At Stroud in 1897, protesting crowds congregated outside the market hall for three days in an attempt to prevent a public auction of household effects, seized by the authorities in a ‘distraint sale’. These were the belongings of a local family who had refused to let their children be vaccinated against Smallpox as the law required. Distraint sales like this had increasingly become an arena for protest and carnivalesque displays of public outrage and the Stroud riot was no exception. The crowd set fire to heather bushes, acted out pantomimic scenes in fancy dress, and pelted eggs at police constables and auctioneers. They overwhelmed the local police force, as well as the police who had been sent in from neighbouring towns and cities. But why would anybody riot against a vaccination programme set up to combat Smallpox? In this article, Holly John investigates a nineteenth century medical controversy and discovers that despite being the home of Dr Edward Jenner, the ‘Father of immunisation’, the south-west of England was also once home to a fervent anti-vaccination movement.
Filton Community History: Twenty Years of Local Research
After 20 years of research, the Filton Community History Group closed in 2018. Some notable contributions included the BAC 100 (Bristol Aeroplane Company) oral history project, the Millennium Schools Project, and the ‘Inspiring Women’ exhibition for South Gloucestershire Council. All these successful projects have connected the local community of Filton to their rich and proud history. Jane Tozer, Treasurer of Filton Community History Group looks back on the group's achievements.
‘Homes for Heroes’? Bristol and the Housing and Town Planning Act, 1919
In the aftermath of the Great War, Prime Minister David Lloyd George urged for the need to make Britain ‘a country fit for heroes to live in,’ where ex-servicemen could enjoy improved living conditions. In July 1919, the Housing and Town Planning Act received royal assent. Despite having initial doubts about the idea of building new homes through the Great War, Bristol City Council purchased 700 acres of land in late 1918 to build high quality housing estates. On the centenary of the Act’s passing, Peter Malpass’ article examines its impact on town planning in Bristol and explains why the Act should be celebrated.
Bristol and the 1918-19 Spanish Flu Pandemic
Despite having little commemoration, the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic was one of Bristol's most devastating disasters. On November 11, 1918, Ellen Way died by jumping from a window during a delirium caused by influenza. At least another 1500 people would die from influenza in Bristol. Eugene Byrne’s article considers the impact of the flu on everyday life in Bristol, and explores the role and response of Dr D. S Davies in preventing the spread of Spanish Flu.
‘We Didn’t Think it was Monotonous in Those Days, but…’: Memories of Growing up in Rural South West England in the Early Twentieth Century
The ‘Edwardians Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918’, Bristol People’s Oral History Project and the Somerset Oral History Archive, contain hundreds of interviews covering a wealth of memories and perspectives on everyday life in the early twentieth century. Harrison’s article uses these oral histories to investigate the perspectives of young people on growing up in rural South- West England, and perceived problems in rural communities. Additionally, the article evaluates the use of oral history as historical evidence for a study of rural life.
From Carolina to Kingswood: Boston King’s Story of Slavery, Salvation and Sedition in Eighteenth Century Bristol
Boston King was one of the first black men to be appointed into the Methodist connexion. His missions in Sierra Leone attracted the attention of the Superintendent Thomas Coke, who was interested in the ‘salvation’ of enslaved people. Coke took King to Kingswood School in 1794. Here, King studied the Bible and developed his literacy, to further his ambitions of preaching in West Africa. Ryan Hanley explores King’s journey to Kingswood and provides an insight into his life in the school.
Abbotswood House, a study of male inebriety at the turn of the Twentieth Century
Drunkenness was perceived to be a growing social problem in the late nineteenth century. To treat drunkards, or so-called ‘inebriates’, a new Inebriates Act was passed in 1898. The Act required those classed as inebriates to undergo rehabilitation and treatment at specialised homes. Most research on the treatment of drunkenness has primarily focused on treating and controlling the working class and women. Hutton's article reveals new research on the treatment of men from the upper social ranks, using Abbotswood House in Gloucestershire as a case study. The article investigates the methods of treating inebriates and their effectiveness, as well as the daily lives of patients.
Navvies at the Gloucestershire end of the Severn Tunnel
Welsh steam coal was in high demand among steamship companies in England. Well-connected train transport was essential to meet this demand, which consequently led to the construction of the Severn Tunnel. Thomas Andrew Walker oversaw the project and expanded the site at Sudbrook (1880-1886, Wales) into a village with basic provisions for the navvies. However, navvy villages in New Passage in Gloucestershire were tainted by disease and unsanitary living conditions. Mead’s article investigates the problems the navvy settlements faced and their impact on New Passage and Bristol.
The Boiling Wells and the Quay Pipe: an Episode in Bristol’s Watery History
The water springs of Boiling Wells and the Quay Pipe provided Bristol with access to safe, clean drinking water. The Quay Pipe route required difficult engineering to extend and maintain. However, the pipe and its conduit house became a cultural and social icon of Bristol, symbolising care and social unity. In this article, Adrian Kerton focuses on the history of the Quay Pipe and its social significance to Bristol, and tackles some of the confusion surrounding the source for the Quay Pipe.
Performing capital punishment in an age of reform: the contentious death of Charles Bartlett
In April 1837, Charles Bartlett was executed at Gloucester Gaol for the murder of his mother-in-law. His execution was widely reported and became a subject of controversy. Not only had Bartlett theatrically declared his innocence from the gallows, but the behaviour of officers in charge of the spectacle drew comment. Abolitionists and opponents of public executions were appalled by the disorderly conduct of the hangman, the sheriff and the governor. In this article, Steve Poole explores how the death of Charles Bartlett led to heated debate over the reform of capital punishment.