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Living Easton's Proposed Easton Women's History Trail

This Trail is a new initiative from Living Easton and was first unveiled at our AGM, 2000.
So far we have identified 19 Sites in Easton relating to Women's History.
We are currently working with individuals and groups to identify new sites which relate to "Radical Women of Easton" and "Black Women Acheivers".
We welcome information from visitors to our web pages for further sites.
We hope to publish a more complete Ewaston Women's History Trail in 2002.

Here are brief details of the 19 Sites we have identified so far:

  1. Vestry Hall, Pennywell Road ca. 1880.

    When built this building was used by many girls from Easton. Firstly in segregated sports and fitness activities and, later, as probably Bristol’s most unruly Saturday Picture Hall!
  2. Pennywell Road Workhouse.

    On June 1835 the Poor Law Commissioner visited Pennywell Road Workhouse. He reported, “I was ill prepared to find in a Parish of nearly 17,000 inhabitants....such a disgraceful instance of neglect and mismanagement. The state of the Workhouse was filthy in the extreme....There was no classification, men, women and children being discriminately huddled together.”
    The numbers and treatment of women in this workhouse is not yet known and requires some research.
  3. Mary Sarjeant (1678-1718) & Hannah Rose (1718-1791), Baptist Mills.

    These two Quaker women were vitally involved in the large brass works at this site (Mary) and the industrial complex at Coalbrookdale, Staffordshire (Mary and Hannah). The writings of these independent and very liberated women help us to understand the industrial developments which took place at these Birthplaces of the English Industrial Revolution.
    Mary Sarjeant (1678-1718)
    Her father was a bleacher of linen yarn at Fulford Heath, Worcestershire. She married Abraham Darby I at Dudley on 18th September 1699. She later moved, with her husband, to Philip’s Place, Bristol.
    It is from the letters of Mary that we obtain the precise way in which her husband and the apprentice, John Thomas, experimented in their making of hollow iron pots which were cast in sand rather than loam - a process which made production of cast iron and brass goods continuous. For the first time cast brass and ironware were not made on an individual basis. This was vital in being the first step towards 'factory-style' mass production and made 'goods' available to a wider geographical range of people. The items produced were important to the Quaker investors enabling them to meet the expanding export market, ie., the slave trade in West Africa and for industrial and domestic use in the new West Indian and American colonies.
  4. Charlotte Keele Health Centre, Seymour Road.

    Opened 1956 and currently being extended. This Centre commemorates the life and work of Alderman Charlotte Keele, member of Bristol City Council, 1935-1955. Member of the Health Committee and Chairwoman of the Nursing Services Sub-Committee. “The memory of Charlotte Keele’s high idealism, devotion to duty and her humanity will inspire those who serve this district and work within this Clinic.”
  5. Agnes Grace, Easton Leisure Centre, Thrissell Street.

    Site of No. 59 Stapleton Road, ex-Thrissell Lodge. Here lived Agnes, the wife of Dr. W. G. Grace, M.R.C.S., L.R.C., Much has been written on WG Grace but little is known of Alice’s life or of the vital support which she will have given to enable her husband to achieve his huge international success. Living Easton is in touch with Alice’s descendants and more information may be available.
  6. Former Easton Colliery, Felix Road (1824-1911).

    Although women did not work underground in Easton Pits they were still associated with it’s working. It is possible that they worked in the large surface operations such as sorting and washing the coal. Waste timber from the pit was used as firewood, old timber brought from underground was sawn and chopped, put into bundles and sold by girls who hawked them in baskets from door to door.
    The Easton Pit Disaster of 1886
    Eight Easton colliers died as a result of an explosion at the pit on February 19th, 1886.
    A relief fund was set up. Each widow received £5 towards the funeral and 5/- (25p) a week for herself and one child under thirteen, and a further 2/6d (12.5p) if there were other children. One of the dead men left seven children, another left eight. Eight men were left so injured that they could not work again, they subsequently received but 6/- (30p) a week and an allowance of coal.
    Women’s Wages
    Wages for Bristol miners were below the national average. By around 1850 miners working in England earned around 3/6d a day (19p). Bristol’s miners rarely received more than 12/- (60p) a week. Boys, aged 10 - 11, earned some 4d - 6d (2-3p) a day. Women and girls, employed on the surface, earned 10d (4p) and 6d - 8d (3 - 4p) daily respectively.
    The 1926 General Strike
    Miners who worked in East Bristol pits stayed out for nearly eight months. Some of these miners and their families lived in Easton. Local miner, Fred Moss remembered how whole communities pulled together to support the striking miners. Help came from public collections and the Co-op gave food vouchers. Many miners families survived because of money earned by wives and daughters.
  7. John Street.

    During the Nazi bombing raids of World War Two
    fifty five women and girls of Easton died.
    John Street was bombed on the night of 3/4 JANUARY 1941. John Street was later demolished.
    In total there were three Nazi Air Raids on the Easton Area which resulted in the deaths of 140 people.
  8. Easton’s Synagogue, 43 Bannerman Road.

    The Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation, who had been meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Redland since 1961, were searching for premises.
    In November 1972, Mrs Hilary Kay noticed that 43, Bannerman Road was up for sale and these premises were bought in 1974. Members of the Congregation did all the interior refurbishment and the Consecration Service was held on 8th February, 1975.
  9. Ruby Helder, (1890-1938), International Opera Star, “The Lady Tenor”

    Born Emma Jane Holden at 7 Brooklyn Terrace, (114, Easton Road). House demolished ca. 1965.
    Ruby sang around the world after interest in her extraordinary voice was aroused by another great tenor, the Italian Enrico Caruso. He was amazed to find that Ruby’s two-octave range from C to high C was only three notes short of his own. It was Caruso who introduced her to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York and the American audiences took her to their hearts. She sang in New York, Philidelphia and Chicago. She was also noted for the ‘bob’ hairstyle, long before it became fashionable.
    After hearing her practice at the Hippodrome in New York, John Philip Sousa hired Ruby to tour with his band through the U.S. and Canada. She also performed on at least six radio broadcasts from New York (1927-1929).
    Ruby's best-known songs included Be Thou Faithful Then You’ll Remember Me, Good Night Beloved, My Dreams, Songs of Araby, Courage, My Queen and Come Into the Garden Maude. A CD of her work was released a few years ago, suggesting there is still a market for her unique voice.
  10. Bannerman Road Primary School.

    Built 1877, Bannerman Road was once known as St Mark’s Lane. It is currently undergoing massive rebuilding and extension work (2001). This is being carried out under the head leadership of Elaine Hicks.
  11. Bristol Hawks Gym, Roman Road.

    This ex-hosiery factory built 1897 has had a long association with women’s clothing and ‘women’s’ work. Listed in 1918 as a Corset Factory (started by a Mr. Bayer ca. 1900). It was a Co-op Laundry in the 1920s (exact dates not known). By 1952 it had become a Warehouse and by ca. 1970s was a storage facility for Rolls-Royce Aerospace Ltd., (films etc.). On Friday 21st July 1989, the Building was severely gutted by fire. Despite this setback the Building opened as the Bristol Hawks Gym ca. 1991.
  12. Mural at Stapleton Road Station, by Bill Guilding.

    The mural includes images of contemporary and historical women from Easton and Bristol-wide.
  13. St Mark’s Day School, (1855).

    Run by St. Mark’s Church. St. Mark’s Day School, (1842), enlarged, 1888, and used as Church Hall. Also Sunday School Hall. Now hosts Masjid (Mosque).
    Women in Easton 1900 - 1928
    The women of East Bristol were becoming increasingly politicised by the turn of the century; campaigning for the vote, trade union recognition and establishing Women’s Co-operative Guilds. Women were members of Local School Boards, Boards of Guardians, etc. The most active of these women were motivated through the presence of the poverty and injustice and by their religious-Radical Liberal or socialist-Labour beliefs and were surly inspired by the actions of their Victorian predecessors. There would have been those who remembered the Suffragette meetings at St Mark’s Schoolrooms and still fresh in everyones memory would have been the struggle in 1889 of the Barton Hill Cotton Factory women workers who struck against starvation wages.
    By 1904 the movement for female suffrage was growing once again. Activity included door-to-door canvassing, organising meetings and lectures on womens issues. Whether any women from Easton joined other Bristol Suffragettes in Horfield Prison we do not yet know. The details of women’s struggles in Easton is hidden from our view. There is no doubt that women in Easton were active in these affairs - either through the local Trade Union, Co-op, Labour and Liberal Parties or through non-conformist religious bodies which are still so prolific in our neighbourhood.
    During the First World War the position of Easton women changed dramatically as the opportunities for paid work expanded. This meant that women would often have to come home from work in the dark and it was for this reason that women formed patrols to protect women from attack on the streets.
    In the year 1920 there were many demonstrations in the City by unemployed men which lead to women being removed from their wartime work on Bristol Trams. There was a series of violent scenes with young women conductors being stoned.
    It was not until 1928 that women were able to vote at 21.
  14. Jatinda Kaur.

    Jatinda was instrumental in setting up the Sikh Women’s Organisation at the Sikh Centre on St Mark’s Road.
  15. Eastville Workhouse, “100 Fishponds Road”.

    The home of many women who were ‘sent’ there when they became pregnant because they were either under sixteen years of age or unmarried. There is much research to be done on these life-stories.
  16. The Open Air School - Eastville Park.

    Women were instrumental in setting up the vitally important Open Air Schools in Bristol. The worked as voluntary helpers with the City Education Department. They visited families who had children who had not obtained medical help as recommended by the school doctors.
    In May-June1920 two Open Air Classes were started in Victoria and Eastville Parks. The Classes in Eastville Park was run by a Miss Imlach. The success of these Classes was such that a year later a third was established in St George’s Park. Each of the three Classes accommodated some 30+ pupils aged 7 - 14 and operated throughout the year in all weather conditions. The only shelter available was in the Park Bandstand around which were tied draughty tarpaulins and windbreaks. The great majority of the children attending the Park Classes would not have owned overcoats, raincoats of wellington boots. The children sat on folding chairs, there was little or no room for desks, the children writing on millboards (similar to slate boards) using chalk. The children went for lunch in the council kitchen which involved a long walk across the park. The children and staff also had to endure the stares of local people who visited the park and had to live with the stigma of attending the ‘TB Schools’.
  17. Castle Green United Reformed Church.

    The history of this congregation can be traced back to the events of the English Revolution (1640-48) which brought thousands of ‘ordinary’ women onto the national political stage. Many of these women were organised through the non-conformist churches which sprung up in this period.
  18. Greenbank Co-op, Greenbank/Kingsley Road

    The Women’s Co-op Guild. Bristol’s ‘Women’s Co-operative Guild’’ started in 1889 at Newfoundland Road. Their meetings covered many subjects; Ending Slavery in Zanzibar, Women’s Suffrage, The Poor Law, Children in Workhouses, etc. Women gained positions on the ‘men only’ Co-op committees and questioned the conditions of Co-op workers, especially the treatment of women and girls. On grounds of female safety they lobbied, in 1893, that Bristol & District Co-op stores should close at 9pm instead of 10.30pm. They also campaigned for “Trade Union Only” goods in Co-op shops.
    The Greenbank Branch of the Women’s Co-op Guild was started in 1903. Its first President was Mrs Sheppard who was also the first woman to be elected to the Bristol Co-op’s Board of management.
  19. Packer’s Chocolate Factory.

    Packers (now LEAF, UK) started in Armoury Square, Stapleton Road, in 1881 and has been in Greenbank since 1886. The firm once employed many local women. Here is a short extract from one women employee’s story:
    The Kate Horner Story, 1925
    “I started with Packers Chocolate Factory in 1890. I received the large sum of 4s. 6d. per week, my hours being 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. My first work was hand covering creams in a small room fitted with two tables and domes for heating our chocolate. We sometimes worked from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. I was sent to Greenbank in 1902. What a change it was after such small rooms to go into large, lofty ones!
    I am still in the same room, which has fifty coating machines, superintended by Miss Barrett and myself. Some of the girls have been with us for a number of years, I have always found them reliable and good at their work.”