History

The Centre – now used as a Boathouse and meeting place –  is one of only a very few buildings remaining from the time when Bristol was still a major port with city-centre dock facilities. It is situated on one of the oldest wharfs – and still largely untouched –  remaining on the Harbourside.

The building retains the name of the last dockside firm to conduct business on the premises. The earliest record of Benjamin Perry we can find is in 1863 when he was operating as a warehouse keeper and carrier, then aged about 28 years. He died in 1902 at the age of 67 but the business continued with his sons. From 1874 until the 1980s the company retained offices in Temple Street, Bristol.

Benjamin Perry became a member of the City Council Docks Committee in 1897, at which date the company was agent to a variety of railway and shipping companies. Their activities were listed as warehousemen, hauliers and shipping agents with cold storage facilities. In 1895, one of their warehouses was destroyed in a huge fire.

In 20th century, the firm increasingly centred on the new Docks at Avonmouth, operating a stevedore business, using tugs and lighters, towing cargoes around both Avonmouth and the Bristol Docks and harbour.

The building adds considerable historical interest to the water front of the old Bristol Docks and has seen many uses. At one time it was open sided to facilitate off loading from sailing vessels, with tramways for moving goods between adjacent sheds. The building was used to supply gear for the company’s tugs and barges, and later possibly as a sugar store and mason’s yard. In 1970s, the City Council kept surplus road signs there!

The building is next to the curious Redcliffe Caves where sand was excavated to make glass, the resulting caverns being used to store many famous Bristol cargoes.

In 1982 the building was carefully restored by the Scouts & Guides to retain its character. Since then it has been used by thousands of young people from the Bristol area, from all over the UK and from as far afield as USA and Canada.

Its interesting character means the building often features in films and TV. It is also a meeting place for local community groups, including artists, actors, poets and photographers.

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