‘A long career of brutality to the poor’: Popular resistance to the Vaccination Acts in the nineteenth century South West

satirical scene poor patients receive the cowpox vaccine and develop bovine features
James Gillray 'The Cow-Pock or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation 1802 (c) Trustees of the British Museum

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.

‘Have They a Sense of Justice?’: Britain’s first female jurors at the Bristol Quarter Sessions

Headline Western Daily Press 29 July 1920

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.

The Bristol General Election of 1830

The General Election which followed the death of King George IV in June 1830 is generally remembered in Bristol as a contest between the two Whig candidates over slavery. There were, however, two other candidates. One of them scored the greatest political triumph of his career; the other mustered barely two dozen votes. John Stevens tells the story of these Bristol electorates and their political campaigns.

Topographical Prints and the Image of Bristol: 1995-1860

From the time when urbanisation was first recognised as a radical and permanent phenomenon, debates and questions surrounding the physical, political, and social consequences of urban and industrial development accompanied every topographical modification; urban migration, expansion, and the industrialisation of the landscape became the object of popular scrutiny. Throughout the 19th century, commentators continued to compile both historic and prophetic accounts of rapidly evolving conurbations in an attempt to comprehend the future of these sites and their implications for the British nation and empire. In this article, Katy Layton Jones examines some of the ways in which engraved images of Bristol produced during the first half of the 19th century were informed by, and in turn informed, changing attitudes to that city and to urbanisation in general.

Mayors, Serjeants and Constables: The Politics of Everyday Life in Urban Tudor England

The urban elites of provincial 15th and 16th-century English towns and cities have been widely researched by scholars. The mayors, aldermen, common councillors and other elite civic office-holders of such towns, it has been argued, held near omnipotent political power. Indeed, it is often acknowledged that the period from the late 15th through to the mid-16th centuries witnessed growing oligarchic government in many more towns and cities, in the process handing greater political control to smaller numbers of civic elites. In emphasising the political power of these elites, however, there is the danger that our perceptions of 16th-century urban governments and urban politics have become rather uncritical. In this article, James Lee recovers the political activity of a variety of lesser civic officials in Tudor Bristol, first considering the constitutional frameworks in which such officials operated, before examining what kind of political authority such individuals were capable of exercising.

Early Records of the Church Court in Bristol

The Consistory Court was established in Bristol following the creation of the bishopric and diocese in 1542. Previously the Bristol parishes north of the river Avon had been part of the diocese of Worcester, while the parishes south of the river were in the diocese of Bath and Wells. In this article, Joseph Bettey explores a neglected source for local history and genealogy in Bristol and the surrounding area: the records of the Church or Consistory Court. Proceedings of the court, including statements by witnesses, were recorded in detail, and 45 Cause Books survive starting in 1545, as well as numerous bundles of Cause Papers from 1600.Ecclesiastical jurisdiction dealt with many aspects of daily life, including disputes over wills, marriage and inheritance, offences such as heresy, immorality, drunkenness and slander, failure to attend church and misdemeanours of the clergy.

Gleanings from Wiltshire Parish Registers 1538-1812

Parish registers have long been regarded as the preserve of family historians, and, more recently, demographic historians. They should be regarded not only as bureaucratic records of the rites of passage, or sources of population data, important as these are, but also as chronicles of communal memory and experience. In this study, Steve Hobbs reveals the wide range of historical research that can be informed by the memoranda and jottings found in these sources.

How old is the ‘Bristol L’?

Everybody with an interest in the vernacular speech of the Bristol area is familiar with the so-called 'Bristol L'. It is the most widely-known and widely recognised feature of the city accent, and the one which distinguishes the city from rural Gloucestershire and Somerset. Richad Coates explores the history of the Bristol ‘L’, seeking to uncover just how long this conspicuous marker of a native Bristolian has been part of the local vernacular.

Alum. One of Bristol’s Forgotten Industries

With the continuing redevelopment of large areas of central Bristol, many of our former industrial buildings vanished almost daily. In this article, Julian Lea-Jones gives an account of one such local industry, the Temple Back Alum works that closed in the 1980s. Alum (the common name for Aluminium Sulphate) is an essential but unnoticeable product widely used by many industries.

Sea Change and C. Claxton: an evolving Bristolian, 1800-1850

In this article, Geoff Mead illustrates the interesting overlap between old and new worlds that characterised the early nineteenth century through the story of Captain Christopher Claxton. His story exemplifies the dynamic tensions, changes and continuities of the period. His activities sometimes literally bridged old and new worlds. Yet this 'Age of Reform' also increasingly challenged his political and social perceptions. This interpretation of Claxton's long life and work in early steam navigation and in iron-bridge building illustrates well how at the cusp of technological advance changes in culture follow.