15 February 2024

Regional History talk: From Bristol to Botany Bay

In 1817 a convict ship, ‘The Friendship’, sailed from England to Botany Bay, Australia with 101 women aboard. Ten women were from Bristol Newgate prison – now the site of the Galleries Shopping Centre.

Dating from the Medieval period, but redeveloped in 1690, Bristol Newgate served as the city’s prison until New Gaol replaced it in 1820. By 1817, Newgate was notorious for overcrowding and disease. The majority of those imprisoned there were working class. While comparatively little is known about them, the archive of the criminal justice system offers a way to uncover their lived experience.

With funding from Historic England and the Regional History Centre at UWE, Bristol-based theatre company Show of Strength worked with women in HMP Eastwood Park prison in Gloucestershire to explore this story. The project set out to recover and reimagine the overlooked but extraordinary lives of the ten women awaiting transportation at Bristol Newgate in 1817.

A series of workshops involving archival research, creative writing and performance has brought to life these historic stories in short dramatic monologues.

In this talk, facilitators Sheila Hannon (Show of Strength’s Creative Producer), actor Lynda Rooke, and historian Rose Wallis, will discuss the project and the historic experiences of the Bristol women. They will share some of the dramatic retellings of their lives written by workshop participants at Eastwood Park and recorded on site at the Galleries Shopping Centre.

Image courtesy of State Library, New South Wales


Sheila Hannon is Creative Producer for Show of Strength Theatre Company. The company’s work focuses on local stories and includes walking tours in Bedminster, Clifton and St George. New performances for 2024 include Magic and Mayhem in Medieval Bristol and Raising Cary Grant – The Bristol Footsteps of Archie Leach. 

Lynda Rooke is an established actor of stage and screen, and President of the UK performing artists’ union Equity.

Rose Wallis is Associate Professor of British Social History at the University of the West of England, and Director of the Regional History Centre at UWE.

How to take part

This event is free and will be held online over Zoom. Please book your place below. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration email. Please check your spam folder if the email does not arrive. Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings.

Although this talks is free and open to all, we would be grateful if you could consider making a donation.

About the Regional History talks

Each year Bristol Museums delivers a season of regional history talks in partnership with the Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE). The talks are monthly between October to June, and explore research into the history of Bristol and surrounding South Western counties.


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