Welcome to the website of Bitton Parish History Group. For many of us, history was taught as a subject concerning kings and conquerors, prime-ministers and wars. There was nothing about our grandmothers or our ancestors and their struggles. History was the record of the privileged few rather than of the unprivileged and anonymous many. The interest in local history has meant that we are bit-by-bit uncovering our own history. Fortunately, we now have the technology to research and better understand the many different viewpoints that constitute history. We are pleased to have your contributions to the site on articles about Bitton, North Common, Oldland Common, Swineford, Upton Cheyney, Beach, and Willsbridge.
During the coronavirus crisis, we will be posting an article each week.
7 July 2020 Mill Rank Bitton -> Mill Rank Bitton
30 June 2020 An Oldland Boy -> An Oldland Boy Revisited
23 June 2020 Hat Making and the Slave Trade -> Hat Making and the Slave Trade
9 June 2020 Ellacombe Chimes Bicentennial -> Chimes Leaflet V4.1
2 June 2020 Harry Short by Pete Davies->Harry Short
26 May 2020 Jenny Jefferies Memories->Jennifer-Jefferies
19 May 2020 Poorhouse and Lock-Up ->Poorhouse and Lockup
14 April 2020 Upton Cheyney School -> Upton Cheyney School
7 April 2020 The Memories of Pat Short ->Oldland Memories of Pat Short
31 March 2020 Hannah Brewer Postwoman -> Hannah Brewer
24 March 2020 Britain’s first flushing toilet -> Harington Toilet
Postponement of Meetings
Regrettably, our meetings will be postponed until further notice.
February 2020 Meeting:
What a wonderful trip back to our childhood David Noble provided with his DVD of Oldland Common. The film brought back the enduring friendship and public spirit of people at that time. We saw how everyone has looked after each other, working hard for the good of the local community. David brought together members of the original Oldland Football Club team that won the Gloucestershire FA cup in 1950, to replicate their original photo. In another incredible section was saw the Oldland Horticultural Society Show where in some years there were more than 6,000 visitors.
Nov 2019 Meeting
Canon Ellacombe: Bitton’s famous clergyman gardener by Wendy Smale – 21 Nov 2019
The name Ellacombe is virtually synonymous with Bitton, father and son having served as vicars to the parish for almost a century between them. Both were keen gardeners, as were many clergymen in those days. The talk looked at Canon Ellacombe within the timeline of clergymen gardeners and discussed the exceptional standing he achieved in horticultural circles and the contributions he made to the world of plants and plantsmen.
October 2019 – The English Civil War including the Battle of Lansdown Hill a talk by Professor Ronald Hutton
July 2019 – The lost industry of hat-making in Oldland Common
In the early 19C hat-making was the most important local industry employing half of the population of Oldland Common. Many of the hat-making cottages and workshops still survive. Mike Gates will be our tour guide taking us on a virtual guided tour and talking about the lives of the hat-makers.
June 2019 – The life of Sir Bernard Lovell
Sir Bernard was our most famous local person. He established the Jodrell Bank Observatory and constructed the then-largest steerable radio telescope in the world, the Lovell Telescope. The talk will be on his fascinating life and achievements.
May 2019 – Photos of Bitton and Oldland Common
We held an informal drop-in evening on 29 May to visit the Kingswood Heritage Museum to view an amazing collection of photos of Bitton and Oldland Common. A large number of these photos have not been seen before by most of our members. David Noble (the author of local history books such as An Oldland Boy Looks Back) together with Roger Fowler and Alan Bryant answered many questions on the photos.
John Cennick: The forgotten Kingswood Evangelist – We were lucky to have the foremost historical and author on Methodism, Gary Best to talk about Kingswood’s forgotten evangelist, John Cennick, whose local preaching led to cultural and social changes that we can relate to today
‘Show and tell’ based on ‘What did your Grandfather or Grandmother do? Included in the many talks was an outstanding contribution from Penny Deverill which is linked to here > Worlock Grandparents-talk
December 2018 Meeting – The history of Bitton Mill.
Tony Wilmott gave a slide presentation and talk on the history of Bitton Mill at St Mary’s Church. Many of the slides shown are available using the following link: http://www.bittonhistory.org.uk/intier/
November 2018 Meeting – Douglas Motorbikes
Bill Douglas introduced us to the history of the world-famous Douglas motorbikes. First manufactured in Kingswood from 1907, some 25000 were constructed for military use in the First World War. As well as Bill’s highly entertaining talk we also saw the fine display of historic Douglas bikes at Kingswood Museum.
October 2018 Meeting
Eighty of us packed North Common Village Hall for a wonderful film made by David Noble and his friends Steve and Sue Brown. All eyes were glued to the screen, where so many old friends, neighbours and family told the story of Oldland Common since the 1940s. The evening was bursting full of anecdotes about school life, the local shops, pubs and sports.
July 2018 Meeting
Doreen Lindegaard showed us a fascinating but sometimes macabre history of local coal mines. Her talk ‘Killed In a Coalpit’ provided an insight into the miners’ lives and the dangerous world of coal mining.
Doreen has scoured newspaper reports, church and coroner’s records to find out more about some of the names whose deaths are recorded alongside the single line ‘killed in a coalpit’.
May 2018 Meeting
At our visit to Kingswood Heritage Museum 23rd May we were treated to a fascinating evening, a relaxed atmosphere and a warm welcome. Alan Bryant highlighted some of the remarkable displays.
March 2018 Meeting
We focused on local buildings with highlights being Kay’s explanation of the changes to the thatched cottages of Upton Cheyney, Penny Deverill’s slides of ‘The Checkers’ pub and No.46 School Road, and a huge display of local historic photos provided by David Noble.
January 2018 Meeting
10 January, Wandering and Begging: Children who lived on the streets of Bristol
Our speaker was Shirley Hodgson, who has written and talked extensively on the subject of the vagrant children of Bristol.
Shirley told us about the children who were orphaned, or abandoned locally and left destitute on the streets in Victorian times. Some were fed and educated by charities, churches and industrial schools, but many were left impoverished in workhouses, reformatories or on the streets.
Shirley also told us about the work of Mary Carpenter, the Ragged Schools and the industrial schools that were set-up in the 1850s.
November 2017 Meeting
The social effect of Methodism in our area
8 November, 7:00 for 7:30pm,
Gary Best talked about ‘The Social Impact of Methodism on Bristol in the Eighteenth Century’. Gary Best is a well-known historian and writer, has written extensively on the history of Methodism and is a former Head of Kingswood School.
In the eighteenth century our local area, around Kingswood, was known for lawlessness and rebellion and yet one hundred years later it was described by the historian Abraham Braine as a peaceful, orderly place with hard working, contented inhabitants.
It cannot be a coincidence that Methodism, among other non-conformist religions, had become widespread as the religion of local people. It was at nearby Hanham Mount that the powerful orator and preacher George Whitefield famously spoke to the local coal miners, in the open air, in 1739, and started what was to become a profound effect on the character of local people, as Evangelism spread across the west of England and Wales.
October 2017 Meeting:
Excavation of Roman buildings at Hanging Hill
Tony Roberts of Archeoscan, explained how a dig had originally started in 2012 with digging test pits, which revealed the corner of a building, thought to be 3rd Century. After carrying out magnetic imaging surveys, the work was continued in 2015 and revealed the lightweight foundation of a building and a series of bakery ovens and quernstones. At the same dig, painted plaster and pottery imported from southern France, indicated that there was a more significant building nearby. Intriguingly, a massive boundary wall was uncovered, some 2 yards wide, suggesting the site was either a villa, a public space, such as a temple, or a fortress.
The archeologists were eager to continue the work this year, despite being severely hampered by bad weather. Further work showed that the lower terrace they had worked on was indeed an industrial working area with a bakery, iron working, pin manufacture, and the splitting of sandstone. Then came a breakthrough just two weeks ago, when, as well as lots of interesting pins, bowls, coins and other artefacts, a piece of carved monument, possibly the corner of an alter stone was found. Then a few days before the dig was due to finish, some pink (ochre) painted wall plaster, a mortar floor and what is possibly a bath house was found.
We are very grateful to Tony Roberts and also to David Hawking for hosting us so well at Manor Farm, as well as giving his permission for the archeological dig.
June 2017 Meeting:
An evening about Rebecca Worlock 27 June
Many thanks to Adam, Bel and Penny for a very informative and enjoyable evening about Rebecca Worlock, Rebecca murdered her husband in 1820, by mixing poison in his beer. She was hanged for this crime the same year, in Gloucester Gaol.
Bel now lives in the house where Rebecca was born and raised and offered her own thoughts about the story which haunts her more and more. Penny Deverill kindly shared so much of the research she carried out for her book ‘Two Penneth of Poison’. Adam generously showed his much acclaimed short film about the trial.
Further details of Rebecca Worlock are shown here