In 1497, a small ship with a crew of only 18 men left Bristol and navigated the Atlantic to land in North America - one of the first group of Europeans to ‘discover’ this area of the world. The captain of the Matthew was John Cabot, an Italian sailor commissioned by Henry VII, who is commemorated to this day by the distinguished Cabot Tower and numerous street names around Bristol.
In 1996, nearly 500 years after the Matthew first found its way to North America, a replica ship was launched in Bristol docks. The following year she left her Bristol birthplace and followed in her namesake’s footprints, once again crossing the Atlantic to Newfoundland, this time to arrive to a royal welcome.
The Matthew can now regularly be seen floating up and down Bristol’s harbour with guests aboard (occasionally in full pirate attire) and flags fluttering in the wind. Public cruises are frequent, with trips down the Avon Gorge and the famous ‘Fish and Chip trip’ stealing the show.
The Matthew docks outside the M Shed, which is a short walk from the SS Great Britain. During opening hours it is free to climb aboard, and knowledgeable guides are there to share the incredible history of one of Bristol’s most famous ships.
Did you know?
Though Bristol claims him as one of their own, John Cabot was a Venetian named Giovanni Caboto, who came to Bristol to find financial backers in the port city for his Atlantic voyage of exploration. On returning he was awarded the princely sum of £10 by a grateful Henry VII.
- Accessible to wheelchair users
- Guide dogs permitted