About us

Read about our beginnings and how we've changed over the years...


Margaret in the old days

Back in 1977, in the early stages of dismantling Bristol City Docks as a commercial port, Bristol City Council offered the cranes on Princes Wharf for scrap. A small group of 'rescuers' formed City Docks Ventures and 'saved' the cranes for the people of Bristol. The same group also purchased and refurbished a small open boat, Margaret which had been the last operating ferry between Pill and Shirehampton in the Avon Gorge until 1970.

At that time the floating harbour was no longer seen to be of value - pollution levels were high and the rat population was booming but passion for the old harbour still ran through the City; the people of Bristol felt that it did have a future, despite no longer being the centre of trade in the city. They felt it was a precious part of their heritage and a resource worth fighting for and stood up against the council's plan to infill the harbour as part of a road scheme (follow this link to read more...)

In 1978 Ian Bungard operated the ferryboat 'Margaret' for City Docks Ventures and was asked if he would like to buy her. Ian and his dog (the famous 'Jango'; who was a huge character around the docks; even making headlines on the local news 'Points West' on his death) operated Margaret as a team, slowly building up the business and working through all seasons running a ferry service, private charters and even starting a commuter service. His fleet grew too; collecting various vessels from different parts of the country and additional staff. By the end of Ian's time with the company it's base was on a Dutch barge in the harbour (which he had personally sailed over from Amsterdam), and the ferry fleet had expanded to 5 boats; with Independence in 1981, 'Countess' (now with different owners and being rebuilt at The Underfall Yard, within the Harbour) in 1983, Emily in 1992 and the purpose built Matilda in 1997.

In 2002 the company was bought by Jane Salvidge and her husband Rob. Over the next ten years while Ian and Philippa enjoyed a long sabbatical in the Spanish countryside growing olives and drinking wine, the Salvidges developed the business further and built the ferryboat 'Brigantia'.

The range of trips on offer has branched out from the well-established booze cruises and river trips to include a comprehensive curriculum-based educational commentary, interactive tours, wildlife spotting and story-telling trips and hen, stag and wedding parties. In addition, timetabled ferry services now cover the entire harbour all year round and the company works with many local organisations, festivals and events, contributing to the vibrant culture in and around Bristol Harbour and delivering visitors to the door.

In December 2012 unfortunate circumstances led to the Bristol Ferryboat Co going into liquidation but a group of people raised money to buy the boats at auction and asked Ian and Philippa Bungard to take the helm once again. In 2013 we set up 'Bristol Community Ferry Boats' as a community benefit society, a type of cooperative. This secures Bristol's iconic blue and yellow boats for the future, feeding any profit back into the company to maintain and improve the ferry service for Bristol. We're very proud to have almost 900 shareholders, the majority of whom are Bristol residents - we consider them to be our 'ferry family'.