VISITORS climbed to the top of Cabot Tower for the first time in almost four years as the iconic building reopened to the public.
People flocked to the refurbished tower on top of Brandon Hill to enjoy one of the best views in Bristol after it was officially reopened by Bristol’s Lord Mayor on Tuesday.
The Grade II listed structure has been repaired and restored as part of a £420,000 project after closing on safety grounds in November 2007.
The first visitors climbed the 107 steps to the top of the landmark 105ft (32m) tower at 1pm, with a steady stream of people following throughout the day.
Among the first visitors were mum Dawn Knight, who visited with her children George, 10, and Harry, eight, and Clare McGurrell, who was with her children Ben, 10, and Abbey, eight. Both families travelled to the tower from Yatton.
Mrs McGurrell said: “The last time I was up here was 15 years ago. I was quite surprised by the view and by how much you can see from up there.
“We’ve been to the M Shed and been out for lunch and thought we would come here to make a day of it.”
Her son Ben, who climbed the tower twice, said: “It’s a great view from the top. I could see across to Dundry Hill.”
Mrs Knight’s son George said: “The best thing about the tower is looking out and seeing where all the places are.”
Karen Lawrenson, also of Yatton, visited with her children Jasmine, eight, and Max, five.
She said: “It’s the first time I’ve been up the tower. I didn’t even know it existed before. It’s lovely and it has a beautiful view from the top.”
A vast improvement on the neglected and graffiti-strewn building which closed in 2007, the 114-year-old tower now boasts cleaned and repaired sandstone on its outside walls.
Inside, visitors are greeted by freshly-painted handrails, new doors and sandblasted brickwork when they enter to climb the first of two flights of steep stairs.
From the viewing platform at the top, Bristol’s newest developments such as the Colston Hall foyer and M Shed museum can be seen from the tower for the first time, along with the familiar sights of Ashton Court estate and the hills of Dundry.
City council deputy leader Simon Cook said the view from the top was the best in Bristol.
He said: “The tower is looking better than I have ever seen it. We hope it serves Bristol for the next 200 years.”
He said the opening of the tower was important for tourism.
Mr Cook said: “It’s one of the key things we want to point people towards because from there you get a good panoramic view of the city and people who are not from Bristol can get a feel for the place.”
Architect Simon Cartlidge, based in Bishopston, said stonemasons Nimbus had worked with great skill and flexibility on the challenging restoration.
He said the project involved replacing corroding ironwork set inside the stonework with stainless steel.
Mr Cartlidge said: “A lot of people had assumed the city council had walked away from the tower because it had been closed for so long. But getting the money together and getting English Heritage involved out took time.”
The tower, built to mark the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to Newfoundland, was restored following an Evening Post campaign to save it. Of the £420,000 bill for the work, £200,000 came from English Heritage, £150,000 came from the council and the rest from grant funding.