Bristol - 1450 onwards
The War of the Roses (1455 - 1485)
The War of the Roses was a power struggle between Queen Margaret, the wife of Henry VI and the Lancastrians who took for their emblem the Red Rose and Edward of York, who took the White Rose. It appears that most of the towns in England at the time were left relatively unscathed by the battles that were raged around them, but the Barons would lead their followers into many bloody battles where thousands were killed.
In common with many other places, Bristol seemed to have changed sides more than once during the conflict. In 1456 Queen Margaret arrived in Bristol and was royally entertained by the Canynges. Edward IV of York arrived here in 1461 and was similarly greeted, again, most of the cost was born by Canynges, who was now Mayor for the fourth time. Whilst here, Edward climbed the tower of St Ewen, and looking out of the east window watched two of his enemies, Sir Baldwin Fulford and John Heysant executed in the High Street.
Ten years later Margaret again arrived in Bristol where she was given supplies and received reinforcements when some of her local supporters joined her army. Her plan was to link up with another army in Wales that had been raised by her husbands family. At that time the River Severn was impossible to bridge, and so she made her way north to cross where it was narrower. When she arrived at Gloucester she found that Edward had ordered that town to be shut against her and she was heavily defeated a little further north at Tewksbury. Edward didn't forget the aid Bristol had given her and heavy fines were levied against the town.
It was around this time that another of the great baronial feuds was fought to the finish near Bristol. For many years there had been a quarrel between two family's, the Berkeleys and the Talbots, regarding an estate of land. In 1451 James, Lord Berkeley, and his sons had been captured by Lord Lisle. The Berkeleys, in return for their lives, were forced to sign a document giving up their claim on the disputed land. A truce followed, but not for long.
In 1469 Lord Herbert, a brother-in-law of Viscount Lisle was killed in a fight inside the town. The feud flared up again with the townsfolk of Bristol siding with Lord Berkeley, who was very popular. In 1470 Lord Lisle wrote a letter to Lord Berkeley challenging him to single combat. Lord Berkeley refused but instead offered to meet him with his retainers at his back. Lord Berkeley stated that they should meet at Nibley Green and that he would not bring no more than a tenth of the men he was able to muster.
Lord Berkeley lied, he not only bought his own men but those of his his brothers, Maurice and Thomas. In all he commanded around 1,000 men at Michaelwood Chase, between the villages of North Nibley and Tortworth. Lord Lisle leaving his Manor at Wooton, was unknowingly hopelessly outnumbered, bringing with him just 300. Lord Lisle was struck in the face by the first volley of arrows, he was then stabbed numerous times.
In all around 150 men were killed. Lord Berkeley led his men to Wooton Manor who plundered it then burnt it to ashes. This was the last of the great Baronial battles that took place in England.
In 1485, the War of the Roses finally came to an end when Henry VII came to the throne following the battle of Bosworth.
King Henry VII, who ruled from 1485 to 1509, wanted to make sure that no one would be rich and powerful enough to threaten his throne. He and his ministers set about taxing the rich and limiting their power. Six months after being crowned he visited Bristol in 1486, he visited us again in 1490. Both times he was lavishly entertained. After his second visit he imposed a 'fine' on all the citizens of Bristol worth over £20 of 5% of their wealth. The fine was imposed because the wives of the wealthy men of Bristol were so finely dressed.
Adams's Chronicles of Bristol has this entry for 1490 :-
"This year divers streets in Bristow were new paved, that is to say, Horse Streat, Knight Smith Streat, Brodestreat, Reclifstreat, St. Thomas Streat, Tuckerstreat, the Backe, St. Mary Port Streat and Lewins Meade, and the High Crosse painted and gilded; the doing whereof cost xxl [£20]. And this year the King and the Lord Chancelour came to Bristow and lay at St. Augustine's. And the commons of Bristow were made to pay King Henry 5 p Cent. for a benevalence."
The people put up with this sort of behaviour as England was finally free of the Civil Wars that had plagued it for the last thirty years. The English could, at last, devote their energies to better things. In Europe the Renaissance had long been underway, now it was our turn. Interest in art, literature and science was revived, as were the voyages of discovery by our merchants and navigators.
This is not to say that interest in these things had completely died. To the merchants, some of which had grown very rich during the previous years, it wasn't such a financial risk to send out ships looking for new lands and new markets. This had started in the previous century - see Voyages of Discovery for more details.
The following extracts from Adams's Chronicles of Bristol show the diversity of life in and around the city of Bristol in the early 16th century. They show the extent of religeous intolerance and Christian compassion, how laws were changed and the way that the "commonalty" received them, the ever present dangers of disease, Royal visitors and which roads were repaired. One very important entry for 1542 shows when Bristol ceased to be a town and became a city.
Religious dissent, 1498 :-
"This year there was no court in Temple fee, no baily nor constable there for 14 weeks. Also many were apprehended in Bristow for their consciences, which papists call heresy, where some were burned, and some abjured."
Robert Thorne was mayor in 1514 :-
"This Robert Thorne was knight in civil, and had all the rule of white soap. He gave 500l [£500] to the use of cloth-making, and did also give the greatest alms that ever were given in Bristow."
Newgate prison, 1517 :-
"This year whereas there was a custom in Bristow for the relief of prisoners in Newgate that every one that brought anything to be sold into the market should pay to the jailer for pitching down of every pot a halfpenny; because the jailers did convert it to their own profit and wronged poor prisoners thereby, one Mr. Richard Abbington to reform the abuse, and to ease the country people, with the consent of the mayor, this Mr Jay, put down this disordered custom; and the said Abbington of his own costs purchased a maintenance for the prisoners to find them victuals, wood and straw."
A Royal visit, 1534 :-
"This year on the 18th day of August King Henry had his repast for him and his train unto his manor of Thornebury, where he continued 10 days; and for as much as His Grace determined to come to Bristow had not the plague then reigning here, therefore Mr Thomas White, Mr Nicholas Thorne and the Chamberlain of Bristow, by consent of Mr [Roger] Cooke, mayor, and common council of the town, the 20th of August resorted to Thornebury; and there in the name of the said mayor and commonalty presented unto the King ten fat oxen and 40 sheep towards his hospitality: and unto Queene Anne one cup with a cone of silver gilded, weighing 28 ounces, with a hundred marks of gold in the same, as a gift from His Majestie's town and his chamber of Bristow."
I wonder what the thinking was that the King couldn't go to a town that had the plague but could still receive people from that town. Another thing is, just how many were there in the "train" that they could eat their way through a flock of sheep in ten days?
Bristol becomes a city, 1542 :-
"In the month of July 1542 the town of Bristow was proclaimed a city and called Bristoll, and Paule Bush was made bishop and made resident of St. Augustine's abbey which was then appointed to be called Trinitie college of Bristoll."
The entry above is interesting in that Adams, in the entries dated before 1542, referred to the Bristow, after this date he used Bristoll. This suggests that the name of the city really did have its name changed by law. It is very difficult for me to verify this as the copy of the Chronicles I've copied this from (which is available in Bristol Central Library) is itself a translation, as are the Red Books that are also available there. Authors of the other books I've used may also have had their own ideas on how it should be spelled. As for me, I've tried to keep the original spelling and punctuation of these very old books in the passages I've quoted.
Plague, storm and explosion, 1545 :-
"This year was a great plague in Bristoll which continued a whole year. And the 17th of July 1545 here was a marvellous great thunder, lasting from 8 of the clock at night until 4 in the morning, at which instant Mr. Richard Abbington died and the thunder ceased. And this year a ship at the quay was fired by breaking of a gun chamber, which killed 3 men."
Commerce, 1546 :-
"The 26th of July 1546 it was proclaimed at the High Crosse of this city
that the 4 gates of the same should be free and lawful for all manner [of] strangers and their goods whatsoever going out or
coming in at all times, and men upon lawful business; and the Backe and quay to be free for all maner merchandries except
Also this year the King made a mint in the castle of Bristoll for coining of money, and there likewise put printing in practice."
Civil unrest, 1549 :-
"This year in May was a great rising in this city; and many men broke down hedges and thrust down ditches that were enclosed near the city; and then they made an insurrection against the mayor [William Jay], who with the council and many armed men in their defence went into the Marsh, where the matter was taken up, and within 4 days after the chief rebels were taken one after another and put into ward, but none of them were executed. The walls of Bristoll and the castle were armed with men and ordnance, and most of gates made new, with watch and ward every day for fear of rebellion."
It wasn't only the people of Bristol, there was unrest all through England due to the land enclosures. This would have serious consequences for the people. Without common land they couldn't graze their animals, collect plants for eating or get the odd rabbit for their pots.
Road repairs and sickness, 1550 :-
"The place of justice called the Towsey of Bristoll was builded this
year. And the steep street going up towards St. Michaell's was brought evener and lower, and pitched with steps as it is
There was an order taken about the admiralty, that all strangers that took money for anchorage of our merchants beyond the sea, should pay like anchorage here.
And this year the sweating sickness reigned in England and wheat was sold for 4s 8d a bushel, and the people could scant get bread for money; but the mayor and council provided well for them, causing every baker to make bread for the commons."
Pestilence, 1551 :-
"This year was the greatest mortality by pestilence in Bristoll that any man knew for the season, which was from Easter to Michaelmas, where of many people died."
Coining, 1555 :-
"The 4th of April 1555 four men were hanged, drawn and quartered in Bristoll for coining of money viz. John Walton, Robert Haddy, Gilbert Sheath and John White."
By 1568 the population of Bristol had grown to over 6,000. Nearly all of these however, lived within the confines of the old city walls and so lived in the same area people had been living for over 200 years. As the great baronial battles came to an end the merchants felt more comfortable moving away from the crowded city into more pleasant surroundings outside.
Bristol in 1568
People like the Canynges, rich merchants, would eat quite well, even though they lacked variety in their food. Meat or fish would be eaten twice a day. Dinner would be eaten around nine or ten in the morning and supper around five in the evening. Winter fodder for animals being rare, fresh meat would only be available in the spring or summer. Most of the farm animals would be killed during the autumn and the meat either salted or smoked for use through the winter. The meat could also be spiced or sweetened with honey, sugar was a very expensive luxury.
Wheat flour was also a luxury; the flour for bread and cakes more usually made from oats, barley or beans.
Forks, although in use in the kitchen would not become common at the dinner table until the 17th Century. Wine or ale would be drunk from vessels would be made of pewter, horn or wood and the food eaten off of pewter or wooden plates.
If this sounds spartan the poor had a very limited choice. Fish was always available but meat was a rare luxury. Potatoes, which in some form or another, make up a staple of British meals today had only just been discovered by Raleigh in the Americas. The more common food for most people being cabbage, leeks and bean bread.
Common rooms were becoming rarer as separate rooms were becoming fashionable in all dwellings. Thatched houses were by now considered as far too high a fire risk in Bristol's narrow streets and in 1574 the use of thatch for roofing was banned.
Out in the streets, things were as bad as ever. The streets were narrow and dirty, there were a number of city ordinances to try and alleviate this problem but they were ignored. There was one "Raker" employed to keep away the worse of the rubbish, but he depended for his wages on the goodwill of the people. There were no lights after dark and no police to keep order. The paving outside the houses was the responsibility of the householder, if they couldn't keep them clean I doubt whether they'd be kept repaired.
Queen Elizabeth I's visit
Queen Elizabeth I was first expected in 1570 and in preparation for this the the council repaired the roads. The visit was postponed until Saturday, 14th August 1574 and rates to the value of £535 1s 7d were raised. The council borrowed another £450 from the poor fund and the Dean and Chapter gave £5. Altogether the visit cost Bristol around £1,000. The council went to a lot of trouble to show the city off, the High Cross and city gates were renovated, fifty three barges of sand were used to cover the roads. Two tons of gunpowder were ordered and uniforms, in the City livery, made for four hundred soldiers. Elaborate pageants, speeches of welcome and entertainments for the Queen and her Court were planned for the week that they were here. This must have been a major undertaking especially as the plague once again came to Bristol, Adams's Chronicle of Bristol says that 2,000 people died in the city during 1574 / 1575. Not only that, but on the night of the 13th August the gunpowder stored at the Pelican Inn blew up killing five people.
Arriving at Lawford's Gate, she was met by the Mayor, Aldermen and other prominent citizens, a boy dressed as Fame made a speech of welcome. Very little of the speeches survive but part of Fame's speech was :-
"Asid they side thear townishe trashe and works of gredy gayen,
And turned their toils to sports and mirth and warlike pastimes playn."
another part of his speech ran :-
"No sooner was pronounced the name, but babes in street 'gan leap,
The youth, the age, the rich, the poor, came running all on heap,
And, clapping hands, cried mainly out, "O blessed is the hour!
Our Queen is coming to the town, with princely train and power.""
On finishing the speech he threw a garland into the air to the cheers of the crowd.
From there the procession, which included the trade companies or guilds, moved to St John's Gate, where three other boys, dressed as Salutation, Gratulation and Obedient Goodwill were to give speeches. The procession was a little late and there was wasn't time for Goodwill to give his speech. Part of this speech was to run :-
"Yet if the Prince would stay, or if men might make choice,
Of one no bigger than myself, to speak in city's voice."
The Queen was accommodated in the recently built Great House on St. Augustine's Back, near the site of the present Colston Hall; the house belonged to Mr John Young who was later knighted by the Queen for his hospitality. On entering the house for the first time 300 soldiers fired their muskets, this was followed by the report of 130 pieces of ordnance being fired from the castle and city walls.
Queen Elizabeth I arriving at St. John's Gate ~ August 1574
The following day the Queen attended a service at the Cathedral, during which an hymn specially composed for the occasion was sung "by a very fine boy". There was then another service at St Mary Redcliffe.It was during this visit that Queen Elizabeth I was said to have made the famous remark of St. Mary Redcliffe church :-
"the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England."
After the services a two or three day pageant followed. There were mock battles at the Castle and between ships on the docks. The sailors in the "battles" were afterwards given 6 barrels of beer and 6 dozen bottles of ale. During the battles various speeches were made, to help the Queen understand better what was going on a man swam the river and presented her with a book, bound in green velvet, of the various speeches being made. After delivering his own speech he jumped back into the river and swam to the opposite bank. As the mock battle ended a figure known as "City" gave a speech :-
"Our trade doth stand on civil leif, and there our glory lies;
And not on strife, the ruin of states, a storm that all destroy.
We venture goods and lives, ye know, and travel seas and land.
To bring by traffic heaps of wealth and treasure to your land.
And kiss the steps where she doth tread, that keeps her country thus
In peace and rest and perfect stay; wherefore the God of peace,
In peace by peace our peace preserve, and her long life increase."
The Queen's visit ended with a galley trip down the Avon to the Kingroad just off Avonmouth.Robert Ricart was the town clerk of Bristol at the time, in his Kalendar he described the visit :-
1574 - This yere on Satterday, being the xiii day of August, the Queene came to this citie, and Mr Mayor and the Common Counsell ridinge with foote clothes, receaved her highnes within Laffardes gate. And ther Mr Mayor delyvered the gilt Mace unto her Majestie, and she then presentlie delyvered it to him againe. And so Mr Mayor knelinge whiles Mr John Popham esqier, Recorder of this citie, made an Oracon, did after it was ended stand up, and delyvered a faire purse wrought with silke and golde having an hundred poundes in golde in it, unto her highnes. And thereupon Mr Mayor and his brethen toke theire horses, and Mr Mayor rode nighe before the Queen betweene two Sergantes-at-armes. And the residewe of the Common Counsell rode next afore the Nobilitie and Trumpeters, and so passed throughe the towne unto Mr John Yonges howse, where she lay until Satterday then next followinge. And duringe her abode here (amonge other thinges devised for plesure) there weare 400 soldiers in one sute of apparell, whereof 300 weare harquebussiers and 100 pikemen in corselettes. Also there was made a great large forte standing in Trenemil meade over againste Gibtaylor, which was assaulted by land and water 3 daies. And there was also another litle forte called the base fortt, standinge upon the hill beyond, which was wonne the first night that the assault was given. And the Queene was there at every assault duringe the saide three daise, for whose standinge there was builded a large scaffolde of tymber in the Marshe. Whiche martiall experiment beinge very costlie and chargeable (especially in gonnepowder), the Queene and Nobilitie liked verie well of, and gave Mr Mayor and his brethren greate thankes and theire doinges.
The ceremony with the Mace symbolised the Mayor relinquishing his authority to the Queen, by returning it back to him she symbolised her authority over the City and the Mayor's dependence on her for favour.
Spelling and grammar seems to have been a matter of personal taste and mood in those days (some of us still carry on this tradition). The extract from Ricart's Kalendar appears almost word for word in Adams's Chronicles of Bristol.
The Queen's visit to Bristol was not all fun and games. Bristol's foreign trade had done well in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, but now it looked as if there might be war with Ireland and Spain. six years before Spanish ships had attacked Hawkins in the bay of San Juan d'Ulloa. As a reprisal Spanish ships were attacked in the English Channel and Drake had been attacking Spanish ships in Panama. Lord Burleigh, the Queen's Secretary joined her in Bristol, as did emmissaries from Spain. A treaty was signed that gave England another twelve years of peace. This document, the Treaty of Bristol, was signed on 21st August 1574.
The Queen's visit was over, but before she left there was another speech at the city gates :-
"Our joy is joined with grievous groans our triumph turns to tears
The branch whose blossom gladness brought a bitter berry leaves.
In house and street where joy was heard is moan and mourning noise
The summer day is dimmed with clouds, eclipsed are our joys.
The loadstar leaves our wished course, and climbs the heavens high;
Our sovereign will no longer lord in walls of Bristol lie."
During this last speech a schoolmaster, who thought he should have been reading it, created so much of a disturbance that the speech had to be abandoned.
In May 1924, a re-enactment of the procession took place at Ashton Court, this was later performed at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, London.
The Bristol Pageant ~ Ashton Court ~ May 1924
The Great House
The Great House has a varied and interesting history. When the monasteries were dissolved in 1534, the house and grounds of the Carmelite Friary were sold to the Corporation, who later sold them to a wealthy merchant named John Young. Young built the Great House on the site and was knighted for the entertainment he laid on for Queen Elizabeth I in 1574. After building the Great House, Young went on to build the Red Lodge, which is the only surviving Tudor interior in Bristol, on Park Row.
Queen Elizabeth, wasn't the only royal to stay at the Great House. Anne, the wife of James I, stayed there in 1612. Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I spent a night there in 1644. By this time the Great House was falling into disrepair, and beds had to be borrowed from the landlord of the Red Lion Inn.
In 1645, thePrince of Wales, later to become Charles II stayed here and things were a little better. Five city councilors lent beds and bedding, and the Council bought a pewter service for £19. Charles revisited the town in 1663 and a banquet was held in the Great House, James II was similarly entertained in 1687.
A few years later the building became a sugar refinery, sugar and its refining being a major industry in Bristol for some time. In 1707 the house was sold to Edward Colston who founded his school there. In 1861 the school moved to Stapleton and the Colston Hall Company erected the first Colston Hall there. The Colston Hall remains as one of the city's best venues for all kinds of musical entertainment. In 1985 I even appeared there as part of the Military Massed Bands gala evening.
Dressed as French and Russian troops for the finale
the 1812 Overture ~ Military Massed Bands Spectacular ~ Colston Hall ~ 1st March 1985
The Red lodge, in Park Row, was originally built by John Young in the 16th Century. In 1854, the house was bought Lady Byron, the widow of the famous poet. She gave the house to Mary Carpenter, one of the originators of the Reformatory system for poor girls. The Lodge is famous for it's oak room, and remains the most intact Tudorinterior in Bristol. In 1920, the Corporation acquired it and the building is now in the trust of the Bristol Savages, a club of artists and art lovers.
In ' Voyages', I showed how in the 15th Century, Bristol was in the forefront of voyages of discovery, now we'll move on to the colonisation of the new found countries. In 1583, one of Bristol's merchants, Robert Aldworth, sponsored an expedition led by Sir Humphrey Gilbert to found a colony in Newfoundland. Sir Humphrey lost his life in the ship Squirrel, and the colony failed.
Richard Hakluyt's book Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation was no doubt instrumental in spurring such endevours on. Aldworth, undeterred by the Squirrel episode, joined forces with another merchant, Whitson and other people and fitted out an expedition of their own.
They fitted out two ships, the Speedwell of 50 tons, captained by Martin Pring, and the Discoverer of 26 tons, captained by William Brown. The two ships were loaded with tools and beads for barter with any natives they might meet, and they set sail in 1603. After a good voyage they rounded Cape Cod into Massachusetts Bay. Crossing this, they anchored in what they named Whitson Bay, and named the high ground Mount Aldworth. Whitson Bay was later renamed by the Pilgrim Fathers to Plymouth Harbour. The ships also had on board two mastiffs, Fool and Gallant and these proved useful in warding off the natives who looked like they might attack some of the crew.
After a stay of a few weeks the two ships returned with a cargo of Sassafras, which was then much in demand as a medicine. More importantly they also bought back valuable information about the new country.
In 1606, King James I granted permission for the Plymouth Company of knights, merchants and others of Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth for the colonisation of Ancient Norumbega, Northern Virginia, lying between 38 and 45 degrees north. It must be remembered that at this time practically the whole of the American east coast was called Virginia.
Martin Pring set out again for America, but little is known about this trip except that the financiers, Sir Fernando Gorges and Sir John Popham were sufficiently encouraged to attempt further efforts at colonisation.
In 1620 it was to the Plymouth Company that the Pilgrim Fathers went to secure passage to America. The American colonies were not formed solely by the religious refugees of Britain and Europe but jointly with the help of the business sense of merchants from Bristol and other cities.
In 1578, Anthony Parkhurst wrote a glowing account of the fisheries off the coast of America to Hakluyt. This shortly led to the formation of 'The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London and Bristol for the Colony or Plantation of Newfoundland in the Southern and Eastern Parts'. Wow, what a mouthful, I'd have liked to have seen their headed notepaper!
In 1610, John Guy became the first Governor of Newfoundland, leading a group of colonists from Bristol. This colony, like several before it, was a failure. One of the reasons was that Guy lacked authority, both with the pirates who by now were using Newfoundland to refit, and with the fishermen of ports other than London and Bristol.
Eight years later, in 1618, John Barker and members of the Society of Merchant Venturers of Bristol had bought land on the west coast of Conception Bay from The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London and Bristol for the Colony or Plantation of Newfoundland in the Southern and Eastern Parts and founded the colony of Bristol Hope at Harbour Grace. This colony was a success and a further link to Bristol was forged.
Captain James of Bristol was the first Englishman to spend a winter on Canadian soil. The aim of the expedition was to 'discover a passage by the North West into the southern Seas' they were also to visit Japan and circumnavigate the world Westward. Captain Foxe, who was a Yorkshireman charged with the same gaols, ridiculed Captain James, who was trained more as a lawyer than a seaman. On 3rd May 1631, the 70 ton Henrietta Maria with a crew of 20, two boys and supplies for 18 months left harbour.
On June 4th, they reached Greenland, here very bad weather caused the ship to hit an iceberg, a boat containing stores and the spare anchors was lost. Foundering, the ship then got stuck on rocks and was battered by gales for several hours. The crew secured the ship to the rocks to help prevent further damage and waited on an ice floe to await their fate. If the ship was lost, so were they. Miraculously, the ship was saved, and even the missing boat turned up unharmed. They repaired the ship and built a stone cairn on the place they called 'Harbour of God's Providence'.
At the end of August, Foxe's ship was sighted and Captain James invited him on board. In his log, Foxe was scathing of James and of the meal he was provided with. He had decided the only safe thing to do was to return home, this Foxe did. James carried on and earned his place in history.
Captain James spent three months looking for a passage from Hudson Bay to the Pacific. The ice was now closing in and leaving it too late to return he decided to spend the winter ashore. Three wooden houses, with sail cloth for roofs were built, one was used for living and the others were used as kitchens. To prevent the ship being crushed by ice she was sunk in shallow water. Before this could be done another storm carried away one of the anchors and the rudder. Weeks later the anchor was retrieved by digging for two days through the ice, the rudder was found five weeks later by probing through the ice with a lance. These events makes today's Arctic explorers with man made fibres, self-heating food, GPS, radio and video telecommunications and helicopter support seem positively mollycoddled.
In June, just as it looked as if they might get away unscathed, someone set some of the tinder dry scrubland afire. The following day it looked as if the camp was endangered. The sails were thrown into the sea to protect them and the stores were carried back to the ship, which by now had been refloated and repaired.
Eventually they were ready to depart. James was keen to spend the summer continuing the expedition but by now his men were ready to sail for home, James relented and the ship returned. It arrived back in Bristol on 23rd October 1632, a year and a half after leaving. On inspection, the ship was found to have suffered badly. Her bows and stern had been torn and beaten away, fourteen feet of her keel and most of her sheathing was missing. Many of the timbers had cracked. In one place a rock had cut through the sheathing, her outer planks and was still embedded an inch and a half into her main timber.
James had named the bay they had spent the winter after himself and claimed the land in the name of Charles I. In his diary he had written :-
"I had formerly cut down a very high tree and made a cross of it. To it I fastened King and Queen's picture doubly wrapped in lead. Betwixt both of these I fixed His Majesty's Royal Title. On the outside of the lead I fastened a shilling and a sixpence, under that we fastened the King's Arms fairly cut in lead, and under that the arms of Bristol. We raised it up on the top of the bare hill."
In 1670, during the reign of Charles II, using information bought back by Captain James, the Hudson Bay Company was formed. The first fur traders headed straight for James Bay in 1671.
In 1654, Oliver Cromwell sent an expedition to the West Indies with orders to secure Hispaniola (now Haiti) in the West Indies from Spain. Admiral William Penn, who was from Bristol, and who is buried inSt Mary Redcliffe, and Admiral Venables, were to be unsuccessful in this. They landed nearly 7,000 men at Santo Domingo on the south side of the island but were forced to withdraw, defeated by a combination of fierce Spanish resistance, tropical disease and poor leadership. They did however take Jamaica, which at the time was lightly defended and not considered to be a great prize. It grew in importance in later years as a base for the Royal Navy and buccaneers. Among the soldiers was 19 year old Harry Morgan who at 32 became the "Admiral of the Brethren of the Coast" as the pirates in the area called themselves. Admiral Penn died in 1670. Sir Harry Morgan died on 25th August 1688 on his Jamaican estate.
In 1681, Charles II settled his debt to the Penn family with a grant of 47,000 square miles of land in America. William Penn, Admiral Penn's Quaker son, decided to establish the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania here. The Quakers of Bristol organised a company, 'The Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania' and were granted 20,000 acres in the new land for settlement.
The colony was set up so that they should respect the rights of the Indians, abstain from war and welcome as settlers all those who were Christian. The colony was a success and it's capital, Philadelphia, soon became second in importance only to Boston.
William Penn arrived home in 1695 and in January 1696 married Miss Callowhill, granddaughter and heiress to Dennis Hollister. Bristol still has the street names of Penn, Philadelphia, Callowhill and Holister, these were all laid down around that time, though I don't think they've stayed as they were, Penn Street is the main road through our shopping area, Broadmead. Another connection that modern Bristol has with William Penn is held in the city Archives. It is the lease for one year of Pennsylvania, granted to several Quakers of Bristol, who agreed to lend Penn £6,600.
The first town named Bristol in America was founded by Robert Aldworth in New England in 1632. There are now nearly thirty of them. SeeBristol in the USA for more information on these.
From the end of the 16th Century Parliament and the Monarchy were taking separate stances. The cause of the rift between the two were those old favourites, Religion and Money.
The Puritans were moving farther and farther away from the established church, the various sects were becoming as intolerant of each other as they were of the church they had split from.
In 1640, five Puritans determined they would no longer submit to the form of worship set out in the book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Settlement, and they began to worship in Mrs Hazard's house in Broad Street. The others were Goodman Atkins of Stapleton, Goodman Cole, a butcher of Lawford's Gate, Richard Moore, a furrier of Wine Street, and Mr Bacon a young Minister. This congregation soon grew to 160 people and they had their own Minister, Mr Pennill. Others followed their lead and in 1641, Dennis Hollister, whose granddaughter would marry William Penn in 1696, and another man were brought before the magistrates for keeping a 'conventicle', a place of worship other than an established church. This type of persecution only stiffened people's resolve and even added to their numbers.
While religious dissent was increasing so was dissatisfaction with the expenditure of the monarchy. The increasing amount of gold from the New World was decreasing the value of money at home; the value fixed rents from Crown Lands were similarly decreasing. The income from Customs and taxes was not enough to make good the loss and Parliament was unwilling to increase its contribution without wanting to have more say in policy making. This, the monarchy couldn't accept without infringing their Devine Right as kings.
James I (1603 - 1625) began to put taxes on items not agreed with Parliament. He also revived the old custom of Purveyance. In feudal times, the king travelling through the country would receive food, drink and lodging from whatever town or district he found himself. James I imposed a new tax, the "Composition of Purveyance", on merchants. Those traders who refused to comply found that their goods would be seized.
In 1604, the Mayor, Alderman Whitsun, declared that this was illegal and was issued a letter threatening him with further action by the Board of Green Cloth, a committee set up by the king to oversee such matters. Whitsun took this letter to Parliament, who complained to the king, who went into a rage.
The next year, 1605, the King's Purveyors arrived in force in Bristol and removed 51 hogsheads of claret and 10 butts of sack. They did leave promises of payment but these were well below market value for the wines. The Corporation repaid the £350 to the merchants but reclaimed it as taxes from the port.
In 1608, the king put a new tax onto sweet wines entering the Port of Bristol, even though a tax of 10% called "prissage" was already being paid on it. The new tax was later dropped due to the merchants bribing the port officials, but they were forced to pay purveyance whenever the king came within 20 miles of the city. Even this was very expensive, in 1613, when the Queen visited Bath, Bristol merchants had to provide 5,200 gallons of wine (how much did these people drink in those days !!), sugar and other groceries. The bill for this was over £1,000.
As well as the resurrection of Purveyance, King James also reintroduced the Tudor custom of "Monopolies". This was a licence issued by the King to individuals or groups for the sole right to trade in a particular area or product. Anyone else wishing to share the trade would have to come to some arrangement with the Monopolist. As you can suspect this caused a great discontent amongst most traders.
Examples of these monopolies were those issued in 1620 to London companies for the sole right to make clay pipes and another to make starch. Both were also made by merchants in Bristol who were forced to abandon their trades.
Charles I also used the Monopoly system to raise money and in 1631 gave the right to make soap to another London company. This licence was far reaching in that the Monopolist also had thee right to destroy the buildings of any others who carried on the trade of soap manufacture. Soap making was long established in Bristol and several merchants faced ruin. They came to an agreement with the London company to let them make 600 tons of soap a year. The king claimed a special tax of £4 per ton on these 600 tons. There were often disagreements over the amount made and around 30 Bristol soap makers were instructed to make their way to London. At the time this was a very expensive and time-consuming journey. Once there, the merchants were fined a total of £20,000.
There were winners as well as losers in Bristol under the monopolies system. In 1618, a monopoly was given to a London merchant for the export from South Wales of butter. The licence was to last for 21 years and the monopolist would have to pay the Crown one shilling (a 20th of a pound) for every kilderkin (18 gallons) of butter. For a two thirds share in this trade Bristol merchants paid £400 cash, an annual rent to the Crown and 2 shillings per kilderkin to the monopolist. Even after this outlay they still made a profit. The Welsh butter exporters were put out of business.
Other local traders secured the right to export 120,000 calf skins per annum for 40 years. This was very profitable.
The examples given above explain why on the outbreak of war most of the wealthy traders were for the Royalist's and most of the smaller ones were in favour of the Parliamentarians.
Another Royal scheme for raising money was the introduction of Ship Money. This at first sight was very laudable, as it made the whole country take a share in the upkeep of the Navy, and hence the defence of Britain. After a while though it became apparent that it was another scheme to fill the Royal coffers.
In October 1634, Bristol's contibution to the Ship Money was £2,166 13s 4d. In 1635 another £1,200 was demanded. In 1636 and 1637 another £800 was demanded. Resistance was growing and the money for 1637 was only collected with difficulty. In 1638 the sum due was only £250. In 1639 it was raised again to £640. Some people refused to pay and their goods were ordered to be sold, but no one offered to buy them. In 1640 the Long Parliament scrapped Ship Money altogether.
In 1642, the five members of Parliament who were loudest in their opposition to the Ship Money were arrested. One of these was Mr Pym, a Somerset Member of Parliament, whose arrest no doubt polarised feelings around Bristol.
By now, it was obvious to practically everyone that Civil War was a distinct possibility, if not inevitable. The castle was put into a state of defence. The buildings that had sprung up around the castle were demolished. A hundred musketeers were placed on guard each evening and all the city gates were provided with warning drums.
This page created 7th March 2000, last modified 2nd September 2009