‘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.

St Thomas’ Church, Bristol: From Medieval Splendour to Classical elegance

'There were 18 parish churches crowded in and around the walls of medieval Bristol. Churchwardens' accounts and other sources show that these churches continued to be well-maintained throughout the 16th and 17th centuries , in spite of the destruction of many furnishings of great beauty and value during all the upheavals of the Reformation'. Joseph Bettey looks at the maintenance of parish churches in the Bristol area, and how congregations approached physical alterations to the skin of the building.