Bristol (derived from the Old English Brycgstow - "the meeting place at the bridge") is the sixth largest city in England in terms of population, and the largest in the Southwest. It has a population of over 400,000 within the City proper, and over 550,000 in the greater metropolitan area.
The first record is dated c.1020, but by the time of the Norman Conquest it was a flourishing embarkation point in the Anglo-Irish slave trade. A key strategic site, a castle was built there shortly after the Conquest. In the civil war in the 1100s Earl Robert of Gloucester was based there supporting his half-sister Matilda against Stephen.
By the beginning of the reign of Henry III Bristol was prosperous enough to elect its own mayor; and a few years later, to improve its port by diverting the River Frome. Throughout the Middle Ages grew steadily – by 1377 it ranked third behind London and York, Edward III having excised it from its neighbouring counties and given it its own Charter as a body corporate. Its trade during these centuries was mainly with Ireland, the Iberian Peninsula, and Gascony – it was the chief port for the arrival of Bordeaux wines.
In 1497 John Cabot sailed from Bristol to explore North America.
It became a cathedral city in 1542, suffered severely in the English Civil War in the 1640s, then began a period of growth on the back of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and other commercial endeavours that saw it become the second city in the kingdom until overtaken by the midlands textile centres during the Industrial Revolution.
The city is commonly linked with famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was responsible for many of the city's famous structures including the Clifton suspension bridge, the Portbury Dock, and the terminus for the Great Western railway which linked Bristol to London.
In the 19th century Bristol lost its maritime significance, since the larger ships coming into use could no longer navigate the several miles of river required to reach its docks.
Bristol RFC is one of England's largest Rugby Union clubs, with the majority of its recent history spent in the top flight of the English league. The city is also home to two professional football (soccer) clubs - Bristol Rovers FC and Bristol City FC.
It is now the location of the prestigious University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
Bristol Township, likely named after the British city, was founded in Pennsylvania along the Delaware River a half-century prior to the American Revolution. It has a population of roughly 50,000 people today.
There are eleven Bristols in the USA, plus a Bristol Bay in Alaska. There is also a Bristol Island in Antarctica and a pair of Bristols in Canada. There was a Bristol bomber during WWII.