History: Local news from afar

July 09 2022
History: Local news from afar

Mike Jempson discovers what was going on in 1935 through the pages of an old Evening Post. 

Not everything found in a museum stays in a museum. A bag of tattered old newspapers destined for the bin, proved to be a revelation about life as she was lived in these parts ninety years ago.

Back then the broadsheet Evening Post had a much grander role. The front page lead of its 6:30pm edition on Friday 25 January 1935, ’57 MISSING IN U.S. LINER DISASTER’, told in detail of the sinking of The Mohawk off the New Jersey coast.

The only local story on the front page was headlined ‘Killed in a Storm’, told of an unnamed middle-aged women who had lost her life that very afternoon crossing Filton Road near Horfield Barracks. Identified in the STOP PRESS as Mrs Emma Hodgetts from a lodging house in Lamb Street, St Judes, she was  ’thought to have been temporarily blinded by the violence of [a hail] storm. The driver of the motor car made a desperate swerve to avoid her.’ 

Fishponds news stories were similarly grim. An inquest report into the apparent suicide of Mrs Emily Bussell of 9 Downend Road, described how two boys out fishing had found her body in a disused railway cutting between Hanham Deep Pit and Speedwell Pit in St George. 

In the ‘Hatched, Matched and Despatched’ column, Emily’s death was mourned by husband Harry and her children, one of whom was in the USA. Emma Amelia Booth of 512 Fishponds Road is also remembered by her husband Arthur.

By extraordinary coincidence, under the headline ‘Sequel to Fishponds Fatality’, another inquest recorded an open verdict on the death of 73 year old Mrs Caroline Bussell of Stonebridge Park. She had been knocked down on 7 January by a car traveling at 25 miles an hour partly on the tram tracks along the Fishponds Road. It was claimed there was a ‘black patch’ on the road caused by lights from nearby shops, and that Mrs Bussell had walked into the side of the car with her head down. She suffered multiple injuries and died the following week in the Royal Infirmary. Although the offside windscreen had shattered and the direction indicator was broken, the driver was not called to give evidence. 

On a jollier note there was a picture and a report of the annual dinner of the rapidly expanding Fishponds Branch of the British Legion. Attended by some 250 people, it was held at the Cadena Cafe in Wine Street.

A Fishponds club was looking for someone to teach five men how to play the piano accordion, and a reveller from Tudor Road, Easton was looking for a black velvet cape lost between the Fishponds Lido and the White Swan the previous Saturday. Meanwhile Fishponds Wheelers Cycling Club were planning a Sunday outing to Seend.

A nostalgic account of a walk across Purdown from Horfield mentioned the loss of a beech wood cut down to make rifle stocks during the Crimean War, and reminded readers of a time when there were no ‘tea houses’ to take refreshments. Instead cottages would advertise ‘hot water supplied’ to let walkers know the they could picnic in the garden and borrow cups. The walker refers to the establishment of the Stoke Park Colony at the base of the hill ‘an admirable site for such an institution’, and to the expansion of the Mental Hospital and and Poor Law Institution.

For those intent on more sedentary entertainment for the weekend there was plenty to choose from. It was pantomime time with ‘Dick Whittington’ at the Prince’s Theatre, and ‘Jack and Jill’ at the Theatre Royal. Colston Hall’s Little Theatre had ‘The Lake’. 

Bristol boasted at least 25 cinemas, all showing different double bills, except the Vandyke in Fishponds. Its main feature was the crime thriller ‘What Happened Then’ but the ‘B’ movie ‘The Romantic Age’ had top billing at The Park.

There were plenty of dances. Harry Weston and his Orchestra were playing at a Select Dance for the East Bristol Cricket Club in St Mary’s Parish Hall, Fishponds, and Freddie Williamson and his Ambassadors were providing the music at the Alcove Lido. 

But the big political meeting of the day was to be at the Colston Hall that evening. Winston Churchill MP, then Chancellor of Bristol University, had arrived by train to address an India Defence League meeting opposing Indian independence. Tickets were on sale from 6d (less that 3p) to 2/6d (12.5p).

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