Washing in the Well

When Jacob’s Wells Baths was opened in 1889, the area around it was one of great poverty and social need.  Very few people had running water in their households, and the water in nearby Bristol docks was heavily polluted.  In the tenements built into the hillside lining Jacob’s Wells Road and Hotwell Road, typhoid and cholera were rife.  But the area had a clean water supply from the Jacob’s Well which has influenced its history.

Washing in the Well: Bathing in the Past was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Quartet Community Foundation.  Local Learning and Rowan Associates were appointed to work with the Jacob’s Wells Community Hub to explore the history of the area, the stories of people who have lived there, and those who helped shape it.

We worked with local historians, local artist Carmen Garaghon and children from St George’s CoE Primary School and St Michael on the Mount Primary School to create two bespoke maps, one of medieval Bristol and the other of Victorian Jacob’s Wells Road.  The maps show the importance of the watercourse to the development of the area.   The project recorded people’s memories of the Baths, assisted by Tot Foster; and working with Jacob’s Wells Community Hub and Carmen Garaghon we have created a booklet telling some of the histories and mysteries of the well.

Booklet (downloadable pdf)

Living Memory

Jacob’s Wells Baths was built at a time when very few people were fortunate enough to have running water in their households, a time when locals didn’t appreciate the risks they were taking swimming in the dirty docks, a time when the whole family would have to take turns washing in a tin bath, in ever-murkier water.

Some of these experiences continued into the 20th century, within living memory…

Beyond Living Memory

The result of community and students’ research to collect the stories of the Jacob’s Wells neighbourhood in the past.