by Roger H Lidgley

on 13 Jun 14

As an ex resident of Gloucester Road, number 120 to be precise, halfway between Berkeley Road and Egerton Road, it was with some interest that I came across your initiative to build up a history of the road itself. I lived there from 1950 to 1969, when I moved to a small town called Sondrio in the Alps of Northern Italy. My ties with Gloucester Road didn’t finish there, however, as my family continued to live at 120 until the late 90s, during which time I made regular visits. Naturally I have so many memories of Gloucester Road, accumulated over the last 60 odd years, that it is going to be difficult to know where to start, or even what to mention – anyway here we go!

My childhood memories of the road and surrounding districts started at age 11 when my family moved to Bishopston from Filton – although, I might add, regular Saturday afternoon shopping trips to Gloucester Road from Filton were made before this. In the immediate vicinity of where I lived were many interesting shops and businesses to attract the attention of a young boy; for example, a blacksmith’s at the bottom of Bishop Road which turned out hand forged railings and gates with intricate designs. The sounds of hammer on anvil were almost endless, and frequently forced us to make an inquisitive five minute stop on the way to school further up Bishop Road.

Then there was Templeman’s Garage on the corner of Berkeley Road and Gloucester Road, dealers for Standard and Triumph cars, which, through the showroom window, seemed to have such futuristic designs; then Egerton Garage occupying a similar position on the corner of Egerton Road. On the other side of the road was St Michael’s and all Angels with its tall spire and surrounding gardens, considered to be one of the prettiest of the many churches on the Gloucester Road; a pity when trying to explain its exact position one had to say “at the bottom of Pigsty Hill” probably creating a much different image!

Halfway up Pigsty Hill on the left there was Stone Hodges a shop selling brass fittings for furniture and doors with its double windows displaying a massive variety of brass hinges, door knobs, screws, letter boxes, knockers and so on. Next door to Stone and Hodges was a Fish and Chip shop where I often bought a penny’s worth of scrumps – not a very healthy ‘dish’ by today’s standards! A bit further up Pigsty Hill, just after St Michael’s church hall which always had something ‘going on’ – dances, jumble sales, meetings, etc, was Rupps, famous for their homemade pies and pasties and imported food from Germany. Two shops away, on the corner of Hatherly Road, was the ‘Pig and Whistle’, probably one of the best known and certainly the most elegant of off-licences on the Gloucester Road. Another garage, Beacon Motors, on the corner of Longmead Avenue, was another venue visited in order to catch a glimpse of new cars in the showroom.

On the block between Radnor Road and Thornleigh Road was St Edmund’s church, which had quite a large lawn in front of it. I was a member of the 100th Bristol Scout Group and the Youth Club at St Edmund’s – that was over 60 years ago but it still seems like yesterday. Another fascinating place for young boys to pass a little time was a sawmill at the top of Ashley Down Road where lorries delivered massive tree trunks to be sawn up into planks. Nearby there were two other fish and chip shops; one opposite the Royal Oak in Ashley Down Road and one opposite the same Royal Oak in Gloucester Road (the scrumps were better at the one on Pigsty Hill!). The abundance of fish and chip shops that Gloucester Road boasted, was exceeded only by its collection of churches. In those days, going just a half a mile down Gloucester Road, starting at St Edmund’s there was Horfield Baptist Church, Bishopston Methodist Church, St Michael and all Angels, The Bishopston Methodist Chapel, Bishopston Gospel Hall along with other churches just off the main road: St Bonaventure’s Church, Horfield Parish Church and David Thomas Memorial Church. Also there were many other religious meeting halls scattered around the district. Another abundance Gloucester Road could boast about was its pubs that probably kept things at a balance with the churches…

In the 1950s, restaurants in Gloucester Road were very few and far between: not like today where there is an embarrassment of choice. However, just down past Bristol North Baths was Phelps, with its nicely curtained windows and appetising smells of the day’s menu drifting out from the kitchen at the back of the building.

Like Jo Fisher, who mentions Forte’s ice cream parlour on the Promenade in her childhood recollections, I too had favourable memories of popping in for an ice cream. Alas, a Knickerbocker Glory at two shillings and sixpence was a little out of reach for us children so we had to settle for a thruppenny cone. There was another ice cream parlour called Lee’s further up the road on the other side just past Sommerville Road where equally good ice cream could be bought even if in not so nice surroundings as Forte’s. A couple of shops on was Denmark Place where Sam Trigger had his Barber’s shop (effectively just a long and narrow hallway) which served practically every boy in Bishopston in the 1960s and 1970s. This corner was then taken over by Bishopston Hardware Store which in no time became one of the busiest shops on the Gloucester Road. In fact, on a Saturday they were so busy that one had to fight to get into the shop and do the same thing to get out! Between Denmark Place and Princess Place there were S & U warehouses, a very large furniture shop, Witt’s the bakers which became Bob’s Tile shop in the 70s and Richard Harris chemists. In those days there were some ‘big’ names on the Gloucester Road: Morgans, the very last shop or store on the left going down, Baileys, positioned on the last bend before reaching the traffic lights at the Zetland Road junction. This bend was always known by the ‘locals’ as Baileys Corner and, as far as I know, still is. Then to underline its importance as a shopping area it had a Woolworths, not far from Baileys, and a large Co-op just before Nevil Road. Other big names included Burton’s men’s outfitters, the last shop on the right going down Gloucester Road, Carwardine’s, renowned for their fine teas and coffees, Halford’s cycle shop which, at a later date, along with Millards on top of Pigsty Hill, supplied many of Horfield and Bishopston’s DIY motorists with their spare parts.

One of the outstanding ‘features’ of the area, especially for children in those days, were the open spaces in which to play. Horfield Common had its bowling green, tennis courts, swings and other children’s paraphernalia. Then there was St Andrews Park, which not only had bowling greens, tennis courts and swings, but some really well maintained gardens and a bandstand. Not far away, at the top of Zetland Road, was Redland Park, offering similar free time facilities and also the extra bonus of a good view of the steam trains passing through Redland Station just below. Given a good pair of legs there were also the open areas of Purdown, halfway down Muller Road and the ‘Downs’ on the other side of Redland – both reachable in a short space of time.

I remember going to the County Ground on numerous occasions to see Gloucestershire play and also to the Memorial Ground to see Bristol’s rugby games. It was the annual Midsummer Fair at the Memorial Ground that stands out in my mind as it was always so big. Another annual entertainment was the circus on Horfield Common which attracted people from all over Bristol. You had to book early to guarantee a place as there were always many disappointed people turned away at each performance.

I must admit that it is years since I’ve walked down Gloucester Road but it is my intention to do it quite soon, as from what I’ve heard, things are changing so fast there that I won’t be able to recognise the place any more.