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 phrase ‘community capitalism’ was coined by Charles Harvey and John Press: Before 1914, there existed in Bristol a close knit business community with a commitment to the economic well-being of the city. The leaders of this community– men like Sir George White, Albert Fry, Christopher Thomas and Joseph Wethered – formed an economic elite with powerful social and political connections. They jointly promoted many companies, held many directorships,and controlled a large number of major enterprises. This was not so much family capitalism as community capitalism".
"During the 1810s and 1820s, the Tory merchant and banker Richard Hart Davis rode high in Bristol electoral politics. Elected as one of the city's two MPs at a bye-election in 1812, he retained his seat at the general election of that year and at subsequent elections in 1818, 1820, 1826 and 1830". John Stevens looks at how Toryism was in the ascendancy, restricting the influence of Whiggism in Bristol.
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.
In the eighteenth century, the Spa town of Bath was bustling with gentry who came to buy luxury goods and specialist services; but until the 1780s, very few of these visitors had been French. In this article, Trevor Fawcett follows the story of the French Courtiers at Bath in 1787, and their connection to a scandal involving Mary Antoinette on the eve of the French Revolution.
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.
'The burial fields around St Swithin's Church at the top of Walcot in Bath contain some pretty impressive mortal remains. There's Fanny Burney for instance, and Jane Austen's dad. And Sir Edward Berry, one of Nelson's captain's, a veteran of the Nile and Trafalgar. These three eminent visitors to Bath all have more in common than approximation in death however, for their monuments are also the subject of expensive recent face-lifts'.
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.