Bristol Chronicles 1911 – 1912

Bristol Chronicles 1911 - 1912

1911- Bristol miners strike for three months over pay and loss of jobs.

1911 – Bristol Aeroplane Works opens in Filton.

1911 – Major Norton DSO, the trade commissioner for Australia, was entertained by the Lord Mayor. He was in England for the purpose of organising four depots for the importation of Australian produce.

Bristol University

The University acquired a playing field at Coombe Dingle in February thanks to a donation of £4,000 from Mr. George A. Wills. The field measured 12 acres and was laid out on the advice of Mr. John Spry, the head groundsman of the County Ground. Later in the year the University secured the services of Murch, the old Gloucestershire professional, as head groundsman and cricket coach. At the same time Mr. Wills provided further funds for the construction of a pavilion.

Wills Family Death

Lord Winterstoke (Sir William Henry Wills) died at the end of January. Politically, he was a Liberal and served as Member of Parliament for Coventry from 1880 until 1885 and for Bristol East from 1895 until 1900; he was made a Peer in 1905. Lord Winterstoke was Chairman of the Imperial Tobacco Company and a director of a number of other undertakings. He was a Congregationalist and a member of Penn Street Tabernacle and generously supported religious and educational charities particularly the University and the Municipal Art Gallery.

St John’s Fishponds

At the beginning of March it was announced that the new church of St. John’s, the Causeway, Fishponds would be consecrated on Ascension Day. The land upon which it was constructed was donated by Captain Cottrell-Dormer. The building was designed to accommodate 530 persons; The architect was E.H. Lingen Barker and the builder W. Read of Fishponds. The Coroner Mr. H.G. Doggett announced his intention to retire and in March the City Council considered whether or not to divide the city into two districts; they had a number of applications for the post. They subsequently decided not to have two districts and appointed his deputy Mr. A.E. Barker to succeed him.


The census was held on 31 March despite the opposition of some suffragettes. The objectors gathered in the houses of some activists who refused to admit the census takers or to complete the forms. The house of Miss Annie Kenney had a notice on the front door reading ‘House full – no vote – no census’. The result of the census became known at the end of May; the population of Bristol was 357,059 (339,042 in 1901).

The Coliseum ice rink was sold by auction

The Coliseum ice rink was sold by auction in April. The price fetched was £15,400 and the purchasers were the debenture holders of the Coliseum Company.

Dr. E.M. Grace died

Dr. E.M. Grace died on 20 May at his home in Thornbury. He had been Coroner for the Thornbury division of Gloucestershire for upwards of forty years. Dr. Grace was a well-known cricketer and was a brilliant fielder at point and a successful round-arm bowler; he was secretary of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club for 39 years.

HMS Bristol

HMS Bristol, a cruiser, paid an official visit to Avonmouth in May. Various entertainments were arranged for the crew and the city presented the ship with an inscribed shield.

Colonial Visit

In June there was a visit by a number of Colonial Premiers having been invited by the Lord Mayor and the President of the Chamber of Commerce. Sir Joseph Ward (New Zealand), General Botha (South Africa), Sir E.P. Morris (Newfoundland) and the Hon Andrew Fisher (Australia) were entertained to a banquet at the Royal Hotel. In July Richard Grigg, HM Trade Commissioner in Canada, came to the city and was entertained by the Chamber of Commerce.


The Coronation of King George V was held in June and there were celebrations in the city despite the refusal of the justices to grant an extension of the licensing hours. Children assembled in their schools on 21 June and boxes of chocolates were distributed. The care of the aged poor was left to ward committees and two shillings a head was allowed for this; some of them received tickets for local butchers, bakers and grocers and they were all given canisters bearing the city’s arms and portraits of the King and Queen. Hospital patients received chocolates and cards. The Lord Mayor was in London and the local procession was led by his deputy. It assembled at the Sea Walls and, before it set off on its route to the Council House, Territorials performed evolutions and a march past in the pouring rain. There were fireworks and bands playing in almost all the city’s parks.

Air Race with a prize of £10,000

At the end of July the Daily Mail organised a Circuit of Britain Air Race with a prize of £10,000 for the winner and Filton Aerodrome was chosen as one of the staging posts. The race was won by M. Beaumont piloting a Bleriot biplane; he narrowly beat a fellow Frenchman, M. Drones, who lost valuable time when he landed two hundred yards from the official landing place at Filton on the wrong side of the railway line. None of the aviators entered to fly a ‘Bristol’ plane distinguished himself. Graham Gilmore had his aviator’s licence suspended by the Royal Aero Club for dangerous flying over Henley Regatta and he could not start. Eric Gordon-England had engine trouble and gave up at Brooklands where the race had started. The biplane piloted by Collyns Pizey broke the undercarriage whilst landing near Melton Mowbray and Howard Pixton’s aircraft crashed near Harrogate. The event attracted great crowds, in numbers unprecedented in the parish’s history, to watch the event at Filton.

memorial for the King

A committee considering the question of a memorial to King Edward VII had already examined 20 sketches and selected that of Henry Poole of London who proposed a bronze statue 86” high, independent of the pedestal. In August they approved a scheme for the layout of the site near the Victoria Rooms as submitted by London architects Messrs. Lanchester & Rickards and agreed that the contractor should be George Humphreys & Sons.

National Strike of Railway Workers

In August there was a national strike of railway workers which, although of short duration, gave rise to strong feelings and spread briefly to affect local dockers and miners, In Bristol special constables were sworn in and troops deployed at Temple Meads Station. At Bedminster Down an angry crowd demonstrated outside a manned signal box and a baton charge by the police resulted; the box was badly damaged.


At the beginning of September a serious accident took place at Butcher’s Hill, Stoke Bishop when a traction engine and two wagons became out of control. The wagons were carrying grain from Avonmouth to Brent Knoll and were crewed by three men, a driver, a fireman/steersman and a brakeman. The engine and the wagons overturned killing the fireman, Thomas Hawkins of Burnham-on-Sea, and injuring the two others.

Henry Overton Wills died

Henry Overton Wills died on 3 September. He was a director of the Imperial Tobacco Company and many other undertakings and a generous benefactor to the University and the Bristol Convalescent Home. He was particularly interested in music and contributed substantially towards the costs of the organs in the Colston Hall and Bristol Cathedral.

Miners Strike

In the middle of the month all the miners in the Bristol coalfield, some 2,000 men, went on strike in support of their claim for an extra 3d per day; the same increase had recently been awarded to the Somerset miners. The proprietors claimed that they could not afford to pay and offered to allow an independent arbitrator appointed by the Board of Trade to inspect their books. The arbitrator confirmed the employers’ claim but the strike continued, the men claiming that the high royalty payments paid by the employers prevented them from making a better offer. The strike ended in the middle of November when the miners accepted the offer of an increase which was less than the sum they had demanded. Although the men marched to meetings whilst the strike was on, there was no trouble and after they resumed work their agent received a letter from the Chief Constable expressing his appreciation of the way the strike had been conducted.

Red Maids’ move to a new school

At the end of September the Red Maids’ School moved from their premises in Denmark Street to Westbury-on-Trym where they occupied ‘Burfield’, a house that had been for many years the residence of Sir Robert Symes, together with new buildings that had been designed by Frank Wills and built by Stephens & Bastow.

John Hare Paint

Charles Bowles Hare died suddenly on 7 October whilst visiting an exhibition at the Coliseum. He was head of the firm of John Hare & Co. Ltd. manufacturers of paint, floorcloth and linoleum. He was a Conservative, a councillor from 1871 to 1896 and an alderman from 1896 until his death. Mr. Hare was Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers in 1876 and Sheriff in 1878.


Francis Brooke Girdlestone retired as General Manager and Secretary of the Docks and in November the Docks Committee appointed Dennis Ross-Johnson to replace him. The latter had been General Traffic Manager of the Madras Railway Company, which included the management of Madras Harbour.

Victoria Rooms

At the end of November there was a recital at the Victoria Rooms by the cellist Pablo Casals.

Fire at a Music Warehouse in Regent Street, Clifton.

1912 – At the end of January there was a serious fire at a music warehouse belonging to Ernest Crichton in Regent Street, Clifton. Thousands of pounds worth of damage was done and a 24-year-old blind piano tuner called Charles Cornwallis Penrose of St. Werburgh’ s died in the conflagration.

returned home from India

At the beginning of February King George V and Queen Mary returned from their visit to India. The Lord Mayor was invited to join the party at Victoria Station to welcome their homecoming and there was a service at Bristol Cathedral to give thanks for their safe return.

Colston Hall

On 16 February the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage held a demonstration in the Colston Hall. The meeting was addressed by Lord Cromer and Mr. C.E. Hobhouse, MP for Bristol East, and Mrs. Humphrey Ward congratulated the anti-suffrage movement in Bristol upon its growth since her last visit in 1908. There was uproar when Mrs. Dove Wilcox, a local suffragette, tried to ask a question but an attempt to remove her from the hall failed.

Ben Tillett

At the February Assize Ben Tillett had been summoned for jury service. He asked to be excused saying ‘my business takes me to all parts of the country and I shall not be within one hundred miles on the day in question.’ The judge was not impressed and fined him £5.

Prince’s Theatre

James McCready Chute, the manager of the Prince’s Theatre died in February and his funeral was attended by many notable members of the theatrical profession. A large crowd gathered outside St. Paul’s Church, Clifton, where the funeral service was held and police were necessary to regulate the numbers who congregated at College Green and the Tramways Centre to watch the funeral procession on its way to the cemetery.

Miners Strike

A national strike of miners took place at the beginning of March and some 2,500 men stopped work in the Bristol coalfield resulting in a weekly loss of production of 10,000 tons. Strike pay amounting to 10/-per week plus 1/- for each child of married men was paid initially but a couple of weeks later the amount had to be reduced to 7/6. Rail services had to be drastically curtailed and many workpeople went on short time; the Bitton Paper Mill had to close because there was no coal to keep the machines going. The Salvation Army provided breakfasts for children in Bedminster and were feeding over 600 each day; meals were also being supplied at the Mission Hall in New Street, St. Jude’s, and at the Grafton Street Hall, St. Philip’s, where over 400 children were being fed.

Out of work miners and shoemakers steal coal

Out of work miners and shoemakers hewed coal from the base of two old quarries in a field off Charlton Road, Kingswood. A young man called William Burford died when searching for coal in a hole at Trooper’s Hill St. George; the roof fell in and buried him. In April the Miners’ Federation held a national ballot that resulted in a majority in favour of continuing the strike. In Bristol, where 60 of the men voted, 772 voted to return and 336 to remain on strike; the men returned to work when conditions in the pits made it possible. After the strike had ended the Sanitary Committee were able to resume normal street lighting that had been reduced during the strike; the reduction had resulted in a saving of £300.

Emigration for Unemployed

The Bristol Distress Committee continued to arrange emigration for unemployed men and their families. In March the committee heard that 21 families had been booked to go at a total cost of £1291 14s 3d.

Passive resisters – those who refused to pay that part of the rate likely to be used for the maintenance of sectarian teaching in public elementary schools – continued to appear before the magistrates. The bench made orders that they should pay and their goods were distrained when they failed to do so. At the end of March a sale of distrained goods took place at the Vestry Hall in Pennywell Road.

The fourth organ to be installed at St. Mary Redcliffe Church was dedicated by the Bishop of Bristol on 21 April; it was built by Harrison and Harrison.

In the same month the Bristol Dispensary for the Prevention of Consumption at 4, Redcliffe Parade West was opened by the Lord Mayor.

Rev. John Bateman of Staple Hill – Went down with the Titanic

The loss of the Titanic in April had its effects in Bristol; members of the crew and passengers from the city were on board. At the beginning of May a memorial service for Rev. John Bateman of Staple Hill, who was a passenger and who perished, was held at Evangel Mission, Two Mile Hill. One of the passengers who died was the well-known journalist W.T. Stead. Just before the ship sailed he wrote to a friend, Mr. R. Penny of Bristol, ‘… I sincerely hope that none of the misfortunes which you seem to think may happen to myself and my wife will happen, but I will keep your letter and will write to you when I come back.’

Recorder dies

The Recorder, Mr. E.J. Castle KC, died at the beginning of May and his place was taken by Dr. Blake Odgers KC.

Royal Singers

The Bristol Royal Orpheus Glee Society were asked to perform at Buckingham Palace before the King, the Queen and Queen Alexandra on 30 May; they sang nine pieces including the National Anthem. The Society had previously entertained Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1895.

Royal Visit

In June King George V and Queen Mary came to the city principally to open the Edward VII Memorial Infirmary. From Temple Meads they drove to the Council House where the King knighted the Lord Mayor, Mr. Frank Wills. At the Infirmary the royal visitors were welcomed by the President of the Infirmary, Sir George White, and the building (architect H. Percy Adams, builder Frank N. Cowlin) was declared open. The weather was fine to begin with but by the time the royal procession reached Clifton it had started to rain; at Clifton College the head boy RN. Tribe presented a loyal address. Some 66,500 commemorative medals had been ordered for presentation to all school children. During the royal visit several houses in Redland were broken into. The Mayor of Bath, Alderman Plowman, had his pocket picked whilst waiting on the platform at Temple Meads for the train to take him home; he lost a silver lever watch with a gold curb chain.

Bristol Aviation

In August there was a successful flight of a Bristol monoplane by Lieutenant Detton of the German flying Corps. He travelled 40 miles in 43 minutes.

Refusing to pay the legal fare on a tramcar

Fred Jones of 166 City Road appeared before the magistrates in September charged with refusing to pay the legal fare on a tramcar. He boarded the car at the Tramway Centre to travel to Hotwells and tendered a halfpenny for a workman’s fare whereas the full fare was a penny. He was carrying fishing tackle and an astute inspector questioned whether he was entitled to the reduced fare. Jones agreed that he was out of work but said that the purpose of his journey was to seek work and that only if he was unsuccessful would he be using the fishing tackle. The magistrates did not accept his explanation and fined him 5/- plus costs.

National Insurance

Following the introduction of National Insurance many friendly societies found that they were receiving resignations from their medical officers; the resignations were in support of the policy of the British Medical Association who objected to ‘the unsatisfactory attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the pay for treating nationally insured persons.’ The Chancellor announced improved payments in October but these were still not acceptable to the medical profession.

Bristol University

In October Bristol’s ‘shoemaker poet’ John Gregory received an honorary MA at Bristol University.

Two Taxi Drivers charged with driving in a manner dangerous to the public

At the end of October Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard the case of two taxi drivers, Sidney Bryant (employed by Bristol Tramway Co) and Frederick Madge (employed by Provincial Cab Co). They were both charged with driving in a manner dangerous to the public at the Tramway Centre. PC Jones told the court that the two cabs, one blue and the other red, approached a taxi stand from different directions and were racing to get there first; he estimated their speed at 15 mph. The drivers were each fined 20/- plus costs.


The municipal elections held at the beginning of November resulted in the loss of three seats by the Liberals, one to the Conservatives, one to Labour and the other to an Independent. The seats held were:

Liberals 37 (previously 40)

Labour 6 (previously 5)

Conservatives 42 (previously 41)

Independents 7 (previously 6).

Picton Street

In November Laurence Irving was presented with a tablet commemorating the fact that his father Sir Henry Irving had lived at 1, Wellington Place on the comer of Picton Street.

No Germans

During the course of their meeting on 25 November the Docks Committee were told of a letter received from the War Office. The letter advised them that any request from German or other foreign nationals to inspect the docks or for the supply of information should be referred to the Army Council before being acceded to.

Bristol Hippodrome Opened

The construction of the Hippodrome was completed in December. The theatre had capacity for an audience of 2,000; the stage measured 60’ in depth and could rise and fall at the touch of a lever. There was a tank capable of containing 70,000 gallons of water and 23 huge arc lights which required a separate source of electric power.

Bristol Chronicles 55BC – 1698

Bristol Chronicles 1700 – 1800

Bristol Chronicles 1860 – 1889

Bristol Chronicles 1900 – 1904

Bristol Chronicles 1905

Bristol Chronicles 1906

Bristol Chronicles 1907

Bristol Chronicles 1908

Bristol Chronicles 1909

Bristol Chronicles 1910

Bristol Chronicles 1911 – 1912

Bristol Chronicles 1913

Bristol Chronicles 1914-18

Bristol Chronicles 1920s

Bristol Chronicles 1930 – 1933

Bristol Chronicles 1930s

Bristol Chronicles 1939-45

Bristol Chronicles 1946 – 1959

Bristol Chronicles 1960 – 1965

Bristol Chronicles 1966 – 1969

Bristol Chronicles 1970s

Bristol Chronicles 1980s

Bristol Chronicles 1990 – 2008