28 September—29 September 2019

Docks Heritage Weekend

Docks Heritage Weekend is a celebration of Bristol’s maritime past with events for all ages at M Shed, Underfall Yard and ss Great Britain.

There will be events and activities at all three sites, including opportunities to visit M Shed’s iconic cranes and hear about their working life.

Watch re-enactments of cargo handling on the quayside and take a boat trip on the docks tug John King, where you can learn about her important work.

This year we will also be staging four performances of a new play called The Names, The Names by ACH Smith (author of Up The Feeder Down The Mouth) and Dr Amy King.

The Names, The Names

The Names, The Names is a new play based on the nicknames used by Bristol dockers in their everyday work. The hilarious, witty and often downright rude names invented for their workmates were part of the culture of the men who unloaded and loaded ships at Bristol and Avonmouth.

It was hard heavy work that was often poorly paid but could have rewards in the form of ‘damaged’ goods and easier cargoes. The Names, The Names takes place against a backdrop of working cranes and quayside activity.

It is largely drawn from Up The Feeder, Down The Mouth, Smith’s hugely successful play staged at M Shed in 2001. It features Kate McNab and Ross Harvey, both stars of the earlier show, and John Telfer, with music by John O’Hara. The show is approximately one hour long and performances will take place at 2pm and 3.30pm each day. Tickets can be booked below. 

Activities at M Shed

  • Performances of The Names, The Names (book in advance below)
  • Print your very own map of Bristol docks
  • See cargo handling demonstrations
  • Visit the Fairbairn steam crane
  • Visit an electric crane (charges apply)
  • Take a trip on the tug John King (charges apply)
  • Go back in time and watch historic films about the port
  • Chat to our event sponsor The Bristol Port Company and learn about Bristol’s current commercial port.

Activities at Underfall Yard

  • Demonstrations of traditional blacksmithing skills
  • Appreciate engineering in miniature with model steam engines and workshops
  • Discover the tools of yesteryear with the Tools and Trades History Society
  • Try your hand at nautical knots
  • Watch the pumps that powered a port running throughout the weekend
  • See our magnificent machinery workshops in action
  • Enjoy entertainment from shanty group the Harry Browns

Activities at SS Great Britain

  • Be among the first to step inside the Albion site and hear about the historic Albion Dry Dock. Free tours take place at 10am, 11am and 12pm on Saturday. Tours must be pre-booked.


In partnership with Underfall Yardss Great Britain and Bristol Ferry. With thanks to event sponsors The Bristol Port Company.

Bristol Port Company logo