The Lost Villages of Bristol
Although many former villages have been incorporated into Bristol as suburbs, some have been wiped off the face of the earth completely. Under the waters of Chew Lake, an artificial reservoir near Bristol, lies the small hamlet of Moreton. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and, at the time of its drowning, included a mediaeval chapel, a moated house and a mill. Roman buildings and flints were also found on the site.
To the north of Bristol once lay the village of Charlton which was wiped out when Bristol Aeroplane Company built a longer runway for the Brabazon at Filton. Aerodrome Charlton was just at the eastern end of Catbrain, which still just about exists at the end of the runway and has now given its name to yet another trading/retailestate. There was also a Charlton Farm plus several other farms in the vicinity. Most of Charlton Road still exists, up as far as the runway.
Opened in 1910, the original 'flying ground' was located near Fairlawn Avenue, next to the Bristol and Colonial Aeroplane Company works, at the top of Filton Hill.
In 1915, with the expansion of the aircraft works during World War I, the aerodrome was moved down the hill to its current location. In that year the Royal Flying Corps opened a base on the airfield, access being from Hayes Lane, which led from Gypsy Patch Lane to the hamlet of Charlton. The early buildings at the base were wooden huts, but eventually more permanent structures were erected, including Barnwell Hall.
Bell 206B Jet Ranger III at Filton Airfield, Bristol, England. Used for electricity pylon patrols. During WW1, RFC Filton was mainly used as an aircraft acceptance facility.
A flying school was also located on the northern side of the airfield. This eventually became part of the West Works of the Engine Division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The West Works site was cleared in the late 1980s to make way for a Post Office Sorting centre.
From 1929 the 501 (City of Bristol) Squadron was based at RAF Filton. The squadron was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes by 1939 and formed part of the British forces sent to France. Following a heavy German raid on the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1940, a squadron of Supermarine Spitfires were based at Filton.
Prior to World War II, there were only grass runways at Filton. The main concrete runway was installed in 1941.
Prior to D-Day, US manufactured aircraft were assembled at Filton Aerodrome, from assemblies imported via Avonmouth docks. Filton became a major port-of-entry for US casualties after the D-Day landings in June 1944. Most of the casualties were taken to Frenchay Hospital.
A380 executing low pass over Airbus plant at Filton before heading to Heathrow on 18 May 2006. The A380's wings and other components are designed at Filton. The main runway was greatly extended in the late 1940s for the Brabazon project. Charlton village was demolished and the pre-war Filton Bypass was severed into two sections. In the early 1960s, a new Filton Bypass was constructed, roughly parallel to the old one, and this later became part of the M5 motorway.
The huge three-bay Brabazon Hangar was also built in the late 1940s. At the time, the hangar doors and the railway level crossing for the aircraft were the largest in the world. After a worker was crushed and killed while taking a nap in one of the folds of the hangar doors, a siren was installed to warn employees when the doors were being operated.
In 1948 501 Squadron was equipped with De Havilland Vampire jets. These were a common sight in the skies around Filton in the early to mid-1950s. 501 was forced to disband on 3 February 1957. As a protest, one of the pilots decided to fly his aircraft under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, but he crashed into a hillside on the Leigh Woods side of the Avon Gorge, near Sea Mills, Bristol and was killed.
During the early 1950s British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flew their Lockheed Constellations and Boeing Stratocruisers into Filton to be serviced in the newly completed Brabazon Hangar, then the largest hangar in the world. Maintenance flights to Filton ceased when suitable hangars were completed at London Heathrow Airport.
In 1960 an RAF Vulcan bomber, approaching from the west, landed at Filton in heavy rain. The pilot braked, but started to aquaplane. He decided to abort the landing. Although he managed to take-off and eventually land successfully elsewhere, the jet blast from the aircraft's four Bristol Siddeley Olympus 201 engines severely damaged a filling station at the eastern end of the runway, sent cars spinning on the A38 trunk road and wrecked the boundary fence steel railings. Eye witnesses claimed that the aircraft barely cleared the engine test beds next to the Bristol to South Wales railway embankment. Subsequently, the filling station was moved further north, to a safer location.
On 3 December 1962 Bristol Siddeley Engines were using Vulcan XA894 as a flying test bed for the Olympus 22R, which was designed specifically to power the ill-fated BAC TSR-2 bomber. On that particular day, the aircraft was positioned at Filton on an apron near the former RAF station, with the 22R discharging its exhaust into a de-tuner.
The power was increased to maximum reheat. An LP turbine disc was ejected from the engine, rupturing two fuel tanks and starting a fire. A brand new fire truck positioned in front of the aircraft was quickly enveloped in flames. The fire took hold so quickly that there was little the fire crew could do. Both the aircraft and fire truck were destroyed. Fortunately, the test engineers managed to exit the aircraft so there were no significant casualties.
After the disbanding of 501 squadron, Bristol Siddeley Engine apprentices used Barnwell Hall for accommodation and Bristol University Air Squadron continued to use some of the RAF facilities. For many years a surplus BA Concorde was housed in one of the hangars and cannibalised for spares. Nowadays, many of the RAF buildings are derelict or have been demolished.
A further downhill extension to the main runway was made for the Concorde project in the late 1960s. There is also a shorter concrete runway at Filton, which was sometimes used by a Dakota to ferry key BAC personnel to Fairford during Concorde development in the early 1970s. This runway will cease to exist if a housing estate, planned for the north east corner of the airfield, is built.
On 21 November 2006, a public inquiry meeting was held with South Gloucestershire Council to discuss the building of 2,200 homes on the north side of the airfield.