Civic Expenses

Bristol Corporation was infamous for spending money on celebrations, and its croneyism. When Manchester debated whether to elect its own MPs they gave corruption in Bristol as a reason not to.

This is from Latimer’s Annals of Bristol for 1743:

The mind of the Corporation was much exercised about this it by the attempt of two obscure persons to establish a ferry between Temple Back and the opposite bank of the Avon, in rivalry with the ancient ferry there known as Bathavon, from which the civic body derived the large yearly rental of £137. The intruders persisting in their enterprise, an action at law was raised against them, which was brought to trial at Salisbury in July, 1743. An imposing procession of corporate functionaries in 4 coaches, guarded by 7 horses, some of which bore 2 men, set off for the capital of Wiltshire. The party, 21 in number, accomplished a journey of about 55 miles in 2 days, making many halts for refreshment. Having proved the corporate rights, and obtained a verdict against the interlopers, the civic agents returned triumph, but in the same deliberate fashion that had marked their outset, and doubtless congratulated themselves that only 1 of the coaches broke down during the journey. The travelling expenses incurred including a guinea to a Salisbury barber for shaving and powdering amounted to about £80. The coach hire was 25s a day of each vehicle, and 2s a day (the customary charge of the time) was paid for the hire of each horse.

I’m also interested in this as I wrote a book some years ago about the rebuilding of Bristol bridge, and I could not understand why the corporation was so disinterested in the plan, despite to many people dying in accidents there. I think this incident explains it. They made a lot of money from the ferry, but not from the Bridge, a similar complaint raised in against rebuilding London Bridge. A reminder that the story is never ended….


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