• Bristol Fair Trade

Social Justice Heroes at Arnos Vale

Updated: Jan 24, 2019


This year’s South West Fair Trade Business Awards ceremony will take place in the magnificent surroundings of Arnos Vale Cemetery. A morbid setting for a celebration, you might say; but this Victorian garden cemetery, opened in 1839, was designed to be a spacious and attractive destination away from the dirt and bustle of Bristol. In 45 acres of Classical Grecian-inspired landscape, Victorian Bristolians could honour passed love ones, amble in the fresh air and admire the ordered architecture around them.


Monument to Raja Ram Mohan Roy at Arnos Vale Cemetery, image courtesy of Arnos Vale Cemetery

Needless to say, the site soon became the favoured resting place for Bristol’s citizens, including several notable contributors to social justice still remembered today. As pretty big fans of social justice ourselves, we thought we’d take a look at just some of our favourite heroes to be found at Arnos Vale.


Raja Ram Mohan Roy, 1772 – 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy is considered a pioneer of modern India, and outspoken advocate of women’s and children’s rights, instrumental in bringing about social and religious reform in the 18th and 19th century. Amongst his most notable reform work were his efforts to abolish the practice of Sati (self-immolation, often forced, of a widow after bereavement), child marriage, the caste system, and to establish inheritance rights for women.


Mary Carpenter (public domain)

Mary Carpenter, 1807 – 1877

Social reformer, lobbyist and a celebrated public speaker of her day, Mary Carpenter is remembered for her instrumental advocacy on a wide range of social justice issues. Her publications and opinions on education influenced educational reform in the 1850s, and she eventually founded her own reformatory school—Red Lodge in Bristol. She was active in the anti-slavery movement, a vocal supporter of women’s suffrage, and travelled the world campaigning on female education and improved prison conditions.








May Allen, 1835 – 1912

Nurse and missionary, May Allen, devoted her career to treating rescued slaves in East Africa. She travelled to Zanzibar at the age of 40 to carry out missionary work, where there had been a thriving slave market until just two years previously. She spent 12 years caring for rescued slaves here, before moving to Palestine to continue her work. She eventually returned to England in 1909, settling in Bristol where she died just three years later.




Carmen Beckford MBE, 1928 – 2016

Carmen Beckford was one of the founders of St. Paul’s Carnival and an activist for racial equality. Arriving in the UK at the age of 17 to train as a nurse, she settled in Bristol in 1965 where she was active in the local community. This and her activism for racial equality led to her being recruited as Race Relations Officer for Bristol City Council, fronting one of the first race relations task forces in the UK. She was a founding member of the Commonwealth Coordinating Committee, which set up St. Paul’s Carnival to celebrate diversity. Her contribution to culture and race relations in Bristol was recognised in 1982 when she was awarded an MBE.




Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate Fair Trade in business with host, Nick Hewer, at this remarkable historical site: entries for the 2019 Awards are being accepted until 1st February, and tickets for the ceremony can be reserved (one free reservation per application) or purchased on Eventbrite. The ceremony takes place at 11.30am on Friday 8th March 2019.

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