VCH Explore

Explore England's Past


The grave of Scipio Africanus (d.1720) servant to the Earl of Suffolk

Few communities are static as people have always moved in search of better land or employment. England has always had diverse ethnic communities and internal migration has been an engine for economic and social change down the centuries.

Internal migration brought surplus rural populations to towns looking for work, a trend which accelerated with the Industrial revolution as thousands flocked to the new textile mills and to the mines, especially in the north of England. People from Ireland, Scotland and Wales also came to England looking for work as labourers on the canals and railways or in the clothing industry. In the later 19th century young men from rural areas like Exmoor were attracted to the relatively good wages to be earned in the South Wales coalfields and craftsmen and traders also moved to the new industrial towns to supply the needs of the industrial workforce.

In the 17th and 18th centuries a few enterprising people migrated to America and wealthy families established plantations in the Caribbean. By the 19th century Australia, New Zealand and Canada also attracted pioneering families in search of a better life or land to farm. Some parishes, burdened with poor relief, encouraged emigration with subsidies and paid passage, although it was often the better workers who left. Few communities were untouched by migration and many families had relatives overseas by the 20th century.

Merchants became involved in the slave trade in the 18th century and often brought black servants back to England as did wealthy families with plantations in the new world. Refugees from persecution and poverty in Europe from the 16th century onwards were joined in the 20th century by people fleeing dictatorship and war. Workers from the former British Empire made their way to England, first to the ports and later to London and industrial cities after the Second World War.

Theme Items

The Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Church Road, St. George, Bristol is in a building built in 1894-95 originally as the St.

Since at least the time of John Cabot, Italians have been resident in Bristol.

Bristol’s Polish community was first established in the twentieth century by Polish airmen and people displaced by the second world war and by econ

The Indian community in Bristol is the most socially mobile of Bristol's South Asian residents.

Western Daily Press 5th December 1972 on Ugandan Asians: Bristol should find homes for between 50 and 100 Ugandan Asian families

Bristol Indian Association's celebration in March 1959 of the Hindu festival of Holi (the festival of colours).

Zehra Haq came to Bristol, to Barton Hill, [ in 1977] because her in-laws lived in Barton Hill, Avonvale Road.

Simi Chowdhry is a Sikh. She was born in India in 1950 and came to Bristol in 1968, after graduating from Delhi University in India.

Zehra Haq set up the Barton Hill Asian Women's Group (later Dhek Bhal), which would later grow to claim some 800 members.

Though the Bristol public had raised a generous sum for Irish famine relief in 1847, the prospect an increased flow of largely poor and Catholic Ir