The purpose of this article "is to chronicle the impact of reform on Bristol public life. An earlier piece dealt with the Tory opponents of the Reform Bill. The present essay covers the Whigs, radicals and others who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, supported it". Stevenson provides information about who was involved in a vital period of change for the City of Bristol.
"In 1644 a visitor to Bath wrote ‘the public ways of the city were become like so many dunghills’. As both the popularity of Bath and the population itself increased, less land became available for the disposal of waste in communal middens or cesspits and households resorted to disposing of their sewage into the street. The City’s runnels and ditches were little more than open sewers, awash with household, and in particular, human waste. Whose job was it to clean up the mess? Kay Ross explores the world of the Nightsoil Collector".
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.
In 1668, the King's council was informed that George Bishop, 'The Grand Ringleader (or Archbishop) of the Quakers had been buried in Bristol 'attended by a more numerous company than ever I yet saw at any funeral'. If the title of 'Archbishop' was a play on his name, it was a barbed one: Quakers rejected all forms of priesthood. But Bishop was indeed famous, or infamous, as a Quaker leader, bracketed at times with George Fox. He had been especially active as a writer, and for some time maintained at Bristol the sort of secretariat and information centre for which his previous career had well qualified him. In this article, Jonothan Harlow reconstructs the story of the man who was entrusted with the responsibility of ‘discovering conspiracies against the Commonwealth’.
In the years after 1600 Taunton was marked by a heady mixture of radical Puritanism and the volatile wool trade. Together these pitched Taunton into the centre of the Civil War in the area and, on two occasions in the second half of the seventeenth century, into open rebellion against the government. William Gibson follows Taunton’s transition from a centre of rebellion to peaceable borough in the eighteenth century.
‘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.
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.
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.