Pero’s Bridge is a pedestrian footbridge that spans Bristol’s floating harbour, and was named in honour of Pero Jones, who came to live in Bristol as the slave of John Pinney. The bridge was designed by the Irish artist Eilis O’Connell, in conjunction with Ove Arup & Partners engineers and opened in 1999. Composed of three spans, the outer two are fixed and the central section can be raised to allow tall boats to pass along the floating harbour. The most distinctive features of the bridge are the pair of horn-shaped sculptures which act as counterweights for the lifting section.
The Bridge is named after Pero Jones, an enslaved African who came to live in Bristol. In 1765, at the age of just 12, Pero Jones was bought by wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant, John Pinney, to work on his Mountravers plantation in Nevis. In 1784 he accompanied the Pinney family in their move from Nevis to Bristol, where they lived in the Georgian House. Pero was personal servant to John Pinney and served for 32 years. The bridge was named in commemoration of one slave who lived and died in the city.
Eilis O’ Connell
Eilis O’ Connell was born in Derry, N. Ireland in 1953. She studied at the Crawford School of Art, Cork. (1970 – 74), Massachusetts College of Art, Boston ( 1974-1975) and Crawford School of Art ( 1975-77) where she received the only award for Distinction in Sculpture that year. Other awards followed, the G.P.A. Award for Emerging artists 1981, a fellowship at The British School at Rome 1983-1984 and a P.S.I. Fellowship for New York from the Irish Arts Council. While in New York she won a two-year residency at Delfina Studios in London and was based there until 2001.
O’Connell has exhibited widely and won many public art commissions, She received the Art and Work for her sculptures at 99 Bishopsgate from the Wapping Arts Trust, and in 1998 she won a Royal Society of Arts Award. She has represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale in 1982 and the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1985. In 2002 her large bronze, Unfold, was lent by the Cass Foundation to the Venice Biennale and her smaller sculptures were shown at the Guggenheim Museum.