of the railway took place in Bristol on 8th September 1951.

It was not until 6th December 1962 that the Ffestiniog Railway Society held the inaugural meeting of the Bristol Area Group at the Bristol Railway Circle's clubrooms. This followed a proposal in the Ffestiniog Railway Magazine for a South West Midlands Group but it was decided that Bristol would make a more suitable centre than Gloucester. Jim Fraser was elected Chairman and Mark Warburton Secretary. There were plans for "homework" and exhibition stands. Further meetings were held at the Bristol Railway Circle's rooms, at St Mary's House, 36 Tyndall's Park Road, Clifton, [1] These are the very same rooms at which the 1951 meeting was held, described by Vic Mitchell as "an empty cellar in reality". Group membership costed 2/6d per year to cover administration costs. By April 1963, sixty three members and friends attended an Ivo Peters colour film show of narrow gauge railways of Wales and the Isle of Man. The first Working Party was between 15th and 17th June 1963.[2] By the autumn of 1963 the cost of membership had been revised to 3/6d but a quarterly newsletter, "The Fairlie" was sent to all members. (In 2021 still £3 per year and The Fairlie is emailed quarterly: contact the secretary-

By Summer 1966 the Group had a workshop and "Homework" evenings were held each Wednesday with the making of "Whistle" boards for the railway the first task undertaken.[3] In Summer 1966 Ken Marchant of Radstock took over as secretary. In Spring 1967 there was a delay with the workshop's electric welding plant and a deviationists trolley was nearing completion. Also in Spring 1967 working parties at the FR were being organized and some members had undertaken the installation of a cistern in the "gents" at Tan-y-Bwlch.

For more snippits of history of Bristol Group see: Bristol Group History.

Bristol's FR Links[edit]

Bristol has other connections with the FR. The locomotive James Spooner was built in Bristol by Avonside Engine Company in 1872. In addition Livingston Thompson's, Welsh Pony's and Merddin Emrys's boilers were repaired by Avonside in the 1920's and 30s. FR Carriage 14 was built by Bristol Wagon and Carriage Works Ltd in 1897 along with 15 others for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. The ex Harrogate Gas Works 0-6-0 saddle tank loco 'Volunteer' (The Peckett) was built by Peckett & Sons in Bristol in 1944. Its wheels were sent by the FR back to Pecketts in 1958 for flange and tyre re-profiling.

Another link between Bristol and the FR was that Porthmadog based (and often Porthmadog built) sailing ships called at Bristol. Once they had delivered slate to London, Hamburg etc a cargo to carry back to a port not too remote from Porthmadog was attractive to get paid for some of the return journey. Not much cargo was carried into Porthmadog so the alternative was to carry ballast with no reward. A paid for cargo to Dublin or Liverpool was ideal but Bristol Channel ports were some of the better alternatives. According to wikipedia the area of Bristol Harbour known as "Welsh Back" concentrated on small trading vessels with cargoes from the slate industry in Wales, stone, timber and coal. Lewis tells us that before Porthmadog harbour opened the cost of getting slate to Ynys Cyngar (the earlier anchorage about two miles west of Porthmadog) was 15 shillings and sixpence even before it was transhipped for the final stage of its journey to "Liverpool or Bristol or London". [4] For pictures of Porthmadog ships in Bristol see Hughes H (1969) Immortal Sails, T Stepenson & Son, plates 27 (the Dorothy, 1st of the Western Ocean Yachts and a Newfoundland trader), 30 (the William Moreton) and 32 (the Walter Ulric launched 1875 reg. tonnage 112) and Hughes E & Eames A (1975) Porthmadog Ships, Gwynedd Archive Services, plates 55 (the William Prichard, built David Jones in 1903) and 69 (the John Llewellyn, built 1904 by David Jones).

There is a further connection between Bristol and the Ffestiniog Railway. The brother of Livingston Thompson (after whom the locomotive was named) was John Graves Thompson(1812 – 1902), a Dubliner. John Graves Thompson joined the FR Board in 1851. He was chairman from 1877 to 1893. He lived at Coombe House, Canford Lane, Westbury on Trym (see the picture below) and later at 24 Caledonia Place, Clifton.[5] He is buried in Shirehampton Cemetery in plot 109 and his wife in plot 78. There is a headstone with interesting wording. We should not be surprised that some of the protestant Irish capitalists who put up the money to build the FR came to live in Bristol. Bristol had a flourishing Irish packet trade and steamers were early to be introduced to the route.[6] To live in Bristol with one foot in London and another in Ireland made good sense. Another Bristolian who became an FR Director from 1908 to about 1921 was Frederick P. Robjent although by that time he had moved to Newport.

Two ex British Railways steam fitters from the Bristol area moved to work as permanent staff on the FR in early revival days. These are Roger Goss who joined the staff in 1963 and Andy Putnam who joined in 1975.


See Also[edit]


  1. ^ "Group News", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 019, page(s): 008
  2. ^ Tim Maynard (2022) FRS Bristol Group Facebook post on 21/10/2022.
  3. ^ "Group Notes", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 034, page(s): 021
  4. ^ Lewis M J T (1965) How Festiniog Got Its Railway, The Railway & Canal Historical Society, Caterham, Surrey, UK p 8.
  5. ^ Johnson P (2017) In search of Livingston Thompson and the Thompson family directors. FR Heritage Group Journal No. 130 pages 21 – 25.
  6. ^ Farr Grahame E, (1950), Records of Bristol Ships 1800 - 1838 (over 150 tons), Bristol Record Society, page 1.
  7. ^ Preece C (2018) A Field Guide to The Archaeology of the Taw and Torridge Estuaries, pages 28 – 30.

External Links[edit]