‘It is past the art of man to find us out’: anti-Catholicism and the ‘Bristol Firemen’ in 1730

‘Shortly after midnight on 3rd October 1730, a series of brilliant 'fire balls' or hand-made grenades were seen arching through the air on St Augustine's Back, Bristol, and over the back wall of George Packer's large and opulent mansion house. There was 'a noise like the report of several guns', followed by quickly spreading flames. Within minutes, the merchant's home was ablaze, his household in full flight, and it was only a favourable wind that prevented the flames spreading to nearby warehouses and the dense flotilla of wooden ships crowding the adjacent quay.’ In this article, Steve Poole uncovers a story of organised extortion by arson at Bristol, and the ethnic and religious prejudices which it exposed.

Mary Rudge: Bristol’s World Chess Champion

'She was "the leading lady player of the world" and "known throughout the length and breadth of the land" in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The pinnacle of her career was winning the first international women's chess tournament in 1897, but she lived a life of genteel poverty and died almost forgotten. John Richards uncovers the extraordinary career of Mary Rudge and argues the case for a blue plaque to mark her achievements'.