Bristol played an extremely important role in sea trade for hundreds of years. By 1914 there were reported to be five Chinese families living in Bristol. In that year, Hong Pang (c.1890-1958) arrived in Bristol. He was a ship’s laundry worker from Canton (Guangzhou). Hong Pang settled in the Horfield district of the city, and established a laundry business that lasted for several generations.

  • Date: 12-Dec-2009
  • Place:
    • Baldwin Street, Bristol, Avon BS1, UK
    • Site of former “Bristol Merchant Venturers Society” Building, Venturers House, BS1 4PB, UK
    • Guinea Street, Avon BS1, UK
    • Pero’s Bridge (near Cannons Way, Anchor Road, Bristol, Avon BS1 5DB)
    • Former site where Hong Pang resided, 361 Gloucester Road, BS7 8TG
    • Former site where Hong Pang had his laundry shop, 222 Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8, UK
    • Clifton Suspension Bridge, Sion Place, Bristol, BS8 4HA‎, UK
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12 Dec 2009

The weather forecast that the following days would be cold with risks of icy patches and snow. But it did not cool down our excitement and we were happily departing London for a 8-day field trip like primary school children; Aubrey started her new career as videographer while I was imitating as photographer. The two assistant project managers, Haiping and Martin, thought they could sit back and relax for the whole trip. Ricky, with equipment, as chief photographer was made to sit next to Kahfei, the driver, to ensure no one in the front seats fell asleep; Ryszard, with portable drawing kit; and Lucia the interviewer, hanging a new iPod with her.

The traffic was smooth so we reached Bristol by mid-day and met with Ben, our local researcher. Usually on the first day one is never sure what is expected, so the team was in a little bit of a mess at the start. Ben was local and had done his research well. We followed him to the Theatre (now a nightclub) where a Chinese performer is reported to have appeared during 1892-1912. Then we came to the site of Bristol Merchant Venturers Society, who from 1853 were a group of Bristol based investors pushing for the recruitment of Chinese indentured labourers to work on sugar plantations in British Guiana. Guiana Street, which was named after the connection between Bristol and trade in the West Indies; housed some Slave traders and also a sugar refinery. We continued to Pero’ Bridge, which stands a monument to an African Slave, but is also seen as a monument to Africans and Asians involved in the people trade.

We returned to the mini-bus, and drove to the Horfield area where Hong Pang, one of the first prominent Chinese people Bristol, owned and operated a Laundry there. The shop is now a furniture shop. Before we bid Ben farewell, he took us to the top of the hill – the Downs – to look out across the river and down to the Avonmouth docks. The sun was setting and the scene was so beautiful. We all clung to the rail to have our first group photo.

I had decided that Haiping and Martin should be responsible for their own researches; consequentially they took turns to be the city guided leader on the day during the whole trip. Today we were all individuals, but from tomorrow, we would work as a team.

- by Chungwen Li

 

Bristol Background

Bristol is located in the west of England and grew over time on the back of trade with ports in Wales and Ireland. This trade grew over the centuries to include Portugal, Spain and Iceland among others and for a long time in English history was considered to be the second city after London. Bristol became heavily involved in trading with sugar, tobacco and cocoa, which involved a great deal of trade with the West Indies and slavery. Bristol began to lose its place as the second city with the emergence of Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester among other developing at a greater pace during the Industrial Revolution. Bristol maintained many links with the West Indies, but the difficulty to navigate to the docks meant that larger ships headed to the larger ports of Liverpool, Southampton and London.

As such Bristol’s Chinese community were less likely to have entered the city through the city's own docks as was common in Liverpool and London and moved to the city after entering the country through other ports. The Chinese community remained small and limited to a number of Chinese laundries scattered within Bristol and it is only in recent times that larger buildings associated with the Chinese community.

Bristol Trip

  1. Began the trip meeting on Baldwin Street and moving onto St Nicholas Market for food before beginning our tour around Bristol.
  2. Theatre, where a Chinese performer visited with her magic act at the turn of the 20th Century.
  3. Site of the Bristol Merchant Venturers Society, who were a group of Bristol based investors who were pushing for the recruitment of Chinese indentured labourers to work on sugar plantations in British Guiana, from 1853. The Chinese people who moved to British Guiana would have never come to Bristol, but Bristol Merchants were heavily involved in their recruitment and shipping.
  4. Guinea Street, which was named after the connection between Bristol and the trade in the West Indies. It housed some Slave traders and was also a sugar refinery. This is a site which would have dealt with sugar importations from the West Indies which in the later years of the trade would have involved Chinese labourers.
  5. Pero's Bridge, which stands as a monument to an African Slave, but is seen as a monument to Africans and Asians who were involved in the people trade.
  6. Visit to Horfield area which was the location of Hong Pang’s laundry who was one of the first prominent Chinese people in Bristol.
  7. The Downs, which provided a panoramic views of the River Avon leading into Bristol Harbour and out down towards Avonmouth Docks by the Bristol Channel.

- by Ben Blackwell