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Bristol is both a city and a county in South West England. For the last eight centuries, Bristol has been the largest and most culturally and economically important cities in England. It became a city in 1542 and experienced great economic growth from European imports of olive oil, figs, wine, and dyes as well as exports of cotton, wool, hides, and lead. Smuggling by leading merchants, who exported food and leather and under-reporting wine imports. Bristol was captured by Royalists and was subsequently recaptured by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. During this time, many shops were converted to factories manufacturing arms and muskets.

The first recorded English slave traders included the wealthy Bristol merchant William de la Founte in 1480. Bristol ships made more than 2,000 slave-trading trips. In the 18th century, Bristol-made brass, iron, and woolen cloth were brought to Africa to trade for those who would soon become slaves. Those future slaves were then traded in the West Indies for sugar, rum, and tobacco.

John Wesley, who was quite vocal about his opposition to slavery, built the world's first Methodist chapel in Horsefair in 1739. Edmond Burke, Member of the British Parliament for Bristol 1774 through 1780, also opposed slavery, as did poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, and Ann Yearsley as well as Hannah More.

The stone bridge, which crossed over the River Avon allowing people to cross into Bristol, was built some time in the early 13th century. The bridge was the only way one could cross the River Avon without the use of a ferry. It was not just a bridge, for it was also where the Chapel of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary sat. It spanned across the bridge and even extended over the sides, held up with extended piers. There was a bell tower atop the church and at street level, a crypt, which was used for Bristol's Council meetings. Additionally, the Bristol Bridge had some thirty houses as well.

It was not uncommon for houses and chapels to be situated upon bridges during that time. But this chapel was quite a bit larger than most. It was the Chapel of the Assumption was removed during the Reformation, along with other bridge churches because the it was thought to be superstitious.

In 1764 a project began to replace the stone bridge by a new bridge because even without the chapel, it was considered too narrow and congested. The bridge opened in 1768 and it had turned out to be a hugely expensive undertaking, and in order to pay for the replacement, a toll was instituted to those who used the bridge. This idea was repugnant to Bristolians, but they were promised that the toll would end in 1793. When the toll was extended in 1793, the citizenry took to the streets. This was the beginning of the Bristol Bridge Riots. The riot was among the worst in the 18th century, with 11 people killed and 52 injured after the Council ordered the militia to fire on the crowd.

The Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire, took effect in 1807, and that fact, coupled with the fact that the war with France in 1793, caused Bristol to lose its economic standing. Sugar, glass, and brass production declined, and the city was unable to properly prosper during the Industrial Revolution.

And then came the Queen Square Riots of 1831, which came about after the House of Lords rejected the second Reform Bill. More than 500 young men rioted for three days. Four rioters were killed and more than 85 were wounded while more than 500 people were said to have been killed in the fires which the rioters had started. More than 100 rioters were arrested and went to trial and four of them were hanged.

Bristol's population doubled between 1700 and 1750, and before 1801 had passed, it had grown to 68,000.


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