Migration: Joining and Leaving Bristol

Migration is not something new. The flow of people joining and leaving Bristol has helped make our city what it is. From ancient Roman settlements to today’s Syrian resettlements, people have been making new homes beside the Avon for thousands of years. Many have also left Bristol, crossing vast oceans to seek fortune and freedom in faraway lands.

60-70 A.D

Roman military settle in Abonae (present area of Sea Mills).


1100s: Evidence of human trafficking to Dublin.

1160: ‘Irish Mead’ in Bristol indicates Irish presence.

1167-1170s: Many Bristolians settle in Ireland.

1194: Jewish residents are listed in Bristol.


1200: Welsh merchants present, like John le Lung de Kerdyff [Cardiff].

1290s: All Jews are expelled from England and Wales.


Size of Bristol’s population in 1377: 9,518 people.


1320s: French merchants and families recorded in Bristol.


1441: Irish make up about 8% of Bristol’s population.

1440s to 1480s: Icelandic servants, probably forced labour, recorded in Bristol.


1520s: Welsh make up about 20% of Bristol’s population.

1556: Small secret Jewish Portuguese community illegally settles in Bristol (Jews not legally allowed in England until 1640s).

c.1560: First reference to an African employed in Bristol (as a gardener or guard at the Great House, site of Colston Hall today).


Size of Bristol’s population in 1607: 10,549 people.


1620s-1640s: Bristol settlers begin to colonise New England.

1654-1685: 10,000 indentured servants sent to British colonies through the port of Bristol.

1680s: French Protestant Huguenots flee to England, some arrive at Bristol.


1780s: British convicts start to be transported to Australia.


Size of Bristol’s population in 1801: 61,000 people.


1820s: Increase in rural English migrants to Bristol.

1846: Increase in Irish immigration due to the Great Famine.

1850s: Australia is a popular destination for many Bristolians.

1850s: Italians and Germans evident in Bristol.


Size of Bristol’s population in 1901: 323,945 people.


1914-1915: Chinese families established in Bristol.

1914: Belgian refugees come to Bristol.

1927: Bristol & West of England Migration Committee encourages emigration of poor boys to Canada.

1940s and early 1950s: Displaced Polish servicemen and their families come to Bristol.

1945-1972: ‘Ten Pound Poms’ from Bristol settle in Australia.

1947: Indian and Pakistani refugees and economic migrants come to Bristol following Indian Independence and partition.

1948: Beginning of ongoing migration of African-Caribbeans to Bristol.

1972: Ugandan and Kenyan South Asian refugees settle in Bristol.

Late 1970s and 1980s: Bangladeshis come to Bristol.

1990s: Somali refugees arrive in Bristol following the civil war of 1991.


Size of Bristol’s population in 2001: 380,615 people.


2000s: Poles and other Eastern Europeans come to Bristol after expansion of the European Union.


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