Bristol’s Australian Pioneer


This new book reveals the remarkable story of a Bristol mansion that was converted by its owner into a 100-bed hospital for the duration of the First World War.

The Bishop’s Knoll war hospital in Stoke Bishop was established in the home of a Bristol multi-millionaire for the treatment and recuperation of Australian soldiers wounded on the front line, and more than 2,000 servicemen recovered there.

Bristol’s Australian Pioneer is written by Chris Stephens and tells the story of the hospital and its founder Robert Edwin Bush.  Copies can be obtained from the publisher: Bristol Books,

Chris’s interest in uncovering the secret histories of places was sparked in early childhood, when his own father worked at the notoriously mysterious Bletchley Park during World War Two.  He says: “In 1877 Bush travelled to Australia to seek his fortune, became a successful sheep farmer and an influential politician. He left Australia and moved back to Bristol in 1905 but continued to regard Australia as his adopted country and wished to do something to repay the place where he had made his fortune. When the war broke out, turning his mansion home into a hospital for Australian soldiers seemed like a fitting return.”

On Wednesday 24 August 2016, a replica of a commemorative plaque that once adorned the hallway of the mansion was unveiled at the Bishop’s Knoll Woodland Trust site by Bristol High Sheriff, Helen Wilde – a fitting tribute to the extra-ordinary work carried out there during the First World War.

Bristol Record Office is running an exhibition about Robert Bush and his Bishop’s Knoll WW1 hospital from 3 September 2016 to 13 January 2017.

Chris will be talking about Bishop’s Knoll, its owner, its hospital, and its connections to Langford, at our meeting in May 2017.  Signed copies of the book will be available for sale.

The Reverend Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley and the Queen of Bath

Chris Stephens’ account of the life and times of The Reverend Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley. This full and detailed 452 page account of Georgian England focuses on a life of extravagance and generosity, much of it funded by judicious marriages, and covers his time in Langford, Bath, Bristol and France. Copies are £9.99 and can be obtained directly from Professor Stephens

Burrington Parish in World War I

The Rickford History Group has put together a detailed account of those serving from Burrington Parish in ‘The Great War’. It is an exemplary account of those brave man and women who were called to serve King and Country throughout the Empire at home and abroad. Copies are now priced at £5.  They can be obtained by telephoning 01761 462491 or 01761 462586 or via email from: <>.

Every House Tells a Story

In November 2006, the Group published a book, “Every House Tells A Story” about local houses in the village of Langford.

Some 25 older houses reveal their secrets, both architectural and family. The project was a collaborative venture with some 20 authors researching a wide range of properties in the village. The book is well illustrated with maps, photos, records, and deeds, many in colour. At nearly 250 pages and with 1000 references the book is an important work recording the social and economic development of a rural Somerset village over nearly four centuries.

A chapter is devoted to a comprehensive collection of maps dating from 1675 to modern days, which shows how the village developed from a staging post on the Bristol to Exeter coach run to a desirable country residence for rich merchants from Bristol and London in the 1820s.

Copies of the book are still available from some local shops.

More Stories from Langford

A completely new set of 24 houses are covered in “More Stories From Langford”, which in addition features chapters on 11 “prominent Langfordians”. These are individuals and families who in addition to having had an impact on our village have gone onto achieve fame and notoriety on a larger stage. Their stories make interesting reading.

The book runs to 360 pages, is lavishly illustrated, well referenced and indexed, and with its companion volume represents a unique guide to the development of a rural community.

Copies of the book are still available from some local shops.