By the middle of the nineteenth century, Weston Super Mare had grown into the most flourishing and fashionable seaside resort in Somerset, its close proximity to Bristol making it readily accessible to thousands of visitors by road and rail. Early Victorian resort economies were dependent to a large extent upon a perception of social tranquillity and calm. Despite rapid expansion, in the mid 1850s Weston still only had six constables to keep its fragile peace. Steve Poole tells the story of the series of disturbances in 1861 which shattered the towns calm façade.
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.
Five hundred years ago, Bristol was the second or third largest town in England ( only London, York, and possibly Norwich outstripped it in wealth and population), but was finding it difficult to maintain this position in the face of increasingly difficult economic conditions. Bristol shared in the problems besetting many of its rivals: population growth was held back by recurrent epidemics, with the result that levels of trade and demand for manufactured goods remained low, while the shortage of tenants meant that houses fell empty and soon decayed; the increasing competition from rural clothiers hit the urban textile industry, and the town's elite showed growing reluctance to volunteer for burdensome and costly civic office. Peter Fleming offers an insight to life in Bristol in the last decade of the fifteenth century.
During the eighteenth-century, Britain was the hub of the international market in iron. Although the British Isles could boast a well-established domestic iron industry, native ironmasters were unable to meet the rapidly growing demand for iron in the major metalworking districts of the Midlands and the north. As a result, large quantities of bar iron had to be imported from the Baltic to meet the shortfall. Much of this iron, destined for the West Midlands, was shipped through Bristol. In this article, Chris Evans looks at Bristol’s iron trade through the business records of Graffin Prankard, a Bristol merchant who played an important role in this commerce in the first half of the eighteenth century.