Locally, people call the St James Barton roundabout in Bristol’s city centre, The Bearpit. Rumour has it that the name was coined by street cleaners who thought that the layout of the 1970s subway system resembled the sunken bearpits commonly seen at zoos.
St James Barton has a history dating back to the Middle Ages and has seen many arrivals to the city in that time. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Bearpit Improvement Group has commissioned two wall panels for the subway ramps leading to the Bearpit to tell some of the stories of these people coming to the St James area of Bristol. These wall panels cover the area’s long and colourful history using paintings, collages and other art created by students from local primary school, St Barnabas CEVC and City of Bristol College.
On this website, you can see the panels as well as listen to oral histories from recent arrivals, interviews with other local residents and learn about the local area’s rich and diverse heritage.
The art work is split into three different historical periods. You can use the menu above to explore them. The pictures below will also take you to different parts of the site.