‘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.
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.
Although the greatest popular movement in Georgian Britain was probably that formed around military volunteering during the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, historians have written comparatively little on the subject and even when an attempt has been made the maritime volunteers have hardly ever commanded more than a few vague paragraphs. This is unfortunate as an examination of pay lists in the Public Record Office, letters in the Bristol Record Office and the columns of contemporary local newspapers have revealed a useful amount of information. John Penny investigates this shadowy corps, put in place to protect the Severn Estuary against possible French naval incursions.