Bristol Chronicles 1908
Royal Edward Dock opens
1908 - Edward VII opens the Royal Edward Dock in Avonmouth.
At the end of January the Social Democratic Federation held a meeting in the Haymarket to consider the unemployment situation Prior to the meeting some 500 bags of food and cups of coffee were handed to the men who were addressed by Ernest Bevin of the Bristol Socialist Society. The meeting passed a resolution condemning the inaction of the government.
General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, visited the city in February. He was given a civic reception and addressed a meeting at the Victoria Rooms.
Renewal of the Licence of Rogers Brewery
In February the licensing justices heard an objection to the renewal of the licence of Rogers Brewery. The reason given was that the company employed canvassers who visited the homes of artisans and labourers during the daytime and sought orders from women whilst their husbands were at work. Mr. Wansbrough, who appeared for the objectors, told the bench that during the past year 328 women had been convicted of drunkenness and of those only two were on licensed premises. The magistrates decided that the evidence was not sufficient to justify a refusal to renew the licence.
In March there was a packed meeting at the Colston Hall in support of the Licensing Bill which aimed at putting restrictions upon the licensing trade and was then before Parliament. The Bill was subsequently rejected by the House of Lords.
Francis Gilmore Bamett died
Francis Gilmore Bamett died on 18 March whilst playing a round of golf at Failand. A solicitor by profession, he was one of the earliest pupils at Clifton College and was no doubt influenced by John Percival. He championed many working class causes and gave valuable help to the dockers and the cotton factory operatives during the strikes and demonstrations in 1889. He gave evidence to Royal Commission of Housing the Working Class and sat as an independent city councillor for some 20 years.
Chamber of Commerce
The City Council and the Chamber of Commerce were promoting the new dock at Avonmouth and in March the Hon. Thomas Price, Premier of South Australia, -.‘as invited to inspect the work in progress. He expressed himself satisfied with the arrangements for handling cargoes and with the cold storage facilities.
At the end of March the Education Committee resolved to provide school meals for some 1,000 necessitous pupils. When asked if teachers would eat with children, Alderman Elkins, the chairman, said that they would and observed that this would show that the dinners were such that no one need be afraid of having one.
G.B. Britton & Sons strike
At the beginning of April 31 clickers employed by G.B. Britton & Sons went on strike because they objected to the presence of five non-union men. The dispute was referred to the Kingswood Arbitration Board who unanimously decided that they should return to work.
On 14 April the Rev. J.S. Simon, President of the Wesleyan Conference, unveiled a tablet at 4, Charles Street, St. James’s commemorating the Rev. Charles Wesley’s residence there.
Bristol's Royal Visit
In May it was announced that the King and Queen would be visiting the city in July to open the new dock at Avonmouth. A committee was formed to organise the event comprising Members of Parliament, representatives from the Council, the churches, the military, the Society of Merchant Venturers, the guardians, the municipal charities, education, the chamber of commerce, local offices of government departments, the police, the press, the trades council and other citizens. A fund was set up to decorate the route, to entertain the military on duty and to provide some form of enjoyment for school children.
New Trade for Avonmouth
In June two new freemen were installed. They were the Earl of Dudley, who had recently been appointed Governor General of Australia, and Lord Strathcona who represented Canada in the United Kingdom. No doubt it was hoped that the appointments would help to generate trade to the new dock.
Paper rooms of house with postage stamps?
In the summer of 1908 Mr. Freeman, a retired schoolmaster of Chipping Sodbury, completed an interesting self-imposed task. He had collected stamps and over the years had accumulated a surplus of several thousands of them. Some 18 months previously he had started to paper one of the rooms in his house with them; when completed there were said to be some 56,000.stamps on the walls.
The June Birthday Honours list included a knighthood for Alderman William Howell Davies. He was a leather merchant and had been President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1884. He was a Liberal councillor, chairman of the Docks Committee and Mayor in 1892. He became Member of Parliament for Bristol South in 1906.
Headmaster of Temple Colston School charged with assaulting a pupil
In the same month Frederick George Cooke, the headmaster of Temple Colston School appeared before the magistrates charged with assaulting a pupil; the boy had been caned for talking in church the previous Sunday. The bench decided that the punishment was not proper and reasonable and fined him ten shillings and costs.
Bristol's Royal Visit
The royal visit took place on 9 July. The King and Queen, with Princess Victoria, had arrived by train the previous day and spent the night on the royal yacht Victoria and Albert which had been brought to Avonmouth. On the following day they travelled by train to Temple Meads and drove through the city. The party stopped at the Council House where the Lord Mayor (Alderman E.B. James) was knighted and went on through decorated streets to the Art Gallery for lunch.
On Durdham Down the royal party stopped to hear 10,000 school children sing the National Anthem before travelling from Clifton Down to Avonmouth by train. Once there they boarded the royal yacht which then steamed into the new dock breaking a ribbon. Some 3,000 people then witnessed the King declare the dock open. The ‘Skinner chair’ was on the dais for the King’s use; the chair was said to have belonged to Robert Skinner, Bishop of Bristol in 1636 and had been used by Prince Albert at the launch of the Great Britain in 1843. Between £7,000 and £8,000 had been raised by the committee, a large portion of which was used to provide treats for the aged poor and children.
The Suspension Bridge was illuminated but unfortunately rain caused a cancellation of the fireworks displays in Eastville and St. Andrew’s Parks; they had to be postponed until the following week. The municipal lodging house reported a very large increase in occupancy during the period of the royal visit.
Several meetings to advance the cause of women’s suffrage were held. 50 to 60 new recruits had been signed up and the organisation decided to retain its office in Queens Road. At the final rally on Durdham Down on 19 September the organisers had arranged seven platforms on lorries for the various speakers one of them being Christobel Pankhurst. There was a substantial police presence but, apart from some mild attempts to hamper the speakers, the event went off without incident.
work for unemployed
At the end of the month the Sanitary and Improvement Committee of the Council decided to carry out works on Durdham Down and some street works together with the construction of Eastville Park lake to provide work for the unemployed.
On 5 October Sir Robert Symes died. He was a provision merchant and had been six times Mayor of the city. Sir Robert was for many years a churchwarden of Temple Church and one of the results of his connection with that parish was that, with the co-operation of the vicar, Rev. W. Hazledine, he persuaded the vestry not to renew the leases of five public houses in the parish so that the premises were converted into ordinary business premises. The police superintendent at the time commented that this act was equivalent to saving the work of 12 constables.
Later in the month the Bristol Right to Work Committee organised a public meeting in St.George’ s Park. The chairman Mr. A. Senington, supported by Emest Bevin, announced that the Lord Mayor had agreed to receive a deputation from them.
Charles Townsend died on 4 November. He was a partner in the firm of Ferris & Co, chemists and druggists. He was a Liberal and a city councillor from 1872 until 1892 and an alderman from 1897. He was a Member of Parliament for Bristol North from 1892 until 1895 when he was defeated by Lewis Fry. Mr. Townsend was a Baptist and regularly attended Broadmead Chapel and latterly Tyndale Chapel, Whiteladies Road.
work for unemployed
At the beginning of December the Distress Committee discussed the work in hand. The work at Eastville Park engaged 300 men for 17 weeks in two shifts of 150 men working for four days a week; the wages bill was estimated at £4,000. One of the committee members, Miss Wait, said that over and over again she had been told that the work on Durdham Down was being done in a shilly-shallying half hearted way. The chairman, Alderman George Pearson, responded that as a rule he found that critics knew very little of what it was to dig for eight hours a day and that, if a few of them would try it for an hour, they would soon learn what it was like.
In December Lord Roberts visited the Art Gallery to unveil a scale model of Lucknow as it was at the time of the siege in 1857. The model had been presented by Mr. Heber Mardon.
On 8 December the provision of school dinners was inaugurated. Between 1,200 and 1,300 children were served from a central kitchen in the Ropewalk. The preparation was supervised by Mr. Rameskill from Manchester assisted by a staff of three who had been recruited locally. The meals were distributed in vehicles provided by tradespeople who took them to various local feeding depots. Orders for produce were placed locally.
In December the Lord Mayor opened the new Merrywood Secondary School. The school, which catered for 500 scholars of both sexes, was built by A.J. Colbome and the architect was H. Dare Bryan.
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