Every now and then I get emails from people who would like further information on specific questions they have about Bristol. I've got an extensive set of references but obviously these can't cover absolutely everything about or everyone who's ever lived in Bristol. Besides which, some aren't indexed properly and although I pretty well know most of the contents I'll sometimes miss information. Set out below are some items I would like to know more about.
I know some people are worried about giving their email addresses to all and sundry so I will not post your email addresses here. When and if someone replies, I shall forward the reply to you and inform the answerer that I have done so. It is then up to you to reply to them or not but I hope you'll both include me with any information so I can update these pages. Where the writers have no objection to people contacting them directly I've included their email address under the article. We'll be grateful for any any information at all on these subjects.
You can email me at
I try to answer as many emails as I can but please don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for several weeks, sometimes even longer. Please remember that doing this reasearch and writing my sites are a hobby and I have other interests.
Original query from Rick
Rick asked the question about the word "ut" at the end of some exclamations. He writes...
Adge rhymed "shuttup ut" to rhyme with "warden's foot". My family would also say, to noisy kids, "shut thee rattle up ut!". Can you suggest an origin/derivation for "ut"? I can accept "thee casn't" and "thee bist" as deriving from "thou can'st not" and "thou beist not" but "ut" has got I stumped!
Reply from Ray
This had me running for Derek Robinson's "Bristol With Pride - The Krek Waiter's Peak" (Abson Books, 1987) and it's not in there! There's nothing remotely like it in the book. The only thing I could find that comes anywhere close to it is on a website that deals with the accent from Portsmouth. Dr. Bill Thompson wrote...
dount evree mush talk pompey
dare u t' tell me wymrin mates talk posh
an u get yer face dun in
Which looks very much like Bristolian to me. Dr. Thompson goes on to say that the reason for this is that the dockyards of Portsmouth were extensively expanded towards the turn of the nineteenth century and where else would they import dockyard workers from but Bristol and London? The "ut" here is in a completely different context to what Adge wrote but the only explanation I can come up with is that "ut" is a derivation of "you".
Hopefully, someone knows better than I the true meaning of "ut".
All Saints Church, Moorfields & Mr. Callicott
Original query from Karen
I am trying to find information on All Saints Church on the High Street in Bristol in particular a stained glass window which was a memorial to my nan's nephew who was pilot officer Callicott and who was killed when he was 22. He died in the war over Burma and was never found. The window is dedicated to three men who were all at one time choirboys. I am told he played the organ in St Nicholas or All Saints and was the youngest organist in the country?
Allen's Court, Hotwells
Original query from Maureen
Maureen would like information on Allen's Court, Hotwells. She says that, " I believe it was demolished in the 1930's it was a small court off Hotwells Road in Bristol although it was well past it's sell by date, my mother was brought up there. Unfortunately I cannot find any photographs or maps showing me exactly where it was I am tracing my family history at the moment and Hotwells seems to be where they were centred."
Anchorites - Religious Hermits
Original query from Susannah
Susannah is interested in Anchorites or religious hermits. One was attached to a chapel dedicated to St. Edward at Bristol Castle and one is at St. Michael's on the Hill.
Reply from Ray
I know nothing about these. According to Hermits & Anchorites of England, "The anchorite's was one of the most extreme of the religious lives of the Middle Ages: It was a life of strict and irreversible enclosure, entered into in an elaborate ceremony during which the last rites were administered, and at the conclusion of which the door to the reclusory would be walled up. An anchorite who left their enclosure could be forcibly returned by the authorities, and faced damnation in the hereafter."
In October 2017, I decided to research this question a little more and as a result of that the Anchorites and Hermits page was created.
Ashton Gate Brewery
Original query from Simon
I am currently setting up a micro brewery in the old brewery building at Ashton Gate. The Aston Gate Brewery was in production between 1865 & 1932 when Georges & Co. bought them. The Ashton Gate brewery Co Ltd ceased trading in 1933, but I don't know if the brewery kept on operating as Georges & when it was actually closed as a brewery.
Sandi is trying to trace her family tree. She is particularly interested any mention of the Barrett family in "A Strong Smell of Brimstone" published by the Bristol Historical Society and "100 years on Barton Hill" by W. T. Sanigar.
Original query from Violet
An email from Violet asks about two Barrett brothers who owned a tallow / candle factory in Earl Street.
A Brief Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Photography
Original query from Bob
Bob is looking for information about a book. The full title of it is "A Brief Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Photography, with Particular Reference to the Practice of Daguerreotype" by H. Vines, published in Bristol, 1852.
Henry Vines was operating out of the Horticultural Rooms in 1848.
J. Beattie, Photographer
Original query from Lloyd, Michigan
Lloyd is looking for information about an early full plate daguerreotype by J. Beattie of Bristol. Beattie is listed in the trade directories associated with C. Voss in various premises between 1860 and 1868. Lloyd thinks the daguerreotype was taken earlier, around 1852.
One interesting thing about this photograph is that there is the Freemasons emblem in the bottom right of it.
From my own researches I've found that C. Voss may have been the Cyrus Voss Bark mentioned in the City Directories operating from a studio near the Victoria Rooms between approximately 1870 and 1890.
In February 2008, I received an email from Australian photographic historian Marcel Safier whose friend, Sandy Barrie, is working on a directory of British photographers and his earliest date for John Beattie in Bristol is 1858 at Rysdael Place, Queen's Road, Bristol in 1858. Sandy has him listed in various parts of the country but nowhere near Bristol between 1852 and 1858 (including a visit to Stowmarket in 1854). He is listed in the 1861 census as an artistic photographer residing at 25 Triangle, Bristol. In the 1851 census he is listed as a photographist residing at 6 Cross St, Goole, Yorkshire. It is quite possible this dag was taken in 1858. Another perhaps remote possibility (but something that I have come across before) is that someone has rehoused a dag in a Beattie ambrotype case.
Original query from Tina
Tina would like to know why the architecture of 54 - 56 Bedminster Parade is so different from the other buildings of the area. She'd also like to know the history of the decoration above the pet shop.
Original query from Mark
Mark would like photographs of Bedminster Down during the war years. He's especially interested in photos showing bomb damage to the area.
Original query from Mark
Mark would like to know if Bedminster was used as an over-wintering site for fairground/travelling folk
Reply from Glyn
There was a place where Fair people "wintered" next to the Enterprise Pub on Hartcliffe Way. I remember this from my childhood, seeing the caravans etc. there. The site still exists bit I believe it is now more of a permanent residential site.
Bell Hill Road, St. George
Original query from Bryan
I lived as a child at Bell Hill Road, St. George. Does anyone have any photographs of the top part by Bellevue road opposite the Doctors Surgery which was just down the road from Harris's the Bacon shop, and Hewitts the grocers?
Original query from Janet
Janet's Great-Great-Grandparents William & Harriet Haskins lived on Bell Hill Road, in 1911 at no. 144 Bell Hill Road. William was a Boot & Shoe Maker working from home with his sons. According to Janet's great-aunt, he had a Boot Factory in Kingswood. Janet would appreciate any information about the Haskins and the boot factory.
The closest photograph I've got of the area is the one below...
Bell Hill Rd., St. George
Bell Hill Rd. is left, Two Mile Hill Rd. is right.
The shop sold fish and vegetables, but in the photo is already boarded up.
The houses were all demolished to make way for newer ones.
(from "Bristol As It Was 1960-1962", Reece Winstone, 1981, plate 180)
Bryan very kindly emailed back with some information about the photograph. He writes...
The shop with the awing out, was Harris's the bacon and cooked meat shop, above just on the edge of the photo is Hewitts the grocers. My Grandparents house was at 174 Bell Hill opposite the boarded up shop. In time, around 1912 to 1920, it was a shop selling animal feedstuff etc. My Grandparents surname was Perrett and grandpa Perrett was the gardener for Doctor Foss and his family in the large house that used to be called Summerfield House on the Hanham road. The lane next to the boarded shop led to the football pitch where St. George's team played. The second cottage in, facing, was the home of the Austin sisters. Opposite Harris's shop was Swan Lane on the corner of which was a Coal merchant, but all this was when I was a lad in the 30's. My home was about 50 yards up Two Mile Hill Rd. on the opposite side, at no. 18.
Bell's Cathedral Series - St. Mary Redcliffe
Original query from Barry
There was a series of books, "Bell's Cathedral Series", published around 1900 to 1910 by George Bell & Sons. The editor was probably Edward F. Strange. Does anyone know if St. Mary Redcliffe was one of the titles and if so, who wrote it? St. Mary Redcliffe is listed as one of the titles in others of the series, but we can't find a single copy of this book.
Information from Debra
Debra is a community producer for the BBC and writes...
Over the next few months I'm producing a series of pieces about people's memories and experiences relating to World War 2. The reason I'm doing this is that the BBC launches a fantastic website last year - that you may be aware of - called People's War - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/
I'm trying to let as many people who may have memories that that can put into the site know about its existence.
Also at the station myself and some collegues are organising a series of events to celebrate the 60th anniversary of VE. On Sat May 7th we have a series of events organised from a WW2 tea dance to exhibitions and at the city of Bristol college we are transforming their caf?into a WW2 NAFFI their restaurant into a 1940's British restaurant and the whole of the college will have hands on exhibits etc. Also the college has 120 computers which people will have access to so that they can input there stories on to the website.
I need to publicise this my making pieces to go on air and one of my ideas was to bring alive the diaries and letters of Bristol people that were written during this era. So I'm trying to contact anyone who might be able to help and after looking through your fantastic website, thought you may be able to help me.
If you are interested in contributing or attending these events then please contact Debra at email@example.com
Boxing in Pubs
Original query from Mike, Hove
Mike wrote, "I served in the British Army and in 1945 was stationed in Bristol. We used to visit on or two of the pubs there and one of them had a friendly landlord who, when we got into conversation told us that the upstairs rooms had been used by 16th century boxers and mentioned the name of Jem Mace. We had a look at the room and there as a small boxing ring and old punchbags and other boxing paraphernalia. I have never seen any references to this pub.
"Gypsy" Jem Mace was a very famous boxer in his day (1831 - 1910) and fought in the UK, America and Australia. He was born in Beeston, Norfolk on 8th April 1831 and died on 30th November 1910 after which he was buried in Liverpool. His first professional fight was in 1855 and the fact that he toured with a circus probably gave rise to his nickname of "Gypsy."
Richard would like information and especially photographs of Bracken Hill House that was built in 1886 and later donated to Bristol University which was the site of its botanic gardens before being used as a hall of residence.
"I've been researching my family tree and hope that someone can answer a question for me. My 2x Great Uncle moved to Bristol from Frome in the 1870's. He spent his working life as a Brewery Clerk, most likely for the same company. His homes were Raglan Road, Wolseley Road (1881-1892) then Longfield Road until his death in 1940. Does anyone know which Brewery would be the most likely one for him to be working at, given his living area?"
Longfield, Raglan and Wolseley Roads are in the Bishopston area of Bristol, so presumably he would have worked in that area. The closest breweries in that area were J. & T. Usher in Horfield Road and R. W. Miller & Co. Pale Ale Brewery of 48 Stokes Croft. Of those the more likely would be Ushers.
Usher's were in existence since at least 1856 in Horfield Road and had another premises at the New City Brewery in River Street. They were registered in March 1889 and merged with and Bristol United Breweries Ltd. in 1897 but closed in 1898.
R. W. Miller & Co. Pale Ale Brewery of 48 Stokes Croft, were egistered in December 1893. They were acquired by Bristol Brewery Georges & Co. Ltd. in 1911 along with 48 public houses.
Mike is looking for information on Brislington, more exactly the junction of Bath Road and West Town Lane. He writes...
Would I be right in thinking that there was a small police station right on the corner of Bath Road and West Town Lane (roughly where the shop car park is.) Has anyone any dates for this? I believe I saw two 'so and so lived here' blue plaques on walls in the village. One of which is roughly opposite to the police station I mentioned and the other on the same side of the road near to where the shops begin. Would you know anything about these people? Along School Road there is a churchyard where a man is reputed to be about 153 years of age when he died - would you know anything about that?
Reply from Ray
This is what I managed to turn up about the old man. This comes from "Bristol Curiosities" by Reece Winstone & Glyn Duggan, published in 1979 by Redcliffe Press.
The churchyard of St. Luke's, Brislington, has a most intriguing tombstone. According to its inscription, it commemorates Thomas Newman who died in 1542, aged 153. Such an age seems unlikely in the extreme. However, the churchyard in Bridlington, in Yorkshire, also has a stone which reads: "Thomas Newman, aged 153 years. This stone was refaced in 1771 to preserve the recollection of this remarkable prolongation of human life", and goes on to say: "The above is a copy of an inscription on an ancient stone in Bridlington churchyard which has now disappeared."
It seems to be stretching credulity much too far to believe that in both Bridlington and Brislington a baby named Thomas Newman who would be born in 1389 and live through 153 turbulent years to die in 1542. Can the stone in Brislington churchyard be in fact the original one which disappeared from Bridlington? Even so, the wording on the Bristol stone is not quite the same as that quoted as having been on the Yorkshire one. Can our stone too be a
copy, perhaps imperfect, of the original one? And who might have been responsible for placing the stone in the other churchyard? Did Thomas Newman ever even exist, let alone live through eight reigns? A puzzle indeed.
Reply from Tim
I can remember the little Police Station at the junction of West Town Lane and the Bath Road. My father, Tom Mahoney of Bristol Rugby fame, used to drive me to school at St Brendan's College in Brislington and we passed the station every morning.
It was situated in a house near the corner, as suggested where the car park is now to be found. I remember one morning sitting in the queue waiting for the policeman on point duty to let us across. Suddenly he removed his striped cuffs and strode off in the direction of the house. When my father challenged him he replied with 'My breakfast is ready' and continued into the house, leaving the traffic to sort itself out. This would have been in the early 60's but unfortunately I can't remember when it was demolished.
Reply from Ray
A bit off-topic but Tom Mahoney was one of the greats of rugby. His obituary can be seen at Bristol Shoguns. Tim also wrote that the rugby club are considering naming the Centenary Stand after him.
Brislington Tram Depot
Original query from Leslie, Western Australia
Leslie emailed me about the Brislington Tram Depot. His grandfather worked there as a stable hand working with the horse-drawn trams and later became the storeman for the depot.
Reply from Bob, Queensland
My grandfather also worked at the Brislington tram depot for 45 years. He started there as a conductor in approximately 1903 and then went on to be a driver of the electric trams and when they thought he was too old to drive. He ended up cleaning the buses. At the time he started working for them they were called the Bristol Corporation and they went from Brislington to Hotwells. His name was Herman Panes and he was nicknamed Dick for some reason. His home was in Rose Cottage, Rock Road, Brislington. I remember when I was a kid he had a leg missing. I've heard it was possibly from frost bite while driving the trams. My father who's 82 actually lives in Bunbury, W.A.
It turns out that Leslie and Bob's grandfather live about an hour apart from each other. Leslie's grandfather was born 1871 and died in 1945. He had his right leg amputated, possibly after a tram accident.
Bristol and District Market Gardeners Association
Original query from Janet
Janet emailed me saying that there is a booklet about the Bristol and District Market Gardeners Association in the Bristol Library with a photo of the members on the cover dated 1897 - including my Great-Grandfather John Bradley James, born in 1837. The family ran a large market garden in Battens Lane, St George. I have a copy of the pic on the cover but the quality is rubbish and I would love to get my hands on an original booklet or photo or even more information about the association, but have had no success. The booklet was privately published by G. W. Roberts in 1991/2 and has been widely quoted by various Bristol groups.
The best copy of the photo I can find is the one below from the Bristol Food Producers website. Hopefully someone can supply a better scan of the photo or, even better, a scan of the original photo or the entire booklet.
Bristol Blue Glass Books
Original query from Lorraine
Lorraine has some pieces of Bristol Blue glassware and asks if anyone knows of any good books on the subject, especially how to recognize older pieces.
Oddly enough, I can't remember ever seeing a book like this. Bristol Blue is famous so I should imagine someone has written a book on it, but I've never come across one.
Original query from Morely
Morley found this button whilst out metal detecting and wondered if anyone knows anything about it.
I can't remember ever seeing anything like this before but the actual style of ship and castle gives some clues. Looking at my Seals, Arms and Logos pages that style was in use from in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The only thing I could think of about the letters were Bristol Volunteers. There was a Royal Bristol Volunteer Regiment that was raised in 1797 and disbanded in 1814. The regiment's motto was "In Danger Ready" and a medal was struck that on the reverse said "Imbodied for the Maintenance of Public Order & Protection of their Fellow Citizens on the Threat of Invasion by France MDCCXCVII. Revived at the Renewal of Hostilities MDCCCIII. Disbanded when the Deliverance of Europe was Accomplished by the Perseverence & Magnanimity of Great Britain and Her Allies MDCCCXIV"
It may be I'm totally wrong but the button may have something to do with that regiment, but why if this regiment was raised under the monarchy is there no sign on the button of it, like the fleur-de-lys on the medal?
Perhaps someone else knows more about this button?
Original query from Ed
I am currently trying to collate information relating to the Old City of Bristol, especially with an aim of comparing Bristol Castle and the City Walls now and back in medieval times. I have so far located several maps, sketches and rough plans of what the Castle may have looked like, along with how the roads may have been laid out in the past.
I am having trouble though finding more information about the destruction of the castle since all I have been able to find out so far (and from an un-creditable source) is that the Castle was destroyed by an order of Oliver Cromwell around about December 1654. The information that I found says that it was from an Act of Parliament, but I can find no reference to this anywhere else. I can appreciate that as a very fortified castle and a possible threat to the Parliamentarians its destruction was essential, but I cannot find any details about it.
I was wondering whether any archaeological teams have mapped out the remaining foundations or whether they have been able to virtually recreate the castle, and if so, is this information available. It does seem to be a great shame that so little information is available on the subject since the was supposedly the third most fortified castle in England after the Tower of London and Colchester.
Do you know whether there is a collection of articles/diaries/journals relating to the castle and the Bristol Corporation. I heard rumours that the Corporation were content with the destruction of the castle since this opened up the area for commerce?
Reply from Ray
Surprisingly, a complete history of the castle is difficult to come by. Many of the local history books I've read mentions that order by Cromwell to demolish the castle, and it appears that such orders were given - at least twice! There was a website by D. J. Steward at bristolcastle.freewire.co.uk which apparently was a history from the Normans to its demolition. This site has now gone and I can't find anywhere that contains the information it contained. John Lynch in his excellent "For King & Parliament" (1999, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-2021-1) gives his source of the order for the destruction of the castle as Latimer's "Annals of Bristol in the Seventeenth Century", page 257. There should be a copy of this work at the Bristol Central Library.
My copy of Nicolls and Taylor's "Bristol Past and Present" (Vol. III, Arrowsmith, London, 1882, page 36) says that ...
In 1654-5 the Parliament discovered that castles were antagonistic to liberty, and ordered their demolition throughout the land. The following order sealed the fate of Bristol castle :--
These are to authorise you forthwith to demolish the castle within the city of Bristol, and for so doing this shall be your warrant.
Given at Whithall,
28th day of December, 1654.
To the Mayor and Commonalty
of the City of Bristol.
On the 28th December, 1654, Cromwell's order was sent for immediate demolition of the castle; but although our Calendars say that this was accomplished in a fortnight by the householders, who each had to work in person or else pay a substitute, it was clear that the work was not so speedily executed, for on February 28th, 1655, Major ------- [sic] brought another peremptory order from the lord protector, and the major declared he would stay until the work was completed, notwithstanding the badness of the horse quarters and the dearness of the place to the soldiers. The fortnight of hard work must therefore be transposed from Christmas to March, 1655.
The book goes on to explain how in 1655 a bridge was made over the ditch of the castle's west (Old Market) end and how Castle Street was made through the site of the castle "to the great convenience of the citizens".
Even this wasn't quite the end of the castle. In July, 1672, according to John Latimer's "Calendar of the Charters &c. of the City and County of Bristol" (Corporation of Bristol, 1909, page 157) "the Common Council, on payment of £2989, obtained a conveyance of the fee farms and Castle."
In Fry's "English City - The Story of Bristol" (University of London Press, 1945, page 28) it says that by the time James Millerd drew his 1673 map of Bristol "the castle area has already been covered with houses." Looking at the map, that is indeed true, but parts of the castle still managed to survive among the new buildings.
John Lynch's book has a sketch of part of the castle walls made in the early nineteenth century (page 35). Reece Winstone's books also contain photographs of the then surviving stonework of the castle. You can find these in "Bristol in the 1880's" (plates 23 and 24), "Bristol Today" (plate 24), "Bristol in the 1920's" plates 41 and 46) and "Bristol Tradition" (plate 150). Sadly, it seems that that all of these were destroyed during the Blitz or during reconstruction after the war.
Interestingly, I received the following email from Irina concerning the destruction of the castle and what happened to the stone from it...
Has anyone looked at and analyzed the stone (as in what kind of stone it is, where from) of Bristol castle?
Do we know anything about where the stone from the demolition of Bristol castle in the 1650s ended up? I mean, do we know of any existing houses still
standing that re-use castle stonework?
The reason I am interested in these questions is that I live in a house in Montpelier that I think might be re-using masonry from the demolished castle, and I would like to investigate this hypothesis further. My reasons for this assumption are
that the house dates from at least 1734 (when it appears on the Samuel and Nathaniel Buck panorama of Bristol) but could be older;
that the stonework is of a quality not typical for a fairly small and basic house such as the one I live in;
that the stone is therefore re-used from elsewhere and unlikely to be quarried fresh;
and that the stone walls must have been constructed after approximately 1650 when (mined) coal as opposed to the earlier charcoal became available for use in
mortars in the Bristol region.
This gives us a date range of between 1650 (availability of coal in mortar) and 1734 (depiction of house on panorama) for the building of the house - which also ties in with the period when Bristol castle was being demolished, hence my theory.
Irina also included a picture taking during renovation work of her house of the stone wall...
Wall made with stone from Bristol Castle?
Note from Ray
The stone for at least the Keep came from Caen in north-west France and is a creamy coloured Limestone, but I should imagine that main castle walls were made from local stone which would have been presumably much cheaper. During the final demolition of the castle in 1655, I should also imagine that the stone ended up in wall and other structures throughout the city. Bristol castle is unusual in that considering the time and expense it took to build it nearly always seemed to be in a state of disrepair - so perhaps people had been "borrowing" the stone from it for quite a while.
Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence one way or another, but I think that is unlikely, but not impossible, that the stone came from Bristol Castle.
Mary Wright's well researched book, "Montpelier - A Bristol Suburb", mentions several mills, manor houses and other buildings but Montpelier was largely rural until the second half of the eighteenth century. The book makes no mention of where the stone for these buildings came from.
Brickwork, as seen in the photograph, only started being used extensively in the Bristol area after 1695 or 1700. It is more probable that the house was built on an older structure and the stonework from an older cellar was retained or the stone was taken from an older building in the area rather than coming Bristol Castle. Wherever the stonework came from, that doesn't detract from the quality of workmanship that obviously went into building that wall.
Original query from Hugh
Hugh would like information on the Bristol Exhibition of 1893.
Additional query from Allan
Allan has a glass beaker that is engraved "A Present from the Bristol Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition 1893" and would like to find some background on it.
Additional query from Mike
Mike would like information on the Bristol Exhibitions of 1861, 1865 or 1914.
I've done a little research on the exhibition of 1893, what I've found out I've put on the Exhibition page. The article is still far from complete and if anyone has anything else to add we'd be happy to hear from them.
I know nothing at all of the other exhibitions, even Latimer doesn't mention them in his Annals. One site, The Galloper, says that a wooden figure-of-eight roller coaster was built at the 1914 exhibition. The only other reference I can find to an exhibition in Bristol was the White City Exhibition in Ashton. ("Bristol as it Was 1914 - 1900" by Reece Winstone, 1972, plate 144)
Lawrence wrote that when war started the site was handed over to the Gloucestershire Regiment.
Bristol Mercury and Bristol Daily Post
Original query SnowQueen
I'm researching my friends family and have found that they owned these newspapers. All I know so far is that the Mercury was founded in 1790 by John Thomas Manchee. William Somerton is the Owner in 1840's onwards until his son Charles and George Somerton take over the running all info from trade directories and UK census records. John Latimer was the editor from 1858 till 1883 when the Mercury was sold to Mr Lewis from Bath, owner of the Bath Herald. This is all the info I have and would like more. Suggestions on where to get info welcomed.
There is a site that lists the 18th century Bristol newspapers at the Hampshire County Council site. The page is interesting as it gives details of the microfilms made of these newspapers and which copies can now no longer be found. The
Devon County Council site also gives a similar, newer, list.
There is even a published history of the Mercury, the "History of the Bristol Mercury 1716 - 1886" by H. Lewis (Bristol, 1887). But I've no idea where a copy can be obtained.
In 1716, the Bristol Weekly Mercury, published by Henry Greep was started, unfortunately only one copy of which has survived. This is the edition for 1st December 1716 (no. 61) and is held by the Bristol Central Library.
Around 1747, Edward Ward re-launched the Bristol Mercury. On 23rd September 1749, this appears to have been renamed to the Weekly Intelligencer. The history of the paper after 1752 is very obscure and it is believed to have ceased publication around 1759. This publication was produced by Ward who had previously, and much to Felix Farley's contempt, conducted business as a haberdasher, maltster, distiller and vinter. Again, only one copy of the Bristol Mercury seems to have survived. This is the edition for 20th October 1748 (no. 24). This too is held by the Bristol Central Library. However, many issues of the Weekly Intelligencer have survived. Bristol Central Library has nearly all the issues from 23rd September 1749 (no. 1) to 3rd February 1759 (no. 487). The Bodleian, Oxford has issues from 24th March 1750 to 29th December 1750. The issue numbers don't necessarily match the dates though as the issue numbers 29 and 66 are used twice, whilst 68 is not used at all.
Much longer lasting, however, was the third time resurrected Bristol Mercury, which commenced publication on March 1st 1790, this time successfully accommodating the 'Monday Slot' in competition with the four well established titles. The proprietors were William Bulgin, son of a Melksham clothier, who had served his apprenticeship with Thomas Mills, a Wine Street bookseller, stationer and bookbinder, and Robert Rosser, a printer and bookseller who had his business in Broad Street. The venture, they stated, was begun as 'There is no other paper, or vehicle of information and advertisement, printed here on Monday: no London paper arrives, or is circulated here on that day; but a number of country papers, which have scarcely any reference to the concerns of this city'.
With the exception of Sarah Farley's Bristol Journal, the principal Bristol newspapers which had established their positions during the eighteenth century continued to flourish throughout the first half of the nineteenth, during which time Bristol and the surrounding districts were provided with four weekly papers, Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, the Gazette, the Mirror and the Mercury, to which must be added the Bristol Times launched in 1839, a publication which later absorbed the Journal.
The Whig Bristol Mercury continued to be published by Bulgin and Rosser until September 1800, when the latter seems to have ended his connection with the paper, dying shortly after in July 1802. It is impossible to determine exactly how long Bulgin soldiered on alone, but in October 1805 the printing was transferred to James Kemp of 12 College Street, although Bulgin retained active business interests right up until his death in September 1831. Nevertheless, on August 29th 1808 the copyright of the Bristol Mercury was purchased by John Evans, who is probably best remembered for his 'Chronicle Outline of the History of Bristol' published in 1824. Around 1811 he was joined by John Grabham, son of the ex-proprietor of the Bristol Chronicle, but the partnership was brief, ending in March 1814, after which Grabham ran the paper alone until September 1818 when he moved to London, in which city he died of apoplexy in May 1824. Following Grabham?s departure the Bristol Mercury passed into the hands of William Pine of the Gazette, but by 1820 he had sold the paper for £600 to a consortium of fourteen individuals, including Thomas John Manchee, who became sole proprietor in October 1823. Unfortunately his ability as a journalist was somewhat limited and after admitting in March 1828 that he was competing unsuccessfully for advertising, his relationship with the paper ended in September 1829. Nevertheless, Manchee went on to have a successful career with the Bristol Charity Trustees, which he joined in 1836.
His place at the Mercury was taken by William Henry Somerton who, in contrast to some of his contemporaries, was first and foremost a working journalist. The new proprietor came from a long established newspaper family, his father Joseph having worked for 40 years on Felix Farley?s Bristol Journal, while his grandfather had spent some 55 years in the trade! Somerton had actually begun work as a printer in 1821 and shortly before he took over at the Mercury had even attempted to establish a new paper called the Bristol Herald & West of England Gazette, which survived for only a few weeks during June and July 1829. At the Mercury Somerton?s reputation as a courageous reporter was established following his work in connection with the Bristol Riots of 1831, while after a switch to Saturday publication on April 7th 1832, he succeeded in doubling the paper?s circulation. Around 1840 Somerton, whilst still retaining control of the Mercury, transferred the editorial work to William Cox, and although the latter died suddenly in August 1847, aged only 42, by that time Somerton was almost certainly receiving help from his two sons Charles and George.
On Thursday August 7th 1817, there appeared the first edition of a new newspaper, the Bristol Observer & Gloucester, Monmouth, Somerset and Wiltshire Courier printed by John Sharp. Unfortunately this gentleman died suddenly in August 1819 after which the title was continued by Henry Savery who renamed it the Bristol Observer & Gloucester, Somerset, Wiltshire, Monmouth, Brecon and Glamorgan Courier on September 9th 1819. In February 1822 Savery retired and Henry Augustus Laurinson, an experienced printer who worked for the paper throughout its life, temporarily took charge before, in August 1822, he was succeeded by John Evans, who some years before had been proprietor of the Bristol Mercury. However, although Evans was to preside over the demise of the Bristol Chronicle, the last issue of which appeared on October 1st 1823, he was not tempted to offer it for sale for fear 'that it might sink in to the slumbering dullness of a loosely completed provincial paper'.
In 1838, whilst waiting in Bristol for a ship to carry him back to Ireland after a holiday in London, Joseph Leech amused himself by making a study of the local press, rapidly coming to the conclusion that there was ample scope for a fresh approach to journalism in the city. Born in 1815, at Ennis, County Clare, son of the proprietor of a substantial hardware business, Joseph first attended Ennis College and afterwards went to live with his sister at Maryborough, Queen?s County, where he gained some journalistic experience by working on his brother-in-law?s newspaper. Following a visit to his father John, who financed him to the tune of £500, Joseph Leech, a staunch Conservative, returned to Bristol and on Saturday March 2nd 1839 launched the Bristol Times & Bath Advocate, produced at his lodgings at 124 Redcliffe Street. Luck was with him and immediately he began to profit from the decline of his rivals moving, in December of that year, to 33 Broad Street, a more central location next door to the rival Mercury before finally transferring his business to Small Street in 1849.
In early 1858, at what turned out to be a very important year in the history of the development of the press in the city, some six weekly journals were being published in Bristol, three of which supported the Liberal Party, two the Conservatives and one which considered itself independent. Four of these, The Bristol Tunes & Felix Fancy's Bristol Journal and the Bristol Mirror, both of which were Conservative, together with the Liberal Bristol Mercury and John Burbidge's Bristol Advertiser, which had only been launched on July 14th 1855, appeared on Saturdays, while the other two journals, the Bristol Gazette, which also supported the Liberal Party, and the 'neutral' Clifton Chronicle, came out on Wednesdays.
Elsewhere in Bristol, in 1858, William Somerton appointed John Latimer editor of the Bristol Mercury, a position he was to hold until 1883. Born in Newcastle in 1824, he nevertheless went on to become a Bristolian in the noblest sense of the word, living in the city for over forty tears, and is perhaps best known today for his five volumes of the 'Annals of Bristol' which appeared between 1887 and his death in January 1904. Latimer's arrival opened the way for Somerton to withdraw from the day to day running of the Mercury and in April 1859 he retired, finally passing away at Bayswater in September 1870, his proprietorship being taken over by his two sons. Charles, the eldest by about eight years, was a firm Liberal who, after an initial education at Bristol?s Bishop?s College, went on to study at University College, London, where he took his B.A. in 1845. He went on to concentrate on the literary management of the Mercury, while George devoted himself to the financial part of the business.
The arrival of the Western Daily Press, with its new and cheaper system of production, forced Bristol's existing titles to either compete or face probable closure. Consequently, on January 24th 1860 the Somertons launched the Bristol Daily Post, published from Monday to Friday, the existing Mercury supplying the sixth day's news. They stated that 'its cause will emphatically be the people, and its advocacy will be conscientiously given to social, moral, intellectual and political progress.' To facilitate this, in October 1860 new and improved production equipment was installed at 35 Broad Street, bringing the price down to two pence, and after a move to new premises in Tower Lane a rotary web printing machine by Foster of Preston was acquired, this being brought into use in January 1878. At the same time the two journals were combined, the first issue of the Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Western Counties & South Wales Advertiser, appearing on January 26th. However, in June 1883 the Somerton brothers retired and although Charles died in August 1888, his younger brother lived on another ten years.
The new owners, William Lewis & Sons, proprietors of the Bath Herald, finally renamed the paper the Bristol Daily Mercury, Daily Post, Western Counties and South Wales Advertiser on December 21st 1901, by which time it was 'recognised as the chief medium for prospect uses, sales of property by auction and other announcements interesting to commercial men, agriculturists and the monied classes.' It continued as an independent Liberal publication until November 30th 1909 when, following acquisition by the proprietors of the Bristol Times and Mirror, it was closed, along with The Bristol Mercury Ltd's other two titles. The Bristol Echo and the Western Weekly Post, which under the previous title of the Bristol Weekly Mercury had run from January 26th 1878 until June 12th 1909.
Sunday papers also became more widespread towards the end of the Victorian era, the audience for them being increasingly drawn from the newly literate who could not afford six papers a week and who were not too interested in political news. Consequently, many of the Sunday journals specialised in reporting murder, rape and seduction, although this was generally combined with a distinct brand of radicalism. The majority of these papers were published in London, but an attempt was also made to establish a Sunday paper in Bristol, the publication in question, The Postscript, first appearing on June 12th 1892. Its editorial announcement did not err on the side of modesty, the paper being described as an up to date journal in which 'along rail, over wave and along wire will come the cream of Saturday?s news. There are diligent emissaries already scouring the surface of this worn-out old planet for something new and striking to send to The Postscript'. So successful was it that it had a life of just three issues, being discontinued by its proprietors, the Bristol Mercury, on June 26th.
Many issues of this third Bristol Mercury have survived. Bristol Central Library holds most issues from 1st March 1790 (Vol. 1 No. 1) to 26th February 1798 (Vol. VIII No. 418), but is missing all the issues from 1799 to 1803. There are no known surviving copies from this period. The British Library Newspaper Library's collection starts in 1819. The BLNL's Newsplan scheme now has microfilmed copies from 1790 to November 1909, except September to December 1887, 1889, September to December 1891 and 1897.
Bristol South Swimming Pool
Original query from Brenda
Brenda is looking for information about her Dad's dance band, from Weston-super-Mare. He was in the Raymond Kaye Orchestra, and I found out that they won the Melody Maker Regional dance band final in 1953. This lead to them having a 6 week residency in South Baths, Bristol at the invitation of Eric Winstone.
Reply from Ray
I think the South Baths you're referring to wasn't a night club at all, but literally a swimming pool! It was South Bristol Swimming Baths in Dean Lane, Bedminster, Bristol. The place has an interesting history. When I was very young they had things like dolphin shows in the pool. They used to board the pool over and it would become a venue for bands and dancing. It was also used for roller skating. Here's some links to help you:
The swimming pool in Dean Lane, Bedminster, was designed in 1929 by Charles Frederick William Dening (1876-1952) and opened in 1931. In the 1950s and 1960s, the pool would be boarded over in the winter and used as a skating rink and as a live band venue for the likes of Ted Heath and Oscar Rabin.
Brown's Row, Bedminster
Original query from Lea
Lea is doing some research into her family history. She writes, "My family all started off in Bedminster with John Whippy, born 1790. He and his dear wife, Mary Vaughan produced many children, one of whom, Henry Whippy, my Great Great Grandfather married Eliza Walker. They were all in the boot making industry and then came to Islington, London, where after more productions, I appeared." It seems that when in Bristol they lived in Brown's Row.
I can't find anything about Brown's Row, or even where it was. The only thing I could find on the net was that William (Charles) Chant married Jane Goldsworthy on 9th September 1866 in Bedminster parish church. Both lived in Brown's Row. William was a stonemason, his father Job was a thatcher and Jane's father, William, was a labourer. - from
Bursletown (Brislington?) and Samuel Young
Original query from Ian
I am researching my family history and have seen reference in a book published in 1700 to a Samuel Young, minister in the parish of BURSLETOWN NEAR BRISTOL. He was the C of E minister there but had to flee because of his non-conformists leanings. However I can not find this name map on any street index parish indexed or otherwise.
"Quaker Tracts 1693-1708" which was published in 1708. British Library reference 4152 ff.1. (3) reads in part, where referring to Samuel "..a person that is said by them that know him to have been mad through and through pride and conceitedness for which he hath been under doctors hands. So deeply had love melancholy seized him before his marriage that as he said himself "twas impossible for him to look upon a woman that he must of necessity lust to be" but how it is with him since I will not determine. He was one while for exercising the office of a curate in the parish of Bursletown near Bristol but smelling so strongly of Presbyterary he could not hold it there long; So that his residence has been mostly among the Presbyterians since and how he hath improved his gift of preaching among them they can tell better than I. But his demands for preaching have been so high (as I am informed) as to make some of them uneasy under him. "
Reply from Ken
Ken confirms that Bursletown was one of many names for the village of Brislington. There is a local History Society that should be able to give you lots of information. You can find a link to their site on the Brislington Community Partnership site.
Original query from Malcolm, Kingswood, Bristol & Philip, Ontario, Canada
Malcolm and Philip both emailed me within a week of each other and would like information on the Canadians who served in Bristol during the Blitz.
Philip wrote :-
I'm looking for information on the Corps of Canadian (Civilian) Firefighters Overseas. I wonder if you can help me.
The Corps was formed in 1941 after pressure from Canadian municipal fire departments, and a request by the British Government, to assist Britain in civil protection. By the fall of 1942 the Corps was formed up, trained, and in service in four cities in the south of England, Bristol, Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. Fire companies across the country had been encouraged to provide trained firefighters for the unit, and non-fire fighters also joined, receiving training in Ottawa and Testwood, England before assuming their positions. The Corps served until the danger of German air attacks no longer existed, and they returned to Canada in 1945. My grandfather was one of the many who volunteered for this service, and we know he served in Bristol. He rarely spoke about his experiences there, and the only time I asked him directly about it, he gave me a just little information before he got teary and changed the subject. It was only in hospital a few years ago that he spoke to my brother about it at length. He died a few weeks later.
Few Canadians know about the service of their firemen during the war. The firemen themselves, those who remain, have been very quiet about their efforts and sacrifice. Yet after the war, they returned to form the corps of many growing and rapidly-professionalizing municipal fire departments. (My grandfather rose to become Deputy Fire Chief of the Niagara Falls Fire Department.) Unfortunately there seems to be little information here about their work and their contribution.
I recall a few years ago that a monument to them was unveiled near St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It would be understandable that there would be more recognition of their efforts in Britain than in Canada, but it is sad that few Canadians know, or care, about their sacrifice.
In a later email Philip continues ...
I went to Ottawa last month and spent some time in the National Archives. I looked at a photo album put together by one of the Canadian firemen at Bristol, and it shows some of the Canadian firefighters at work, putting out a furniture store fire, a fire on the MV Massachusetts, and examining bombed out churches and a concert hall. It also shows an outside view of their very impressive lodgings at Stoke House, Clifton Theological College, which I understand now is Trinity College. As far as the blitz is concerned, it was largely over by the time the Canadians got there.
This page created February 18, 2002, last modified November 5, 2022