War time Britain saw the decline of ‘Scouting’ on a national level, but the boy-scout group at Weston-Super-Mare thrived. In this local study, Duncan Biddulph explores the factors that contributed to the success of the Hill Road Scout Troop. A sense of comradeship between the boy-scouts and their leaders, most of whom had close ties with local churches and schools, seems to have been a key aspect. This article offers a window into life in Weston-Super-Mare during the war, highlighting its strong community spirit.
The first recorded Quaker meeting in Wiltshire took place in 1653. From the very beginning, the Wiltshire Quakers were met with staunch opposition from the local authorities of law and order. It was widely believed among the ruling elite that the nonconformist nature of Quakerism would lead to widespread resistance to authority. In this article, Kay Taylor looks into the ways in which Quakerism in Wiltshire was criminalised, how the Quaker community sought to justify their practices, and the phenomenon of martyrdom.
Mary Hamilton was perhaps the most notorious cross-dresser or ‘female-husband’ of her day. She lived in Somerset, among other places, and was the subject of scandal across the country for her habitual crime of marrying other women. Her story was preserved in the pages of an anonymous pamphlet by a famous contemporary novelist and dramatist. Through the story of Mary Hamilton, Sheila Hannon considers the rights and responsibilities of modern-day novelists and dramatists in their use of historical evidence. To what extent can writers take liberties with historical record in the name of ‘dramatic license’, when much of the ‘historical evidence’ that remains is itself fiction?
Outside of their contemporary depictions, few of the Baroque gardens that were typical of the seventeenth century survive today. The Georgians preferred a more naturalistic style, and so the anachronistic gardens of the Stuart era faded away into the past. Such is the case with William Blathwayt’s spectacular gardens at Durham Park; but these gardens were home to an impressive piece of engineering which has long been puzzling historians. The jewel of the gardens was an ostentatious water feature which, from an engineering perspective, was ahead of its time. The mechanics that powered the feature remain a mystery. Based on a report by Hyla Holden, Steve Poole addresses the question of how the cascade was powered, and whether changing fashion was the sole cause for such a spectacle to fall into disuse.
St James’s fair in Bristol was a wonderful microcosm of Georgian life. The Georgians were globally aware, acquisitive and had a hearty appetite for entertainment and vice. Madge Dresser and Steve Poole explore different aspects of this social occasion; from trade and entertainment, both local and exotic, to thievery and debauchery. The fair caught the attention of moral reformers who viewed it as an arena symbolic of the cheating and corruption which they so fervently opposed.
Brian Edwards explores the mystery of the barber-surgeon, the fourteenth-century skeleton found beneath a stone at Avebury megalith. Edwards recounts the discovery by archaeologist Alexander Keiller and considers how Keiller’s background may have influenced what would become the dominant narrative about the identity of this mysterious character. The article introduces other potential identities of the barber-surgeon, based on texts about the Avebury Stones that were not available when the original conclusion was drawn. Even with this new evidence, the story of the skeleton is no less tantalizing.
James Bridges was clearly a versatile and talented character; it seems that talent ran in his family. Following on from his father, the creator of a marvellous invention which is celebrated today at the British Museum, James Bridges was a skilled surveyor, architect and travelling showman with a keen interest in science. Bridges took on many projects throughout his lifetime, including the Bristol bridge, to name but one. In this article, Barb Drummond follows the story of this intriguing character - although the end of his story remains elusive.