Bristol Radical History Group

Since 2006 BRHG have organised over 500 events; staging walks, talks, gigs, historical recreations, films, exhibitions, trips through the archives and fireside story telling. We have several active research projects, publish a range of books and pamphlets and host an archive on this website.

BRHG projects and events are organised by local people from Bristol and are NOT funded by universities, political parties, business or local government. To break even we rely on members giving their labour for free, donations from the audiences and the sale of publications.

BRHG are associated with several other history groups in Bristol including Remembering the Real World War One, Eastville Workhouse Memorial Group and the Countering-Colston Group. BRHG are also a member of the International History From Below Network.

Breviary Stuff Publications

Our friends include Breviary Stuff Publications, an independent publisher of radical history, working class history and history from below. For almost 10 years they have reproduced out-of-print classics along with new titles for affordable prices, unlike the majority of academic publishers. Check out their interesting range of books here.

Six Points Publications

Our friends across the water, the Newport Chartist historians have recently founded a publishing house 'Six Points', which aims to produce and promote high quality books that explore nineteenth century Radicalism, the ideas of Chartism and their historical antecedents, the movement’s context and development into modern times. Their latest work is Peter Strong's The Bristol Connection, the neglected story of the political, cultural and commercial links across the Bristol Channel between the city of Bristol and Newport and other parts of south east Wales in the 19th century.

New activist memories pamphlet: Tony Wilson

An activist in every sense and now well into his eighties, Tony Wilson continues to campaign, volunteer and cycle. From the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Hong Kong and later working on weapons’ contracts to setting up Electronics for Peace and building an ethical recruitment agency, Tony’s career has not followed a conventional path! Find out more...

New booklet: ‘No Cure, no Pay, Boarding excepted’

Front cover shownig a head with a plan of the mad house projected onto it.Long before the NHS, those who did not fit ‘the norm’ were consigned to workhouses or to private lunatic asylums. The revealing tale of ‘Mason’s Madhouses’ explains what life was like in such institutions, uncovers the techniques employed to cure or control the inmates, tells the stories of the main players, and recounts the sensational public inquiry that brought a dynasty down. Find out more.

New BRHG booklet: 150 years of struggle

History of Bristol Trades Council front cover showing trade union bannerAs part of the celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of the Bristol Trades Union Council, Bristol Radical History Group have published 150 Years of Struggle, the history of the Council. Based on the history written by Bob Whitfield and the late David Large in 1973, Colin Thomas has brought the story up-to-date. This booklet incorporates the BHA pamphlet, extracts from the BBC film and an update on the last fifty years. More details here.

Recent Blog Posts

North-East to North-East in 2023: Ken Loach’s The Old […]

People marching in front of a trade union banner at Durham Miners' Gala

The pandemic of crises that nationalistic hostility and capitalism unfailingly deliver is seemingly intensifying. While the asymmetric Israel-Palestine conflict is currently the […] More

The role of Museums in constructing our understanding […]

Black Lives Matter banner displayed in Brecon

As I worked on gathering pertinent words that will appear in the index of my forthcoming book: The Journal of Captain Thomas Phillips of Brecon, the Slave Ship Hannibal, and all […] More

Charles Fletcher: Gypsy, Orphan, Forest of Dean Miner […]

In this article, the short life of Charles Fletcher is used as a lens to explore aspects of the labour movement in Chepstow and the Forest of Dean in the early twentieth century. […] More

Mark Stewart (10/08/60 – 21/04/23): A Tribute

Mark Stewart of The Pop Group

History is important, people are important and individuals are important. When people pass, we have moments of instant memorialisation, the obituaries are written, and then often […] More

Slavery Wealth and the Beginnings of Bristol’s Diocesan […]

Following the money generated from slavery, transferred and transmuted into UK spending, is usually difficult. Yet sometimes unmistakable glimpses appear. When they do, where the […] More

Hilda Cashmore plaque unveiling

The unveiling of a blue plaque to Hilda Cashmore, the first warden of Bristol's Barton Hill Settlement, took place at noon on 8 March, 2023 (International Women's Day). A Quaker, […] More

Steve Philbey

Many years ago, stuck in a traffic jam on the Bath Road bridge, I looked up to see a series of massive slogans expertly pasted onto the advertising hoardings on the billboards. The […] More

Feminist, Socialist, Pacifist – Mabel Tothill […]

Mabel Tothill Front Cover

Hurray! Bristol has a new road named Mabel Tothill Place in the Barton Hill area. This is great news as it is well deserved and highlights a local activist who did so much for the […] More

Callout for feedback on our 4th Bristol Radical History […]

How time flies in the midst of the multiple global crisis of capitalism! A week ago our 4th Bristol Radical History Festival was just beginning, and we at BRHG were pretty pleased […] More

You are invited: to the 4th Bristol Radical History […]

We are delighted to welcome people back to M Shed this Saturday, 14th May, for our 4th Bristol Radical History Festival. It's been a frustrating two years of delays and […] More

Downs row – Merchants hit back over criticism

In a report in the Bristol Post of Wednesday 26 January 2022, the Society of Merchant Venturers [SMVs] hit back at critics who want them to give up their half of the Downs and […] More

Congratulations Barbados

Slave ship Hannibal 1693-1695

On Tuesday 30 November 2021, marking the 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, Barbados proudly became a Republic. In 2020 the then governor-general of Barbados, Sandra […] More

Recent Books


Swell is both a waterbiography of Jenny Landreth’s personal swimming experiences, and a history of women’s struggle to gain access to indoor baths and outdoor beaches and lakes. […] More

Haunting Ashton Court

“Mishmash” is the term the authors of this book use to describe their various working methods. It is also an accurate description of the book itself which contains not only the […] More

Bad Blood in Georgian Bristol

Another excellent book by Steve Poole and Nicolas Rogers, highlighting a period in Bristol’s rich history. The main part of the book relates to the murder, in 1741, of Sir John […] More

Bristol 650

“What happened to the ladder?” asks Annabel Smith, pointing out that Bristol is one of the least socially mobile urban areas in the country. Smith is one of thirty-seven […] More

Mary Frost, Wife, Mother, Chartist

I enjoyed this book as it is an easy read and Sylvia Mason painted a graphic picture of the times - Mary Frost's shop and home, the 1839 Chartist uprising in Newport, the family, […] More

A Very British Conspiracy

Houses of parliament with storm clouds

This is an account of the case of the Shrewsbury 24, one of the longest, if not the longest, campaign to overturn injustice in this country. The Shrewsbury 24 were building workers […] More

The Dawn of Everything

This is a hugely ambitious book, setting out to provide an integration of the work of both archaeologists and of anthropologists. The extent of their ambition is spelt out on page […] More

Make Bosses Pay

Eve Livingston - Published by Pluto Press (2021) There isn’t a lot of history in Eve Livingston’s book – “The British labour movement: A potted history” pages 10-15 – but what […] More


Book Review: Dazza Scott, Sabotage: The Story of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (Hunt Saboteurs Association, 2021). In 2023 the Hunt Saboteurs Association will mark its 60th […] More

The Fight for Monad

Raymond Williams’s novel, The Fight for Manod was first published in 1979. As we know, 1979 was an important year, seemingly a watershed year. In this year Margaret Thatcher was […] More

Again with One Voice: British Songs of Political […]

This ‘supremely singable’ collection of 120 songs with musical settings should ‘enlighten and enliven our discussions and our singing in equal measure’ (Oskar Cox Jensen, […] More

The Book of Trespass

    …the fences that divide England are not just symbols of the partition of people but the very cause of it. Bristol Radical History Group subscribers will find […] More

Recent Articles

Thomas Rennison and his Grand Pleasure Bath

There’s a wave of interest in open-air swimming right now. Campaigners in Bristol recently led demands for wider access to swim in our rivers, lakes and even the Floating Harbour. […] More

The role of Museums in constructing our understanding […]


As I worked on gathering pertinent words that will appear in the index of my forthcoming book: The Journal of Captain Thomas Phillips of Brecon, the Slave Ship Hannibal, and all […] More

The Slave Decks


Warning – Due to the nature of the topic this article is not suitable for children The stench of the hold…was so intolerably loathsome that it was dangerous to remain there for any […] More

Slaves – the secret of Tyntesfield House

This article first appeared on the BRHG Facebook page in October 2019. It is published here as a tribute to Steve Philbey who passed away in August 2022. The connection between […] More

Radical Empathy: Voices of the Bristol Crisis Service […]

  In April 1986 a group of women in Bristol who considered themselves both feminists and survivors of psychiatric treatment came together to found the Bristol Crisis Service […] More

Bath Workhouse Burial Ground Project

Trees will grow and a wildflower meadow bloom at Bath’s Union Workhouse Burial Ground. A place of memory and reflection is emerging thanks to the work of local residents, artists […] More

Some insights into the lives of the crew onboard the […]

Slave ship Hannibal 1693-1695

An often overlooked but essential element of a slave ship, such as the Hannibal, was the requirement for a large crew in comparison to the number of sailors usually required to man […] More

From Lewis Hamilton to Jemima (age 12)

TEAR THEM ALL DOWN. Everywhere. Lewis Hamilton (seven time F1 World Drivers Champion) Black Lives Matter X heart X heart. Jemima (age 12) This is the third in a series of articles […] More

The fall of Colston – a timeline of impact in […]

  All over the world I’ve seen grandchildren of slave masters tearing down slave masters statues – over in England they put it in the river. Reverend Al Sharpton speaking at […] More

New pauper burial research at Greenbank cemetery

Introduction From 2014-2019 Eastville Workhouse Memorial Group (EWMG) studied Rosemary Green, a piece of land consecrated and used as a pauper burial ground soon after the new […] More

Edward Colston: A century of dissent and protest

Introduction During the furore about the renaming of the Colston Hall in 2017 a number of angry letter-writers to the Bristol Post claimed that the recent protests over Edward […] More

‘Triptych’ A poem by Marvin Thompson […]

On the weekend of 7-9 June 2020 the Brecon plaque to a slave trading captain was stripped from the wall on which it was erected in 2010. Poet Marvin Thompson was inspired to write […] More

Recent Pamphlets

Tony Wilson

An activist in every sense and now well into his eighties, Tony Wilson continues to campaign, volunteer and cycle. From the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Hong Kong […] More

‘No Cure, no Pay, Boarding excepted’

Front cover shownig a head with a plan of the mad house projected onto it.

Long before the NHS, those who did not fit ‘the norm’ were consigned to workhouses or to private lunatic asylums. The latter provided a profitable business opportunity, as the […] More

150 Years of Struggle

History of Bristol Trades Council front cover showing trade union banner

1873-2023 In 1973, Bristol Trades Union Council marked its centenary year. Bob Whitfield and the late David Large wrote its history for the Bristol Historical Association and BBC […] More

Judith Brown

Judith Brown from cover in yellow

From local councillor to welfare benefits adviser, radio presenter and campaigner for the rights of older people, Judith is a dynamo who doesn’t stop, despite being in her […] More

Claude Mickleson

Claude Mickleson, socialist activist, born 1923. Claude’s story is of a working-class life with all its ups and downs. His different jobs and life experiences provide the backdrop […] More

Conflict and Struggle in the Arms Industry

Note: This booklet is forthcoming, available from 15th October 2022 In this important memoir, Andy Danford brings to life his experience as a worker and senior union representative […] More

Indoctrinating for Empire

The story of how we came to have this Empire is a wonderful tale of adventure and romance Major General Baden-Powell in Scouting for Boys Many children’s ‘classics’, some still in […] More

Hilda Cashmore

Hilda Cashmore front cover depicting the cottages that became Barton Hill Settlement.

Hilda Cashmore (1876-1943), her life and community work in Bristol and beyond. Over 100 years since its foundation, Bristol’s Barton Hill Settlement is still operating as an […] More

The Cry of the Poor

Cry of the Poor front cover with a William Morris print

"Being a Letter from Sixteen Working Men of various trades, to the Sixteen Aldermen of Bristol." This impassioned and lucidly argued letter, written in 1871, set out demands for […] More

Tremors of Discontent

Tremors of Discontent Front cover showing Mike Richardson speaking into a microphone

While there are many academic studies of workers’ resistance and consciousness during the 1970s and 1980s, few accounts relate the personal-political experiences of the activists […] More


De-Convicted cover - man's hands holding prison cell bars and a pencil

This pamphlet analyses British penology by focussing on three case studies, spread across two centuries, all with Bristol connections. Francis Greenway, originally sentenced to […] More

State Snooping

State Snooping front Covers. I man's face split in two, ha;f copper, half crusty activist.

In the 1550s Elizabeth I claimed that she had “no desire to open windows into men’s souls” while seeking to do just that. This pamphlet traces a near 500 year history of British […] More

Recent Events

Marge Evans: The Radcliffe Radical – film […]

Tues 28 Nov - 2.00-3.00pm Bedminster Library: 4 Bedminster Parade, Bedminster, Bristol BS3 4AQ ‘During the depression I used to knock on a door and borrow a chair to stand in so I […] More

Squatters on film

BASE, 14 Robertson Road, Easton, Bristol BS5 6JY Join Bristol Squatted for a pay-as-you-can vegan dinner at the regular BASE Sunday cafe, followed by a showcase of clips from three […] More

Next Bristol Radical Bookfair – with a BRHG talk

It's the time of year to subvert your friends and families with a range of radical gifts at the next Bristol Radical Bookfair on Sunday 26th November, 11-3.30pm. Hosted again by […] More

Making History Then and Now – Bristol Broadsides […]

We are very pleased to have Ian Bild a founding member of the influential Bristol Broadsides and the cast, researchers and organisers of the recent Haunting Ashton Court project […] More

West Street Stories

Did you know that West Street was once the busiest high street in Bedminster? Or that there was a coalmine on the actual street, and the first ever Co-op shop in Bristol was […] More

Newport Chartist Convention – 2023

Time & Location: 04 Nov, 10:00 – 16:00, Newport Cathedral, St Woolos, 105 Stow Hill, Newport NP20 4ED, UK About the Event The annual Newport Chartist Convention will take place […] More

The 1831 Bristol reform riot – a view from the […]

The three days of reform-related rioting in late October 1831 in Bristol were the most serious urban disturbance in the nineteenth century. Major institutions such as the Mansion […] More

Bristol Radical Film Festival – 2023

  The Bristol Radical Film Festival returns this November in collaboration with The Cube Microplex. We will kick off things with a book launch event on November 1st, followed […] More

From Bedminster to Van Diemen’s Land

  In the early 1800s ten female convicts in Bristol Newgate Gaol (now the site of The Galleries shopping centre) were sentenced to ‘transportation beyond the seas’ – […] More

Soup and Stories

Local people of all ages are invited to share their memories and stories of living in the BS3 area and beyond. A local artist will capture these memories “visually”. Have fun with […] More

The radical face of Bedminster in the early 20th […]

Meet: 2.00pm Ropewalk pub - 5 Nelson Parade, Bedminster, Bristol BS3 4JA Come with us on a journey through time and space in Bedminster, Victoria Park and Windmill Hill... This two […] More

The rise and fall of Edward Colston – the real […]

  In November 2014 the Bishop of Bristol, preaching to school students, claimed that ‘speculation’ about the ‘business roots’ of the city’s philanthropic icon, Edward Colston, […] More

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