Update – Brecon plaque commemorates slave trader

Should society memorialise a slave trader?

In the Welsh town of Brecon, upon an old wall, along Captains Walk (a name based on a fiction), is a slate plaque commemorating the life of a slave trader who resided in the town. The plaque was commissioned by Brecon Town Councillors in 2009, erected in October 2010 (during Black History Month), and makes no reference to the fact that Captain Phillips was a 17th century slaver. Captain Thomas Phillips was the commander of the infamous slave ship the Hannibal in the 1690s. He was directly […]

An Alternative History of Westbury-on-Trym Workhouse

Gilbert’s Act of 1782. ‘An act for the better relief and employment of the poor’

In November, 2019 Louise Ryland-Epton gave an engaging talk entitled ‘By Pity and by Terror? A Contrary View of Workhouses’ at the M Shed, Bristol as part of the UWE Regional History Centre series of talks. As I had read and examined reports on shocking victimisation, neglect, exploitation and dehumanising treatment of later workhouse inmates I was intrigued to hear about an alternative, pre 1834 Poor Law Act, workhouse erected in Westbury-on-Trym. We are all familiar with the many indignant […]

The South West Tribunal

Conscientious Objectors in WWII

Foreword During the Second World War, over 60,000 men and 1,000 women applied to register as conscientious objectors (COs) in England, Wales and Scotland. Although this was at least three times as many as in the First World War; it has remained something of an under reported history. The experience of First World War and Second World War COs vary in a number of ways. Sympathetically framed legislation and the fact that the tribunals came under the auspices of the Ministry of Labour rather than […]

The last piece of the jigsaw

Solving the mystery of the forgotten paupers of 100 Fishponds Road

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them Introduction One evening in 2010 some members of Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) were poring over some old maps of Eastville and discovered a forgotten burial ground at Rosemary Green, just round the corner from where they lived. Further investigation showed that the site was in fact the burial ground for Eastville Workhouse at 100 Fishponds Road, an enormous institution that had opened in 1847 and whose buildings were demolished […]

The National Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

A Small Island Museum with a Big Story

  If you walk down Market Street in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, you will come across a grand stone building that was once the court house and now known as the Old Court House. It was built in 1747 on the site of the first city market, and to its pride is the oldest building still in use in the city. The Old Court House was designed by prominent English-born architect, Peter Harrison and financed by a tax levied on Antigua’s slave owners. It has become the perfect home […]

The Edward Colston ‘corrective’ plaque

Sanitising an uncomfortable history

Introduction Just over a year ago a project was launched to research, design and install a ‘corrective’ plaque on the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol City Centre. It was claimed by the originator of the idea, Bristol City Council’s Principal Historic Environment Officer, that the new version was needed to stop the statue being damaged by unauthorised ‘protest plaques’. Several of these have been fixed to the statue over the last couple of years and removed by Bristol City Council. It […]

Lest we forget – A Life of Pleasure?

The machine gun, colonial massacres and the Victorian theatre

A Life of Pleasure After a tip off last year by a member of BRHG I took a trip to Bristol Archives to take a look at some diaries written by Harry Bow in the 1890s. Bow, a Bristolian, was an enthusiastic 'army spotter', that is, he loved to record and illustrate public displays of the British military in the late Victorian period. Amongst the notes and beautiful line drawings recording parades, army camps and the use of cavalry against Bristolian trade unionists and their supporters on 'Black […]

Myths within myths…

Edward Colston and that statue

In the light of recent moves to place a ‘corrective’ plaque on the statue of Edward Colston in the centre of Bristol and calls for it to be removed to a museum it seems the time is right to investigate the origins of this monument and the claim emblazoned on it that it was: Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city Looking into the history of the statue demonstrates the same myth making that has characterised the popular memory of […]

Should society memorialise a Slave Trader?

The curious story of Brecon Town Council and the Plaque in honour of Captain Thomas Phillips, Slave Trader (circa 1664-1713).

If you were to walk around the rear side of the former house and home of Captain Thomas Phillips in Brecon, located along Captains Walk, you will notice a rather handsome slate plaque memorialising his life. The Phillips’ family house is now St Ursula’s Convent, a former catholic school. The plaque was paid for by the people of Brecon, and was erected (though not without controversy), in 2010. It reads innocently enough: CAPTAIN THOMAS PHILLIPS Havard House, Brecon First made this Captain’s Walk […]

Frederick Douglass in Bristol

Time for the African-American Abolitionist’s Visit to the City to be Commemorated with a Heritage Plaque?

After the Frederick Douglass event in the city on Bank Holiday Monday (28 May, 2018) in which BRHG members took part and which drew several hundred people we are publishing this article by Laurence Fenton. Laurence has just written a new book on the African American abolitionist's visits to Victorian Britain and is calling for a more permanent memorial to this important moment in the history of the city and the struggle against slavery. BRHG fully support this initiative. While actions from the […]