‘A long career of brutality to the poor’: Popular resistance to the Vaccination Acts in the nineteenth century South West

satirical scene poor patients receive the cowpox vaccine and develop bovine features
James Gillray 'The Cow-Pock or the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation 1802 (c) Trustees of the British Museum

At Stroud in 1897, protesting crowds congregated outside the market hall for three days in an attempt to prevent a public auction of household effects, seized by the authorities in a ‘distraint sale’. These were the belongings of a local family who had refused to let their children be vaccinated against Smallpox as the law required. Distraint sales like this had increasingly become an arena for protest and carnivalesque displays of public outrage and the Stroud riot was no exception. The crowd set fire to heather bushes, acted out pantomimic scenes in fancy dress, and pelted eggs at police constables and auctioneers. They overwhelmed the local police force, as well as the police who had been sent in from neighbouring towns and cities. But why would anybody riot against a vaccination programme set up to combat Smallpox? In this article, Holly John investigates a nineteenth century medical controversy and discovers that despite being the home of Dr Edward Jenner, the ‘Father of immunisation’, the south-west of England was also once home to a fervent anti-vaccination movement.

The Bristol General Election of 1830

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.

Magistracy and the Crisis of Paternalism in the 1790s: The case of George Donisthorpe of Somerton

George Donisthorpe was the resident magistrate of the town of Somerton in Somerset. In 1796 he was tried for 'wilful neglect of his duty as a magistrate' in refusing to assist in quelling a riot and 'with having rather encouraged it.' The public prosecution of a Justice of the Peace was a rare occurrence. Traditionally, the local magistrate was represented as a paternal figure 'guiding the conduct' and ensuring the wellbeing of the deferential poor. Their wealth and status placed them beyond reproach. In this article, Rose Wallis illustrates the increasingly precarious position of magistrates in the period, as their discretionary powers and paternal authority were eroded by the centralisation of government control.

‘It is past the art of man to find us out’: anti-Catholicism and the ‘Bristol Firemen’ in 1730

‘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.

‘Race War’: Black American GIs in Bristol and Gloucestershire During World War II

During World War II, American armed forces were stationed at Bristol and throughout the South-West. A considerable number of these soldiers were African American. During this period, the Jim Crow Laws were still being enforced in the southern states of America, and a strict policy of racial segregation was observed within the American military. The experience of African American soldiers was very different in the South-West of England to what it had been in the United States. This article offers a brief insight into contemporary race-relations and the differences between the policies of each nation regarding civil rights and military participation.

Documents in Focus: The Stogursey Rising of 1801

In the spring of 1801, the county of Somerset was convulsed by some of the most severe and sustained food rioting ever experienced in the southwest region. Against a background of wildly spiralling prices in every basic commodity, large crowds toured the county’s mills,markets, baker's shops and farms demanding cheaper bread and forcing fair-price agreements on both producers and local magistrates. Steve Poole introduces a 200 year old letter recording tumultuous events in a small West Somerset village.

Suffragette Photographs

As a small provincial city Bath is not the sort of place that historians would expect to find militant suffrage activity. And yet the city had a thriving branch of the militant group, the Women’s Social and Political Union. June Hannam looks at photographs of some of its integral members, and provides context relating to their activities and contribution to the cause.

The Local Hero

As we entered the new Millennium, historians reflected on the main events which shaped our lives. One of these achievements has been that women in Britain obtained the vote. Many books have been written and various debates undertaken regarding Emmeline Pankhurst's suffrage movement, the W omen's Social and Political Union (WSPU). However, there were many women who fought for this cause who have had little or no acknowledgement over the years. Pearl Jebb writes a short piece as a tribute to a Suffragette who seems to have been forgotten.