Bad Blood in Georgian Bristol

The murder of Sir John Dineley

By Steve Poole & Nicolas Rogers
Book Review Details
Author: Steve Poole & Nicolas Rogers
Publisher: Redcliffe Press
Edition: 2022
Page Details
Section: Book Reviews =>
Subjects: Radical Bristol
Posted: Modified:

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 Dineley by his brother Samuel Goodere. The crime took place on a ship which was captained by Goodere and the actual murderers were able seamen under his charge.

But the book is much more detailed than that and is richly researched and written. The narrative delves into various aspects of Georgian Bristol.

Without spoiling the story, a picture is built of Dineley and Goodere who evidently did not like each other much, and the main cause appears to be inheritance and money.

Sir John was very unhappily married and spent more time in court with his wife than in the matrimonial bed, it seemed. He was not a doting father either. His apparent excessive spending on solicitors peeved his brother who felt that the family’s fortunes were going down the drain. This was further exacerbated by arguments over property inheritance. Poole and Rogers paint a fascinating picture of the Georgian court system and family breakdown.

The book continues to centre on the planning and execution of the crime, but it also explains much about Georgian society, including the criminal process, the press and public interest. Other crimes are discussed, as are punishments and criminal trials. There are numerous explanatory illustrations of broadsheets and pamphlets of the day and after, as the crime was still of public interest a century later—and with this book, of course, today.

The crime itself and the detection of the offenders is explained but, without wishing to spoil the story, the perpetrators were more likely to be caught as not. Samuel Goodere was no criminal mastermind and the whole process of murdering his brother was botched and public. How he thought he would avoid detection is anyone’s guess. He seemed to hold hopes that his service in the Royal Navy would help in an Admiralty Court. But to no avail, he was tried at the Bristol assize and suffered a murderer’s fate, a public execution and worse, as did his accomplices.

This is the second collaboration between Steve Poole and Nicholas Rogers on Bristol’s rich history. Their earlier book, Bristol from Below, is, in my view, the best book on Bristol’s history—I believe it should be on every Bristolian’s bookshelf and in every school—however, it is very pricey.

Bad Blood is priced at £20 and is more affordable. I would thoroughly recommend it as an excellent read and an example of history at its very best. I found the book enthralling and captivating.

What is worse than a public execution, I hear you ask? Well read the book and find out.

Steve Mills

BRHG November 2023.

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