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Opera for Babies

Opera for Babies

This is one of the most bonkers but adorable ideas I’ve heard, but the interview with producer Phelim McDermott with Stuart Maconi on 6 music actually makes a lot of sense, especially within the realm of the Manchester International Festival which ended Sunday. McDermot was initially sceptical, fearing the babies would either be bored or … Continue reading

Iron Lung for Polio Victims

Iron Lung for Polio Victims

I am just old enough to remember the horrors of polio. A friend of mine had an older brother who was one of the last to be affected by it – he walked with a stick and his leg was in a brace so he was an object of pity for most of us. When … Continue reading

A Boy’s Memorial

A Boy’s Memorial

Bristol’s Mayor’s Chapel is a strange church, opposite the Cathedral, it was built in the 13th century by Maurice de Gaunt, as a hospital to care for the local poor. When Henry VIII closed the monasteries, it was converted for use by the Queen Elizabeth School for boys, and the associated Red Maids School for … Continue reading

The Heroism of A Stranger

The Heroism of A Stranger

In the park adjoining the Museum of Childhood is a drinking fountain with an unusual and tragic history. Most marble fountains were erected by local worthies to provide refreshment for visitors, a few are memorials, but I doubt if any has such sadness associated with it. Water is essential to life. It is central to … Continue reading

A Witch Saved

This is from Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal from 1773: A few days ago, at the Village of Seend, in Wiltshire, a Report prevailed, that a Woman who was dangerously ill of a putrid Fever, was bewitched, and this Report excited the Curiosity of Numbers of her Neighbours to go and se hr. The Fever attending … Continue reading

Policing Morality

Policing Morality

When Henry VIII closed the monasteries, local parishes had to enforce not just criminal, but also moral codes, which could get a bit messy, and often involved women. Here’s a list of incidents dealt with by the churchwardens of St James’ parish in Bristol in the 17th century: 1627 Item. for a warrant for her … Continue reading

Parish Boundary Markers Bristol

Parish Boundary Markers Bristol

I love obscure bits of history, and parish boundary markers are great because you really have to poke around with your eyes open to spot them. They were used to mark the parish boundaries of mediaeval cities, to establish who had to pay church rates, who attended churches, and as legal documents in property sales. … Continue reading

Suffering Tradesmen

Suffering Tradesmen

Ornate cabinets were popular in Europe Post Reformation, especially North of the alps. Many skilled tradespeople were involved, but we generally know nothing about them. This cabinet was built for Gallus Jacob, financier of the Prince Bishop of Wurzburg about 1716. Inside the completed cabinet was this cry of pain: I don’t understand this. Should be … Continue reading

Child Prodigies

Child Prodigies

James Ferguson grew up in rural Scotland in the early 18th century. Like most families, the Fergusons could not support their children so sent them to work at an early age. James became a shepherd but spent his days making models of mills, spinning wheels and any other mechanisms he saw. At night he lay … Continue reading

Imprisoning the Mentally ill

This is from Patrick Cockburn, award winning war correspondent with the i paper. It seems a far cry from his usual topic, but not really. The criminalisation of the mentally iill is one of the cruellest and most easily avoidable tragedies of our era. He discusses a number of cases of impending executions for the … Continue reading