A History of STOKE GIFFORD & Nearby Parishes
Edited by Adrian Kerton
The History of Stoke Gifford by Ros Broomhead
This one of the histories of Stoke Gifford and was published by the Parish Council. Note the original documents had photographs and maps which omitted from this text and there are some minor format changes. Download a PDF of the original
Born Rosalind Railton-Jones (1921-2006) daughter of Vicar of Stoke Gifford David Railton-Jones and Emily Parkes. She is buried with her mother in St Michael’s church yard in sight of the room where she was born. She was educated at St Brandon’s, Bristol, Cheltenham Ladies College, and Bristol University. As it was war-time she left her studies to join the WRAF. She married Cyril ‘Jack’ Broomhead, and had four children. She later trained as an Audiometrician working first in Bristol and finally in Gloucestershire in a peripatetic role to schools.
Following her husband’s death in the 1960s she returned to the Stoke Gifford area and became an active member of St Michael’s church. After retirement she used her love of writing and history to record memories and facts about the locality and its characters.
A road in the Scholars Chase development off Coldharbour Lane will be named after Ros.
FROM THE DOMESDAY BOOK 1085 – 1086
The parish of Stoke Gifford lies in the hundred of Henbury, 4 miles distant north of Bristol, 6 miles South West from Sodbury and 32 Miles South West from Gloucester. It has the additional name of Giffard from its belonging to the family of Giffards of Brimsfield. Dunn a Thane held Stoke in Ledbury hundred in the reign of Edward the Confessor. Osbern Giffard held it in the reign of King William the Conqueror.
At the time of writing the 14 square miles of Stoke Gifford consists of the main village, Little Stoke, Harry Stoke and of course Nowhere. Winterbourne, Almondsbury, Patchway, Filton, Stapleton, Hambrook and Frenchay are its neighbours. Two thirds of Bradley Stoke is in the parish. The one thousand acre development, first planned in 1982, began to take shape in 1988 with its proposed industry, 8,500 houses, 7 schools, playing fields, shops and Social Services. John Cope, the Northavon MP, cut the first turf In March 1987 with a JCB excavator instead of the traditional spade, and the diggers and builders set to work.
It is hard to realise that little more than 100 years ago there were just 50 families living here. If planes had been flying in those days an aerial photograph would have shown a large blanket of green fields, dotted with woods, hedges, trees, lanes, footpaths and the brooks flowing through, with a Church, parsonage, school, some farms and houses, an Inn or two and Stoke Park in the far corner.
After the railway embankment sliced the village in two in 1858, houses were built for the employees. Between the two World Wars there were more houses for the aircraft workers, mainly in the Little Stoke area. Clusters of small housing estates appeared in the 1960’s, mainly in the same area, but by the 1980’s they had sprung up rapidly all over the parish. In 1989 one could hardly count the number of roundabouts which sprang up like mushrooms along the new roads.
By the twenty-first century it may be hard to see a green patch in the aerial picture.
But the scene had been changing long before the nineteenth century …..
Suspicions that the Romans were here before us came in 1880 when a report by I.F. Nicholls to the Society of Antiquaries described “a young artisan of Bristol who, while gathering primroses, saw on the bank of a brook near Filton (one of the tributaries of the River Frome) some pottery at which he flung a stone – his aim was true, the pottery was broken. To his astonishment out poured into the water an avalanche of coins. Amongst those he examined none were earlier than Licinius or later than Constans. Roman eating habits were suggested in the 1920’s when very large snails were found near the Vicarage gates (and collected by a Bristol restaurant), and later when oyster shells were found by Harry Maule in his garden nearby. These suspicions were confirmed when the Bristol University Archaeological Research Group under Dr. A. J. Parker came in 1977-78, and ’82 to excavate the site of the present Bovis homes in Hatchett Lane near the brook and railway line (in Smithy’s field, as we knew it in the 1930’s).
They discovered part of a Roman settlement, and the coins suggested the occupation to be about A.D 270 – 350. Earth-moving machines and previous floodings had destroyed much of the site, but a circular structure was discovered with floors tightly packed with limestone fragments. Many hearths and ovens were found, with Iron slag, coat and droplets from bronze castings, and whetstones, also domestic pottery, iron nails and hobnails. Two skeletons were found, both facing East, without grave goods. One was in a cist grave with floor slabs and side slabs meeting at a peak over the body. The other, presumably later, was a shallow grave with the skeleton barely covered with stones. These were late Roman.
There is a wall and ditch under a back garden in Holyrood Close in the area where bronze bracelets and a ring were discovered. A pavement was found in the Mead Road area, and pottery and a Saxon spear in the Bradley Stoke area. The population, probably rural and military, might have been quite large, as it was so close to the roads for Gloucester, Aust, Sea Mills, Filton, Bath etc.
Miss Blandford, historian and former librarian at Filton Library, describes an ancient trackway, locally known as Patch Way, running right across ‘Smithy’s, field, probably coming to Gypsy Patch Lane following the brook, crossing where the railway line now is to the Church and across the public footpath to Cold Harbour Lane. This track branched from the Gloucester (Glevum) road to Sea Mills.
The double hedges on the Bradley Stoke land indicate a Saxon track coming from the Patchway direction towards Gypsy Patch Lane.
Mr. Nicholls in the 1880 article reports:
“The spot where the coins were found is close to an old road, now a deep lane (Hatchett?) which joined the Ridgeway to the Iter of Antonius (Caerwent to Bath). These two roads would intersect at nearly a right angle. This By-Road by a sweep (Curved road), connected the above main roads without entering Bristol. It leaves the Ridgeway very near Pen Park, an old Roman lead mine, which is named as a Place of Diggings in a deed witnessed by Alfred the Great … it passes to a Coldharbour near to Netherways … Roman sanatorium with three flat terraces overlooking a well … this spot bears marks of an enclosure by a ditch and vallum. This sweep … joined the road to Bath at Easton.
THE MIDDLE AGES
As the Romans moved out in about 350 AD, no doubt leaving a few of our ancestors behind, Christianity had been spreading through the land. Before the Domesday Book had stated in 1085 that Stoche hath one priest,, the Saxons may have moved to the present school green area, building a little wooden church and priest’s house, with a manor nearby. The Norman Church may have been built on the same site, followed by the present mediaeval one, which still has a Norman font.
In mediaeval times this area was park land and the village green was in the Rock Lane area. The main grazing common was in the Mead Road area. The focal point, where the Giffards probably built their Manor, was further up North Road in the Parsonage field area. Part of this field can still be seen in the 1980’s behind the Bovis and Westbury homes on the right hand side of Hatchett Lane going towards Little Stoke.
Excavation report by James Russell 1987
“During the building work in Parsonage Field, between March 1984 and November 1985, James Russell and John Hunt, together with other members of the Bristol and Avon Archaeological Research Group (BAARG) carried out limited rescue excavations in six separate areas, all of which have now been covered over by houses and gardens. Evidence was found for more or less continuous occupation between the 12th and early 18th centuries.
Two of the areas examined produced evidence of 12th to early 14th century timber buildings, represented by post-holes and gullies. One of these early mediaeval buildings, a small structure only ten feet square, seems to have been a kitchen or bake-house, as it contained a central oven, later replaced by an open hearth. Scattered on the floor were oyster, cockle and mussel shells, together with many fragments of late 13th – early 14th century glazed wine jugs. Most of these were made locally in the Redcliffe area of Bristol, but some of very fine quality had been imported from S.W. France. Another important find of the same period was a Redcliffe ware roof ventilator or ‘louver’, the most complete object of its kind yet found in the Bristol region. The high quality of the pottery strongly suggests that this little building formed part of the Manor House of the Giffard family; it seems to have been demolished soon after 1323, when the Giffards lost the estate.
In the later 14th and 15th centuries more substantial buildings, constructed of local limestone bonded with yellow clay, were put along the eastern edge of Parsonage Field, facing on to what was then the village green. Parts of four of these late mediaeval stone houses were excavated, including a large farmhouse and the probable parsonage.
The large farmhouse was over 70 feet long, with at least three ground floor rooms and a projecting ‘garderobe’ or privy block on the west side; it had extensive outbuildings which partly covered the site of the supposed Giffard ‘Manor House,. The main room or ‘hall’ of the farmhouse originally had an open central hearth; this was replaced during the sixteenth century by a chimney stack containing two ovens. Around 1600 the farmhouse seems to have been pulled down, much of its stonework being removed for use elsewhere; parts of a late 16th century jug were found in one of the pits dug by the stone robbers.
The other stone buildings in the field seem to have gradually gone out of use during the 17th and early 18th centuries. The last to survive was probably the Parsonage, which stood in a patch of ground called ‘Glebe’ in the southeast corner of the field. Partial excavation of this building revealed a complicated sequence of structural alterations which continued into the late 17th century, when one of the main rooms was provided with a wooden floor of which the joist impressions survived. Records kept by the Bishop of Bristol indicate that the Parsonage had become ‘very much out of repair’ by 1735 and was no longer in existence by 1766; the finds of pottery and glass from the demolition layers seem to confirm that the building was abandoned in the mid 18th century. Later vicars lived outside the parish until the present vicarage was built near the Church in the 1860’s. The ruins of the old parsonage were thoroughly robbed of stone and the site cultivated as a garden, so that nothing remained visible above ground. Elsewhere in the field low humps and bumps in the grass served to mark sites of abandoned buildings until housing development began in 1984.
This area, being adjacent to the village green, may have been the subject of an investigation in Richard II’s reign “to enquire of the parcel of land which this Maurice Berkeley had enclosed at Stoke and thereof made a park without the King’s lycense, wherein many of the King’s liege people claimed common. As above to arrest divers rebellious persons in Stoke, Winterbourne and Frampton, who war-likely arrayed, had made some attempts thereupon”. Stoke Gifford people have always stood up for their rights.
Meanwhile there were other people living in HARRY STOKE and James Russell describes the archaeological activity there:- “The earthworks on the west side of the road almost certainly mark the site of a mediaeval manor-house or farm; limited excavations by Bristol City Museum in the summer of 1986 revealed remains of late mediaeval stone buildings similar to those in Parsonage field. A further excavation in the same area is planned by Avon County Council later this year (1987) and more work may take place in subsequent years before planned development starts around 1990. The purpose of the earthworks on the east side of the road is less clear”.
LORDS OF THE MANOR
Duns was the last Saxon Thane, or Thegn (noble landowner) to hold the manors of Stoke, Brimpsfield, Rookington and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. One could imagine a man in ancient times plunging a stake into the land which he wished to claim-hence the word “Stoche”, as in the Domesday Book, then “Stoke” coming to mean “property”. “Thegn” had originally meant “servant”. Duns, or Dunn, was the Saxon word for a pale colour, so the noble lord may have been fair-haired. In contrast, the man who took over from him could have been corpulent – the Norman word “Gifarde” meaning “one with round cheeks and a double chin” or a “cook”.
Norman Count Osbern Giffard was given his Manors by William the Conqueror as a reward for his military service in the Conquest. His family, who came from Longueville-la-Gifarde near Scie, founded the priory of Sainte Foy to which the Manor of Newton Longueville in Buckinghamshire later belonged. (J.H. Round ‘Family Origins”). He was succeeded by his son Helias, followed by several more named Helias and some named John. The family replaced the wooden Saxon Churches with stone ones and in King Stephen’s reign built a large castle as their headquarters at Brimpsfield overlooking Ermine Street. Their lands were seized by King John after the Barons’ revolt and Magna Carta in 1215, but were restored by Henry III in 1217. Aggressive and independent through the generations, one Helias defied the Abbot of Gloucester by hanging his own men in 1221, and one “Sir Johann Gyffard le Rych” fought the Sheriff of Gloucester at Quedgeley in 1264. He (or a later John) was granted Llandovery Castle as a Marcher Lord. He married Maud, widow of the Earl of Salisbury, and had a daughter who was to become St. Katharine of Ledbury (There is a St. Katharine’s Well in nearby Bredon).
The most notorious Giffard was the last one, Sir John Giffard. He joined the rebellion against King Edward the Second and captured the city of Gloucester by entering the gates hidden in a bale of wool. Later he raided the royal baggage train, which made the King send an army to destroy the castle “so that not one stone should stand upon another”. He was taken prisoner at Boroughbridge and was hung, drawn and quartered at Gloucester. A seventeenth century chronicler refers to a monument in his memory at Stoke Gifford Church, but there is now no trace of this. His effigy is in Leckhampton Church.
His manors were confiscated and given to the King’s favourite, Hugh Despenser. In 1327 after the King’s murder at Berkeley Castle they were given to his gaoler, Sir John Maltravers. His brother in-law, the Earl of Berkeley, was away from England at the time and was not responsible for the murder, so he retained his Castle. (The bloody hand on a Berkeley Coat of Arms which used to hang in Stoke Gifford Church refers not to this murder but to that particular Berkeley taking part in the occupation of Ireland). Maurice de Berkeley held the Manor from 1337.
In the fifteenth century Sir William Berkeley, knighted by Richard the Third and High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, fled overseas after the battle of Bosworth. His estates were seized by Henry the Seventh and given to Jasper, Duke of Bedford, but they were returned to him after he was pardoned. His three-year-old son John succeeded him.
Sir Richard Berkeley, who built Stoke Park, was Lieutenant of the Tower of London and High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. He lived during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI , Queen Elizabeth I and King James I, (in whose reign he was a member of Parliament). His effigy can be seen in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel in Bristol.
Sir Maurice Berkeley, who sat in King Charles’s Parliament, was described as a man who “with much quiet … repeth the fruite of a peaceable country life at Stoke Gifford, ancient and often mentioned seat of his ancestors”. (Smythe’s history of Gloucestershire). The first available records of Stoke Gifford were made during his time.
The last Berkeley, Norborne, took a great interest in heraldry. He applied for a pedigree from the College of Arms and found he could claim the ancient barony of Botetourt, created in 1305 and in abeyance for 358 years. The claim was substantiated by the House of Lords in 1764, and for the few years before his death he was Lord Botetourt. Junius described him as ‘a cringing, bowing, fawning, sword bearing courtier’. But he was more kindly referred to by Horace Walpole as “totally ruined but quite charmed”. His great efforts at restoring Stoke Park had made him bankrupt. In 1768 he became the last Governor of Virginia, our first and fast colony in America, and died two years later in Williamsburg aged 53. There is a memorial tablet to him in Stoke Gifford Church and a statue in Bristol. The Lordship of the Manor passed to his sister Elizabeth, Duchess of Beaufort.
The tenth Duke of Beaufort was host to Queen Mary, widow of George the Fifth, during the Second World War. He was Master of the Horse to Queen Elizabeth the Second and he initiated the Badminton Horse Trials on his estate.
The Giffards held the Manor for more than two hundred years, the Berkeleys for more than four hundred years and the Beauforts for 145 years.
There were really three manors in the Parish. The Giffards and Berkeleys held Stoke and Walls; HARRY STOKE was a separate manor. It was held by Aldred, tenant of King Harold in Saxon times; Theobald, tenant of the Bishop of Coutances in Norman times; and by the Blount and de Filton families in mediaeval times. The Berkeleys bought it in the sixteenth century to join the other two manors.
THE SALE OF A VILLAGE (by Tom Cecil)
The Stoke Gifford Estate, as it was known until 1915, was owned lock, stock and barrel by the Duke of Beaufort, and on November 4th 1915, just one year after the Great War had started, he directed the sale by auction of the whole village.
This comprised valuable freehold property containing over 2,300 acres which included 8 Dairy Farms, known as Walls Court, Stanley, Harry Stoke, Little Stoke, Baileys Court, Cold Harbour, Court Farm and Knightwood, with several small holdings from 4 to 50 acres each.
The fully licensed Inn, the Beaufort Arms, and various houses and cottages, produced altogether an annual rent of around £2,920. The auction was carried out by Moses Smith and Sons, 42 Baldwin Street, Bristol at the Grand Hotel, Broad Street, Bristol on November 4th 1915.
The Stoke Gifford Estate comprised practically the entire parish of Stoke Gifford with some portions situated at Filton, Patchway and Winterbourne. The Estate was advantageously situated in a highly favoured agricultural district and was maintained at a very high level. Most of the farmhouses were superior residences, the buildings modern, ample and in excellent condition. The farms were intersected by good roads and had exceptional railway facilities, being close to the city of Bristol and having easy access to good markets, and some portions of the Estate possessed considerable prospective building value.
The summary of the Estate was split up into 70 lots.
No. 1 lot was Walls Court Farm which comprised 315 acres, and No. 70 was a cottage and garden comprising of 2 Rods and 5 Perches at an annual rent Of £10.
Most of the property was bought at the auction by the tenants who had farmed and lived there for years.
The Beaufort Arms was withdrawn as it did not fetch the reserve figure of £350 but was sold privately for £295 6 months later to Mr. Samuel and Mrs. Mary Phipps, who held the licence for many years. They also had a bungalow built opposite the Pub at the top of Hatchett Lane, and this was the only building on that land which stretched down to Mead Road – today this land is part of the Bovis Estate.
Little Stoke Farm was the biggest in the Parish, containing an area of 434 acres, 19 perches, which included 4 cottages and gardens. Only 2 red brick cottages in Little Stoke Lane remain of that vast farm – they are still in excellent condition and are occupied by local families. Plaques can be seen on these and other properties with the Beaufort ‘B’ and a crown and the date of the building.
The Wimpey Estate is now built on what were once cereal fields and the grazing land for many sheep and up to 100 milking cows. The Farm itself stood in Clay Lane, where Tetbury and Morley Close now stand.
Francis Arden Close was a larger-than-life character who came to Stoke Gifford in the nineteenth century. His father was Dean Close of Cheltenham, who founded schools, and the Teacher Training College in Cheltenham which was the pattern for the Fishponds College in Bristol. His grandfather was a friend of the Duke of Richmond (whose name is remembered on Clifton roads). They used to attend the Hotwells Spa together. He himself rose quite rapidly to the rank of Admiral, having been decorated for his bravery in fighting pirates on the China Seas and serving in South America and Russia. He possessed a picture of the first experiment of landing a heavy 84cwt gun on a breaching battery.
On his retirement he went to live at Thornbury Castle and then moved to Stoke Park as a tenant of the Duke of Beaufort. He and his wife involved themselves enthusiastically with Stoke Gifford life, visiting the sick and poor people and giving them a joint of beef for Christmas. He was at the centre of a storm at the time of the 1894 Church restoration as he disagreed with Vicar Tibbits and caused the Duke of Beaufort to give him and the tenant farmers notice to quit. This was only cancelled by his resigning from the Churchwardenship and undertaking not to take part in the repair programme.
After moving to Bristol he became a City Councillor and later High Sheriff. He was actively involved with the Bristol Sailors Home and the Waifs and Strays Society (which later became the Church of England Children’s Society).
After working in the East End of London in the late nineteenth century the Reverend Harold Nelson Burden and his wife Katharine were missionaries with the Ojibway Indians in the backwoods of Canada. After tragically losing their children in a fire they returned to England and devoted their lives to the interests of unfortunate people.
Before her marriage Katharine had trained in social work under Octavia Hill, the social reformer, who wrote of her “quiet, gentle manner and familiarity with the poor and their ways … being firm, kindly and chatty”. She retained these qualities throughout her life. She worked in close partnership with her husband, and when he was chaplain of Horfield Prison, she opened up the Royal Victoria Home in a house nearby for the after-care of women prisoners, alcoholics and girls in moral danger.
Eight years before the big Stoke Gifford sale they bought Stoke Park to care for mentally handicapped children and adults. The nation was becoming increasingly aware of their needs and Mr. Burden was appointed to a Royal Commission of Enquiry and sat on the Board of Control.
After visiting Germany to study their Colony System Mr. and Mrs. Burden adapted Stoke Park on those principles. The girls lived in the Dower House and the boys in Ivy Lodge, a converted stable block. The Chaplaincy was held by the Vicars of Stoke Gifford until the 1970’s. As numbers grew, while the girls remained at Stoke Park, the boys lived in 3 houses on Purdown (then West Side) in Stapleton.
The Parish of Stapleton was given to the monks of St. James in 1174 and during Sir Richard Berkeley’s time was in the manor of Stoke Gifford. Heath House was the Hospital of St. Bartholomew until the dissolution of the Monasteries and had been the home of the Smyth family for two centuries before being purchased by Mr. Burden. Beech House formerly Stapleton Grove, built by Joseph Harford, a Sheriff and Lord Mayor of Bristol and friend of Edward Burke, was occupied for a short time by Rajah Ram Mohun Roy, a well-known social leader and friend of Mary Carpenter. When he died he was buried in the garden and was later transferred to Arno’s Vale near the old Bristol Omnibus Company’s headquarters (which had moved from Filton) where there is a memorial to him. The Elms was occupied by blind, deaf and crippled boys, who would move about in pairs, helping each other. The Burdens also purchased Whittington Hall in Derbyshire, Hanham Hall, with its eighteenth century shell-headed entrance, and Leigh Court. Leigh Court belonged to the Abbey of St. Augustine until the dissolution, housed King Charles II after the battle of Worcester and entertained the future King Edward VII when Prince of Wales. It was also the home of Dame Grace Gethin who is remembered by her bestowal of the ‘Gethin Shilling’ to widows at Westminster Abbey, during Lent.
The aim of the Burdens was to give the children, as they were called, no matter their ages, a happy and healthy life. While the really incapable were cared for in the wards the younger ones were at the excellent school and Occupational Therapy Unit. The whole organisation was called the National Institution for Persons requiring Care and Control, with headquarters at Stoke Park and was the first of its kind in Britain.
They were almost self sufficient as they were instructed in farming and market gardening. (The homecured bacon and sausages were delicious before the Holy Communion service in the Chapel). They were also trained in boot-making, tailoring, carpentry, domestic skills, weaving, brush-making and needlework. One very handicapped boy did beautiful embroidery with his toes. They acted in plays and concerts and the girls danced the Maypole every year.
The Burdens moved to Clevedon Hall in 1914 and had the children to stay for holidays and domestic training.
The Colony Girls and Boys were a familiar sight going for walks in the lanes or going to their outside jobs, the girls wearing similar patterned but different coloured dresses and the boys in red jerseys. The girls would walk to the Parish Church at Stoke Gifford when the weather was fine and walk all the way back; later they had a bus to take them. Services were held at Stoke Park and West Side every Sunday and Wednesday. The Heath House boys had a flourishing brass band and would accompany the service.
Before Mr. Burden died in 1930 he put the Institution in trust to the Nation for charitable purposes. He is described on the memorial clock tower as a ‘man of vision, faith, genius and unfailing courage, a pioneer in mental work and research’. Katharine had died in 1919 and was buried at Ridgeway, the burial place for Colony patients. It was her dying wish that her husband should marry Miss Gladys Williams, their friend and superintendent, thus continuing the family atmosphere. Gladys carried on the good work as Warden giving considerable financial assistance to both Stoke Park and Stoke Gifford Church. During her time more money was given to research and the enlargement of the clinic. A new nurses’ home was built and in 1939 the Burden Neurological Institute was opened, being run separately from the Colony under Professor Golla. After her death in 1939 Lieut. Colonel Eric Brown was appointed as warden. With the creation of the National Health service in 1948 Stoke Park Colony became a hospital. The children became patients but the tradition of their welfare and health continued with some improvements – they wore their own clothes, watched television and had pocket money and still went to Clevedon for their holidays, but not to Clevedon Hall. St. Brandon’s (Clergy Daughters’) School had acquired it after leaving Bristol for a temporary home at Wells during the war.
VICARS AND OTHERS
The Church has a long list of clergymen – starting with a Saxon priest, going’ through the Middle Ages to the present day. Things seemed to have happened in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First. One wonders why William Kinge resigned and why George Holmes was deprived in 1597. They were troubled times.
In the early nineteenth century Parson Parker wrote a series of Pastoral letters to his parishioners when he was ill. Most of them – were directed at “Liars Swearers – Drunkards – Sabbath breakers – Thieves – Unclean persons – Sluggards – Pamperers of the Flesh – Lovers of the World – and Others of a Kindred Stamp” and he warned them of their doom. But he reminded a faithful remnant “a little flock”, that they need not fear death if they continued to be good. He sold so many copies (one still in the Church and beautifully printed and bound) that he opened a library with the profits. He also remarked on the number of villagers who lived to a ripe old age and quoted one family whose combined ages totalled 776 years averaging 85 years each. This tendency was probably always there, as it has been quoted elsewhere – some attributed it to the water.
The living was vacant for ten years before Vicar Newman Tibbits was installed in 1873. The previous vicar George Salt and other applicants could not stand the noise of the trains right outside the Vicarage. Vicar Tibbits lodged at Court Farm for a while before moving into the Vicarage, and he stayed in office for 45 years. Some older people remember him as an energetic white-bearded man who rode round the village on a tricycle made by George Taylor at the Post Office. As well as being the Postmaster Mr. Taylor had installed a petrol pump, handworked in two actions pulling a lever for each gallon, which cost less than a shilling.
David Railton Jones lodged with Mr & Mrs. Powell at Jessamine Cottage before moving to the vicarage in 1917. Harry Powell was a carpenter, wheelwright and undertaker. His father John was a sexton, verger and unofficial vet. There were times when he would be called out of a Church Service to tend to a sick animal.
When the vicar found some youngsters playing cricket with makeshift gear he took them in the car to Loxton’s, the sports shop in Gloucester Road, and bought proper equipment. Thus was born the Stoke Gifford Cricket Club. They played in “Smithy’s field opposite the Vicarage and there were only two snags – they were not allowed to play on Sundays and Good Fridays and they had to clear the cowpats from the pitch before they could play.
The Tennis Club met on the Vicarage lawn. Everyone enjoyed it most of the time – but not when balls were shot through the study window on to the vicar when he was preparing his sermon. They had a dance on the lawn every summer, when candlelit fairy lights winked from the laburnum trees. Romance blossomed with some, and the club was nicknamed ‘The marriage Bureau’. As honorary Chaplain to the forces in 1939 and 1940 he used to visit the RAF ‘balloon boys’ and soldiers in the Parish. One day he walked on to a gun site which had a new big gun and a new crew. They challenged him and would not let him go until he had been identified at Downham’s Shop in Kingsway. There had been a scare of German spies being dropped by parachute, dressed as clergymen.
Vincent Williams took the parish through the Second World War from 1941; Denys Evans through the post war years; and Donald Shiels through the swinging Sixties and Seventies, supported by his wife Lea, who founded the Link Club for Ladies of all denominations. When Dudley Powell came in 1980 he had to cope with accommodation for the rapidly growing population and opened up the Vicarage Rooms for meetings and social occasions. He was joined in 1986 by Stephen Smith, the Vicar without a Church (so far). Still in Stoke Gifford Parish, he is Vicar of Bradley Stoke.
Some ‘Vicar’ anecdotes
A widower wanted to make a wooden cross for his late wife’s grave, but the Vicar needed to approve it first, so one stormy night he knocked at the Vicarage door. While lightning was flashing and thunder roaring the ‘au Pair’ who was staying there at the time opened the door to see a wet and wild-eyed figure of a man bearing a heavy cross on his shoulder. She screamed and ran inside, calling “Vicar, come quickly, Jesus Christ is at the back door”. Another vicar was so fed up with pigeon guano in the Church tower that he took his shot-gun up there and scared them away.
Councillors and other characters of the early 1900’s
It would be impractical to mention everyone ‘us old uns’ remember but there are a few that stand out and there are roads named after some of them. On the Parish Council at that time were such people as George Parsons; a J.P; Percy Neate and George Cousins, great men in the Baptist Church; and Ivor Collins, involved with “Little Stoke School, and the Trust Committee in the 1950’s. Ron Morley was ‘Mr. Stoke Gifford’ of the mid 1900’s and was very active in Parish affairs and amongst other things restored the Church belfry. Perhaps some of the present council will be immortalised in the future! Old stalwarts such as Arthur Attwood, Alice Mawle etc. served the Church for many years. Dan Smith and Gilbert Mortimer were the people’s warden and vicar’s warden respectively. They fulfilled the role of all churchwardens of that time administering Poor Law Relief (forerunner of the National Health and Social Security services) as well as other duties.
Dan Smith of Court Farm, who kept Gloucester Old Spot pigs as well as a dairy herd, sold land for the first new houses in Little Stoke and Smithcourt Drive is named after him. Some of Gilbert Mortimer’s Walls Court land was in Filton Parish (hence Walls Court Road off Filton Avenue). Gilbert Bridgman also had land in both Parishes and Bridgman Grove is off Filton Avenue on the other side of Station Road.
Gilbert Mortimer lived with his brother Arthur, an ex-army captain, and his wife Nell. When she felt bored Nell would get out her solid-tyred Trojan and go chug chugging along to visit her friends or the village school, of which she was a governor. Everyone would hear her coming. On one occasion her car would not start, so Denis Rowland came next day to collect the battery for charging. After the overnight rest she got it to start straightaway so she said she would not have it charged now. When told that the battery would still be flat if she turned off the engine and restarted it she said “That’s alright, I’ll drive it round and round the field to charge it”. It must have worked as Denis did not see her again.
At Coldharbour Farm Mr. Pierce, had a cow that would let you ride on her. His daughter Mabel married Howard Davis of Little Stoke Farm. They were great naturalists and one of their friends was Sir Peter Scott, yachtsman and artist, son of Captain Robert Scott, the Antarctic explorer. When Howard spotted some Lesser White Fronted Geese at Slimbridge he wrote to Sir Peter inviting him to come and see them. As a result of this letter the Severn Wildfowl Trust was formed in 1949 with Captain Berkeley, Peter Scott, Howard Davis, James Robertson Justice, M. Bratby and K. Miller Jones as cofounders.
Fred Curtis (nicknamed Sheddy), the verger and sexton, was a smallholder. He kept bees and would get quite cross when they swarmed, but he let Bill Lydiard and his friends help to catch them and taught them bee-keeping. Fred was one of the few with a horse and canvas-covered cart who would act as carriers, delivering produce and goods to and from Bristol and the local markets.
Another such carter was Charlie Iles, red-faced and jolly, who would pile people on to his cart and take them to the station for outings. He was very popular with the children. One day he was visited by Mr. James the local policeman, who was checking on dog licences. When asked how many dogs he had Charlie replied that he had two. “Have you got licences for them?” asked the P.C. “No” said Charlie, I’ll take it that they are under 6 months old”, said the P.C. “No” said Charlie, “they’re older than that; come and see them”. Charlie took him inside and pointed to two china dogs on the mantlepiece “There they are” he said.
Charlie and Fred were a welcome sight to anyone walking along the ‘Long Road’ (New Road) to Filton Station or the Tram Terminus and they would gladly give you a lift. Buses were few and far between in the 1920’s and 30’s, but at one time there was a bus running seven days a week from Fishponds to Mead Road. Most people used the trains to Lawrence Hill or Stapleton Road for town shopping. Basic necessities were delivered to the door by Mitchell the fishman, Ted Draisey the oilman (who also sold pottery and hardware and honey) and Ted Shergold the Coalman.
There was a man called Mr. Williams who made very nice ice-cream in a stable and rode through the village in a brightly coloured pony and trap, ringing a bell. He was succeeded by the Eldorado man on a tricycle with a box on top, labelled “Stop me and Buy One”. Fred Fryer (a man of many parts who could re-organise an office or clear out a cess-pit) rode on a similar contraption with Wall’s Ices.
Hunting, Shooting and Fishing
The Duke of Beaufort’s hounds met regularly at the Beaufort Arms and everyone turned out to watch them, including the children who escaped from school, risking later punishment. Many people in the village ‘walked` the hound puppies, caring for them in their own homes. At one time ‘Silverdale’ in North Road had been the Duke’s hunting lodge, the living quarters being in the main part and the stable block at the side, where the grooms slept on the floor above. The Smithy was next door.
Mr. and Mrs Glencross hunted with the Beaufort in the early 1900’s and came to live at Harry Stoke Farm, renaming it ‘The Paddocks’. They kept hunters and polo ponies, and Bill Lydiards step-father helped at the stables when he was not at his job on the Great Western Railway as a fogger (putting detonators on the line when it was foggy). One day they played polo in Filton with the then Prince of Wales (Duke of Windsor) when most of the village went to watch them. Mrs. Glencross was a commanding straight-backed figure when riding through the village. When her husband died she moved to Wiltshire and Don and Margaret Brimble came to live at the Paddocks. They had an Old English Sheepdog, Bruce, who would sit in the drive watching the cows and the “world” go by. They stabled some polo ponies at one time for Neville Scutt who lived at ‘The Cottage’ near Bailey’s Court.
The Pursey family at Baileys Court were hosts to the Berkeley Hunt with their striking yellow jackets. Edgar, one of the four sons, was a keen clay-pigeon shooter and shot for the England team.
As for fishing, the favourite places for minnows, sticklebacks and other tiddlers were the brook, stonybottomed but clean and easy for paddling, and the pond in Parsonage Field. This was also the favourite place for potential suicides – but not always successful. One man went there but came back because the water was too cold.
Smoking and Drinking
Ivor Collins’ father was one amongst others who grew their own tobacco, and pressed the leaves through a wooden mangle. Perhaps the Quaker John Player did the same at Court Farm, where he lived in the eighteenth century.
Mr. Hopton had a cider press and a large orchard in Rock Lane and made cider for the farmers in the district as well as for his own business. His wife (grandmother of Ron, Joan and Enid) would walk all the way to Stapleton to meet her future husband, who would walk all the way back with her and then go home himself.
George Downham remembers an army major in the 1940’s who discovered that there had been several inns in the past, as many as seven in the sixteenth century, and 3 beer houses in 1850. Although ‘Silverdale’ had recently been the Portcullis Inn there was just the Beaufort Arms (which had become an Inn in 1860) and the Off Licence Beaufort House in Rock Lane in the early 1900’s. (Later on in the century there were to be the Magpie later called Magpies in Little Stoke and the Rainbow club next to the Beaufort, which became the Parkway Tavern in the 19801s).
Some may see them, others not!! …
In the 1930’s there were reports of Over Court at Almondsbury being haunted. This reminded people of some ghosts sighted in Stoke Gifford. There seemed to have been several animals, such as goats, mules and dogs seen near the old common at the dead end of Mead Road.
Val Curtis’s father worked on the railway and was called out at 2 am. one morning to deal with a derailed train. As he was cycling through Brickyard Lane off Rock Lane he supposedly ran right through the ghost of a woman standing in his way.
There might have been a poltergeist in an empty house that George Hartnell’s family went to visit. While their parents were outside the boys went inside, only to find that stones were being thrown down the stairs at them. Their parents searched and found nobody upstairs or in the grounds, and there was only one way out.
There were also some “non-ghosts”. After the yew-trees had been planted in the Churchyard a man walked ahead of his friend on the way to a Church meeting but he ran back quickly, saying that the Churchyard was haunted. It was just the moonlight on the swaying trees. Another man had heard of ghostly horses and hounds crossing the old road bridge at Stoke Park at certain times, so he decided to spend the night there. He was sitting down opening his packet of bread and cheese when he heard a dog bark. His wrapping paper rustled and he ran for his life – straight into the arms of the gamekeeper on his rounds.
There was a tale of a ghostly figure running through the village one moonlight night. It turned out to be a man taking the night air without any clothes on.
IN LIVING MEMORY
The War Years On the first Sunday of September 1939 the vicar’s son sat by the radio and at 11.00 a.m. took a note to his father who announced from the pulpit that war had been declared. After the service the air-raid siren sounded the ‘Alert’ for the first time, and nothing happened. Then came the ‘All Clear’ signal. The following months (the “Phoney War”) seemed strangely normal, except that some young men were called up, we were issued with identity cards, ration books, gas masks, petrol coupons (for some) and the A.R.P. Wardens, and later the Home Guard, prepared for action at home.
It was a different story in 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation and the fall of France, when aircraft could reach Britain. Stoke Gifford was vulnerable, being so near to the B.A.C. (as it then was) and stray bombs were dropped in the village, one killing some cows when a barn was hit. Many ‘dog-fights’ between our Spitfires and enemy fighters were seen over Patchway during the Battle of Britain. Marching troops were machine-gunned and others had narrow escapes. The heavy drone of bombers could be heard overhead night after night and in the daylight. Families took cover in Anderson shelters or found a safe place in cellars or under tables, and the aircraft workers were dispersed to such places as the school green and the Beaufort Arms. Bristol could be seen in flames on the night in December when it was heavily bombed. The grim smoke-blackened faces of the firemen walking up Park Street on the morning after and the fallen buildings were a sight never to be forgotten.
In 1942 the old cry of “Got any gum chum”? must have been heard in the village. The American GI’s had come to Stoke Gifford and were billeted in houses in Little Stoke, parading on the surrounding roads. On the site of some bombed houses in Lawford Avenue they built their canteen and often gave meals to the children and adults, who ignored the rumours of rats in the area. The concrete base is still in Mrs. Eve Townsend’s back garden. An odd coincidence happened some 40 years later when Eve and her late husband were holidaying in Jersey. They met a Scotsman who had been in the Army and was stationed with the ‘Purdown Percy’ guncrew in Stapleton. Later he came down to Little Stoke to help the Americans with their guns and he remembered the lovely food he ate in their canteen.
Also in Little Stoke unexploded bombs were de-fused in what is now the Playing Field and Park.
After the celebrations at the end of the war one of the great surprises for the children was being given bananas by Joe and Walter Scott. They had never seen them before.
The B.A.C. had sent some of their employees to their factories in other parts of the country, including the underground one at Corsham. In 1946 they transferred back to the factory at Patchway, travelling from Chippenham. Corsham and Hawthorn daily by coach. In 1949 they returned to live in prefabricated houses in the Little Stoke Lane area. By this time the families already knew each other and they formed a friendly nucleus of a thriving community. The same spirit prevailed when the Wimpey Houses were built in the 160s as they all moved into new houses at the same time. This must happen when any new housing estate is built. Long walks through the lanes are remembered at this time, when the children would pick blackberries or call at an orchard for plums. During the two heavy snowfalls of 1947 and 1963 they remember trudging to school or Church somehow, although only the tops of signposts were visible.
There had been a good social life before and during the war,, but the only meeting place for most occasions was the Assembly Rooms at the back of the Beaufort Arms (originally built for the men building the Railway). All the dances, dinners and wedding receptions were held here, and in the twenties there were magic lantern’ shows when Felix the Cat, forerunner of Mickey Mouse, was the star of the show. Smithy’s field was the usual place for outdoor activities such as football and cricket and for Coronation, Jubilee and Peace celebrations, when a huge marquee was erected and there was dancing and all the fun of the fair. There was at least one garden show and gymkhana in a field off New Road. Tennis, and sometimes croquet, were played on the Vicarage lawn and in the old Post Office garden where the present Jet garage is.
The Poplar Rooms and Field were used for all these functions in the 1950’s when 5 1/2 acres of land at Field Farm were acquired by a group of interested people in the village. They formed the Stoke Gifford Trust with a Committee of one person for each organisation -such as the Football, Tennis and Cricket Clubs, the Women’s Institute and the Church. Being a charitable trust they were allowed a grant for physical training, education and recreation. Their symbol was an owl, and it was said that anyone born in the village was entitled to be an owl. The barn (where cider used to be made) was converted for a changing room, indoor meetings, harvest suppers and at one time for school dinners. With no other Parish Hall it soon became too small for the growing numbers of people and interests. With the help of the Parish and District Council Grants and fund raising activities, it was possible for the building of the new Trust Hall to be started on the 10th March 1986, two days after Bill Lydiard cut the first sod. It was officially opened by the Duchess of Beaufort on the 24th September 1988. The Poplar Rooms were altered at the same time.
With most of the outdoor functions such as the Donkey Derby, Field Day and May Fair being held in the field, this area has once more become the focal point for village gatherings. Royal and National events have been celebrated here in recent years. One memorable occasion was on Jubilee Day, June 7th 1977, when there was a Carnival procession through the village ending up in the Playing Field where there was a Fancy Dress Show, displays of fencing, gym, dancing and volley ball, a tug-of-war and a dance and disco plus plenty to eat and drink.
There are numerous day and evening clubs and classes elsewhere in the parish for adults, such as the Link, Ladies, Pensioners and Keep Fit Clubs. Many people enjoy themselves walking in the countryside that remains for us.
Young People as well as using the sports and play grounds here and elsewhere, attend Youth Clubs, Scouts or Guides. For many years they have been able to develop their character and abilities in these organisations through friendship, learning indoor and outdoor skills and serving the community. The old folk have enjoyed many a tea-party or entertainment from them. The Scout Hut at Little Stoke was bought secondhand in 1960 from the Berkeley Nuclear Power Station and has served very well for meetings, jumble sales, Sunday Schools etc., but after 30 years it needed a new building. For several years the Scouts worked hard to raise the money for it. With the Churches and Poplar Rooms also needing improvement and renovation there are many social occasions throughout the year which the Parish may enjoy as well as help the good causes.
SOME PLACES AROUND THE PARISH
They said in the old days that if you stood under the Horse Chestnut tree on the green and looked in three directions you would see Salvation (The Church), Education (The School) and Damnation (The Pub).
In the 1930’s Arthur Mee in his “Gloucestershire – The King’s England” described the village as ‘”One of the little places around Bristol, with a mediaeval Church between its green and busy railway junction. A quaint red-roofed building, with many gables, the Church has an embattled tower on the south side, opening with a plain massive arch with a pinnacled leafy hood, and in the simple inner doorway hangs an old studded door. Inside, the walls are cream, the roofs white and some of the walls are leaning. Square fluted pillars divide the Nave and the Aisle, and the Norman font, with a bowl like a great cushion capital, is partly built into a wall. The low altar rails are Jacobean. A 13th century window has a face among old fragments.”
This window could easily be missed when looking round the Church. It is above the 1914-18 memorial window at the East end of the North Aisle and the face, although rather faint now, reminds one of a Holbein painting. It is the only piece of original stained glass left after Cromwell’s men attacked the Church during the Civil War. Before it was removed during the 1894 restoration there was a beautiful Rose Window on the South Wall, which was described by the architect Lingen Barker as a “Bull’s Eye” The Vicar’s wife in the early 1920’s noticed faint dogtooth marks on the old font, proving its Norman origin, and exposed the oak of the altar rails when two small girls had spent many hours scraping away the white paint that covered them. Through the ages experts have had to be called in to maintain the structure of the building, especially when the death watch beetle attacked the wood, but much work has been done by volunteers from the congregation. It was during such a time in the 1950’s that Doug Williams offered to make a lid for the font if the Vicar could find some wood. The heavy oak that Vicar Evans was given was a builder’s plank. The Orthodox cross which had been hanging in the Sanctuary was fixed to the lid by the next Vicar, Donald Shiels.
The seventeenth century bells that pealed for weddings and services seemed to call “All good people come to Church”, contrasting with the toll of one bell for funerals. It is no longer safe to use them.
Outside in the Churchyard near the gate, among the older tomb-stones where Norborne Berkeley’s accountant is buried, is a stone covering the remains of Esau Dust, very aptly named by his parents thinking of his future.
Robert Raikes, a well-known Sunday School pioneer opened a Sunday School on the green in 1786. About 37 children would first go to Church at 9.00 am then go to the Sunday School, studying the catechism in the afternoon.
There was a Church ‘skole’ in the village in Charles I’s time with Robert Lawford, a member of a farming family, as the Headmaster. In 1741 another farmer and philanthropist, John Silcocks, gave £200 amongst his other bequests, the interest of which was to pay for the education of poor children in the Parishes of Stoke Gifford, Filton and Winterbourne. In 1815 Stoke Gifford children were attending the National School in Winterbourne. There were a few small schools in the area in the nineteenth century, including one at Walls Court and one run by the Baptist Church.
In 1863 St. Michael’s School was built on the Green. When the building was extended to its present size a porch, seen in old photographs, was removed.
In the early days the ‘little-uns’ were housed in a black wooden hut, which had been given by Filton Church, and the ‘big-uns’ were in the main building with Standards 1-4 divided into 2 classrooms by a partition. As there was no sound proofing one can imagine the chanting of tables on one side clashing with the droning of the Commandments on the other.
Discipline was very strict and the cane hung ready for use. A rap on the fingers with a ruler was the usual remedy for bad behaviour, and it was rumoured that a mouth scrub with carbolic soap was the punishment for telling lies. At home Father would have a heavy leather belt to deal with miscreant children. Many stories of school life in the 1900’s have been told. In 1924 two pupils were recorded by Miss Rooke, the headmistress, as being “both extremely difficult girls and in spite of all efforts to appeal to their sense of honour persist in causing much trouble and annoyance in what would otherwise be a pleasant task”. A week later this case was being considered by the Managers who were to see the parents. It was told that a certain teacher nipped to the Beaufort at lunch times, returning in a happier state of mind with a cup of cold ‘tea’.
With no main drainage buckets were emptied over the school wall. At home, even before the days of W.C.s, there were earth closets at the bottom of the garden, with wooden seats, some being made “three-bear-like”l with three sized openings. Before the West Gloucestershire Water Company provided water from the mains every house had a well and a water-pump.
Education was limited but concentrated. The 3R’s were the main subjects, the purpose being to prepare the boys for agricultural work and girls for domestic service. Children were taught practical skills such as carpentry, cooking and sewing. Some beautiful samplers were made, some taking the whole time at school to complete.
Being a Church School the children were part and parcel of the life of the village and had scripture lessons from the Vicar. Oral work was necessary because of lack of materials such as exercise and text books. Slates and lead pencils, with a sponge to wipe them clean, were used until the older children used pen and ink and there was an ink monitor who filled the inkwells.
They used plasticine called clay for modelling work and sand and holed bricks. The monotonous repetition of “times tables”, poems and scripture was a bonus as they were remembered throughout their lives. The boys went to Filton Council School to learn carpentry.
The Education Act of 1902 made County Councils responsible for Schools (previously children had been paying their pennies to attend). They were regularly visited by H.M. Inspectors but as St. Michael’s was a Church School there were also Diocesan Inspectors. Scripture, therefore, was another subject rigorously studied. Children needed to know the Catechism and Commandments by heart and certain collects, psalms and other extracts from the bible; and to be able to sing hymns in tune. The Vicar would visit the school to aid their religious education.
Physical training took the form of “drill” army style, some football, country dancing and rambling combined with nature study.
Some people can remember the two head-mistresses in the early 1900s – Mrs. Rowland kindly but firm and Miss Rooke from 1924 – 42 also kindly and firm who brought the educational standard high enough for a regular supply of candidates for the Secondary and Grammar Schools. There was great rejoicing when Daisy Sawyer and later her sister May appeared wearing their boy’s caps and the Chipping Sodbury Grammar School uniform.
Some children had to walk a long way from their isolated farms and cottages through wet mushroom fields and muddy lanes. The hot iron, stoves in each class, although perpetually giving trouble, were a welcome sight for children who had trudged through snow and rain. Hot potatoes which kept the children’s hands warm on their way to school were placed near the stoves ready for lunch. Cookery class day was very popular as they could sample what the girls had been preparing. Olive Ponting’s corned beef pie was something to be remembered. School meals, which were introduced later, cost 1/6d per week in 1939.
During the August Harvest Holiday the children would be helping in the fields. Boys would be allowed leave for haymaking and potato picking and in the First World War the girls went out to learn milking. Certain children were allowed leave for Railway and Police holidays. There were several high days and holidays. Ascension Day was free after a service at Church and games and sweets on the Vicarage lawn. On Empire Day the children would act in patriotic plays and give an Open Day for their parents. There were educational visits to places such as Hampton Court and in 1925 they visited the theatre in Bristol to see “As You Like It” and to see the new University Building. When a school concert was given in 1924, Miss Rooke reported “As far as possible 1 have worked on the school syllabus so that routine is not interfered with”.
School “treats” took them by charabanc to New Passage or Severn Beach or a picnic at Walls Court. Church and Chapel outings took them on Charlie lies’ horse and cart to Filton or Patchway Station to journey by train to Barry Island, Weston, Clevedon or Burnham.
Some breaks were for Royal occasions – the Coronations of George V in 1910, George VI in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1953. King George V and Queen Mary visited Bristol in 1912 and 1917 when they visited the Aeroplane Works at Filton. The Prince of Wales (later the uncrowned King Edward VII visited Bristol in 1921. There was a great day in 1936 when the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George and Queen Elizabeth) passed through Stoke Gifford. There is no record of a holiday for the many times that Queen Mary passed through during the Second World War.
More serious breaks were for the epidemics of influenza, whooping cough, diphtheria and scarlet fever when the school had to close down. On the 14th February 1919 an assistant teacher Miss Mathlin was absent from school with a cold and on the 18th she died of pneumonia. Mrs. Webb, the policeman’s widow, replaced her as the infants’ teacher and stayed for many years. The school was praised by the Gloucestershire County Health department for the high standard of health and hygiene and its influence with parents and children. This was a great benefit as the dentist’s visits especially were gruesome occasions.
Family names of people still living here appear in the school log book of the early 1900’s. Jack Neate’s father, Percy, of Parish Council fame, (he was the Clerk for many years) and the Scott Brothers, Joe and Waiter, are some of the first entries (and they were late for school more than once). A few months after her sister Edith left in 1910 Marjorie Powell was admitted as an infant. She left in June 1920; her first job was at the Vicarage as nanny to Monica and her new sister Rosalind the first of many babies she was to care for.
In 1929 a new classroom with special ‘sunlight windows’ was opened by Archdeacon Welchman, and later two terrapins were added, one of which had to be put into position by a crane, to replace the original infants’ building.
The amalgamation of the school house provided a little more space, but there was no room for a hall. By 1988 there had been rapid residential development and many more places were needed. So after celebrating it’s 125th anniversary in the Summer term, the old school closed and was altered for use as a church hall. A new school was built nearby and was ready for the September term with Mr. R. Jones as headmaster. On the 10th March 1989 the Bishop of Bristol opened the new school in the afternoon, and in the evening dedicated the old school for its new function.
The Beaufort Arms was once the site of the village pound where stray livestock were kept until claimed by their owners. It also stabled and trained horses for the cavalry at the time of the South African War. It became an inn in the 1860’s. Ashton Gate Brewery were the tenants before the 1915 Village Sale, and after it was withdrawn the inn was bought by Mrs. Mary Phipps and her husband. With benches outside for the summer there were darts, dominoes and shove-halfpenny inside.
Tom Cecil wrote of the mid-1900’s “The Beaufort Arms was a favourite meeting place for the Social life of the Village, where tales were exchanged between the drinking of good old George’s Bristol Beer. The landlady was Mrs. Kate Phillips, ably assisted and then succeeded by her daughter Kath – the family held the licence for at least 50 years. The Pub remained the same throughout the years with the old Assembly Rooms at the rear.
In 1965 the Pub was renovated and modernised but according to many of the locals it had lost some of its character and charm. Gone were the evenings in the little snug bar where they would discuss the size and quality of the produce from their gardens.” (Courage’s Brewery followed George’s. In the 1980’s it became a Falstaff Inn, catering for changing habits and giving a good lunch and dinner, and in 1988 it is now a Harvester Restaurant).
“In 1962 another licensed premises opened in the village; this was a small prefabricated building behind the car park of the Beaufort Arms. It was named The Rainbow Club by the owner and landlord Mr. John Shergold, who before building the club, had a small cabin like shop which sold almost anything from groceries to newspapers. The Club had a skittle alley attached which was one of the reasons the place was built, as the locals from the village had to travel to Filton to play a game. A Skittle Alley in Stoke Gifford was a dream come true for many and it was decided that one of the founder members of the club, a very well known and highly respected Parish and District Councillor should bowl the first ball down the Alley when it was ready for use, but sadly the gentleman in question, Mr. lvor Collins, passed away the week the Club opened.”
The Cenotaph, bearing the names of those who died in the two World Wars, stands on the green opposite the Beaufort. This is where the Ducking Pond used to be. It was by the wall here that Harry Maule found the oyster shells. As well as being popular with the Romans oysters were the poor man’s meal and could be gathered by the banks of the River Severn. He also found what appeared to be a cesspit with stalactites hanging from the roof. The focal point of the Green is the magnificent horse chestnut tree which had provided generations of children with conkers. The other tree was planted to commemorate the coronation of King Edward V11. Once surrounded by wooden railings the green was used for a school playground, may-pole dancing and other activities and on one occasion a brass band playd there. Every year since 1974 the Rose Queen has been crowned at the Rose Fair. The Green has belonged to St. Michaells School Trustees since about 1860. The Duke of Beaufort, who was Patron and Lay Rector, gave it to the church in exchange for glebe land in the Vicarage fields.
NORTH ROAD – ROCK LANE
The original Post Office was the middle of the three houses facing the Green. Another house was added to the Hatchett Lane end to become the New Post Office, with a Victorian Pillar Box and later a telephone booth. Mr. Taylor’s petrol pump was in the corner of the garden opposite the Beaufort. Now in the 1980’s it is “Hair Corner”. The house at the other end, now the Post Office, was a sweet shop where stick-jaw “cokernut” toffee was sold for a farthing, and a snappy dog was inclined to discourage customers. There was a tennis court in the garden on the site of the present garage.
Adjoining this property was the Village Smithy (near enough to the chestnut tree) at the house called ‘West View”, run at one time by the lies family and later the Ockwells. The Smithy and Dairy still stand in 1988 but the house has been demolished.
Opposite Silverdale the now ruined seventeenth century houses were still occupied in the 1930’s-standing in the middle of a field which was entered by a vertical stone stile. This was the site of Elm Farm or Milletts.
The Poplar Rooms stand on the next piece of land which was Field Farm and some of its stone walling still remains (as did the old ivy-covered Tithe Barn behind the houses until the 1980s). The Baptist Chapel on the opposite side of the road was built in 1907. They held their services before this at Field Farm. Mrs. Scott remembers teaching 60 children in the flourishing Sunday School. Further along Rock Lane was a tiny stone cottage, almost entirely covered with roses, which the children of the village called 1God’s House’. At the top corner of the lane was the Police Station and opposite was Beaufort House, an Off Licence and General Store.
KNIGHTWOOD ROAD AND MEAD ROAD
To the right of Knightwood Road towards Winterbourne is some land whose boundary was in dispute with Winterbourne Parish. The farmers decided that the women should settle the issue, as the argument was about the gleaning rights. They chose one woman from each Parish. Somebody in the watching crowd shouted ‘Butt her’ and the Stoke Gifford women charged and won the fight. This was an important Issue as the gleaned corn would bake their bread for a year.
With the eighteenth century Knightwood Farm on the right and Jessamine Cottage, Ivy Cottage and the other old cottages on the left, Mead Road led straight through to the Winterbourne-Patchway Road until the roads were altered in the 1970’s.
Watch Elm Farm stood between the end of Hatchett Lane and the nearby Home Field of Bailey’s Court Farm. Here Mr. John Player, writing in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1766, described one of the largest trees in the Country. “Where in former times those met who were appointed to do watch and ward, and from its being the standard whence they went to make their respective rounds. It is so very ancient that no man living can remember it in a sound state, tho’ some can recollect it four score years ago (1686) by the name of the Hollow tree. What remains of it now is in a manner dead, only that part of it which you see represented a flourishing young head, which is even now fresh and lively. The circumference of the trunk at the height of two feet above the ground is forty one feet. It’s height at the lowest part where it seems to have broken down is eight feet. It was blown down by the wind in 1760”. It disappeared altogether in about 1860.
The big new town runs from the M4 on the Bailey’s Court side of Winterbourne Road, along Orpheus and Braydon Avenues to the Stoke Lodge and Patchway border. It then turns off towards Woodlands Lane and back along the M4.
In 1988 proposals for the renovation of the impressive Bailey’s Court Farm and its conversion to a pub were welcome news for the residents. Cows-and sheep were still grazing on the land. Wildlife was still in evidence, although more rarely than in the past, when foxes, rabbits, badgers and herons were commonplace. Sherbourne Brake, Webb’s, Fiddler’s, Savage’s and other woods and coppices were coverts for game and birds. One of the ponds still holds Great Crested Newts. Bradley, Patchway and Hortham brooks struggle to reach the River Frome, and springs can be found on the land. Hopefully, some of the beauty of this area, with its reputed Saxon hedge and protected woodland will remain for years to come and we may still hear the song of the skylark in the spring and summer time.
BRITISH AEROSPACE AND ROLLS ROYCE (Just outside the Parish)
In 1910 at an Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Tramway and Carriage Company, the Chairman Sir George White announced that he was directing his attention to aviation. He formed the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company with assets of £25,000 and with his brother and son started a factory in two iron sheds next to the Old Filton House, which was later acquired for offices. With the guidance of French experts, who were then the pioneers of world aviation, he built the Zodiac, which was successfully flown at Brooklands. Flying schools were established at Brooklands and Salisbury Plain, where the Box Kite flew at 40 mph and emitted air to ground radio signals.
The public interest in these developments was so great that the Tramway terminus was extended to Filton so that sightseers could watch the flying. The Government showed even more interest and ordered 4 aeroplanes to form part of the first Air Battalion. A design team was formed and Aeronautics was studied as a branch of Science. Capital was increased to £100,000 and the works enlarged.
With the advent of the First World War an aerodrome was constructed and hangars built for the Royal Flying Corps. The Bristol Fighter was famous for its wartime service and many pilots earned decorations including the VC. (Polish pilots flew the Bristol Fighter during their struggle for independence in 1920 and later still were flying R.A.F. Beaufighters in Britain in the Second World War.) The Company built a canteen, hospital and rest room for the workers, who included many women. They formed a Sports Club and in 1918 acquired land off Southmead Road for a sports ground. The Bowling Club was always very popular.
In 1919 the corporate name was changed to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, and the Aero-Engine Department developed. The Bloodhound developed from the Bristol Fighter and flew to Cairo in 60 hours. The Berkeley, Boarhound, Bagshot, Badminton and the famous Bulldog followed, then the Blenheim bomber, Beaufort and Beaufighter (built and designed in 6 months) were in use for the Second World War; 5,000 Aircraft were built during this time, the works having expanded to Patchway. In 1938 Shadow factories were constructed in Gypsy Patch Lane. Sadly, during very bad air raids in September 1940, 72 people were killed and 166 injured, some already in the air raid shelters. Filton Church was used as a mortuary.
At the end of the war the Company was re-organised into 3 separate divisions, Aircraft, Aero-Engines and Armaments. This last division became the Flight Engineering Div., evolving into the Car Division and a separate Plastics Company. The helicopter department with the Aircraft Division later became a separate department at Weston Super-Mare. The Guided Weapons department was started with a staff of 40 in 1949.
The Bristol Brabazon was built in the late 1940’s and Filton’s runways were extended. with the village of Charlton being demolished. It flew for a very short time, then was dismantled. The prop-jet Britannia which BOAC operated on the transatlantic run, followed later, and much later the elegant Concorde.
There were 3 separate divisions of the Company by 1956 and in 1960 it became the British Aircraft Corporation, based at Filton House, which had been built in 1936. By 1980 it had become British Aerospace. The Aero Engines department later became Bristol Siddeley and after many vicissitudes became Rolls Royce plc. based at Patchway, producing such well known engines as the Olympus for Concorde, the Pegasus for Harrier and the RB199 for Tornado.
At one time Stoke Brook ran as a ford across Gypsy Patch Lane. ‘The old stone bridge rebuilt in 1826 for £40 was replaced by a modern one in the late 1900’s when the brook was cleared, the sides reinforced and the land re-drained. In 1987 the roundabout which had been made for the dual carriage way to Winterbourne, Hatchett Lane and Gypsy Patch Lane was altered to accommodate the road from Bradley Stoke. At this spot one day in the 1930’s a large car was halted by a self-assured little dog named Sandy running across its path. Inside the limousine a beaming Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) waved at its embarrassed owners, then continued their journey to Badminton to visit the Duke of Beaufort.
The shops and houses in the Kingsway and Bush Avenue areas were built in the 1930’s to accommodate the growing number of people who worked at Rolls Royce and B.A.e. Watson’s bought some of the houses for their employees. The foundation stone for the Baptist Church was laid in February 1954 and King’s Court was built next to it in 1988.
More flats and bungalows for the elderly have been built down Little Stoke Lane since the 1960’s. For the young and healthy there are sports pitches, the Scout Hut and the Community Hall in the Park, more pitches in the field near the Youth Centre next to the School. Near the Social Club is the Doctor’s surgery. With more houses all these have appeared between the 1950’s and 1980’s.
There were many trees on Little Stoke farm land, including elms, which had to be destroyed after Dutch Elm disease attacked them; and there was an avenue of oak trees. Mabel Davis was a talented artist and painted some of these trees, including a gnarled oak. The piece of land called Oatlands on the 1842 map was known as Oaklands later and as there were oaks in this field it may have been mis-spelt. Some trees had to come down to make way for the houses, but when a cottage had to be demolished to alter the entrance to Clay Lane it needed a petition and protest note of “Please save this Tree” pinned on a nearby pear tree to spare it from the axe. When the farmhouse was altered in the nineteenth century a new wing with gables was added to the old wing and they blended well together to make a beautiful house which deteriorated rapidly after it was sold. At the end of the lane, on the site of the present caravan park, was Clay Bottom which must have been a farmhouse at one time but was divided into farm cottages in later years.
To the right of Clay Lane, Station Road went straight to the A38. On the corner Wheeler’s shop, which at one time was Patchway Sub-Post Office, seemed to stay open for very long hours and sold a variety of goods and groceries. David Powell remembers walking across from the station where he was the booking clerk, to buy cream doughnuts; and others remember buying Marsh’s sausages, comics and newspapers.
LITTLE STOKE SCHOOLS (by Mrs. Elsie Cecil, – First Secretary)
“Before 1950 the only schools in the area were at Stoke Gifford and Patchway and with new development these schools were very soon overcrowded. Children over 7 years had to walk to St. Michael’s in the village and a minibus was laid on to take the infant children to Callicroft School, Patchway. It was decided therefore, to build a new Primary school at Little Stoke and in 1950 a start was made, the first school to be built in Gloucestershire after the war.
It looks very different today with all the houses and roads surrounding it. There were no houses where Olympus, Hercules, Orion, Maple, Oak Ash and Elm Close are now, but lovely fields and woods, where wild life was very plentiful with rabbits running around and sometimes a hare or fox. Little Stoke Lane was a narrow winding country lane and cows were often seen walking up the lane to be milked. Little Stoke Farm was a thriving place with a lovely farm house. There were no houses in Gypsy Patch Lane, which was a favourite site for gypsies to camp. Gypsies had been camping on the roadside for many years and that, in fact, is how Gypsy Patch Lane got its name.
When work on the school started in 1950 it was quite exciting to see the diggers and bulldozers in action. By now there were lots of young families in the area. During the summer of 1951 things were progressing and the school opened on time on the 3rd September with exactly 200 infants and juniors on the roll. The children were delighted to have such a fine school and the large playgrounds, playing fields and up-to-date facilities were the envy of other schools.
Mr. Cannock was the headmaster, and in the infant department Miss Croome and Miss Batt were the teachers. In the Juniors there were four classes; Mr. Thomas, Miss Parker, Mr. Higgins and Miss Griffiths being the teachers. The first day was a little chaotic and every child was registered by Mr. Cannock. In September 1973 it was decided to split the schools into separate infant and Junior Schools and in January 1974 Mr. Grimsell commenced as Headmaster of the Juniors and Mrs. Siggs as Headmistress of the Infant School. Mrs. Siggs was succeeded by Mrs. Vincent in 1980.”
STOKE LODGE SCHOOLS
When the Wimpey houses were built in the 1960’s on the Little Stoke Farm Estate most houses were in Stoke Gifford Parish, although some on Braydon Avenue were in Patchway Parish. The boundary lies where Little Stoke Lane becomes Stoke Lane, between Braydon Avenue and Dyrham Close. Houses on the Stoke Lodge Estate had already been built, so while some children attended Little Stoke School, most from this area went to the newly built Stoke Lodge Infant and Junior Schools in School Close or to the Roman Catholic Holy Family Primary School, opened in 1968 by Canon Lacey of St. Theresa’s in Filton.
The population of Patchway had increased enormously after the Second World War, and what had been a hamlet of Almondsbury with the little mission church of St. Chad and a school on the main Gloucester Road, Patchway became a Parish in its own right in 1965 when the new Church was built. The little Church School was still bursting at the seams after Callicroft and Coniston Schools were built to take the children of that area. It was not until the new C of E School in Standish Avenue, Holy Family and Stoke Lodge, were built that the children became comfortably accommodated.
To the left of Clay Lane, Patchway Station, made a halt in the 1970’s, was typically Victorian with a warm, smoky fire in the waiting room and machines on the platforms selling Fry’s ‘Five Boys’ and Nestles’ Milk chocolate bars. The coal yard was alongside. It was a busy junction for the Bristol, London and South Wales lines. The railway was originally built by the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway from Bristol to New Passage Pier, where goods and passengers went by steam ferry to Portskewett pier. This line later took traffic from Avonmouth to Pilning and Severn Beach when another line was built for the Severn Tunnel. With Charles Richardson as engineer, the tunnel was completed after twelve years of often hazardous work.
Sir David Gooch, the G.W.R. chairman, made the first official journey through in 1885 and it was opened in 1886. As well as taking goods and passengers it took tanks, ammunition etc. during the wars. Before the Second World War all cars had to be emptied of petrol at Pilning Station before entering the tunnel and were refilled on leaving the Severn Tunnel station, or the reverse. This rule was waived during the war and all traffic went straight through.
Before North Road and New Road were altered for the Parkway traffic there was a narrow pathway between the Vicarage wall and a spinney by the road called the Slid. This was a popular place for children to play. Later as teenagers they gathered under the Railway Bridge. The slid led to the Church on the left and up the bank on the right to the large signal box. Apart from the big levered signals and the jovial signalman it housed the only telephone other than the Post Office and was sometimes used in emergencies.
The services of the First Aid man were also called for and willingly given on other occasions.
The yard was closed in the 1970’s when Parkway Station was built. It was operated by four men – Bernard Dawbney, Reg Pearce and Roy Pearce from Stoke Gifford and Douglas Paul from Temple Meads. Eileen Brooks, Kathie Pepworth, Pat Pavey and Madge Simmonds worked at the ‘Kiosk’ which sold magazines, newspapers, sweets and cigarettes, all of which had to be packed up at night for storage. A friendly and attentive atmosphere prevailed, and with a- free car park and frequent highspeed trains the station was a great success and had expanded in the 1980’s – although the staff at the beginning thought it might be a white elephant.
The first houses in, this road, which runs parallel to Parkway Station, were built of red brick by the Great Western Railway for its employees. Houses of similar design can be seen in several other places on the old G.W.R. line to Paddington.
Church Road bears left into Hambrook Lane and this area is known as Nowhere. It is in the civil parish of Stoke Gifford but in the ecclesiastical parish of Frenchay.
Over the bridge leading to Rock Lane, on the site of the present Pearce’s Development complex, there was a brickyard and Joe Pugsley’s metal business where old steam engines etc. were stored. Tucked away up a lane by the bridge is Hill Farm, run by the Gale family. Nowhere was the subject of numerous family jokes, such as “Where are you going?”, “Nowhere”. “You must be going somewhere”. I am, – to Nowhere”. “Alright, then pick me some mushrooms”.
The old railway (later Council) houses in Harry Stoke Lane, had the reputation of being the first council houses to have flush toilets. There are some old farmhouses and cottages in this area which was a pretty hamlet not so long ago and still retains its character. Harry Stoke’s name probably comes from Harris de Filton, a Lord of the Manor.
This road was made at about the same time as the railway on the site of an old lane leading to Filton. It was a completely straight road and was usual called the Mile Straight -but for those who had to walk the length of it to get to Filton it was called the Long Road.
At the end of the road in the early 1900’s there was a Lime Kiln, which made use of limestone, marl and sandstone present in different parts of the Parish. It was a favourite game for boys and girls of that time to take rides in the drams (wheeled trucks) that carried the rocks to the kiln.
The shape of this road and Church Road was altered in the 1970’s and once again in 1988. The planned Winterbourne by-pass cut through the field opposite Filton High School to the Link Road and Harry Stoke leaving New Road for access only. Near the Brimble roundabout such buildings as the Bristol and West and Sainsbury’s had appeared by 1989.
FILTON HIGH SCHOOL
Senior children had been going to Chipping Sodbury Grammar School or Filton Secondary School before Patchway High School, St. Bede’s in Lawrence Weston the Ridings in Winterbourne were opened. Filton High School was built in 1959 in Stoke Gifford as a Grammar and Technical School, taking children from a wide area in the then administrative county of Gloucestershire. Stokesbrook School had the use of one building for a time before moving to Charborough Road.
In 1969 the school became fully comprehensive, taking in the secondary school pupils. Keeping it’s high academic standards it also cared for the less able pupils by having special classes for those with learning difficulties and letting all children throughout the school reach the limit of their own level of ability. As with other comprehensive schools in the area expeditions and travel, with clubs for music, drama, hobbies, debates and athletic pursuits have served to give the pupils a broad outlook on life. The school has kept up a happy relationship with St. Michael’s Church having a Carol Service there every Christmas. In August 1977 the Queen came to the school on her Jubilee visit to Avon. She was welcomed by crowds of well-wishers, including local council officials and dignitaries who had the honour to be presented to her, as were many local people and organisations. The first person to greet her on the arrival at Parkway Station was Bernard Dawbney.
THE WALLS AREA
This area roughly covers the land occupied in the 1980’s by Leo’s and Homeworld [ Now Big W], the National Coal Board, JT developments, Hewlett Packard, the Polytechnic and Stoke Park.
Was originally on the site of the present coal-yard (1980’s) between Leo’s and Filton Avenue and was moved in 1903 to the other side of the bridge in Station Road. As with Patchway station (both of similar design) it ceased functioning as a station and became a halt in the 1970’s.
THE STOKE GIFFORD FAULT nearby was caused by permo-carboniferous earth movement. ‘Harry Stoke Drift Mine’ operated here for a time in the mid-1900’s where now in the 1980’s stands a mound of coal dust.
Wall’s Court was known locally as ‘Starve-all-Farm’ owing to its damp unyielding soil. When Thomas Proctor, a rich Bristol merchant, leased it from the Duke of Beaufort in 1850 he rapidly turned it into a model farm. He had inherited the firm of H & T Proctor, who made artificial fertilisers from bone, guano, nitrate of soda etc., in Prewett Street near St. Mary Redcliffe Church. (now in Feeder road). By draining and fertilising the 600 acres he soon had cultivated land for arable, cattle and sheep farming, with some pigs and horses. The Duke of Beaufort and his agent Mr. Thompson co-operated fully with his venture. He rebuilt the house, designed by the Duke’s Architect George Godwin, in local stone-for his own use and Stanley Farm for the bailiff. Both have prospect towers, which were no doubt used for visible communications, and both are now listed buildings.
The farm buildings were built in a revolutionary manner for their day and had the most modern inventions. The main cattle shed, 230 ft long, had a railway system with turntables at junctions running from the fodder store and through the centre of the building, to feed the cattle in their stalls. It had a three-light Gothic Window on the end wall, making it look like a Church. Other buildings had similar windows and external decorations. There were cottages for the cowman, dairy-maid etc. and a well equipped school, used in the daytime by children of the estate and in the evenings by the workers. Day trips were taken to the “Ha – Ha” and “Holiday Ground` not only from Stoke Gifford and surrounding villages but from institutions such as Mullers Homes (now Brunel Technical College).
Thomas Proctor was an Alderman and Sheriff of Bristol, a Merchant Venturer and benefactor, often using the pseudonym ‘Nil Desperandum’. He paid for the restoration of the North Porch of St. Mary Redcliffe Church in 1848 and there is a memorial tablet to him in the nave. In 1866 he built a house called Elmdale on the Promenade in Clifton and in 1874 gave it to the City Council as the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of Bristol.
In 1872 he built ‘Proctor’s Fountain’ at the top of the Bridge Valley Road in Clifton to record, as the tablet says on the front, “the liberal gift of certain rights over Clifton Down made to the citizens of Bristol by the Society of Merchant Venturers under the provisions of the Clifton and Durdham Downs Act of Parliament in 1861 whereby the enjoyment of the Downs is preserved for the Citizens of Bristol for ever”. In 1988 it was cleaned up and moved to the other side of the road to a corner position opposite the Mansion House. The three buildings were all designed by George Godwin.
A tree lined riverside footpath running by the South side of the New Cut (Coronation road) in Bristol with seats at convenient intervals was made by him in 1873 and called ‘Proctor’s Walk’. His last gift to the city was Fishponds Park which he gave complete with a playground in 1875.
The American computer firm bought the Walls Court land and opened in 1984, dealing here with disc drives. The whole site with beautiful landscaping is super efficient and the open plan offices are unbelievably quiet and calm. The house near-by had been completely restored at great cost by Pearce Developments, tastefully refurbished, and is being used for conferences and recreation. Some outbuildings were beyond repair but the others, including the coach house, have been painstakingly restored with the same stones and same design, keeping the decorative features and windows intact. One building is used for a barbecue and another for a museum. which houses implements left behind by previous owners.
COLD HARBOUR LANE
On the left hand side of the lane, near the Crest Hotel, is Cold Harbour Farm. There was an unfounded rumour that it was once a Norman military establishment. In more recent years Stoke Park Hospital used it for the patients to learn farming and domestic skills. Filton Cemetery was opened in the mid 1900’s.
The Polytechnic was formed in 1969 when it amalgamated with the old Bristol Technical College, the College of Commerce and the West of England College of Art and in 1976 with the Redland and St. Matthias Colleges of Education.
In 1976 a site was bought in Coldharbour Lane for a purpose built campus for all departments except a few, such as Education and Art. Students and others doing holiday jobs helped with the landscaping.
As well as accommodating the academic departments it has a students, union, refectory, library, computer and chaplaincy centres. There is a village of 36 houses with study bedrooms for students and a management residential unit, also a bank, supermarket, launderette, hairdresser and bookshop.
Sir Richard Berkeley built the original Elizabethan Manor which stood on an artificial platform at the end of a hill ridge. Overlooking Kingswood Forest it was an imposing sight, and still remains so when viewed from the M32. The landscape has changed very little, cattle still graze in the park. Here generations of people would skate on the Duchess’s pond in the cold weather, while-others would toboggan on the hill. It was a favourite Sunday walk along the footpath. Every year the Beating of the Bounds took place, when council officials would be joined by others walking round the boundaries of the Parish.
The Star Hill Monument on Purdown was erected in 1760 at the spot where Lady Elizabeth Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort was killed when riding. It was struck by lightning in 1942.
Purdown Percy, a heavy anti-aircraft gun, stood guard over Bristol during the Second World War near the site of the present television mast.
The house, which had been badly damaged during the Civil War, was renovated in 1760 by Norborne Berkeley, who followed Sir Horace Walpole’s example and converted it to a castellated mansion. In one room there is an Adam bookcase and an early eighteenth century fireplace. The staircase is probably of the same period. The North Porch is early nineteenth century Gothic. In the grounds the Orangery (later the Chapel), had a central pediment and four Corinthian pillars. Henry Jones, a local bard, described the house as “helmed with a Gothic roof, and it’s great front portico was graced with a huge Coat of Arms, while it’s battlements were fretted into the letters of the Berkeley motto, “Mihi Vobisque” (Mine and Yours).
As the seat of the Dukes of Beaufort was, and is, Badminton, Stoke Park became the home of the Dowager Duchess, and therefore the house was called the Dower House.
It was leased to Edward Hobson in 1856 and to Admiral Close in 1878. In 1907 it was sold to the Reverend Burden.
An old bridge at the brow of the hill, which crossed the road near the Neurological Institute, was demolished in the mid – 1900’s as it was too low for modern traffic. It had been the link between the estate and the road to Berkeley.
As this is written with some childhood memories of the 1920’s and 1930’s 1 apologise for any inaccuracies and for bias on that time. David Railton Jones was Vicar here from 1917 to 1940 and gathered material for a history, helped by his wife Emily who also illustrated an inscription from the Domesday Book. The Rev. Denys Evans wrote a complete history of the Church and the Rev. Donald Shiels had it reprinted. The Revs. Dudley Powell and Stephen Smith, the PCC and the Parish Council have encouraged me in this and the Church Guide.
Additional materials came from:
Monica Chandler, Leslie Alien, Leslie Trice, The late Rev. Dahl, Rector of Stapleton, Stanley White – St. Michael’s School, Michael Smith – Filton High School, The Tenth Duke of Beaufort, Dr. J. Jancar – Stoke Park Hospital, Mike Stanbrook, Archaeologists: Dr. A. I. Parker – (Bristol University), John Hunt & James Russell – (B.A.A.R.G), Windsor Davies Filton Hill School, Don Grimsell – Little Stoke Junior School, Sylvia Vincent Little Stoke Infant School Paul Allard, The Hutton Family, David Ashman, The late Tom Cecil (for the 1950’s to 701s), Martin Davis, Ray Holland, Vic Bessant, Lena Petrie, Stokes Conservation Group, British Aerospace, Rolls Royce, British Rail, Hewlett Packard, Bristol Polytechnic, and many others from the village, most of whom are mentioned in the text. Andrew Luxford advised.
Joyce Williams, Claire Hardisty, Jeanne Callow and Elsie Cecil.
The illustrators were:
Jackie Day, John Broomhead, fan Dye, Pat & Susan Brown, Claire Febvre and Angela Routley.
Basil Railton Jones edited and Stanley White proof read. Jack Neate, Bill Lydiard, Valerie Curtis, Bryan Callow, Mike Gallivan, Philip Cafe & David Hutton gave some photographs.
I should like to thank them and every one else involved in this booklet, very much.
Special thanks to;
John St. Quinton, Stoke Gifford Post Office, F & M Holbrook, Newsagents, Parsons Avenue Downham’s, Newsagents, Kingsway, Little Stoke Chris Tudor, Little Stoke Post Office, John Gough, Newsagent Chelford Grove, Stoke Lodge and others who are selling copies.
Stoke Gifford Parish Council who kindly paid for the printing
Vincent Reed -Green Hedges, Coalpit Heath and T. & A. Printing Services, Yate, who printed it.