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  • GVHeritage Group

The Underfall & The Overflow

Updated: Mar 10, 2018

A poem inspired by the Floating Harbour and Bristol's history of flooding.


‘Underfall & Overflow’

We came to build

A city on the water

Our ancestors, forefathers

Mothers, sons and daughters


And the city grew

The flood plains drained

Brick by brick

The land reclaimed.


The channels cleared

With dynamite

The dull grey mud

Exploding bright.

With Iron and steel

Muscle and bone

We tamed the waters

We built a home


Come the full moon

And the high spring tide

Let us gather

Where worlds collide

And watch the waters

Swirl below

The Underfall

And the Overflow…


By Brigstowe’s bridge

Where Cabot sailed

To the Windwood Isles (westward ho)

Through the oceans gale

From our port city

We traded our greed -

With tobacco, sugar,

and slavery…


We built our bridges

High and wide

Our funnelled steamships,

Beat the tides.

Brunels railways ran

North to South

From the cotton mills

To the Avon mouth


Come the full moon

And the high Spring tide

Let us gather

Where worlds collide

And watch the waters

Swirl below

The Underfall

And the Overflow…


1000 men changed

The rivers course

Steel sluices hold

The waters force

The lock gates creak

On the Harbourside

Holding back

The rising tide


Along the Cut

Runs the tidal flow

Where we tamed

The undertow

With metal, steel,

With flesh and blood

We hold back the winter floods


(But) Come the full moon

Come the full moon

And the high Spring tide

Let us gather

Where worlds collide

And watch the waters

Swirl below

The Underfall

And the Overflow…


Come the full moon

And the high Spring tide

Let us gather

Where worlds collide

And watch the waters

Swirl below

The Underfall

And the Overflow…