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Bristol Chronicles 1909 | by brizzle born and bred
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Bristol Chronicles 1909

snowstorm provided work for 250 unemployed


1909 - The year started with a severe snowstorm that caused traffic problems in many areas but provided good tobogganing in Bridge Valley Road and Rownham Hill. It also provided work for 250 unemployed men who were engaged to clear the snow.


Old Age Pensions rush to the Post Office


Old Age Pensions became payable at the beginning of the year and there was a rush at the post offices on the morning of the first day. Some 4,000 people in Bristol qualified as being over seventy years of age and in receipt of an annual income of less than £31.1.0s per annum.


unemployed women


At the January meeting of the Distress Committee Dr. Devis raised the question of unemployed women. It was reported that four charwomen had registered and the committee agreed that they should be recommended for employment by the Education Committee.


first woman on the council


In January Agnes Venimore Godwim became a member of Mangotsfield Parish Council; this was the first appearance of a lady as a member of any of the councils adjacent to the city. Miss Godwin lived at Downend and was secretary of the Bristol Women’s Total Abstinence Union.


New School at Parson Street, Bedminster


In the same month the new school at Parson Street, Bedminster was opened by Dr. E.H. Cook, the chairman of the Education Committee. The school had two departments, a senior with provision for 500 pupils and a junior for 530. The cost of the building was in the region of £20,000, the architect was Henry Williams and the builder E. Walters & Son.


Gloucestershire County Cricket Club


Gilbert Jessop was named as the new secretary of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in January. This occasioned some surprise in the city as he was captain of the club, and an association of the two offices was practically unknown in county cricket circles.


Leigh Woods for sale


Latimer records how in 1864 Sir Greville Smyth intended to sell a large portion of land in Leigh Woods for building purposes and that a number of public-spirited citizens formed the Leigh Woods Land Company to purchase the land. In January 1909 it was announced that George A. Wills intended to buy the land (which included Nightingale Valley) from the company and to transfer it to trustees for the enjoyment of the public. Mr. Wills later gave the sum of £4,000 for the maintenance of the woods.


Sir Frederick Wills died


Sir Frederick Wills died at Cannes on 18 February; he was a director of the Imperial Tobacco Company. A Liberal, he succeeded Lewis Fry as Member of Parliament for Bristol North from 1900 until 1906. Sir Frederick was a generous donor to Bristol University.


St. Albans church opens


St. Albans church at Westbury Park opened at the end of March. It was designed by Rodway & Dening and built by R. Wilkins & Sons.


Bristol Grammar School


At the beginning of April Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith opened the Fenwick Richards wing at Bristol Grammar School. The plans had been prepared by Frank Wills and the builder was S. Martin & Son.


Serious Fire William Brice & Co, cabinet makers. Redcross Street


On 7 April there was a serious fire that destroyed a sawmills at Redcross Street belonging to William Brice & Co, cabinet makers. During the fire brigade’s efforts to extinguish the blaze Fireman Albert Smith was killed by a falling roof.


remarkable contraption ?


On 14 April a remarkable contraption attracted the interest of a number of spectators at Broad Quay. It had wheels but some said it looked like an airship and others like a caravan. In fact it belonged to George M. Schillings, a champion long distance walker, who was said to be walking 20,000 miles for a wager, pulling the apparatus which he used as a shelter in which to rest. Mr. Schillings was over six feet in height and had one arm.




At the end of the same month the Education Committee agreed to employ some young people as pupil teachers provided they were residents of the city. The pay was £25 per annum for young men and £20 for young women.


Colston Hall


The Bristol Band of Hope Union held its May Festival at the Colston Hall. A choir of 700 voices conducted by Mr. G.T. Cooke sang a number of choruses including ‘Hark the Temperance Call’.


new contract for Cowlins


In May it was announced that William Cowlin & Son had secured the contract to construct the first cold storage warehouse on the island of Jamaica. It was sited at Kingston.


Empire Day


Empire Day was celebrated on 24 May. Flags were flown on many churches and public buildings and at each school there was an address on the rights and duties of citizenship. Four pupils and a teacher from each of 65 schools attended a ceremony at the Corn Exchange to receive a Union Jack from the Lady Mayoress.


H. Dare Bryan, the architect died


H. Dare Bryan, the architect died on 25 May aged 41 years.


Bristol University


The Royal Charter was received by the University on 27 May.


The Dutch House


In June the works of improvement affecting the Dutch House were completed; they were supervised by W.S. Skinner It was desired to widen the footpath and a number of councillors took the view that the whole building should be demolished. However the views of the preservationists prevailed and the work, carried out by William Cowlin & Son, involved the preservation of the architectural features whilst setting back the ground floor frontage. An electric lift to all floors was installed.


Merchant Venturers


On 24 June the rebuilt Merchant Venturers Technical College in Unity Street was dedicated by the Bishop of Bristol and formally opened by the Rt. Hon. Lord Reay.


Brentry Inebriates Home


In July 29 men who had escaped from Brentry Inebriates Home appeared before the Henbury Petty Sessional Court. There had been some dissatisfaction at the home because they had been expecting a reduction in their sentences following an amendment to the Inebriates Act; there were also complaints about the quality of the bread. As a consequence they refused to work and walked out of the premises. The magistrates sentenced each of them to one month’s hard labour.


Kingswood Drains


For a number of years there had been complaints about the lack of drainage provision in the Kingswood district, particularly with reference to the pollution of Siston and Warmley Brooks. Eventually the work was put in hand and completed in September 1909.




Two Bristol suffragettes were released from prison in September. Mrs. Arnold Willcox and Miss May Allen had been convicted of breaking windows at the Treasury when Mr. Asquith refused to receive Mrs. Pankhurst. They were sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and whilst in prison they refused to wear prison uniform, kicked a wardress in self-defence and broke the cell windows; as a consequence they had to serve eight days’ close confinement in the punishment cells and went on hunger strike for three days. On their return to Bristol there was a reception presided over by Miss Annie Kenny, the secretary of the Bristol branch of Women’s Political and Social Union.


Bristol wins bread award


At the Bakers’ and Confectioners’ Exhibition held at the Agricultural Hall in London in September E. Luton of North Street, Ashton Gate, gained five first prizes out of a possible seven for white bread.


The baker had received a total of 120 cups. medals and diplomas and been five times champion of the United Kingdom.


Mad Bull broken loose in Wade Street


In the evening of 22 September there was mild panic in Redland when an infuriated bull that had broken loose from a slaughter house in Wade Street appeared upon the scene. The beast knocked over a lady cyclist in Blackboy Hill but was eventually captured by Inspector Warburton and three constables.


Serious Fire Bristol Distillery Company in Redcliffe Street


In the same week there was a serious fire at the premises of the Bristol Distillery Company in Redcliffe Street where grain, malt and maize were stored. The premises were almost totally destroyed and adjoining buildings threatened. The fire was attended by the brigade using a fire float.


Bristol Cathedral


In October the sheriff, Mr. Stanley Badock, unveiled a tablet in the Cathedral recording the Rev. Sydney Smith’s connection with the city; he was a canon from 1828 until 1831.


Freedom of the City


On 28 October there was a special meeting of the Council to confer honorary freedoms on Joseph Storrs Fry and Henry Overton Wills. The latter was unable to attend owing to ill health.


Chief Constables wife heavily in debt, and drinking to to excess


At the beginning of November the wife of Henry Allbutt, the former Chief Constable, was granted a decree of divorce. She told the court that he was heavily in debt at the time of their marriage and that she and her family gave him financial assistance on a number of occasions. She also complained that he drunk to excess and that in 1905 she had to nurse him whilst he was suffering from delirium tremers.


Winston Churchill


Winston Churchill came to the city in November to address the Anchor Society at the Colston Hall. On arrival at Temple Meads Theresa Garnett, a suffragette, struck him twice with a dog whip. She appeared before the justices together with Vera Wentworth, who broke a window at Bristol Liberal Club, Jessie Lawes who threw a stone from a tramcar to the Colston Hall and Mary Allen who broke a window at the office of the Board of Trade in Baldwin Street. They were all sentenced to one month’s imprisonment without hard labour. Ellen Wines Pitman received two months’ imprisonment for breaking a window at the Post Office in Small Street. During the following week Miss Christobel Pankhurst addressed a large meeting in the Colston Hall.


From the South Pole to Bristol


At the beginning of December Sir Ernest Shackleton visited the city and received a rousing reception when he spoke about the South Pole expedition of 1907-9. He was supported by Raymond Priestley, a Bristolian, who was a geologist and a member of the expedition.


Clifton College


In the same month John Edward King, the headmaster of Bedford Grammar School, was appointed as the new head of Clifton College in succession to the Rev. A.A. David who had been appointed as headmaster of Rugby School.


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Taken on October 17, 2009