12 Nov 2020
My goal is walk down every public road within a mile of me; sometimes it's not easy to tell what's public. I've passed the turning for Cornwallis Grove a thousand times, but never had a reason to venture down it, and although the street signs at the end seem to be council-deployed and I didn't spot any "private" signs, it's a gated road and definitely feels private.
Gathering all the white middle-class privilege I could muster, I wandered down and was rewarded with the sight of a Victorian pump, a statue of Jesus, and from the end of the road, a view of a private garden that once belonged to a private girls' school.
The Cornwallis House history page says:
In the early 20th century the house, together with Grove House, became a Catholic school, St Joseph’s High School for Girls. The Congregation of La Retraite took over the school in 1924, with the nuns living in Grove House while the schoolrooms were in Cornwallis House. The headmistress was Mother St Paul de la Croix (Sister Paula Yerby). By the 1970s La Retraite High School had around 700 pupils.
It closed in 1982 and the building was bought by Pearce Homes Ltd (now part of Crest Nicholson) who developed it into 21 flats. Grove House next door was bought by the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, and was later converted into flats in 2007.
Inspired by this plaque, I'm now (a couple of months later) about a third of the way through EH Young's Chatterton Square, set in a fictionalised Clifton called Upper Radstowe, whose eponymous square is based on Canynge Square.
14 Nov 2020
A snap from home, not from the walk. I'm currently reading this, inspired by an earlier walk. It seemed appropriate to get a reasonably historical copy; this one's from 1949, the year EH Young died, at the age of 69, only a couple of years after it was first published.
16 Nov 2020
A quick lunchtime jaunt to Dowry Square, which is very close to me but, being effectively a cul-de-sac as well as a square, I've probably only circumnavigated a couple of times in the last couple of decades.
I wonder what else he did? Dowry Square was very popular with the medical profession, which sprung up around the hot well, mostly because of all the poor buggers dying of varous ailments who came along to be cured by drinking mildly contaminated hot water.
The more I research it, the more I find that Hotwells had far better transport links back in Victorian and Edwardian times than it has today. Along with buses that went to more useful places than the City Centre, there were trams, the funicular up to Clifton, the landing stage for paddle steamer services and two railway stations all within easy walking distance of me.
Today I took a day off work as preparation for doing the bookkeeping for my tax return1, and took a wander along to the site of what would have been my nearest station, Hotwells (or Clifton, as it started out in life), nestled in the shadow of the suspension bridge, the Bristol terminus of the Bristol Port Railway and Pier.
From there I wandered down the Portway, following the original line, until I got to the area around Sneyd Park Junction, where the tunnel from the slightly later Clifton Extension Railway joined up with this originally-isolated BPR line. Then I headed up to Clifton through the "goat gully" at Walcombe Slade, seeing the few above-ground bits of evidence of the tunnel (which is still in regular use) along the way.
It was a lovely day, and a good walk, and it was interesting to daydream of the times when I could have walked a few minutes from my flat down to Dowry Parade, caught a short tram ride to Hotwells Stations, and then headed from there to Avonmouth, perhaps even to board a transatlantic passenger service. The completion of the Clifton Extension Railway that linked the Avonmouth station with Temple Meads made relatively direct transatlantic travel from London via Bristol possible, with passengers travelling up from Paddington to Temple Meads, on to Avonmouth on the Clifton Extension Railway and Port Railway and Pier line, then perhaps catching a Cambpell's paddle steamer—which sometimes acted as tenders for large steamers—to a larger ship that was headed out for Canada, say.
1 I've learned that the best approach is to take two days off and deliberately do something that's not my bookkeeping on the first day, as otherwise I just inevitably end up procrastinating and feeling guilty on the first day no matter what. I have an odd brain, but at least I'm learning strategies for dealing with its strange ways as I get older...
2 Information mostly gleaned from Colin Maggs' The Bristol Port Railway & Pier and the Clifton Extension Railway, The Oakwood Press, 1975.
I did not see hide nor hair of a single goat the entire time I was in the goat gully. I clearly need to spend a bit more time there.
17 Nov 2020
A fruitless wander, as Spoke and Stringer (who I thought might do a decent flat white) were closed, and the only other harbourside inlet offering were a bit too busy to wait at, especially as I'd spent some time wandering some of the convolutions of Rownham Mead. This last congeries of dull alleyways and brown-painted garages was at least somewhere I've never been before, in parts.