Pero’s Bridge has become a canvas for visitors to express their personal messages to their loved ones.Pero’s Bridge has become a canvas for visitors to express their personal messages to their loved ones.
Pero’s Bridge has become a canvas for visitors to express their personal messages to their loved ones. | Bristol World

Pero’s Bridge: 10 of the best messages on ‘lovelocks’ and the history the romantic tradition

How a Bristol bridge sparks controversy involving a Serbian tale from the early 1900s and Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade

It’s 1914 and Europe is soon to be at war with itself, a conflict so great it would take bear the word in its name. The Great War would go on to be a bloody affair and prelude to further global conflict in the form of the Second World War which would shape geopolitical relationships today.

During this toiled time, the small Serbian town of Vrnjacka Banja, according to the legend, had a bridge where a schoolmistress named Nada would meet her lover, an army officer named Relja, and here they pledged their love in the days before World War I.

Relja would be sent to fight the Axis powers at the Thessaloniki front in Greece, where he found a new love and married her. Nada is said to have died of sadness and grief.

After hearing the tale, young lovers began to buy padlocks to attach to the bridge, tossing the keys into the river below to ensure a life of fidelity. The tradition has spread to other cities - most famously Paris but also Bristol on Pero’s Bridge, adjacent to the Arnolfini.

Pero’s Bridge is the namesake of Pero Jones - a West Indian slave to John Pinney. Pinney’s home, where Mr Jones also stayed, is preserved on Great George Street near Brandon Hill. The bridge is one of the city’s few attempts to acknowledge its part in the transatlantic slave trade.

Residents and visitors have used the crossing as an unofficial canvas to spread their well wishes and declarations of love - to Bristol City Council and others’ displeasure. Some have said the ‘lovelocks’ left behind are a sign of disrespect to Pero’s memory while the city’s authority claims they are damaging the structure so periodically removes many of the locks, although they soon return in droves.

Whether you agree with the sentiment of leaving the lovelocks or not, they act as fascinating time capsules storing milestone moments in the author’s life. Bristol World has taken a look through the messages and picked out 10 examples of the kinds of notes locked to Pero’s Bridge.

If you are or know any of the people to leave these messages then please email [email protected]

Relja would be sent to fight the Axis powers at the Thessaloniki front in Greece, where he found a new love and married her. Nada is said to have died of sadness and grief.

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