Walking up Park Street, Bristol, there are plenty of distractions: the steep walk, the interesting cafes and shops either side, the Wills Building ahead. It's worth looking down, though: set into the pavement are markers for St Johns' Conduit.
Like most mediaeval cities, Bristol faced issues with clean drinking water. The solution was to pipe fresh springwater from outside the city through a network of wooden pipes. One such conduit, St Johns', ran from the top of Park Street into the city centre below. It was part of a network established by the city's religious orders; a branch pipe supplied excess water from the conduit to parishioners.
The water still flows today, its route indicated by these markers. The conduit ends at the Church of St John the Baptist, which was built into the city walls. The precise location changed in the mid-nineteenth century; the bigger change, of course, is our ready access to clean water piped directly to our homes. Yet the conduit proved useful more recently than we might expect, when it became the main source of water to this part of the city during the bombing raids of World War II.
|St John's Gate, c. 1816|
St John's Gate image: Wikimedia