14 Nov 2020
On the back of the currently-(23 Jan 2021)-being-demoloshed WH Smith in Clifton Village. It may be that this entire wall has gone now; they certainly weren't wasting any time when I passed the demolition the other day.
I got interested in Bristol's medieval water supplies after poking around near Jacobs Wells Road and Brandon Hill. It was during that research I found out about a pipe that's still there today, and, as far as I know, still actually functioning, that was originally commissioned by Carmelite monks in the 13th century. They wanted a supply of spring water from Brandon Hill to their priory on the site of what's now the Bristol Beacon—Colston Hall, as-was. It was created around 1267, and later, in 1376, extended generously with an extra "feather" pipe to St John's On The Wall, giving the pipework its modern name of "St John's Conduit".
St John's on the Wall is still there, guarding the remaining city gate at the end of Broad Street, and the outlet tap area was recently refurbished. It doesn't run continuously now, like it did when I first moved to Bristol and worked at the end of Broad Street, in the Everard Building, but I believe the pipe still functions. One day I'd like to see that tap running...
There are a few links on the web about the pipe, but by far the best thing to do is to watch this short and fascinating 1970s TV documentary called The Hidden Source, which has some footage of the actual pipe and also lots of fantastic general footage of Bristol in the seventies.
On my walk today I was actually just going to the building society in town, but I decided to trace some of the route of the Carmelite pipe, including visiting streets it runs under, like Park Street, Christmas Street, and, of course, Pipe Lane. I also went a bit out of my way to check out St James' Priory, the oldest building in Bristol, seeing as it was just around the corner from the building society.
There are far too many pictures from this walk, and my feet are now quite sore, because it was a long one. But I enjoyed it.
It's the home of the Avon Wildlife Trust now, but back in the day it was Brandon Hill Police Station. It's marked on maps as recent as the 1950s Bristol Town Plans. An interesting tidbit from Bristol Then and Now on Facebook:
One of the first police stations in Bristol, it was opened in 1836 - policemen from the station used the building housing the Jacob's Well as a bicycle store and many old bicycle lamp batteries were found in excavating the small entrance to the mikveh. The Police Station closed in 1967 and it is now the base of Avon Wildlife Trust.
I managed to knock off a reasonable chunk of the roads I had left to walk around the University at the north-eastern extremity of my mile on this nice sunny walk. As well as being impressed by the number of big townhouses now occupied by various departments, I took some time on my way there to check out a war memorial, and some time on the way back to do a little extra wandering of Berkeley Square.
The Theosophical Society also lets its lodge be used by a variety of other organisations, including the Bristol Dowsers; a branch of Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity folk (some of the videos of Tensegrity are quite something); a meditation group; and the local branch of the White Eagle Lodge, founded by a medium who received various teachings from the eponymous founder.
Given that those are the groups who openly practise there, I can only imagine the list of occult factions who use the rooms on other days...
I was just about starting to feel better—the antibiotics seemed to have kicked in for my dental issues, and it had been some days since I'd left the house, and I was at last starting to get itchy feet. So, a wander. But where? Well, there were a few industrial bits near Winterstoke Road in the Ashton/Ashton Vale areas of Bristol that needed walking. I knew they were likely to be quite, well, unattractive, frankly. So why not do them while I wasn't feeling exactly 100% myself? Maybe it would fit my mood. Hopefully you're also in the mood for a bit of post-industrial wasteland, for that's what some of this feels like...
Then, at the last minute, I thought again about the Bristol International Exhibition—I've got a book about it on the way now—and that gave me another goal, which could just about be said to be in the same direction, and I decided to walk significantly further than my normal 1-mile limit and try recreating another historical photo...
Sadly I don't know much about the Ashton area; it's just on the edges of my mile and I rarely have cause to go there. It's brimming with history, I'm sure: the whole South Bristol area rapidly developed from farmland to coal mines to factories to its current interesting mixture of suburbs and industrial work over the last few hundred years. As a more working class area less attention was paid to it by historians, at least historically-speaking, than the Georgian heights of Clifton, and much of it has been knocked down and reinvented rather than listed and preserved. I see here and there some of this lack is being addressed, but I'm afraid I'll be very light on the history myself on this wander, as most of my usual sources aren't throwing up their normal reams of information as when I point them at Clifton, Hotwells or the old city.