68. Revisit Bristol’s rebellions

Indoors
Outdoors
Free to do
Can do in my area
No planning needed
All year round
Great for little'uns with parents (under 6)

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Find four of the sites where Bristolians have been rebellious in their history.

Back to the future
Anti Tesco graffiti in Stokes Crofts - reads Think Local Boycott Tesco.

Why do it?

Fighting injustice is a big part of the history of Bristol - and still goes on across the city today.

Understanding why Bristolians have stood up for what they believed in - even when it was against the law - is important for understanding how Bristol’s past has been shaped by the actions of its people.

Knowing how others have tried to change the city and the politics that govern it means that you are in a better position to challenge something that you do not agree with.

We all have the power to change things, especially when we are a united community.

How to do this in Bristol

A good place to start is the Mshed. See how much information you can find out about:

The 1831 Reform Riots

The (1909) Winston Whipping

The 1980 St. Paul's riots

The 2011 ‘Tesco’s’ riots in Stokes Croft

Then explore the actual places where they took place in Bristol:

Visit Queens Square which was the site of the 1831 Reform Riots. The riots were a protest against the House of Lords decision to prevent a reform bill passing through parliament, which would have meant that more people would have the right to vote. Protestors held the city for two days when rioters broke into Bridewell gaol and Lawford's Gate Prison and set prisoners free, and attacked the Tollhouses, the Bishop's Palace and the Mansion House and the Custom House in Queens Square. It took two troops of cavalry (soldiers on horseback), the 3rd and 14th Dragoons and special volunteer constables called ‘bludgeon boys’, to bring the riots to an end. It is uncertain how many people were killed during the Bristol Riots.

Visit Temple Meads Station which was the site of the Winston Whipping (1909). In 1909 Theresa Garnett challenged Winston Churchill at Temple Meads railway station because he was opposed to the right for women to vote. Dressed in a ‘merry widow’ hat and surrounded by detectives, Theresa lashed out at Mr Churchill with a horsewhip, shouting: “Take that in the name of the insulted women of England”. Theresa Garnett was charged with disturbing the peace and sentenced to one month imprisonment in Horfield Gaol.

St. Paul's was the site for the 1980 riots. On the 2nd of April 1980, St. Paul's became the scene of an intensely violent confrontation between the police and a predominantly black crowd (some sources estimate that the size of the crowd was at about 2000). The catalyst for the riots was a police raid on the Black and White Café, which was a popular meeting point for the African Caribbean community of St. Paul's. Many of the problems expressed by the people of St. Paul's were deep seated in decades of racial discrimination and social inequality that were combined with deteriorating relationships between the community and the local police. This was not a single event as it had been anticipated and followed by similar events in almost every major city in Britain with a deprived black population.

Visit the Tesco’s on Stokes Croft which was the scene of the 2011 riots. On the 21st of April 2011 there was a riot in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, following a raid by police on the ‘Telepathic Heights’ squat. The riot police blockaded the area and entered the squat, a crowd quickly gathered of approximately 300 people who were attempting to defend the squat. The police said that they entered the squat because they believed that petrol bombs were on the premises and the inhabitants were going to bomb the Tesco development opposite. Many residents of Stokes Croft were opposed to the construction of a Tesco in the community, however Tesco was granted planning permission and went ahead despite the communities wishes.

What you will need

  • Transport to all the sites

Taking it further

You could also investigate local figures who have changed the modern history of Bristol such as Paul Stephenson and Princess Campbell, or modern day, young activists such as Fahma Mohamed.

Safety tips

It would be a good idea to let someone at home know where and when you are going, and when you plan to be back.

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