‘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.

‘Justice in the balance’: a new courthouse museum at Dorset Shire Hall

Dorset Shire Hall. Image courtesy of Shire Hall historic courthouse museum.

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.

The Surgeon and the Lunatics

"Nineteenth century commentators on mental illness were often fascinated by the outward signs of difference between sane and insane behaviour, and the relative changes brought about in each patient’s demeanour and expression by treatment in the asylum. As Michael Whitfield finds here, these interests could be as common in the newspaper press as they were amongst surgeons".

Charles Houlden Walker, 1776-1844, Attorney and Publicist

"John Lyes considers the career of an overlooked Bristol lawyer and finds him to have been a feisty and prolific criminal justice campaigner... Walker was also a regular writer of letters to the local press". Walker protested injustices wherever he could, whether they happened to him or others he saw it as his duty to try and make changes to the system.

‘Rich men had gotten all into their hands’: opposition to corn badgers at Midford, 1630

Market practices could be the cause of many disorders throughout the early modern period, so food riots were a common occurrence. Rural customs and traditional rights were based on the belief that the rural community were entitled to a fair price of grain, even in times of dearth. These core beliefs naturally came with strong rules about which market practices were acceptable, and which were not. In this article, we meet a particular type of market villain: the ‘badger’. Neil Howlett uncovers the story of a Midford food riot in 1630 following the arrival of corn badgers.

The End of Newgate: Bristol Corporation and the Politics of Nineteenth Century Gaol Reform

The end of Newgate saw the beginning of an arduous struggle between the Bristol Corporation and some of Bristol’s leading citizens. The episode draws attention to the inner workings of contemporary municipal government in Bristol and leaves us with more questions than answers about the nature of the Bristol Corporation. Treading the line between a public and a private organisation, the conduct of the Corporation paints a picture of out-dated paternalism, characterised by wealth, far-reaching influence and self-interest.