Wednesday 4th August 2021. Dr Evan Jones.
Dr Evan Jones provided a fascinating tour of the streets and groves to the north of the medieval city. His research has provided a fresh perspective on life in medieval Bristol. Nineteen Bristol HA folk attended. The official title of the tour was ‘From Grope Cunt Lane to Fucking Grove: a sex tour of medieval Bristol’
Evan began by St John the Baptist in Nelson Street. In the Middle Ages this street was called Grope Cunt Lane. The area was close to the ships docked at the Quay/Key head and so the local prostitutes had plenty of customers. Evan explained how words such as cunt had a somewhat different meaning. Nevertheless, by the eighteenth century the city fathers were becoming embarrassed by such street names and were looking for more respectable names. Nelson was a patriotic name and could be accepted by most Bristolians.
We moved on to St Stephen’s and discussed recent research into marriages in the parish. From there we moved on to Host Street (next to Christmas Steps) which had originally been called Whore Street. Once again, the city fathers sought to make it more respectable. Whore Street was changed to Horse Street and eventually Host Street.
From there we progressed to Park Row and talked about the garden houses/allotments that enabled some richer Bristolians to rise above the stench of the city below.
By the University Wills building and then Priory Road, Evan talked about the groves (Hither Fockynggrove and Inner Fockynggrove) that sat on the northern boundary of the 1373 City & County of Bristol boundary. Evan provided a map indicating the position of the county boundary stones. At least one of these has been found.
The groves were areas where couples could walk and talk and engage in more intimate activities away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Evan explained medieval and early modern attitudes to sex. Most couples had very little privacy. Beds and bedrooms were often crowded. Hence the attraction of the groves on the boundary with Gloucestershire.
The tour provided an intriguing picture of how sexual language and attitudes have changed in the last six centuries. It also gave us a tantalizing view of a side of Bristol that is now so different.
The party retired to the Highbury Vaults.