18 March 2011: The Bristol company chosen by Brunel to build his first locomotives for the opening of the Great Western Railway has finally been honoured with a commemorative blue plaque. Approximately 1475 locomotives were made on this site between 1840 and 1905. The firm clinched an order for two broad gauge Firefly Class express passenger locomotives, Arrow and Dart. The company was originally known as Henry Stothert and Co, locomotive steam engine manufacturers, and later the Avonside Engine Company which moved to Fishponds in 1905 (and went into voluntary liquidation in 1935).
Bristol Railway Circle proposed the plaque and it was unveiled yesterday at the Ibis Hotel, in Avon Street, St Philip’s, close to the site of the original works, by Bristol’s Lord Mayor, Colin Smith who said: “It’s important that we mark the people’s history with plaques like this otherwise their legacy, and memory, will be swept aside and lost for ever.”
Gerry Nichols, the president of Bristol Railway Circle, said: “Henry, who had provided pumping machinery for the building of the Box tunnel, realised that there was a market opportunity providing locomotives for the new railway. He chose this site, which later became known as the Avonside Works, as it was well placed next to the river. The area had already begun to become industrialised with the construction of glass cones and a gas works.”
The Portbury saddle tank engine that can be seen on the Harbour Railway was built in 1917 by the Avonside Locomotives Company
Colin Smith and Gerry Nichols