De-Convicted – Bristol convicts who got a second chance

Through the stories of three prisoners, this project outlines the history of penology in Britain and the attempts to reform it. The case-studies involve Bristol architect Francis Greenway transported for forgery to become Australia’s leading architect, Douglas Curtis who moved from Cotham Grammar School to Dartmoor Prison to Cambridge University and Steve Robertson, one of the success stories of the Bristol New Careers project. Yet Britain now sends more people to prison than any other country […]

Bristol vs. Blackshirts

During World War Two the Nazis dropped bombs on two of the battlegrounds of working-class Bristolian resistance to Oswald Mosley and his notorious fascist paramilitaries, the ‘Blackshirts’. From the Ropewalk to Melvin Square this project investigates the heroes and villains of inter-war class conflict and reveals the proud history of Bristolian anti-fascism from the very beginnings of the British Union of Fascists (BUF). This project aims to answer some important questions: Why did significant […]

Abolition Shed

Bristol’s memorial landscape is woeful, there’s not one statue to any of the city's brilliant women, and a complete omission of the most important of all, a major memorial to the victims of enslavement - despite citizens calling for just such a thing many times over the past three decades. Apart from a single gallery in the city’s main museum, M Shed, and a notable display to abolitionist John Wesley in the New Room’s Methodist museum, there’s no specific memorial and nothing of any scale. […]

The Hannibal Slave-Ship

  In 1693 the Royal African Company captain Thomas Phillips from Brecon, Wales set sail in the Hannibal from Gravesend to West Africa to purchase enslaved African people to be sold in Barbados. The journey was a disaster. 328 of his African captives died during the voyage, a horrific mortality rate of 47%. In 2018, while researching for the book Nautical Women, (BRHG, 2019), it was discovered that Brecon Town Council had erected a plaque to Phillips in 2010 without reference to his role in […]

Bristol Squatted

  So much of what we love about Bristol was made possible by squatting. Bristolians have taken over buildings and public spaces for housing, protest, art, gigs, raves, libraries, food and laughter from Leigh Woods to Easton. We’ve squatted in the aftermath of the Second World War, during the Miners’ Strike and in response to 21st Century austerity. But the memory of squatted spaces is all too easily lost to eviction and criminalisation. This projects seeks to map when, where and why us and […]

Activists’ Memories

In recent years there have been many initiatives to celebrate the contribution of particular groups in Bristol’s history, but we know a lot of good people and achievements are excluded or forgotten, including older people. We plan to bring their contributions to life to celebrate and share by collecting and publishing their oral histories through the Activists’ Memories project. The project is a collaboration between Bristol Older Peoples’ Forum (BOPF) and Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) […]

James Acland and The Bristolian (1827-1831)

In 1827, radical journalist James Acland launched the West Country’s first daily newspaper. He called it The BRISTOLIAN. Undercutting the advertising rates of existing weekly papers, conducting a lively letter column and breaking the law by publishing at one and a half pence without paying the newspaper stamp tax, Acland’s publication was a muck-raking popular radical paper for the working classes. The paper concentrated on exposing the abuses both of the unreformed Corporation which ran Bristol […]

Edward Colston

A close up of Colston's face from his statue in Bristol's centre
This project page collects together all the research and other materials on the leading slave trader Edward Colston (1636-1721). For more on the campaign to challenge the celebration and memorialisation of Colston see the Countering Colston website.

Bristol’s WWI Conscientious Objectors

Whiteford brothers
Last spring, based on documents in the Central Library, we published details of 47 men from Bristol who were imprisoned as conscientious objectors during World War 1. For moral, religious or political reasons they refused to take part in the war. Many people contacted us having seen these names and provided us with more information about these men or other conscientious objectors. Nationally, Cyril Pearce, has been working for many years to compile a database of conscientious objectors. To date […]

Eastville Workhouse

The Eastville Workhouse project was launched in 2012 after some members of Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) had studied an old ordnance survey map of Ashley Down and Eastville (1902). They noticed that the burial ground for the Barton Regis workhouse at 100 Fishponds Rd, Eastville, marked as 'disused' in 1902, made up part of present-day Rosemary Green just round the corner from where they lived. After two years of research, BRHG members had not only gathered significant evidence that […]