I spent a lovely hour wandering around the Georgian House Museum in Bristol on my birthday. To my shame, I don’t visit often enough even though I am struck every single time that I DO go by the cosy loveliness of the building’s interior.
I took some ropey photographs with my iPhone while pottering around, which I thought some of you might like to see – especially if you are fans of Philippa Gregory’s A Respectable Trade as some scenes from the television series were filmed in the house.
The Georgian House was built in a prime position just off elegant Park Street (which is actually a heinous hill) in 1760 for a wealthy plantation owner, John Pinney who had amassed an ENORMOUS fortune on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean and returned home to the west country of England to enjoy it. The house he built for himself is lovely indeed but you can never quite forget (and indeed are encouraged to remember) that Pinney’s wealth was based on the slaves who worked on his plantation. I find the concept and indeed actuality of slavery absolutely horrifying and although a display within the house points out that Pinney treated his slaves relatively well, it’s not really a comfort is it?
One of Pinney’s slaves was the famous Pero, who went with Pinney and his family when they returned to England in 1783 and was employed as John Pinney’s personal servant, becoming a familiar sight in Georgian Bristol. By all accounts Pinney was extremely attached to Pero and even sent him out to the countryside when he became ill in 1798 although sadly it had no effect and he subsequently died at the age of forty five, having spent the last thirty two years of his life a slave. There’s a bridge named after him in central Bristol, which is intended as a memorial to all the thousands of enslaved people who passed through the city in what has to be the most depressing trade of all time.
If you are ever in Bristol then I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Georgian House. Entry is free but I’d check the website before heading there as the opening days change depending on season. The Georgian House doesn’t have the same florid atmosphere as Denis Severs’ House in Spitalfields, which is full of the smells and ambience of a Georgian townhouse but it’s a delightful glimpse into wealthy middle class Georgian household life nonetheless – the kitchens in particular are full of interest if you have a hankering to see how things were run below stairs in the grand houses of eighteenth century grandees.