Help bring the life stories of those who helped shape our city back to life. This vote is open to anyone and everyone!  

🎥 Watch the video to find out more, or read the stories below...

*If you would like to view with subtitles, please click 'Watch on YouTube'


Want to get involved or find out more about the project? Get in touch directly with Amber-Ruth, our Youth and Community Inclusion Officer, on [email protected]  

About the Vote 

Creative Youth Network is redeveloping The Courts on Bridewell Street, a grade II listed building in Bristol’s city centre, into a creative enterprise hub. The redevelopment of the building is taking into account the history and role the building has played in social change in the city. Due to reopen in December 2023, the building will house digital technologies for everyone to access and bring the history of the site to life.  

Having completed a research project with UWE’s History department and Bristol’s Archives, Creative Youth Network has learnt about the social impact of the building and the cases that took place there.  

Where You Come In 

We’ve been thinking about ways to use digital technologies to retell historic stories that are relevant to our community  and that relate to continued social justices or injustices of today.  

Who would you like to find out more about? Which of the below stories would you like to see  brought back to life?  

Below are snapshots of The Courts Youth Advisory Board’s favourite seven stories of The Courts history. Now we’d like you to vote for your top three! 

You can visit this page to look into overall history of The Courts or continue on to cast your vote...


1. Theresa Garnett ‘Whipper of Winston’ 1909 

Garnett was prosecuted in our courts for protesting women’s right to vote. She had attacked Winston Churchill with a dog whip at Bristol Temple Meads Station, shouting ‘Take that, take that from the women of England!’ 

  • What was the Women’s Social and Political Union and what were they fighting for? What was the treatment like for suffragettes? How did Theresa continue her protest even when imprisoned?   

2. ‘Shoplifting’: Blanche and Ann Simms, 1886  

Mother and daughter, Blanche and Ann were prosecuted for stealing various items. Blanche tried to take the blame herself; her husband explaining that she was driven to it by their poverty – ‘they had nine children, and he was out of work. 

  • Were the Simms family separated? How often did our courts see cases like these? What interventional procedures were in place to deter young people from a life of crime? 

3. ‘A Foolish Freak’, Henry Burchell, 1890  

Henry was a member of the Royal Artillery. He was charged with being drunk and disorderly, and for wearing women’s clothes. the policeman who had arrested him didn’t realise Burchell wasn’t a woman until they reached the station. He had been dining at the Pineapple Inn, and was taken-up on Frogmore Street; both areas now associated with LGBTQ+ clubs and bars. 

  • Is there historic continuity in the area as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community? Why were Victorian men so concerned a man passed as a woman?  

4. Madame Zara, fined for ‘palmistry’, 1900  

Madame Zara, or Alice Godfrey as she was otherwise known, was prosecuted for ‘deceiving and imposing’ upon the (largely) young women who went to see her to have their fortunes told. Fortune-telling had been considered as a sort of deception or fraud from at least the 18th Century. 

  • Why was fortune-telling illegal? What did Madame Zara do to protect herself against the law? What happened to her business? 

5. Edmund Harris, charged with ‘wandering the streets’, 1890  

Edmund was 10 when he appeared before the Bristol magistrates. While he faced a charge of wandering, the law was used not only to check his behaviour, but also to address his oppressive living conditions and difficult family relationships 

  • What systems were in place to protect children in the 1800s? Where was Edmund sent to be removed from his father? Was he given the care a child deserves or expected to become an adult before his time? 

6. Rose Groves, ‘such a pity’ 1911 

Rose had grown up in care and stayed at Red Lodge, the first reformatory for girls, between 1901 and 1906. She regularly stayed in contact with matron. In 1911 she was prosecuted for a series of property crimes. Matron wrote in her journal, ‘it is such a pity a girl as promising should do this’  

  • Was Rose ‘bad’ or had the ‘system failed her’? What was her future relationship with the law?  

7. ‘A sad case’: Sarah Ann Smith, 1896  

Smith, a married woman with 12 children (4 of whom had died), was arrested for stealing a roll of oilcloth. The Mercury newspaper described Smith’s case as “very sad indeed” as “the defendant was a most respectable woman, and had been an excellent mother [but] the offence was entirely due to abject poverty”. Smith’s husband, who had broken his thigh, had been out of work for a long time and only received £1 a week.

  • What support was there for people out of work at that time? Were the Smith family able to support their family? What was the outcome of Smith’s court case? 



Click Here To Vote


Or Send a Voice Clip Here

Want to get involved or find out more about the project? Get in touch directly with Amber-Ruth, our Youth and Community Inclusion Officer, on [email protected] 


How can we help?