John Whitson - 1555 -1629 (Sheriff 1589, Mayor 1603, 1615)


John Whitson was born in the Forest of Dean in 1555 but was orphaned at an early age.  It is said that he arrived in Bristol on a boat at the age of 12.  In 1570 he was taken on as an apprentice to John Cutte who was a wine merchant.  Cutte died of the plague in 1575 and when his son Nicholas died, John Whitson "siezed his chance" and married Cutte's widow, Bridget.  In addition to being MP for Bristol five times, he belonged to the Merchant Venturers, was elected Sheriff of Bristol in 1589 and served two terms as Mayor in 1603 and 1615.  He died in 1629 following a fall from his horse; his will provided for "40 poor women children" to be schooled and "be apparelled in red cloth".  This school was opened in 1634 in a building off college green but in 1660 a new building was erected in Denmark street. The school moved to Westbury-on-Trym in 1911 and in 2009 celebrated its 375th anniversary. 

Whitson is remembered each November by the girls of the school (which is the oldest girls school in England) when they march through the streets of Bristol on "Founders Day" - which actually commemorates Whitson's survival from an attempt on his life - in 1626 he was attacked by a man called Christopher Callowhill who stabbed him in the face.     

 Most of the above was extracted from articles in the 'Bristol Times' (a regular section published in the Bristol Evening Post newspaper) November 16th 2009.

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