Brave Poor Things: Reclaiming Bristol’s Disability History

14 Oct 2017 - 15 Apr 2018

Ongoing exhibitions in 2017 - 2018

M Shed

Princes Wharf
Wapping Rd

Guild of the Brave Poor Things Credit - Bristol Record Office: BRO: 39842/P/1b

For nearly 100 years, the Guild for the Brave Poor Things provided a vital social and educational hub for disabled people in Bristol. The exhibition also uses the social and design history of the Guild as a way of looking more widely at disability in Bristol, using primary source material and oral histories.

Disability history and architectural history have a longstanding relationship which has influenced the social landscape, as well as the fabric of our cities and the lives of the individuals within.

Accentuate’s national project History of Place has explored 800 years of history over eight different sites around the UK. This has culminated in three exhibitions in Bristol, Liverpool and London.

M Shed’s exhibition tells the story of The Guild of the Brave Poor Things, founded in 1894, its members and its headquarters.

This pioneering building, which still stands today in Old Market, is thought to be the UK’s first purpose-built for disabled people in 1913.

The Guild was set up by Victorian philanthropist Ada Vachell (herself deaf from childhood due to scarlet fever) in 1896. It provided a social space and a hub for crafts and apprenticeships for disabled children and adults, based on the model of the original Guild created in London.

The Guild’s 100-year lifespan saw huge changes in social attitudes towards disability. But how far have we really come – and how much further is there to go?

Exhibition includes BSL interpretation, audio description, and tactile features.

See more resources and photographs from the Guild here:

Story: Getting work and education

Story: The end of the Bristol Guild – what social changes led to the closure of the Guild in the 1980s?

Follow the Guild timeline

Collections: the people and culture of the Guild and a First World War photo album.

And read more on MShed’s blog.

If you visit the exhibition, we would be very glad to have your views in our survey.