Local author Maurice uncovers stories behind Bristol Plaques

August 26 2016

Blue plaques in Bishopston have been featured in a new book by Bristol journalist, broadcaster and author Maurice Fells.

Marice

 

Blue plaques in Bishopston have been featured in a new book by Bristol journalist, broadcaster and author Maurice Fells.

His book, Bristol Plaques , is the first such volume in the city and tells the stories behind the names on the plaques and shows where the plaques can be found.

“Due to their size plaques can only give brief details about the person they honour, such as dates of birth and death along with one or two words about the individual concerned,” said Maurice, a passionate Bristolian.

“I strolled the streets of the city with my dog and discovered that Bristol doesn’t only have the traditional blue plaques but also green, black, bronze and even multi-coloured ones,” he said. 

Whilst most plaques are of oval or circular shape, Maurice found some that are rectangular, square and even three-dimensional. Most of them are made by a firm in Barton Hill which make plaques for Whitehall. 

Whilst there are the obvious ones - Cabot and Brunel - one of his favourites is the plaque on the ladies' toilets at Clifton Downs, by Stoke Road.  

Maurice explained: “It’s dedicated to Victoria Hughes, the toilet attendant who worked there for more than three decades. The plaque says that she cared for and befriended prostitutes - what she was doing was offering tea and sympathy in her little office to the ladies of the night who plied their trade around the Downs.

A war-time hero from Bishopston also features in the book. Field Marshall Viscount William Slim was regarded by the top brass in the British Army as “the finest general that the Second World War produced”.     

Slim is honoured by a blue plaque fixed to the wall of his birthplace in Belmont Road, Bishopston. The inscription on it describes him as “a great military commander”.      

Much of his military career was spent in India and when the Second World War broke out he was sent to head the Burma campaign, leading the famous 14th “Forgotten Army” to victory over the Japanese.     

Slim was in command of more than a million British and Commonwealth troops and learnt to speak the native tongue of many of his soldiers. Back at home, though, his troops became known as the “Forgotten Army” because most attention was being paid to the war in Europe and North Africa.

Maurice added: “I found another one in a shop doorway on Whiteladies Road to Frank Norman and it just described him as author and playwright. Delving around I discovered that this chap would have been born there in 1930, abandoned at birth and spent much of his childhood in Barnardos homes. He was convicted of petty crime and served a three year sentence in the Isle of Wight prison. When he came out he wrote a book called “Bang to Rights” and that book was turned into the great west-end musical, “Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be”. Altogether he wrote about 30 novels.”

There are many other local stories of interest, not least, that of Robert Taylor, a bank robbery hero who was posthumously awarded the George Cross after an act of bravery in Westbury Park. He tried to stop two armed bank robbers who were in the process of robbing the former Lloyds Bank building on North View. Robert was shot in head and died and has a plaque outside his old home in Fishponds.

Bristol Plaques is the tenth book written by Maurice Fells. It is published by the History Press (£12.99) and is available from several bookshops.