Help Wanted (2)

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 here is how I protect your privacy. I won't post your surnames or email addresses here, but, unless you specifically ask me not to, I will post your replies on these pages. I will also forward your replies to whoever asked the original question, this WILL include your email address, unless you specifically ask me to withhold it. If anyone asks me to provide your email address I will forward their message to you and reply to them saying that I've passed the message on. It is then up to you to reply to them or not.

You can email me at . 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.


Original query from Bruce, Brisbane, Queensland

Caperns was, I believe, a seed merchant, but especially noted for bird seed.

Some time in the 1930s, Caperns commissioned from Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd of Staffordshire, a series of promotional items made in Wedgwood's famous jasper wear. Bruce believes that Caperns may have been taken over sometime after the 1930s.

Part one of the tea sets made by Wedgwood for Caperns

Part one of the tea sets made by Wedgwood for Caperns

Reply from Ray

In August 2002, the following item appeared on the Ebay auction site :-

Wedgwood Blue Dip Jasper Caperns Tray

Produced by Wedgwood this large deep beautiful tray measures 11" by 7.5" by 2" in height. The tray features 3 song birds on a single branch. The border is surrounded by a running branch with leaves and berries. The picture leaves the birds looking a little flat, however, in reality they they are more detailed.

The base is marked with "WEDGWOOD MADE IN ENGLAND" "11B34" "CAPERNS. LTD BRISTOL". The tray was made by Wedgwood for Caperns Ltd of Bristol as a promotional presentation piece.

The tray is in perfect condition without any problems at all. The tray has a very dark blue dip colour and is quite deep as can be seen from the side picture.

Tray made by Wedgwood for Caperns Tray made by Wedgwood for Caperns

Reply from Rick, California

I collect antique cage bird items. I have a large collection of antique birdcages, birdcage feeders and books. I have some Capern's post cards with cage birds on them that were a form of advertisement put out by Capern's Bird Seed Company in 1926. I also have a pair of glass birdcage feeders embossed with the Capern's name. Here is some information I have about the Capern's Bird Food Company you may find of interest. The following was written in 1930 or 1931.

This well-known firm of bird-food manufacturers was founded in 1879 by Mr. F. Capern, of Weston-super-Mare. He was a chemist by profession, but an aviculturist by inclination, and he enjoyed some little fame as an ornithologist throughout Somerset. As a result of his knowledge of birds, many friends and customers sought his advice concerning the correct feeding of their birds, and their treatment in illness. His fame grew and the supplying of bird-foods became a profitable side-line. A few years later it had increased to such an extent that Mr. Capern decided to devote the whole of his energies in this direction. He moved to Bristol in 1889, and so great was the amount of business that another move became necessary in 1897. The present premises were then taken over, but have been so greatly enlarged during the past thirty years as to be almost unrecognizable. The result is that the "House of Capern" is now the largest in Great Britain, dealing solely with bird foods and medicines; and the factory is probably the best-equipped of its kind. The firm has some fifty specialties, of which mention must be made of the following: Caper's Seed and Fruit Mixture with Egg-flakes, Finch Mixture, Refresher for Finches and Linnets, Linnet Mixture, New Food for Black Birds and Thrushes, Lark Food, Parrot Food, Dove Food, Budgerigar Mixture, Foreign Finch Mixture, Bird Tonic, Canary-anodyne for chills and colds, and the Famous Nature Food. The distributing agent in America is Mr. A. J. Edge, 156 Newman Avenue, Clason Point, New York City, New York.

Reply from Carole

Carole writes. "Francis Capern, bird seed merchant had a base in Lewins Mead."

Another reply from Ray

The following article and photographs appeared in the Evening Post's "Bristol Times" of 21st September 2004...

Capern's Bird Food Factory

When the 40-bedroom Hotel du Vin opened in Lewin's Mead just before Christmas five years ago at a cost of £4.5 million, it signalled the end of 15 years dereliction for the old sugar warehouse which the hotel had bravely opted to make its Bristol home.

The award-winning hotel has succeeded brilliantly in transforming a blighted corner of the city into a great place where everyone wants to go - one of the most sophisticated and upmarket restaurants in town.

There's certainly a lesson there for all the budding town planners and architects who want to make a name for themselves. In the 18th century Lewin's Mead, along with the Christmas Steps area, was fashionable with merchants and members of the Corporation.

Then, in mid-Victorian times, it went downhill and became the haunt of down-and-outs and street urchins.

Then, at the beginning of the last century, it became an industrial area noted for its engineering works, printers, a brewery, a dry salter and a timber merchant.

The story of the 1728 building's sugar warehouse origins is eloquently told in the entrance to the hotel's courtyard but I wonder how many people around today remember when, for over 50 years, it was Capern's Bird Food factory?

Originally just a Weston-super-Mare chemist with an interest in ornithology, Fred Capern pioneered the manufacture of clean bird seed for domestic pets.

His Stokes Croft factory moved to the old sugar warehouse in 1896 and stayed there until 1956 when it moved to Yatton.

It was Capern's that added the ornate hood to the doorway in 1922 (and which is still there today) and gave the plain warehouse its gentrified Georgian look.

The old Capern's Bird Food Factory

Richard Champion

Original query from Garth, Winterbourne

Garth wants information on Richard Champion. Dr Cookworthy, a Quaker, started producing porcelain in Plymouth in 1768. In 1770 he moved to Bristol and set up the the Castle Green Porcelain Works in partnership with Richard Champion. In 1775 Richard had extended the patent (no. 1096) for the manufacture of porcelain. In 1778 they sold the patent to the Newhall Company in Staffordshire.

Changes since 1996

Original query from Alex, Bristol

Bristol is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture in 2008. As 2008 is 6 years away what Alex is looking for is information from 6 years ago in 1996. This includes, but is not limited to which companies hadn't arrived yet, which buildings hadn't yet been built etc.

Charity Schools

Original query from Carole

Carole is looking for information on Bristol's charity schools, especially those in Lewins Mead, Red Lodge Reformatory and Kingwood Mary Carpenter's. She writes...

I would appreciate any help anyone can give re Lewins Mead Charity Schools, Red Lodge Reformatory and the one Mary Carpenter opened in Kingswood. Johnny Ball/ Johnny Balls/ Jonny Baugh Lane info too please. I have an old resolutions book from the Charity School dating from 1797 which I'm trying hard to type out! Some writing is yuk! I'd really like info on the surroundings e.g. Narrow Lewins Mead, Christmas Steps on which I nearly broke my neck a few times!!! I lived in School House Johnny Ball Lane but had no idea at the time the amount of history I could gather. Talk about can't see the wood for the trees! Maybe youth had it's hand too!

Reply from Ray

Perhaps some of the sites I gave in answer to the Industrial Schools query may be able to help you.

Charles Skinner & Sons, Carriage builders

Original query from Garth, Winterbourne

At 37-39 Jamaica Street, Stokes Croft is an old carriage works which is an early example of iron frame structure. It used to be the Royal Naval Reserves headquarters and also the pensions office. I believe the carriage works were called Charles Skinner & Sons and had previously been in Backfields Lane when they were called Charles Skinner Carriage Builders.

Clifton Court

Original query from Bob, Adelaide, South Australia

Bob would like to know something of the history of Clifton Court.

Reply from Ray

All I was able to find was what was written at (Internet Archive) and that it is now the Chesterfield Hospital.

Clifton Industrial School

Original query from Sue

Sue's grandfather was a schoolteacher at the above in 1881, and she would like to know more about it.

Reply from Ray

According to Missing Ancestors (Internet Archive), the school was situated at Thorn's Building, Clifton Wood Crescent, Clifton and was certified for 200 boys. In 1880 the following staff were at the school...

Chairman: Dr. T.M. Carter; Secretary: S. Pim Jackson, Albion Chambers; Superintendent: Frank L Lord; Head Schoolmaster: John Edgar Wilshaw; Collector: J Holder, 12 Kings Rd., Upper Knowle; Matron: Mrs Fanny Lord; Schoolmasters: William James Broome, A.A. Maddox and James Franks.

Clifton Suspension Bridge and flying

Original query from Michael

Michael says that Family legend has it that his uncle, Copper Openshaw, flew under the bridge in a biplane around the time of World War I.

Michael also wrote to Mike Rowland of the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust (Internet Archive) who said that in the days of the bi-plane it was common for pilots to "do the Bridge" as a rite of passage, and that the instructor watched from above to make sure they did! There was an RFC training squadron at Filton airfield during WW1 and it is believed many of the pilots stayed at the Avon Gorge Hotel (where no doubt there was a good claret available!) The practice of flying under the Bridge was not officially condoned but nevertheless occurred occasionally right up until the 1930's.

Reply from Ray

I've added this story to the Avon Gorge pages. If anyone has more to add we'd be delighted to hear from you.

Clifton Suspension Bridge and murder

Original query from Charlotte

I'm doing some research on Bristol before the bridge and my old school teacher told me a story his grandmother told him, which she swore was true, about a pub which used to exist before the bridge was built. It was at the point at which you had to pay a toll to carry on into Bristol, so people used to get off the boat and stay there to avoid paying the toll. One night a wealthy traveller stopped at the inn and the landlady and her daughter bumped him off for his money, and dumped his body in the river. Only to discover his diary and papers later, which revealed that he was her long lost son, who'd been sent away to New Zealand 'cos she couldn't afford to look after him when he was a baby. He'd returned on Christmas Eve to find his mother and was waiting to reveal his identity on Christmas morning. Is there any basis in truth, can your suggest where I could verify this?

Reply from Ray

In February 2010, I got an email from Bristol author Barb Drummond which made me look at this again. People wouldn't have got off the boat to get to Clifton Suspension Bridge - the bridge is around 270 feet above the river! There were various toll gates around Bristol, one was at Ashton and another at Bristol Bridge. Paying these tolls was always unpopular and led to several riots - see Bristol Riots. The story sounds very romantic and a bit implausible but stranger things have happened in the city. The best places to start would be, I suppose, the local newspapers of the time, but without even a rough date, this would be a long, tedious search.

As Barb says there never was a pub up by the Suspension Bridge, but there were plenty around the old Bristol Bridge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge and suicide

Original query from Hayley

As a born and bred Bristolian I am very interested in the history of the city. I have been fascinated with the story about Sarah Ann Henley - the woman who attempted suicide over the Clifton Suspension Bridge in 1885, but was saved by her dress. I know that you have given information regarding this event, but please could you give me a more in-depth insight into the event and the woman's family etc.

Reply from Ray

I've added this story to the Avon Gorge pages. If anyone has more to add we'd be delighted to hear from you.

Additional query from Dudley

Dudley is trying to check on a story that one of his family's forebears was the first person to commit suicide by jumping off of Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Reply from Ray

There have been many suicides from the bridge and I've tried to find the answer to this question before. Unfortunately, I've not had much luck. Perhaps someone could help us with this? I believe that over the years several hundred people have jumped from the bridge but, again, apart from a few, I've not got any details on any of them.

Cloth Hall, Robert Sturmy, Bristol rutters and the Fellowship of Merchants

Original query from John

Robert Sturmy, a wealthy Bristol merchant, gave his house (on the quay by Bristol Bridge near St Nicholas Church) to the city to be used as the Cloth Hall. Part of the building was used as the meeting place of the Fellowship of Merchants, founded in 1467. The Fellowship maintained a Map Room, probably in this building, from which rutters would have been issued to local captains leaving the port. Does Sturmy's House / the Cloth Hall still exist? If not, what became of it and when? What became of the contents of the Map Room, and are any Bristol rutters still in existence?

Captain John Copithorne and George Washington

Original query from Susan

Susan is looking for information about a trader operating in Bristol with the name Copithorne, Copthorne or a variation about 1790.

Reply from Jim

Capt. John Copithorne sailed to the normal places in the triangle trade. His contacts included George Washington. Capt. Richard Copithorne was a privateer, probably out of Bristol but can not be sure. Capt. John Copithorne the son was one of the last slave traders.

Jim has done a lot of research into this and written a book on the subject. It sells for $30 + mailing costs. Jim can be contacted at

Courages Brewery

Original query from A. Price

Opposite Castle Green, across the river Avon, there is a derelict building, which looks like it might have been a factory of some sort. Written on the walls, not far about the water is "A masterpiece but the blood and moaning of so many people are echoed in these harbour walls"

Reply from Ray

The graffiti probably refers to Bristol's slave trade. "The Bristol Slave Traders - A Collective Portrait" by David Richardson (Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, 1985, page 1) says that around half a million slaves were carried by Bristol ships, this was around a fifth of all slaves carried by British ships. The ships were undoubtedly full of  "blood and moaning" but the harbour wasn't. Very few slaves were actually landed in Bristol.

The building you refer to is Courage's brewery. "Bristol &Co" by Helen Reid (Redcliffe Press, 1987, page 33) says this ...

Dozens of small breweries flourished at this period, and in 1702, one of them, by Bristol Bridge, was owned by the Mayor, Sir John Hawkins; this business was the ancestor of The Bristol Brewery, which produced George's and now Courage's beer.
In 1730 the brewery was bought by wealthy slave merchant Isaac Hobhouse and his sons John and Henry built the Porter Brewery that is the basis of the modern complex. This business passed in 1788 to Philip George, who with six other Bristol merchants, bought a malthouse in Tucker Street and set up as The Philip George Bristol Brewery.
An advertisement in Felix Farley's Journal, 1794, says: "P. George, Bristol Porter and Beer Company will deliver in barrels and half barrels their Porter to all towns and villages within five miles of the City and is sold at Fourpence per Quart."
Brewing was a cut-throat business so George sent a traveller to Ireland to sell the porter - and sold 60,000 barrels a year there. By the beginning of the 19th century George's brewery was acquiring other small brewery businesses and a brewery war began: it was of course won by George's, who in 1878 bought 70 licenced houses as well. That year they went public and within five years their shares had brought in nearly six and a half million pounds, enough to wipe out many of their small competitors.
By the turn of this century there was only one big local rival left, Bristol United Breweries, which merged with George's in 1952. In 1961, the firm amalgamated with Courage's, who in 1972 were taken over by Imperial. They in turn were taken over by the Hanson Trust, who sold Courage's in 1986 to the Elders IXL group.

The brewery was closed in 2000 and demolition started soon after. There is an image of the brewery which includes the graffiti on the BBC Collective (Internet Archive) page.

James Mitchell Cox

Original query from Chris, Charlotte

On my page about photography in Bristol, I mention James Mitchell Cox who had a studio at the Horticultural Rooms, now The Triangle, Clifton in 1847. Chris has a watercolour portrait by who may be the same person, and would like to know more about him.

Reply from Rhona, Queensland, Australia

Rhona says that that she is doing some searching on James Mitchell Cox. I believe he is related to the family of a friend of mine for whom I am doing some family research. James was born in Lymington, Hampshire, and can be traced through the census records. Up until the late eighteen hundreds, he is described in census records as a miniature portrait painter, so I believe that Chris would have one of these.

Joseph Downe Cox who is the person I am researching for my friend was one of the earliest photographers in Christchurch, in the 1850's which leads me to believe that there is a link between the two. Joseph Downe Cox's photos are recorded in the Red House Museum in Christchurch which we visited earlier this year.

Crown and Cushion, Penn Street

Original query from Sean, Bristol

Sean wants to know about the history of the Crown and Cushion in Penn Street. We think the building must have been erected sometime in the 1950's, after the Blitz.

Additional query from Fee

Fee is interested in anything about Frederick Pillinger who ran the pub sometime after 1935.

Reply from Ray

The original Crown and Cushion stood in Milk Street which was demolished to make way for Penn Street in 1958 and from which the new pub took it's name. In "Bristol Inns and Alehouses in the Mid 18th Century" by Patrick McGrath & Mary E. Williams and which was published by the City of Bristol in 1979, the the landlords of the original Crown and Cushion are listed as :-

1851 & 1852
1896 & 1904
John Jones
John Jones
John Jones
Jane Jones
Richard Crook
Benjamin Lewis
Thomas Richards
R. Canter
John Ferris
Thomas Britton
George Wainwright
George Ripley

Milk Street in 1901

Milk Street in 1901

23 Milk Street on the corner with St. James's Square Avenue. Across the road from the Lamb & Anchor, the Crown & Cushion was pulled down in 1958. You may like to know that were at least 850 pubs in Bristol around 1750, when the population was around 43 - 44,000 people or 1 pub for 50 citizens. It may well be worth contacting the Pub History Society site.

Davis & Co. - Glass Shade Merchants

Original query from Alan

Alan writes, "Recently I bought an item and I am trying to date it. The only real clue is the label on the wooden base (it's a taxidermy item). The label says Davies and Co., Glass Shade Merchants, 4 Castle Street, BRISTOL, Late of Union Street. I guess my main question would be what year (about ) did they bring in postal codes? in Bristol? I am tempted by the typography of the label to guess 1890 or so.

Davies and Co. label

Reply from Ray

I'm no expert on dating this type of thing, but from the examples I've seen I'd say the date of 1890 looks about right. I tried to do a little research into Davis and Co. but couldn't find anything here at home about them.

The numbering of postal districts (Knowle as BS4, Bedminster as B3 and so on) was first proposed by the Royal Mail in 1931, and was put into effect the following year. The post codes as we know them today, BS3 4JZ for example, was introduced in the 1960's and was complete by 1974. (source Royal Mail Postcodes, Internet Archive)

Reply from Carole

Carole writes. "Davis & Co 4 Castle St. under the heading of China, Glass and Earthenware dealers in 1897."


Original query from Sue

Sue has traced her branch of her family back to 1560 with many links to Bristol. She's interested in comparing notes with other Denford's

Douglas Motorcycles

Fay Taylour at Douglas Motorcycles, Kingswood, 1929

Fay Taylour at Douglas Motorcycles, Kingswood, 1929

Ben is looking for information about this photograph. Fay Taylour's politics were obnoxious, she was an ardent Nazi sympathiser, but at one time she was one of the greatest speedway riders in the world, male or female. Ben wants to know when this photgraph was taken, who took it, and at agency or collection the original is now in.

Dower House & Duke of Beaufort

Original query from Adrian

Adrian wrote, "As you approach Bristol on the M32, on your right is what I believe to be what was the Duke of Beaufort's house many years ago. To the left hand side (as you look at the house), of this is a small hill with a stone monument (what's left of it anyway) on it. I go running up there sometimes and collapse for a rest just about where the monument is. Speaking to several people over the years and the story behind the monument is that the Duke of Beaufort erected it where his daughter died after falling off her horse. I decided to try to find out some more about this tragedy especially the girl in question (don't ask me why but it's something along the lines of bee & bonnet), but cannot seem to find anything."

Reply from Polly

Polly says that this is a well known Bristol ghost. This is one account I found, I have read a few more over the years. Apparently the apparition has caused a few near road accidents.

DUCHESS LAKE, Stoke Park Hospital, Stoke Park, Bristol, Avon - A few of the visitors to this hospital, the main building of which was the home of the Duchess of Beaufort, have sometimes been surprised to see the figure of what appears to be a woman riding a horse moving through the trees near the lake. Some have ignored the couple, others have spent a few minutes in vain waiting for her reappearance. In 1965 a group of youngsters exploring the woods also saw the woman and was convinced that she was the ghost of the Duchess herself. "She is known to have frequented the lakeside", one of them said.

Reply from Ray

I've also had several requests for information, such as from Louise, about this house. For such a prominent building I'm having a lot of trouble finding anything about it, does anyone know of a history of the house, either printed or online?

In April 2008, I received a query about Dower House from Jayne so I had another look around the internet. I only found a single page with much information - The History of Stoke Park (Internet Archive).

Edward Dowling

Original query from Denise

Denise writes, "My Father was born in 1919 at the Bristol Shot Tower and lived there with his parents and siblings until my Grandfather died in around 1945 My Grand Fathers name was Edward Dowling there is a photograph of him in the Bristol history books working at the tower in January 1940. We think that his wife was the Grand Daughter of William Watts the inventor of the lead shot. Do you have any information on the position of Edward Dowling and his family and information about the Watt's family, his children's names etc."

Reply from Ray

I think I used a scan of the photograph on my Bristol lead working page. Other than that, I've no other information about Edward. I did a quick look on the internet though and found Glenn and Donna Roberts' Web Pages (Internet Archive), but I don't think this is the same family as they all appear to come from Middlesex.

Falconbridge Family

Original query from Valerie (via Forum)

Valerie writes, "I am researching ancestors, Alexander and Anna Maria Falconbridge. Alexander was a surgeon on slave ships late 18th century and he and Anna Maria, who travelled with him in 1791 both wrote books on their experiences. Alexander became an abolitionist and he is mentioned in the submissions to the Parliamentary Committee for the abolition for the slave trade.

I cannot find details of his family, where he came from etc. I believe he died in Sierra Leone in 1792 and his brother William died there the previous year from fever.

Anna Maria re married Isaac Dubois? perhaps a trader? and returned to Bristol. She came from a wealthy Bristol family but I cannot find her maiden name, or details of children they or brother William may have had. The only Falconbridge's I know of are from Nottingham and my great grandparents Catherine and Alexander Falconbridge who emigrated with their 6 children from Donegal Ireland."


Original query from Frances

Frances wrote that "I am trying to find out some information about fireworks factories in Bristol around the 1900s. My great uncle, Frederick Strachan, was listed in the 1901 census as a pyrotechnist. He later emigrated to Australia and was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. I am interested in any records that still exist and any information anyone had about firework manufacture at that time.

Reply from Ray

So far, the only thing I've been able to find out was a directory listing for Bishop Brothers of Hanham who were making fireworks in 1894.

There was another factory at Warmley. Crane's Fireworks opened in 1887. In 1916 they switched production to the Mill's Bomb grenade and eventually made about 10 million of the things. There was a fatal explosion there in 1935 that killed 18 year old Nellie Brewer. In 1937, another fire closed the factory, putting 80 people out of work.

Flowers Barton

Original query from Michael

Michael is doing some genealogical research and they asked about a greengrocer named Baber whose address was given as Flowers Barton on or near Bedminster Down. I've never even heard of Flowers Barton, so I did a check of my own street directories and maps and the online ones. None of them list the place. Has anyone any idea where Flowers Barton is or was?

John Ford

Original query from John

John is trying to trace anyone who attened Air Balloon Hill School between the years 1946 to1950. He writes, "In those days I lived in Two Mile Hill at 27 Old Queen Street. In particular I wish contact a school friend Colin Parfrey, John Collins, or anyone who remembers me. Since those days I have moved on to, first of all Birmingham and where I am now in Cornwall.

John Fox

Original query from E. Murray

John Fox, jockey, was born in Cockermouth on 15th March 1895, moved to Marseille and married Marie Jeanne Blain. She was born in Marseille on 26th March 1904, and they were married on 9th January 1926. They moved back to England and he died in Bristol between 1963 and 1965

Frampton, Jones and Bowyer Families

Original query from Lynn, The Netherlands

Lynn is looking for information on the Frampton, Jones or Bowyer families. She writes...

I am looking for information on the Frampton family from 1300 (or earlier) - 1700. The earliest mention I have found is in the 1300's, with several Framptons mentioned in the 1400's, including a burgess. The Framptons I am specifically looking for are John Frampton (est. 1534-1590), who translated several books from Spanish into English, Robert Frampton, who has a ship The Robert in the early 1600's, and William Frampton, who was born around 1646 and emigrated sometime between 1650-1677 to New York and then Pennsylvania, possibly via Barbados. William was a merchant, a Quaker, an agent for Charles Jones of Bristol in the 1680's, and a member of Penn's government in PA. He may have had a relationship to Sir Edmund Bowyer who signed the Virginia Charter in the 1620's. Thomas Frampton is another possible name. It is thought that William had ties to both Bristol and London and speculation on my part that he was connected to Robert and John, mentioned above. He married Elizabeth Potter in 1680 and died in 1686 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Reply from Ray

It so happens that I've got a copy of "Merchants and Merchandise in Seventeen-Century Bristol" by Patrick McGrath (Bristol Record Society Publications Vol. XIX, 1955, page 222). It seems that Charles Jones, both the elder and younger got themselves into a spot of bother with the Customs service. The original source quoted is the Public Records Office, Treasury Records, T1/16 no.7, p.35

November 1691. Defrauding of the Customs at Bristol

To the Kings Most Excellent Majestie
The humble Peticion of John Dutton Colt Collector of your Majesties Customs in Bristol


That Your Peticioner suspecting a combinacion amongst the Officers in that Port, planted one he thought might be Confided in, and placed him upon such ships with the suspected Officers, where he apprehended frauds were intended; And on board the Bristol Merchant and the Factor detected the Officers and Merchants in combinacion; And recovered for your Majestie Two Thousand Seven hundred Seventy Two pounds; Besides five hundred pounds the Officers concerned in the frauds were fined, and condemned to stand publickly in Bristoll at the assize time, with a paper signifying their crimes; And committed till the fines paid to the Kings Bench; which is of great consequence to deter others, And has prevented your Majestie from being defrauded to several great summs.

That Your Peticioner might have brought the said Informacions in his Own Name, and have been intituled by law to the Moyety of what was recovered, But chose rather to bring the Accions in the Attorney Generalls Name to strngthen the prosecucion for your Majesties service.

Wherefore may it please your Majestie Out of your Gracious consideration to Grant your Peticioner such recompence Out of those Moneys so Recovered as your Majestie shall think fitt.

And your Peticioner shall ever pray &c

Those involved in the fraud were Samuel Packer, Charles Jones the elder, Richard Francklyn, Henry Yates, William Davies, Henry Totterdale, William Smyth, Charles Harford the younger, Charles Jones the younger, Arthur Sawyer, John Jones, John Love, Charles Harford the elder, Baldwin Johnson, Thomas Hobb, William Opie, Jedediah Pickford, Thomas Tyler, Elisha Lancaster, Josiah Clarke, Josiah Stephens and Henry Lloyd. They ended up paying £,2,508 3s 6d for their offences and the customs officers involved were fined and imprisoned as well as being put in the pillory. The fraud involved tobacco and "Cocoa Nutts" which were declared as Indigo.

The following comes from "The Merchant Venturers of Bristol" by Patrick McGrath (The Society of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol, 1975) The original source quoted is the Society's Deeds, Box 12, Bundle 19, Dated April 1695.

In April 1695, the Merchant Venturers granted Charles Jones, Thomas Callowhill, Sir Thomas Day and Robert Yate for 99 years the lease to the Hotwell. This was was for a rent of £5 per year. The men agreed to spend £500 on the erection of a Pump Room, lodging houses and other conveniences within three years. The lease started on 25th March 1996. This was one of the few mistakes that the Society made in monetary matters. They would have never let the lease go so cheaply if they realised how popular the spa was to be become. What the Society did do was to ensure that all the covenants were observed, particularly the one that said that all inhabitants of Bristol should have access to the waters. They also tried to exploit another hot well but nothing came of it. See Hotwells. There is a discrepancy between the length of the lease on that page and this. This also occurs in the McGrath book, on page 191 it says 99 years, but on page 88 it says 90.

The following comes from "Bristol Past and Present" by J. F. Nicolls and John Taylor (Arrowsmith, 1881, Volume II, "Ecclesiastical History", page 148)

William Wyrcestre, [or Worcester who died in 1482]  referring to the existing structure, [Church of St. John the Baptist, which stands over and beside St. John's Gate] remarks ... was built anew by Walter Frampton, a noble merchant of the city of Bristol. This munificent burgess is buried in a raised tomb in the church over the crypt. Of the family of Frampton four members were successively named Walter, the second of whom was mayor of Bristol in the year of his father's death, 1357, and subsequently in 1365 and 1374. To this second Walter, whose will is dated 1388, the origin of the present structure may be referred, which, according to local annals, was founded in the year 1388 or the year after, though the character of the architecture points to about 50 years later. It might have been a felling of filial piety that induced Walter Frampton, the second of his name, to provide funds to re-construct this sanctuary, his father and mother having been interred within its precincts. The will of the founder bequeaths a large property to his wife Isabella, with the curious and uncomplimentary provision that "if the said Isabella shall marry again quickly, or (which Heaven forbid) she commit fornication and this be proved, then his executors, if any survive, shall take possession of and retain the whole of the legacies bequeathed to her and totally exclude her from any benefit of her inheritance, that is, after three proclamations have been made with sound of trumpet at the High Cross.

He also bequeaths "sixty-two tenements to be sold and the price divided into four parts : one to be given in marriage dowry to poor maidens; one to the relief of poor blind and lame; one to be laid out in the repair of highways and bridges; and the residue among religious mendicants," four orders of whom were established in Bristol.

Note from Denise

Denise is researching the Pickford family and adds that Jedediah Pickford mentioned in connection with the customs fraud above, was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

If you have any information we'd be grateful if you could email me at or Lynn directly at

French's Coal Yard

Original query from Ian

Ian is looking for information on the coal yard in Guinea Street, near the General Hospital, he writes...

I'm trying to find family information which led me to French Yard (1911 -1914) behind the General Hospital and off Guinea St.(see attached) where Messrs Stenner, Osgood & White were living/ working (Lower Cottage) and Stenner was a Coal Haulier. I believe French Yard was owned by the Hospital. However, I can find no pictures / information specifically on French Yard. Do you have or know where I can find information on French Yard?

French Yard

French Yard and Guinea Street

Full Moon, Stokes Croft

Original query from Steve

Steve is looking for information on the Full Moon, Stokes Croft.

The landlord of the Full Moon from 1752 - 1764 was Thomas Smalley. In 1753 an inquest was held there on the body of William Chaffe who died of lunacy on 23rd June of that year.

Furze, Henry & Joseph

Original query from Liz, Melbourne

Liz is looking for information on her grandfather, Henry Furze, and her great grandfather, Joseph Furze. Joseph was a surgeon in Bristol, Henry worked as a printer before emigrating to Australia in 1952 and started up several newspapers in Victoria.

Marian Gay

Original query from Sue

An unusual query from Sue, this isn't a "people finder" site, but perhaps someone can help her. Sue writes, "I am looking for a surname of a lady who lived in Stapleton Road, Bristol in 1970, I don't have the number of the bedsit. All I know was her name was Bernice and my mum, Marian Gay, lived in the next bedsit to her."

Pauline Gedroge, nee Marsh, Nee Cole

This heartfelt query comes from Anna Marie

My name is Ana Marie and I was born in the St Raphaels, Home for Unmarried mothers, Hallen Road, Henbury [see my Brislington page] on 17th September 1963. My mother is Pauline Ann Gedroge (nee Marsh) Nee Cole. Pauline would have been 171/2 when I was born.

My plea is does anyone have any records or know of Pauline? I have been trying to find her for over 20 years now but I do not have her date of birth. Can anyone help?


Original query from Derek, Bristol

Was your Grandfather a Gunner in Bristol?

Derek would like information on members of the 1st South Midland Brigade R.F.A. (T) and as it later became in 1916 240th Brigade R.F.A. (T) which had its home at the Artillery Ground, Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol.

A nominal roll of the units is being transcribed from local papers and unit information with over 1,000 names noted so far. If your Grandfather's WW1 medals have either one or the other above units named on the rim he would be very interested to hear from you. Also if the 6 digit Army number starts with 825 or 826 as these were the designated block numbers for the above unit in June 1916.

A history of the unit is being written and will contain names of all ranks with as much personal information as he can find i.e. next of kin, address, age etc.

If you have any information on these units we'd be grateful if you could email me at or Derek directly at

Derek writes the Gloucestershire Volunteer Artillery Website (Internet Archive).

Hams of Bristol

Original query from Susan

Susan is doing some research into Elizabeth Ham who was born in 1783 and whose mother, Elizabeth Pope lived in Brislington.

Reply from Sarah

Sarah asks "is this the same Elizabeth Ham who was a Unitarian and governess to Sir Charles Abraham Elton's family in 1823? There's a reference to her on p.148 of the book ANNALS OF THE ELTON FAMILY by Margaret Elton (Alan Sutton 1994) to her and the journal she wrote, published as "Elizabeth Ham, by herself 1783-1820" ed Eric Gillett (London 1945). I'm trying to locate a copy of her book myself, because I'm a descendant of the Eltons and researching my Elton ancestor. They were prominent Bristol merchants who became landed gentry."

Hanham Woods Murder

Original query from Richard

Richard is interested in a murder that happened in Hanham Woods.

Reply from Ray

I think the murder you're referring to is the one that happened in 1935 of Mrs. Nott amongst the poor squatters living in Hanham Woods.

Here's the basics of what happened. In the 1930?s, there were various families living in the woods. On Wood Hill there were families named Little, Nott, Franklin and Tommy Robbins. There were also families living in Couches Lane, one reclusive old lady was known as Rhoda. She was found dead one day, but the police took little interest.

There were two brothers by the name of Franklin, whose origins were unknown. They kept pigs and would often visit Bristol collecting scraps to feed them. Living on the opposite side of the track was the Nott family, Henry William, his wife, Gladys and son, Dennis.

In November 1933, Gladys left her family and went to live with Arthur Henry Franklin, just 177 yards away. In May 1935, she left Arthur, meaning to go back to her husband. Arthur shot her twice from behind with a single barreled shotgun. Hearing his wife screaming and seeing Arthur standing there with is gun, Henry Nott ran to get his. Arthur fired at Henry, hitting him in the eye and head.

At that moment, two women, Mrs. Dyer and Mrs. Taylor arrived and Arthur admitted the shootings. He was arrested the same day and taken to Horfield Prison, where he was later hanged, aged 44.

The other Franklin brother later committed suicide by shooting himself.

These poor families seem to have been dogged by bad luck. Notts' son, Dennis, was blown out of his shack, but uninjured, by a stray bomb that fell on the area during WWII. He later married  and moved to Pucklechurch where he fell off a hay mound and broke his neck and died.

Source - Murder in Hanham Woods (Internet Archive)

Another interesting murder, was that committed by John Horwood on Eliza Balsum. He killed her by throwing a stone at her and fracturing her skull at Hanham Mills. He was hanged and his skin was used as the covers for the books printed about his trial and execution. The story appears on my Bedminster pages.

Reply from Janet

Janet sent scans of some newpaper cuttings about the murder, trial and execution of Arthur Henry Franklin. As a result of that I created a page about the murder.

Hanham Workhouse?

Original query from John

John writes, "Could you please tell me if you have any knowledge of the existence of a workhouse for the poor in Hanham, Bristol similar to those which existed at Keynsham etc. I have a friend who insists there was one but I can find no record of it anywhere.

My reply

I can't find a reference to a workhouse at Hanham either! There are sites that deal with the poor and education, perhaps one of the following may help?

Industrial Schools
Rossbret (Internet Archive)
Strays Project (Internet Archive)
UK Schools History (Internet Archive)

According to the Workhouse site there were several in and around Bristol, but not in Hanham. These were at Bedminster, Brislington and Keynsham. According to the Keynsham (Internet Archive) page Hanham was a constituency of the Keynsham Poor Law Union and I suppose Keynsham would have taken the poor from Hanham.

Haskins Family

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.

James G. Hawley

Original query from Julian

Julian is looking for information about a pottery factory owned by James G Hawley in Bedminster in the 1870/80s.He was born in 1826 in Burslem Stoke-on- Trent, son of Joseph Hawley, Potter, who was an ancestor Julian's. James George Hawley is shown in the 1881 census to have eleven children so by now there must be many descendents from all these.

My Reply

I couldn't find anything about this from my own collection but a RootsWeb page about the 6th Brigade & 2nd Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps says this about a Robert Hawley Gurd, 645373, Sergeant, MM (1888-)...

Provisional Family Notes:
Robert GURD born c1825 Dunmead, nearr Salisbury, Wiltshire  [1881: Employed in Sugar Refinery, 3 Raglan Rd, Horfield, Gloucestershire] married: Jane, born c1831 in Trowbridge, Wiltshire
|- Robert Winter GURD born 1855-1856 in Bristol. Died 19th February 1915 Metlakatla, British Columbia [1881: Clerk; 1886-1915: Missionery with the CMS, serving at Metlakatla, Kitkatla and Claxton; 1898: Kitkahtla] married 10th October 1887, Victoria, British Columbia. Elizabeth (Eliza) HAWLEY born c1854, died 27th October 1935 Vancouver, British Columbia [possibly the daughter of James G. & Maria C. HAWLEY, Pottery Manufacturer of 18 Somerset Square, Bedminster, Somerset
|- Robert Hawley GURD born 15th July 1888 Metlakatla, Cassiar, Burrard District, British Columbia. Died 13th September 1939 Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Married 21st September 1922 Vancouver, British Columbia Lillian May THOMPSON, born c1884, died 6th February 1969 Vancouver
   |- Marguerite (Rita) Temple GURD born 30th May 1890 in Metlakatla, British Columbia. Died 7th July 1915 Prince Rupert, British Columbia
   |- Arthur Percy GURD born 19th March 1892, Metlakatla, British Columbia
   |- Harold GURD born 6th May 1893 Metlakatla, British Columbia
|- Ellen GURD born c1858 Bristol [1881: Mantle Maker]
|- Walter GURD born c1868 Bristol

Gordon Hazell

Original query from Craig

Craig writes, "We are undertaking a fund raising project to build the Gordon Hazell memorial gymnasium in honour of one of the city's sporting greats from the 1950's. We have already a fine selection of memorabilia from Gordon's amazing life, but are always on the look out for other photos and programmes from his local bouts."

Note from Ray

Born in 1928 to Bristol wrestler Billy Hazell, Gordon, in his prime, was ranked the No.3 Middleweight in the World. He retired from boxing in 1955 and became PE master at Clifton College until 1988. He died in 2001. You can read more about this world famous boxer at The Beehive (Internet Archive).

Charley Heal

Original query from Lucy

Mike Hallett gave me some information about Old Market which I put on one of my pages. Lucy read this and emailed me. She writes, "I was reading your web site and came across a very familiar name, Charlie Heal. He was my great great grandad, his granddaughter Jean is my nan, but her dad was also Charlie so can you tell me which one you are writing about. I'm sorry its a bit complicated but when nearly every male in the family is called Charlie or Albert it confuses even the family itself. I also wondered if you had any more information or even pictures of him or the family and the fairground, it would be appreciated a lot."

Reply from Carol

As far as I know I am related to Charley Heal. Apparently my great grand mother had an affair with one of the Heal`s when the fairground was in Bedminster, she became pregnant by him, the Heal family sent him away and she gave birth to a son who was to be my grandfather. There are quite a few of us which have dark wavy hair and sallow skin all the features are there in each generation of our children. I don't know if this is appropriate information to pass on but as I say it was a long time ago.

Note from Ray

I couldn't decide whether to put Carol's reply on this page or not, but eventually decided to. Sometimes this sort of thing turns up when investigating a family's history. It's one reason why I don't even put email addresses on these pages, unless specifically asked to, that, and the fact that I know this site is regularly trawled for email addresses by the spammers. In this case I emailed both Lucy and Carol asking if either wanted the others email address.

This page created July 22, 2004, last modified July 16, 2023