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Published Articles

8 May 2024 – The Rising Sun pub by Julie Johns
In this month’s article, Julie John’s reveals some intriguing stories as a result of her research into the Rising Sun pub in Bitton:

8 April 2024 –   Farm Move by Rail Julie Johns
A Farmyard Special steamed out of Bitton Station in 1933, with an entire farm on board.
Animals, implements, waggons, furniture; everything in fact, which the farmer, W.A. Hillacre, had used on Valley Farm in  Swineford, was on a special train which was bound for a farm 154 miles away.

8 March 2024 – Fire Party by Geoff Flook
Three men lost their lives in a mission to put out a fire in the Golden Valley coal pit in 1882. Their bravery prompted Geoff Flook to start to research the accident, especially as one of his ancestors was involved. This is the subject of this month’s article and what eventually turned into a short book called The Fire Party.

8 February 2024 – The White Hart by Julie Johns
If Only Walls Could Talk: the First Hundred and Fifty Years of The White Hart, Bitton and the Mystery of the George Inn.

8 January 2024 – Flying Machines by Peter Davies
Post Boys transported messages on foot or by horse from one post station to another. This gradually expanded a basic Stagecoach system and triggered the innovation of the Mail Coach (Flying Machines) which carried mail and a limited number of passengers.

Peter Davies explains how the Boys would wear a white smock reaching from neck to ankle to protect their uniform and that one such Dandy was Henry Smith, known as ‘Black Harry Smith’ who travelled to the Bitton area.

8 December 2023 – Church Road or Court Road by Mike Gates
Rarely do residents decide to alter the name of their residential roads. However, the case in Bitton proves to be an exception, as residents sought to rename Church Road to Court Road. The article provides the context to the petition to have Church Road renamed and how Church Farm was once Court Farm, which changed back to Court Farm and then was changed again back to Church Farm.

8 November 2023 – C Bayer Corset Factory by Julie Johns
Julie has written another superb article. The Charles Bayer Corset Factory operated from 1895 to 1929 in Oldland Common. The site of the factory was afterwards used by H E Cox, Paint Machine Manufacturing, but most people will remember Simplex Sectional Bookcases before that factory was demolished and Trescothick Drive was built.

8 October 2023 – Unusual Burials at St Mary’s by Pat Dury
Pat Dury describes how she looked at the burial records of St Mary’s Church and found many interesting records. Because her research was carried out before the advent of the internet, she had the thrill of leafing through the original document, finding snippets of information that would not have been available if she had carried out research on-line.

5 Sept 2023 – URC Upton Cheyney by David Noble
The URC Chapel in Upton Cheyney, a historic landmark that has been an integral part of the community for almost two centuries, will bid a farewell in September of this year. David Noble has kindly provided this article, an excerpt from his book ‘Places Worship in the villages of Oldland Common, North Common, Bitton, Upton Cheyney, and Swineford’.

2 Sept 2023 – Fete 2023 Answers
The winner of the ‘Guess the Artefact’ Quiz at St Mary’s Fete, Bitton was Robin Allison-Smith. Congratulations Robin! Answers are shown above.

7 August 2023 Ted James-Fieldgrove Farm by Delcie Simkin
Further to our recent article about the Women’s Land Army being based at Fieldgrove Farm, Bitton, the group received this contribution from Delcie Simkin, the niece of Ted James who trained and supervised some of the Women’s Land Army at the farm.

8 July 2023 Fieldgrove WLA 071423 by Julie Johns
Julie Johns has written another fascinating article, which brings to light the part that Fieldgrove Farm played in the Women’s Land Army.
The article contains amazing photos that show some of the scenes of the hard labour yet the fun they experience. It highlights the sacrifice the ‘Land Girls’ performed in the critical work of providing food during the Second World War.

8 June Origin of Place Name Bitton by Mike Gates
There are three possible explanations: for the origin of the name ‘Bitton’ – ‘Boyd Town’ after the river, or from the family (de Bitton), or from the place name ‘Bertune’, listed in the Domesday Book.

8 May Barry Hill House by Julie Johns
Bitton Parish History Group was asked by the current owner of this property if it could find out more information about its history. Julie Johns has traced the history of the property.

8 April Mr King by Julie Johns
Research by Julie Johns sheds light on the extraordinary social attitudes of the 1870s. The article shows how a local man was inexplicably lauded for allegedly assaulting a woman. Many thanks to Julie Johns for her exceptional research.

23 Mar 2023 Starting Your Family History – revised v6 from Mike Slucutt
Following our meeting on 21 Mar 2023 Mike Slucutt has kindly provided a start guide for family history.

8 Mar 2023 Pipley Brook by Jim Allen
The late Jim Allen describes ‘the stream that skitters down the southern-most escarpment of the limestone Cotswolds from Lansdown into the lowlands of the river Avon … an idyllic playground in the 1920’s’.

7 Feb 2023  Upton Cheyney- Evacuee by Ian Haddrell
In 1940 Joyce Hale was caught up in the bombing raids on Bristol. Her friend Beryl Lucker who lived in Upton Cheyney asked her to come and live with her, providing protection  from the ever increasing German bombing raids.

8 Jan 2023 Bristol Churchgoer by Peter Davies
During the 1840’s under the pseudonym ‘The Church Goer’, a journalist made Sunday visits as a mystery worshipper to churches in Bristol and neighbouring villages, recording his impressions of the church, clergy and the services. Peter Davies’ article covers the Church Goer’s visit to St Mary’s Bitton.

8 Dec 2022 Friendly- Societies-Part 2 Julie Johns
Part 2 of Julie John’s article on Friendly Societies relates the case of the misappropriated funds of the Bitton, Britons’ Friendly Society. There was no state provision for the poor, and so mutual friendly societies were created to help families during difficult times brought about by illness or death. Life with no regular income meant they would have to beg in the streets or live in a poorhouse. Julie has researched the very unfortunate case of the embezzlement of the funds of a local friendly society.

8 Nov 2022 Friendly Societies-Part 1  Julie Johns
Julie Johns’ very well researched article looks back on a time, when before the Welfare State, friendly societies were often the only way working people, if they did not successfully apply to the parish for relief, could receive financial help in times of sickness or injury and avert the need to beg in the streets or live in a poorhouse.

6 October 2022  – River Boyd  Julie Johns
We are so lucky to have the River Boyd, where we can find kingfishers, horseshoe bats and even eels. Many also treasure its historical past, of the ochre works and the paper mill. Julie Johns brought these together in the article, with some fascinating aspects of its history. 

8 September 2022  – Fred Duddridge
Glenn Bowker relates the life of Fred Duddridge a Postal Worker for Bitton and Upton Cheyney in the early 20th century.

3 September 2022  – Fete quiz 2022 Answers
This year was a tough quiz (the answers are shown in the link above), but one person had all 14 questions correct – Jon Heyes. Well done Jon! Kay Ross has very kindly offered to provide the prize – a guided tour of William Champion’s Garden and the grotto for up to 4 people or a family (would take about one and a half hours).

8 Aug 2022  – ‘Round the Common’ Jane Bradley
Now that Covid lockdowns and retirement has meant shopping locally Jane Bradley shares her childhood memories of walking round the Common with her Mum and younger brother on regular shopping trips before the advent of supermarkets. The article provides a charming insight to the shopping trips in Oldland Common.

8 July 2022  – Oldland Horticultural Society Joan Upward
The article provides a fascinating account of the history of the Oldland Horticultural Society and should be read in conjunction with David Noble’s article ‘The Oldland Flower Show’.
The Annual event, originally founded in 1921, was held in the Village Hall in West Street, Oldland Common. In some years the show attracted over eight thousand people and was an overwhelming success for many years up till 2008.

8 June 2022  – Medieval Market – Update William Evans, Julie Johns, Kay Ross, Mike Gates
The article written recently by William Evans on a medieval market in Bitton (Articles, May 2022) has intrigued many of us. An update has been provided that attempts to answer some of the questions raised – Where was Bitton’s market held? How long did Bitton’s market last? Why did the market cease? Did Bitton’s market specialize?

8 May 2022 Medieval Market in Bitton – William Evans
King Henry III granted a royal charter to William de Putot in 1231 for the right to hold a market on Tuesdays in Bitton. The article looks at the background to local markets but poses many unanswered questions, such as: where was the market held, when did it close down and did it specialise.

8 Apr 2022  Henry Aston Barker – Peter Davies
Henry Aston Barker (1774 – 19 July 1856) was a Scottish landscape and panorama painter and exhibitor who lived in Bitton.

8 Mar 2022 Keynsham Workhouse – Children  – Elizabeth White
The article describes the conditions for children placed in Keynsham Union Workhouse which was set up in 1837 to replace the Poor Houses in Bitton, Oldland and seventeen other local parishes.

9 Feb 2022 My Chidhood and Upton Cheyney – Jack Allen
Jack Allen and his brother Jim wrote a number of articles about life in Upton Cheyney where they were brought up during the 1920s. In the attached from Jack, we can see that Upton Cheyney was a very different place 100 years ago, when most of village (and the people that lived there) was owned by the Parker family. The village had remained unchanged for centuries, before electricity, mains water and sewerage were supplied.

8 Jan 2022 The New Women of My Family – Becky Gawler
For this month’s article Becky Gawler has provided a fascinating glimpse of the women of her family. She shares her research with us and shows how her female ancestors not only endured the heavy workload and strains of bringing up families but at the same time also worked hard to contribute to the family finances.

9 Dec 2021 New Women Peter Davies
For centuries women were expected to look after the home, family and often work on the land. but the new Industrial Age offered opportunities, although still few, for female workers.

9 Nov 2021 Six Sacked Hatters
Six hatters from Oldland Common knew that if they voted in defiance of their employer, they faced dismissal and potential destitution. Between the six of them they had thirty-three children to feed.

9 Oct 2021  Mary Isabella Straton
Mary Isabella Straton, born in Willsbridge, attempted to climb the Matterhorn and successfully climbed Mont Blanc four times, She is the subject of this month’s article, from Julie Johns.

11 Sept 2021  History Quiz at St Mary’s Fete Bitton Fete 2021 Answers 
The winner of the quiz at the History Group stall today at St Mary’s Fete, Bitton:  Mr Piers Roberts
The Answer sheet is linked above. Many thanks to everyone who took part, but a huge thanks to Jon Heyes who devised such an intriguing quiz and for providing fascinating artefacts.

8 Sept 2021  James-Angell Head of St Anne’s C.E. School, 1957-1984
At the age of four Sarah Angell settled in Oldland Common with her family. They left behind all family and friends, had no car or phone and moved into a tightly knit community. In this week’s article Sarah describes the isolation of moving, but how her father triumphed for 28 years as Head of St Anne’s school, turning it around from a school threatened with closure to one which, by the time of his retirement, had grown rapidly and earned a fine reputation. a retired army officer.

9 Aug 2021 The Grange
The fascinating story of the Grange is not only a history of the building but just as much of its occupants. From the 12th century clergy, a family closely connected to royalty, an architect of renown, a papermill owner and major employer, a retired bank manager, a schoolmaster, to a retired army officer.

9 July 2021 Oldland-Flower-Show
The ‘Oldland Flower Show’ was founded in1921. This Annual event, which was held in the Village Hall located in West Street, Oldland Common, attracted many villagers and visitors for many years up until almost the Second World War. In some years the show attracted over eight thousand people and was an absolutely overwhelming success for many years up till the early 2000s.

8 June 2021 Ellacombe Chimes Events2
A worldwide celebration centered on Bitton happens on 26th June. Bells will ring throughout the world, played at noon local time in each location to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Ellacombe Chimes invented at St Mary’s in Bitton. The Celebration will cross four continents and eleven time zones, starting in New Zealand and finishing in Vancouver, Canada, 17 hours after they first started. At present, at least 120 churches and towers will be taking part. Locally, this will include Bath Abbey, St Johns, Keynsham, St Joh’s Catholic church, Bath, and The Holy Nativity Church, Knowle, as well as St Mary’s, Bitton. The article shows some of the events that are planned.

2 June 2021 Local Industries
David Noble looks back on what the Industry scene was like, particularly between the years 1940’s to the 1970’s. In previous articles he covered the importance of the Dramway and of the Farming/Market Garden Industry, but this article features mainly on all the other major and important Industries within our area.

24 May 2021 Bitton The Story of our Village
Back in 1957 the WI got together in Bitton to write up their history within living memory. It reveals a very different place from the one we know now.

18 May 2021 The Good Seed
Growing up near a farm was a privileged freedom that many will never forget – the smells, the sounds of the farm animals and birds were so different from the traffic noise we hear now. David Noble brings of all of that back to us with an article on the farms and market gardens of Oldland Common, North Common and Bitton.

11 May 2021 Swineford Picnic Site
Meredic Hallett and Clem Bush describe what is now the Swineford Picnic site and once the Brecknell Dolman and Roger’s foundry and workshops.These had been built upon and over the old ochre mill on the edge of Swineford, just above the farm and across the Pipley Brook.

4 May 2021 Swineford
Peter Davies explores the legend of Bladud, the history of the mills at Swineford and the two pubs: The Old Barge and The Swan.

27 Apr 2021 Donald Gallop
Donald Gallop’s memories of the 1930s and 40s describe the village of Bitton and well known residents at that time.

20 Apr 2021 Coneyore
Penny Deverill tells us how there had been a row of derelict cottages, near School Road, which she used to explore. It was the remains of a once thriving close knit community of hatters.

13 Apr 2021 William Pratten
The Death of William Pratten – Annette Rothwell researches an intriguing murder which attracted much attention in Bitton in the 19th century.  The accused being an aged man and the victim a young man who, it is said, threw a bucket of water over him.

6 Apr 2021 Canon Ellacombe
Bitton is fortunate in having had two celebrated Ellacombes at St Mary’s. Canon Henry Nicholson Ellacombe was an authority on trees and plants of all kinds. He was very different in character from his father Rev Henry Thomas Ellacombe, from whom he took over as vicar in 1850. Canon Ellacombe shared his father’s devotion for gardening and continued the development of the vicarage garden which became widely admired and even supplied plants for Kew Gardens.

30 Mar 2021 The Box of Stuff
Penny Deverill reaches into her ‘box of stuff’ to bring out a 1940s photo of the Oldland Football Club and a large family outing.

23 Mar 2021 Ellacombe Chimes 
The Ellacombe Chimes were invented 200 years ago in Bitton by H.T. Ellacombe as an alternative to having to use local bell ringers so that he did not have to tolerate their wayward behaviour. On 26th June a celebration will be held to mark their invention. Already more than 50 churches and towers worldwide have agreed to participate. The bells will start in Timaru in New Zealand at 12 noon and travel through nine time zones ending in Vancouver, Canada.

16 Mar 2021 Charabanc
A charabanc or “char-à-banc” was a type of horse-drawn vehicle or early motor coach, usually open-topped, during the early part of the 20th century. Many families and local companies used  them for group outings, often to the sea-side.

9 Mar 2022 Tramway ->  Dramway-Feb-2021
David Noble takes us on a tour of the local section of the Dramway that carried coal from the Coalpit Heath collieries near Yate, and also Shortwood, down to the barges at Londonderry Wharf on the River Avon at Keynsham. Its journey passed through North Common, Oldland Common and Willsbridge. It was a horse-drawn railway and got its name from the ‘drams’ or carts that carried coal. Much of the route of the Dramway can be walked today on the clearly signed posted footpaths, ‘The Dramway Footpath’.

2 Mar 2022 Upton School ->  Upton School Meredic Hallett
Meredic Hallett tells us how he ran off on his first day of school. He has somehow managed to capture all those feelings of early school years as well as the antics that tried the patience of the Head, Mrs Joyce Cooper.

23 Feb 2021 Bitton Bath House -> Bitton Bath House
Kay Ross shares her report on Bitton Bath House a Victorian bath house near Fieldgrove House. She tells us about the building and speculates on its use.

16 Feb 2021 My Memories and the Pit Head -> My Memories Pit Head
Clive Willmott goes down memory lane. He was born and bred at the top end of Oldland, close to the Pit head engine shed that is still in existence.

10 Feb 2021 Boy Miners -> Boy Miners
We have first hand accounts from boys that worked in local pits and descriptions of the working conditions and lives.

2 Feb 2021 May Smith -> May Smith
May Smith (nee Jefferies)  was born and lived all of her life in West Street, Oldland Common. Sally Courtney relates her anecdotes.

26 Jan 2021 The Lons – Country Club -> Country Club
The Lons at the time it was country club owned by Graham and Ann Miller. It a offered a squash club, a swimming pool and a nighclub

12 Jan 2021 The Lons – Norman Hall and Eezall -> Norman Hall and Eezall
The Lons at the time when Norman and Alexandra Hall made it the headquarters for their well-

19 Jan 2021 The Lons – The Folliotts -> Folliotts
Hugh Butler Folliott had a very successful compost business, Vermipeat and his wife ran The Lons School

5 Jan 2021 The Lons – George Lancelot Wood -> George Lancelot Wood
The life of George Lancelot Wood has been research by Annette Rothwell. He was a successful businessman who moved to The Lons in 1831.

31 Dec 2020 New Year’s Eve 1938 -> New Years Eve 1938 – Keep Them Clear
Jim Allen was a bell ringer at St Mary’s who tells how he rang the bells on New Year’s Day 1939. The bells were to remain silent until they were allowed to be rung again to celebrate the victory at El Alamein during World War II.

22 Dec 2020 Christmas Card from 1937 -> Christmas Card 1937 and The Lons at Christmas ->Lons at Christmas
A Christmas Card from 1937 sent by the Vicar at St Mary’s to Edwin (Harry Short. Also a description from Louisa Crawthra (nee Folliott of memories of The Lons at Christmas.

15 Dec 2020 Lons 1929-31 -> Lons 1929-1931
Life at The Lons at the time that Charles Thornton Hall and his family lived there 1929-1931, by Annette Rothwell.

8 Dec 2020 The Lons – The Nicholetts -> The Nicholetts
The Nicholetts bought into the stylish lifestyle of The Lons in 1909. He was banker and his son an Air Marshall was knighted. Article researched by Annette Rothwell.

1 Dec 2020 The Lons – Uriah Alsop -> Alsop
Uriah Alsop was an innovative entrepreneur who called himself a steam cabinet maker. Mike Rothwell shares his research on Alsop and his successful furniture business.

24 Nov 2020 The Lons before 1868 –> Cryer The Sommervilles -> JFS
James Frew Sommerville, who together with his father and brother ran the Bitton Paper Mill at the time they built The Lons in 1868

17 Nov 2020 The Lons Introduction -> Lons Intro
Annette Rothwell sets the scene for a series of articles on The Lons.

11 Nov 2020 War Graves -> War Graves
Penny Deverill shares her research on the graves of local servicemen who died in the service of their country at war.

3 Nov 2020 Schools -> Schools-Noble
David Noble provides a complete set of photos of our local schools, past and present.

27 Oct 2020 Bitton MIll Intier -> Intier-Products
An introduction to the automotive parts manufactured in what was Bitton Mill.  Tony Wilmott spent his working life running the various factories manufacturing the automative parts and shares his detailed knowledge and insights to the varied products manufactured.

13 Oct 2020 Letter to Shirley -> Jenny Letter to Shirley
Jennifer Jefferies remembers happy days during childhood and her friendship with Shirley in Court Road, Oldland Common.

29 Sept 2020 Pubs -> Pubs092920
David Noble takes us on a tour of all of the local pubs, past and present.

15 Sept 2020 Cherry Gardens 1945 – Cherry Gardens 1945
The photo for residents celebrating VJ Day in 1945 at Cherry Gardens

31 August 2020 Bone Mill -> Bone Mill
Angie Sawyers tells us about the History and renovation of their house ‘St Annes Lodge’.. It is a Grade II listed building built in the late 18th century and has changed hands many times.
The house used to be a Bone Mill which was ‘The Old Chemical Works’.

18 Aug 2020 Places of Worship –> Places Worship
David Noble provided an overview and photo for each of the chapels and churches in our area.

4 Aug 2020 Prouse-Douglas Wedding -> Prouse-Douglas-Wedding
The marriage between Edith Prouse and James Douglas was a grand affair with motorbikes lined up in front of St Mary’s Church in Church Road, Bitton. James was the grandson of the founder of Douglas Ltd.

21 July 2020 Nanny Worlock -> Nanny Worlock
Nanny Worlock was well known in Oldland Common for helping to bring hundreds of babies into the world. She not only assisted the child-birth but sometimes stayed as long as a fortnight to help the mother with the washing and meals. She did not ask for any kind of payment. She was sometimes given presents, but always a huge amount of gratitude.

14 July 2020 Store at Upton Cheyney -> Store Upton
Jim Allen and his brother Jack wrote extensively about their childhood in Upton Cheyney. In this article Jim reminisced about what was a typical village shop in 1925.

7 July 2020 Mill Rank Bitton -> Mill Rank Bitton
The site of the housing development Bitton Mill was in former times a paper mill and included a rank of houses. Reg Pullin tells us about his relatives who lived there and describes the houses and where they were located.

30 June 2020 An Oldland Boy -> An Oldland Boy Revisited
David Noble retraces the footsteps of the memories contained in house book An Oldland Boy Looks Back.

23 June 2020 Hat Making and the Slave Trade -> Hat Making and the Slave Trade
Hat making was the largest employment in Oldland Common at the end of the C18 and in early  C19. Following the toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol, Mike Gates explores how much was known by the hat makers about the large market for slave hats and whether the hat makers wittingly participated in the slave trade.

16 June 2020 Saltford Brass Mill -> Saltford Brass Mill
Stephanie Bailey helps us to explore the Saltford Brass Mill. We see the similarities between the mill and that of the brass mill in Bitton and in the products made there.

2 June 2020 Harry Short by Pete Davies->Harry Short
Edwin (Harry) Short was a well known and loved character in the village of Bitton. His grandson Peter Davies tells us about Harry’s exploits.

26 May 2020 Jenny Jefferies Memories->Jennifer-Jefferies
Jenny writes of her childhood memories of Court Road Oldland Common.

19 May 2020 Poorhouse and Lock-Up ->Poorhouse and Lockup
In Bitton High Street the cottage still exists that was originally a constable lock-up. A few doors further down was the village poor house. Marlene Gallop gives us a touring tells us of the history of both buildings.

11 May 2020 Oldland Common, by Jose Lewis->Oldland Common-Jose Lewis
Oldland Common 1940-1960, during the Second World War and afterwards is described by Jose Lewis (nee Clothier).

5 May 2020 Wartime Memories ->Wartime Memories
Reg Pullin was just five at the start of the Second World War, but has pulled together his memories including sheltering in an Anderson Shelter during air raids.

28 April 2020 Stocks and Pillory ->Stocks
We know there were stocks and a pillory in Bitton (near Kings Square) from an early illustration. It is likely that there were stocks in the mid fourteenth century. An act of Parliament, The Statute of Labourers, 1351, called for stocks to be made in every town and village for “unruly artisans”. This Act was passed by Parliament under King Edward III as a means to restrain wage rises following the labour shortage caused by the Black Death.

21 April 2020 No.46 School Road -> 46 School Road
Penny Deverill shares the memories of her childhood with Nanny and Pappy Worlock at 46 School Road.

14 April 2020 Upton Cheyney School -> Upton Cheyney School
Jim Allen describes life at a village school in the 1920s.

31 March 2020 Hannah Brewer Postwoman -> Hannah Brewer
Hannah Brewer, was the Postwoman for Bitton. She retired at
the age of 72 in 1899, after having walked a quarter of millioan miles, bringing local news as well as the post to all the outlying farms and cottages around

7 April 2020 The Memories of Pat Short ->Oldland Memories of Pat Short
Pat Short was brought up at The Halt, Oldland Common. In the early thirties her parents, Fred and Lilian Taylor, bought three acres of land near the railway line in North Street, Oldland Common and there they built a house, which they named The Halt. Pat recalls village life at that time.

24 March 2020 Britain’s first flushing toilet -> Harington Toilet
Kelston resident Sir John Harington was the inventor of Britain’s first flushing toilet in 1596. Harington, (after which Harrington Close is named) called it an Ajax (‘jakes’ was an old slang term for toilet).