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 Royal Bath & West Society, as it is now known, has its origin in a society founded in the City of Bath in 1777 'for the encouragement and improvement of agriculture, arts, manufactures and commerce'. The founder, Edmund Rack, was soon appointed Secretary and the 1inch pin of the group. He vigorously conducted a wide range of correspondence and guided a programme of field experiments and prizes and rewards for improvements in agriculture and related practices. In this essay, Owen Ward uncovers the story of one of the Society's more 'spirited' and ambitious plans.