Victorian Professions


The cathedral city of Bristol sits in the south-west of England on the tidal River Avon, a position that encouraged settlement on the site as far back as the Palaeolithic era. During the Middle Ages Bristol developed a trade network with close neighbours Wales and Ireland, as well as many countries on the Continent, trading goods including wine, fish, wool and crops. These trading links expanded further over the coming years and by the sixteenth century Bristol was home to a thriving transatlantic trade, with the slave trade bringing incredible wealth and prosperity to the area. Not everyone in the city approved of Bristol's role in the slave trade and it was the first place outside London to establish a committee for the abolition of slavery in 1823, significantly (and unusually for the time) the committee had both male and female members. The committee's first petition for the abolition of slavery raised over 800 signatures.

Although Bristol was not as important a manufacturing city as Manchester, Sheffield or Leeds, the brass, copper, chemical, glass, soap, and paper industries that had emerged during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ensured its position as an important centre of commercial activity. Similarly, the tobacco firm W.D. & H.O. Wills, which was founded in Bristol in 1786, achieved incredible financial success throughout the nineteenth century. They also manufactured one of the most recognisable and popular products in the tobacco market, the Woodbine cigarette. The service industry sectors became increasingly important as the nineteenth century progressed and the population of Bristol expanded from 68,944 in 1801, to 159,945 in 1851, and 323,698 in 1901, with the increasingly affluent and numerous middle classes moving to the leafy suburbs such as Clifton.

These are the people in Bristol we are interested in: