Key Dates

13th Century First mention of Guild of Merchants in Bristol
1445 Guild of Mariners founded to erect chantry and almshouse for a priest and 12 poor seamen
1467 Bristol Corporation drew up Ordinances for Guild of Merchants
1497 Guild financed John Cabot’s voyage in Matthew which discovered Newfoundland
1552 Edward VI granted Royal Charter to Master, Wardens and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers of City of Bristol giving them a monopoly of seaborne trade from and to Bristol
1553 Society took over the almshouse in Marsh Street, which still exists as Merchants’ Almshouse and established original Merchants’ Hall on the site of the chantry next door
1566 Elizabeth I granted Royal Charter to the Society confirming the earlier one
1595 First record of school for mariners’ children founded by Society
1622 John Guy, first Governor of Newfoundland in 1610, becomes Master
1631 Capt James equipped by Society for expedition in Henrietta to seek North West Passage
1639 Charles I granted Royal Charter to Society setting out the constitution and fixing November 10th as the date of the election of Master and Wardens
1676 Manor of Clifton acquired
1696 Colston’s almshouses founded
1708 Colston’s School founded by Edward Colston. Society appointed manager of the charity’s estates
1737 Mathematical and Navigational School started by Society
1754 William Vick bequeathed £1,000 to Society and directed that the interest should accumulate until the sum of £10,000 was reached and then to build a bridge over the Avon Gorge
1756 War with France. Society fitted 60 privateers carrying up to 36 guns and many prizes were gained
1763 Treaty of Paris. Owing to Society’s advice Labrador transferred from Quebec province to government of Newfoundland
1807 Act of Parliament abolishes the slave trade in Britain and her colonies
1809 Floating Harbour completed by Bristol Docks Company after pressure and assistance from the Society
1830 Bill for bridge over Avon Gorge received Royal Assent. Vick’s legacy, now £8,700, handed over to trustees
1832 Inaugural meeting of the Great Western Railway Company held in Merchants’ Hall. Much supported by Society and its members
1861 Wharfage lease relinquished by Society after 309 years and management of pilots relinquished after 249 years
1864 Brunel-designed Suspension Bridge over Avon Gorge finally opened
1885 Bristol Trade and Mining School becomes known as Merchant Venturers’ School
1891 Colston’s Girls’ School founded
1909 Bristol University receives its Charter. Merchant Venturers’ Technical College engineering department becomes Faculty of Engineering
1922 St Monica Trust formed
1925 St Monica Home of Rest opened in Cote Lane site
1940 Merchants’ Hall destroyed during the Blitz
1945 Fern House, Clifton Down acquired as temporary Hall
1953 Fern and Auckland House, Clifton Down joined together to become the new Merchants’ Hall
1989 Queen Elizabeth II granted Charter to the Society increasing the size of the Standing Committee to 15
1991 Through merger Colston’s School became co-educational as Colstons Collegiate School
2003 First women merchants elected
2003 A new 60-bed care home, the Garden House, is added to the original nursing home at the Cote Lane HQ of the St Monica Trust
2003 Westbury Fields retirement village opened by St Monica Trust
2006 Signing of Academy Funding Agreement for the establishment of the Merchants’ Academy in Withywood
2007 Merchant Venturers join the Lord Mayor of Bristol and other civic representatives in signing a statement regretting Bristol’s role in the Slave Trade
2008 Signing of Academy Funding Agreement for Colstons' Girls’ Academy
2008 Planning concept published for new residential development at Cote House
2008 In September, two Merchant Venturer sponsored academies opened – Merchants’ Academy in Withywood and Colston’s Girls’ School
2009 In December, Katherine House, a purpose-built retirement home for older people opened in the beautiful grounds of Cote House in Westbury-on-Trym.