With the continuing redevelopment of large areas of central Bristol, many of our former industrial buildings vanished almost daily. In this article, Julian Lea-Jones gives an account of one such local industry, the Temple Back Alum works that closed in the 1980s. Alum (the common name for Aluminium Sulphate) is an essential but unnoticeable product widely used by many industries.
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.