Saving Bristol All of this might have been concrete if it wasn't for Anne and Jerry
SITTING in their delightfully chaotic home in a secret courtyard just minutes from Brandon Hill, artists Anne and Jerry Hicks told me what brought them to Bristol.
"We met as students at Slade school of Art in London," says Jerry, 86, before his wife of more than 60 years helps complete the shared recollections that his once sharp and witty mind now finds hard to recall.
"It was 1951 when Jerry got his job teaching at the grammar school. We got married a year later, and very early on said to each other, 'we're not going to do any better than this, are we?' So we decided to make Bristol our permanent home."
Moving west worked out for them, but you could argue the city they adopted as home has also benefited.
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Since that day they have been part of a group of activists who have fought to make Bristol an even better place.
"'We took a top-floor flat on Park Street for six years, with a view over the city, and this gave us a good feeling for living in the centre of Bristol.
"We stayed as long as we could, until with two children we outgrew the flat," says Jerry.
"'I don't think we would have got involved in the problems of the city if it hadn't been for Anne.
"Because I was teaching all day it was Anne who took time to observe the city.
"She soon became well known in the council offices. They would say 'that Mrs Hicks has been here again'. She became a bit of a legend.
"This was the time when there were some really rather silly things being proposed, such as the filling in of the docks, but most people were far too timid to oppose them."
In this throw-away statement, Jerry brings us to one of his generation's most significant achievements, describing their part in the campaign to stop the destruction of the floating harbour, as the city presented plans that seem unthinkable today.
"The people in the city's offices were frightened," said Anne.
"There was huge pressure. The docks were closing and they didn't know what to do with it.
"So the council came up with the idea of filling the floating harbour with concrete and building great big office blocks right in the middle – all this just as the ss Great Britain was coming back to Bristol.
"But the council wanted rid of her too as she was going to be docked exactly where they wanted to build a huge ring road. Can you imagine?
"There was a genuine feeling of revolution," continued Jerry.
"A sense that the people in the council house, those making decisions about the future of the city, didn't realise what was happening."
Around this point Jerry started deploying his sharp and satirical observations in speeches and cartoons.
Initially attracting laughter, a serious side soon emerged.
"We then became much more constructively involved. We harassed them so much that the council eventually turned to us and asked: 'So what would you do? Who would you get involved? What better examples have you seen?
"So,"Anne steps in. "We said 'what about Hugh Casson?' And lo and behold the city employed him."
With that Jerry and some friends took Mr Casson on to a boat in the harbour to tell him precisely what was going on.
A public meeting followed, promoted by the then editor of the Evening Post, at which people spontaneously came together to form an organisation that became the Bristol City Docks Group.
The group included John Grimshaw, the driving force in putting things in some kind of order, and a certain young architect called George Ferguson.
As well as the activities of this group, economic factors took over, as did a new administration in the council house.
The plan to concrete over sections of the Floating Harbour faded into history, but Bristol's inhabitants should thank their lucky stars for people like the Hicks, who took a stand at the time.