Thursday 26 December 2013

A stroll through mid-nineteenth century Bristol

Today I found a book on-line called A Chronological Outline of the History of Bristol. I read it and before too long I’d found a recommended walk in it’s opening pages. Since I knew about Bristol’s Know Your Place site, and its wealth of maps and pictures, I decided to complete this walk, virtually.

We begin (or began) on the junction of Corn-street, Broad-street, Wine-street and High-street, where we can admire the Dutch House (destroyed in the Second World War).

Strolling down the High-street, the guide draws our attention to various booksellers and printers and to the entrance to St Nicholas Market on the right. We continue towards Bristol Bridge,

And, once across, we look back to take in the view of St Nicholas Church,

Before taking a right down Redcliffe-street. To my delight, the guide actually points out a building that I can find a picture for that isn't a church: The Red Lion Inn.

After continuing along this road, after we arrive at St Mary’s Church, the guide suggests a brief diversion around Redcliffe-Parade and Guinea-street before returning to the church via Redcliffe-Hill before heading right along Pile-street (now called Redcliffe Way).

There the guide draws our attention to the school house and the birthplace of Thomas Chatterton. This house is still standing, although it now looks a bit forlorn: like a building that the Council forgot to demolish when developing the rest of the area. According to one site, some well-meaning English Literature students squatted in the building and renovated it a few years ago, but since they were evicted, I have no idea about its current state.

We continue on our walk, past the site of Temple-Gate, one of the gates to the old city walls, that was demolished in 1808. Then we continue up Pipe-lane, which bears to the left and from there the guide advises that we turn down Rose-street and then up Church-lane to Temple-Church, Bristol’s very own leaning tower almost to rival Pisa’s.

That’s a modern photo, of course. But anyway, once past there, it’s onto Temple-street for a short spell before turning left down Long Row which will take us to St Thomas-street. Here we can briefly take in the sight of St Thomas Church.

After this, the guide takes us back to where we began, making sure we appreciate All Saints Church.

A very pleasant walk, and it's not the only suggested route in the book. And remember, all of these images, as well as many others, are available on Bristol City Council's Know Your Place page.


Evans, J., (1824) “A Chronological Outline of the History of Bristol, and the Stranger's Guide Through Its Streets and Neighbourhood”,_Bristol.jpg

Saturday 21 December 2013

Indecision at life drawing

I found this sketch from an old life drawing session, and I was amused by my notes down the side of the drawing, expressing my dismay, acceptance and finally pleasure at how the drawing went.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Horse hair becomes animated in water

An old folk-tale tells that if horse hair is place in water then it becomes animated, as this passage from a book from 1825 describes:

“When a boy, I firmly believed that the hair of a horse’s mane became eels if placed in water; and often have I put whole handfuls of it into a marle-hole, in the hope that one day I should find each hair an eel.”

This author admits he found nothing but hair, even if he left it for months, but this particular myth had been explained almost 200 years previously. In the Philosophical Transactions published on the 1st January 1672, Mr Lister describes his own findings on the subject.

“It hath been credibly reported, that Horse hairs thrown into water will be animated; and yet I shall show you by an unquestionable observation, that such things as are vulgarly thought animated Hairs are very Insects, nourished within the bodies of other Insects”

It seems that a particular type of worm that could be found in damp habitats like watering trough was the cause for reports of horse hairs coming to life in water. But even though the origins of the myth had been explained, the phenomena continued to fascinate. This section of an 1887 newspaper article tells us:

“Coleridge informs us that it was a common experiment with boys in Cumberland and Westmoreland to lay a horse-hair in water, which, when removed after a time, would turn round the finger and sensibly compress it, having become the supporter of an immense number of small, slimy water-lice.”


“Curious Fish Legends,” Supplement to the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Saturday, 13 August, 1887, page 9
“An Extract of a Letter of the Same Mr. Lister, Written from York April 12. 1672. Concerning Animated Horse-Hairs; Rectifying a Vulgar Error,” Philosophical Transactions, 1672 7, doi: 10.1098/rstl.1672.0021, published 1 January 1672
“Captain Rock in London; or, the Chieftan’s Gazette. For the year 1825,” p295