VCH Explore

Explore England's Past

Local Celebrities

Dixie Brown made his name as a bare knuckle boxer in inter-war Bristol

Many communities boast a local celebrity. Some are known for heroism or philanthropy others perhaps for some crime, witchcraft or mere eccentricity. Some have acquired national fame others will be little known outside their locality.

One who acquired wide fame was Edward Colston of Bristol whose wealth from trade and slavery was used to endow charities, schools, almshouses, hospitals and churches. On a more modest scale Stephen Ballard of Ledbury, Herefordshire was a civil engineer whose lasting legacy is the scenic Jubilee Drive in the Malvern Hills. Men of humble origins achieved local fame like Henry Brookes (d. 1884) a self-educated shoemaker from Ledbury who was acknowledged as an authority on the geology of this neighbourhood.

Women have also achieved lasting fame like Bess of Hardwick, Elizabeth dowager countess of Shrewsbury (d.1608) but most were only known within their locality like Lydia Tonkin fish merchant of Newlyn whose correspondence reflects some of the difficulties faced by a woman in a man’s world in the 1700s. Hannah Nonmus a Jewish immigrant who converted to Methodism and hawked perfume round Bristol for a living achieved fame when her cause was championed by Bristol Methodists. Many upper class women kept diaries recounting the doings of their neighbours and the social life of the area. Caroline Powys, daughter of a Berkshire surgeon, kept a diary from the mid 18th century when she lived near Henley in Oxfordshire.

Some achieve local fame through sport like Somerset cricketer Jack White or the early 20th-century black bare knuckle Bristol boxer Dixie Brown.

Of course some local celebrities never existed at all! The fictional Lorna Doone, eponymous heroine of R D Blackmore's novel has drawn tourists to Exmoor for 150 years.

Theme Items

This memorial is in East Anstey church and commemorates Albert William Tarr who was killed on the railway line on the 8 January 1935.

Bilbower, High Street, a doctor's surgery in 2008

Lorna Doone

Captain Woodes Rogers (1679-1732) is remembered in a plaque on 33-35 Queen Square, he was Captain of a voyage around the world from 1708 to 1711, w

Off Broad Street is Tailor's Court, to one side of which is The Court House.

Colston is widely revered as one of Bristol's biggest benefactors.

'The Georgian House' was once the home of the Pinney family.

Dixie Brown was one of the very few men of African descent living in Bristol in the early inter-war period and was a much loved father and 'grandfe

Joseph St. Clair, ‘the black dentist’ from Barbados married a Bristol girl, Mabel Stallard, and made a relatively good living in interwar Bristol.

The story of Hannah Nonmus