Walking Words: Queen's Square to Arnolfini

room 4 ECHOES

Bristol

Poets: Liz Cashdan and Agata Palmer

A walk around Queen's Square taking in Madame Tussaud and Kosciuszko, the Polish Patriot.

The square was named in honour of Queen Anne, who visited Bristol in 1702, and it became the home of the merchant elite. It was conveniently placed for both arms of the harbour, but its low-lying position surrounded on three sides by a tidal river had disadvantages too: an 'assemblage of nastiness' floated in the river, and when the tide failed to carry this away it offended the eyes and nostrils of those living in the square. This was one of the factors which ultimately led the wealthy to the move up the hill to Clifton.

Privateer Woodes Rogers lived on the west side of the square; a plaque commemorates this on the building that now occupies the site of his former home. Rogers circumnavigated the globe in 1707-1711, rescuing Alexander Selkirk (the inspiration for Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe) from Juan Fernández Island during his voyage.

In 1831 Queen Square was the focus of a riot, in which half the buildings in the square were destroyed. The trigger for this was the arrival in Bristol of Recorder Sir Charles Wetherell, who misjudged Bristolians' support for some of his earlier positions to mean that they agreed with his opposition to the Reform Bill.

There followed three days of rioting, looting and arson, fuelled by plentiful supplies of alcohol from the well-stocked cellars of residents, which were finally brought to a halt when Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brereton of the 14th Dragoons led a charge with drawn swords through the mob. Hundreds were killed and wounded and the mob dispersed. Brereton was later court-martialled for leniency because he had initially refused to open fire on the crowds, but shot himself before the conclusion of his trial.

In the centre of the Square is an idealised equestrian statue of William III by John Michael Rysbrack, cast in 1733 and erected in 1736 to signify the city's loyalty.


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The Echoes


Queens Square October 1831

Poem by Liz Cashdan

Queens Square Today

Poem by Liz Cashdan

Queens Square to Arnolfini

Poem by Agata Palmer

Afternoon by Isaevilnarmusic

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