The coronavirus pandemic exposed many underlying fault-lines in society. One was that between different generations, surfacing most prominently in disputes about mass gatherings and the right to use public spaces. But what happened at Abbots Pool in rural North Somerset was part of a deeper history of contested access.
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.
The right to trial by jury has been traditionally acknowledged as a pillar of the English legal system. Under the principle of ‘twelve good men and true’, juries had been trusted for centuries with the responsibility of dispensing justice impartially and according to evidence. Defendants had the right to be tried ‘by their peers’, but juries had always been composed entirely of men. In 1919, reforms in the law allowed women to take their seats as jurors in a criminal trial for the first time. The trial took place here in Bristol in 1920, and not everyone was entirely happy about it.
In May 1907, a reporter from the Bristol Evening News ventured into the industrial streets of St Phillips, made his way along Cheese Lane, past the Phoenix Glass Bottle Works, and knocked at the door of a small terraced house in Avon Lane at the back of Avon Street. This was home to Elizabeth Jewell, whose husband had died in 1889, leaving her to care for their seven children as best she could. The city’s newspapers didn’t often go looking for uplifting stories in working class districts like this, but the house was quickly becoming famous as the home of a local hero, and the Evening News was keen to be first with an interview.
In May 2018, Dorset’s Shire Hall in Dorchester reopened after a £2.9 million redevelopment as a new courthouse museum. Rose Wallis, Associate Director of the Regional History Centre, has worked on the project for two years as consultant historian and curator. Under the banner ‘justice in the balance’, the new museum promises to engage visitors with the history of crime, law, and punishment, and past and present efforts to achieve justice.
In the autumn of 2018, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter will host several exhibitions to commemorate the Armistice which was signed on 11 November 1918. Working in partnership with Southwest Heritage Trust, Exeter City Council, the Regional History Centre (UWE), the First World War Engagement Centre at the University of Hertfordshire, and RAMM, Dr Kent Fedorowich (UWE) has, since 2016, been part of the steering committee that has been focussing its efforts on one of the exhibitions entitled, ‘The Canadians in Devon, 1914-1919’.