"While popular memory associates the summer of 1940 with debonair young men in Spitfires duelling the Luftwaffe in the sky, there was frantic building activity going on below in preparation for the expected German invasion. Eugene Byrne looks at some of the defence works made in anticipation of the ground war in the west of England".
"Three civil defence exercises covering Bristol – in 1939, the 1950s and 1960s – not only have an eerie fascination for their word-pictures of a city plunged into imaginary wars; the written scenarios also throw light on what concerned the scenario writers. As the likely damage in war became more than the authorities could handle, so the planners’ responses took a sinisterly authoritarian turn"
"In the first decade of the 20th century, the Bristol Socialist Rambling Club had better things to think about than the possibility of world war. On their expeditions, they recorded, tea was ‘partaken of at a pre-arranged beauty spot’, ‘games were participated in’ and a choir‘delighted all by rendering of part songs and glees". Colin Thomas looks at the actions taken by the Left in Bristol in the run-up to World War One, and what paths were taken as the conflict loomed over Bristol.
"Though we have long boasted of having fewer robberies committed here than in any place of equal size, yet it is impossible to be entirely exempted from lawless plunderers’, according to a sober assessment from 1786. Indeed, by the later eighteenth century, there were few places so full of temptations and opportunities as Bath,with all its well-to-do residents and visitors,opulent shops, fine houses and well-stocked gardens. In this article,Trevor Fawcett examines the record of the city’s prosecution society in the constant fight against property crime".
'James Naylor's entry into Bristol in 1656, seated on an ass in imitation of Christ, together with the severity of his public punishment, has long been regarded as one of the most notorious and colourful episodes of the Civil War era. But was the punitive reaction of the city authorities a response to his political radicalism or to his religious heterodoxy? Flora Menzies takes a fresh look at the evidence'.
In the twelfth century, crusader knights took on the mission of protecting pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Land from across Europe. The journey was long and dangerous, but it was widely believed that taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the most sacred form of penance. Pious landowners who could not take the pilgrimage themselves gifted land to the order as an alternative form of penance. One such piece of land sits in the heart of Bristol, in the area which today surrounds Temple Meads train station. Julian Lea Jones tells the fascinating history of the rise and fall of the Knights Templar at Bristol, of their activities at the preceptory and of their thriving trade.
Mary Hamilton was perhaps the most notorious cross-dresser or ‘female-husband’ of her day. She lived in Somerset, among other places, and was the subject of scandal across the country for her habitual crime of marrying other women. Her story was preserved in the pages of an anonymous pamphlet by a famous contemporary novelist and dramatist. Through the story of Mary Hamilton, Sheila Hannon considers the rights and responsibilities of modern-day novelists and dramatists in their use of historical evidence. To what extent can writers take liberties with historical record in the name of ‘dramatic license’, when much of the ‘historical evidence’ that remains is itself fiction?
During the late nineteenth century a quiet revolution was going on in the teaching of agriculture. Growing foreign competition along with economic depression in the agricultural sector, and the increasing demands of an urban population for more standard, high quality food products, all contributed to the development of a more scientific approach to farming. Agricultural societies, prominent individuals from the fanning world, and latterly the state, came to see the promotion of better education as a way of helping a struggling agricultural sector. In this article, Janet Tall provides just one example of an educational movement which was sweeping across the country, and the impact it had on rural Somerset.