Credit - Courtesy of Bristol Archives ref BRO 39842-P-1(a) [b]

The Guild of the Brave

The early years in quotes and pictures

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The Bristol Guild was one of the earliest examples of a supportive community of deaf and disabled people, which first met at various locations including Stratton Street and Broad Plain House. Photograph albums, formal and casual capture the lives of the community in the early 20th century.

Group of girls on the staircase outside a house


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Eventually, when the Guild grew too big for these locations,  it fundraised for its own landmark building at Braggs Lane, Old Market, Bristol. It opened in 1913 and was in use for nearly 100 years until the Guild closed in 1987.

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Architects drawings showing arched windows and a balcony on two sketches

Sketches for the exterior of the Guild building

The Guild’s Bristol building opened in 1913. It was planned with no stairs at the entrance, with wide double doors and all on one level to provide easy access.

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Guild meeting, November 1914

The central hall, which dominated the building, gave space for meetings, lectures, tea and events. The boys and girls club rooms to the side were used for crafts.

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Guild boys in the countryside

Photograph albums from around the time of the First World War capture life at the Guild, both at the imposing Bristol headquarters and on holiday in the countryside.

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One part – and an important one – of our Guild work has been to try and fit them for an afterlife of independence by apprenticing them as they leave for school, to some trade for which they show preference and for which they seem suitable. Ada Vachell in ‘The Bristol Times and Mirror’ November 5th 1900

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Basket weavers at work, May 1914.

Basket weaving was among the skills taught to members of the Guild. During the First World War more members were able to overcome prejudice and find employment.

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What we want is some little place of our own, open all through the year, to which at any time the delicate Guild members could be sent and, especially the younger ones, kept as long as seems advisable. Health and strength to be won.Ada Vachell in a newspaper appeal

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In 1906 a holiday home was opened in Churchill, Somerset so that both adults and children could enjoy a fortnight in the countryside. Some comments in the reports and minute books record views of the Guild members, and emphasise the contrast between the industrial city and the countryside: ‘each year I dread leaving Churchill for smokey Bristol’. Another writes to a sister: ‘Dear Sister, I do think the country is so beautiful, such lovely trees and fields and flowers…’

Guild members on holiday


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