The Dagger Dance


When I was researching for The Dagger Dance, I found a quantity of material about Bristol which, as you will see below, was an important port for trade with the West Indies. It therefore suited my story for Hemp Roy to rediscover Dorote Gabon in that city.

These small details were picked up from larger pieces of data I read through and I kept these specifics in case I needed them for the story. It is all written in note form, picking up details that might just prove useful. Not all of it found its way into the book, but the references helped me to get a feel for the area in the late 18th century.

The map of Bristol from a French source was extremely useful because I was able to centre the events around the area of the floating harbour.

In fact, there was so much data about Bristol that at one point I felt quite overwhelmed. I had to sift through and discard irrelevant parts, concentrating on what was going to help me recreate the place for the reader.




Map of Bristol


Jamaica, as with the rest of the British colonies, treated manumission as a property transfer, with formal deeds drafted, witnessed, signed, and kept by the island government that safeguarded the former slave’s property right over his or her own body. These documents are typically straightforward and tend to describe the process as an intimate and local affair, usually involving a tight-knit circle of actors from the same parish, which included the manumitter(s), manumittee(s), and witnesses. Sometimes, however, the deeds identify a long chain of participants that included absentee manumitters in Britain, London-based creditors, local attorneys, plantation overseers, and manumittees.

Model who was the inspiration for Dorote Gabon

BRISTOL, Gloucester

Bath Road (Gloucester/Somerset)

Georgian Bristol – buildings in Georgian style built then

Slavery and tobacco in 17th century until piracy ends in 18th

Difference between pirates and privateers

Real Alexander Selkirk rescued by Woodes Rogers who stopped piracy – plaque on Georgian house in QUEEN SQUARE – Selkirk was returned to Bristol and met Daniel Defoe (as story goes) who wrote Robinson Crusoe based on his 5 years marooned on Juan Fernandez Island

Hole in the Wall pub just off Queen Square (Robert Louis Stevenson based Spyglass Tavern on it and also Ben Gunn as Selkirk) [RLS 19th century-20th]

Queen Square situated near the harbour (remains much as was in 18th century)

Customs House there, where taxes and duties were collected from ships

Much of trade was pirating. Buildings around harbour said to be built from proceeds.

Ships from Bristol to Africa, pick up slaves, on to West Indies and American plantations. Still going on 1807.

Returned with sugar, molasses, tobacco, rum and cocoa.

These fuelled development of related industries in Bristol: sugar refining, chocolate making and cigarette making [not at my time].

Bristol was well-known as a centre for trade and was the second largest port until the mid-eighteenth century when Liverpool took over the position as it had more capacity. Bristol’s main trades were in sugar, coffee, tobacco and chocolate which were produced in the Caribbean by the slave trade.

Set on tongue of land between Avon and Frome.

Bridge across the Avon, thus called Brigg Stowe (meeting place at the bridge in Saxon)

Streets extant by 1790s

Queen Square, Prince Street, James Square, Orchard Street.

Unity Street, College Green, Cornwallis Crescent, Hotwells Crescent, Windsor Terrace, Portland Square and Berkeley Square

Methodist Chapel, Exchange in Corn Street,

Bank 1750 and Theatre Royal 1766

New Bridge 1768 with tolls. Riots when tolls not removed in 1793 as promised. (September, late for me)

Rich moved out to live in Clifton.

The Royal Crescent (built in 80s) is here. Also Sion Row

Fry’s chocolate manufactured here, see advert.

New Long Room.

Old Long Room.

Disputes between.

York House Hotel, Gloucester Place, Clifton (built 1790)

Hot Well pump room crowded, especially between noon and 2pm

Two assembly rooms open,

Third on Clifton Hill

Around 1793 onwards, dwindled, aristocracy and gentry not coming

One hotel and 2 assembly rooms closed

Ostrich Inn, Durdham Down, 1790

Breakfasts for visitors from Hot Well, many rode over to play on bowling green

Dinners with turtle soup to be had at short notice

Sunday ordinary 2pm, (one shilling per head) for excursionists from Bristol

Newgate is the prison (100 years old)

Also a Bridewell

Hot Bath at Baptist Mills mentioned in 1793

WAR with France declared in February of 1793 a few days after execution of Louis XVI

Years preceding war marked by excessive speculation, encouraged by banks, who issued lots of paper money. Credit dangerously strained when France declared war, violent financial revulsion took place all over country. One hundred provincial banks stopped payment, 2 in Bath. Therefore no interest in privateering in Bristol for this new war.

Shakespeare Inn, Victoria Street

The Hatchet Inn, Frogmore Street – ill repute – cockpit

The Rummer Hotel, All Saints Lane

Queen’s Hotel on Queens Road – but may not be in date

Assembly Rooms, Princes St [check dates]

Bristol Gazette – published Thursdays

Bristol Journal – published Saturdays

Bristol Mercury – published Mondays