The Lost Villages of Bristol

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    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.

    thegreatlandoni, knee_dish, and 5 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. thegreatlandoni 71 months ago | reply

      Great story and photo.

    2. quintinsmith_ip 68 months ago | reply

      Wonderful story

    3. gerr4u 39 months ago | reply

      I worked as a chef in barnwell hall in the late 60's and lived in, can remember catching a bus back to filton after a night out and walking down the hill, now we were suposed to use the RAF entrance which was at the patchway end, anyway walked down the hill came to the first security gates and the security man was sound asleep so walked past him and across the runway to get back to barnwell hall which was situated in the middle of the airfield, on one occation got halfway across the runway and the landing lights came on frightened me.

    4. hargreaves.david 31 months ago | reply

      I was an apprentice at Barnwell Hall in the early 70's. I still have an old 8mm film of Concorde 002s maiden flight plus the subsequent presentation to Trubshawe & co at Barnwell Hall.
      Whilst employed there as a test technician I had flights in VC10 G-AXLR, HS125, Vulcan and a Jet Provost. Sorry to discover that the hall has been bulldozed!

    5. lewiscollins1 27 months ago | reply

      How were they allowed to put a man-made reservoir over a medieaval village?????

    6. gambril 22 months ago | reply

      barnwell hall opened to Bristol Aircraft Company and Bristol Siddley Engines apprentices in 1961.The warden was Peter Parfitt who remained in his post until its closure,The hall was home to about120 lads ,living 2 or 3 to a room. BARNWELL HALL was originally home to officers of 501 squadron.
      In 1961 there was still a small number of RAF still stationed the airfield mostly housed in mobile homes,but the CO, HELLERINGTON lived in a prefab behnd Barnwell hall before moving into a large stone house next door.He had 2 daughters.Valerie and Bobby and a younger son.
      In 1961 the Seargeants mess was still open and a pint of beer was 9 old pence.a double Scotch,1 shilling.Most Sunday mornings were went missing to most of us who stayed over the weekends.
      Filton/ last year/celebrated 100 years of aviation and there is extensive coverage of Barnwell Hall at its web site,including a detailed history from Peter Parfitt.
      regards Bill Wolstenholme[resident from 1961 to 62]

    7. brizzle born and bred 12 months ago | reply

      Memories of life in Charlton, the edge of Bristol village, flattened to build Filton's new runway for its Brabazon aircraft.

      SOON after the ending of the Second World War, in 1946, the village of Charlton was requisitioned, bulldozed and the residents re-housed. Half promises about re-building the village elsewhere, a very costly project, came to nothing. Small wonder, then, with so much emotional distress, that this "lost" village claims to have a ghost, if not many.

      Charlton was once, like many villages, a well integrated and self sufficient community. It had a handful of large mansions, eight farms, 38 homes, a church, a school, a pub (a large Edwardian building called the Carpenter's Arms) a post office, a village hall, a duck pond and a common. By all accounts it was, despite the nearby BAC works, a peaceful place. Today most of Charlton's old streets and buildings lie buried under 14 feet of soil and tarmac.

      All was lost in the name of progress, in this case a huge, lumbering, propeller-driven white elephant which needed a very long runway for take off. Charlton village was, unfortunately, directly in the way. Standing 50 feet high, and with a wingspan of 230 feet, the Brabazon was then the largest civil land plane in the world. But with jet engines set to take the aviation world by storm the aircraft was also technologically outdated.

      Hopelessly overweight, under-powered and out of date, the Brabazon was doomed to failure. In 1953 the project was scrapped, but the runway, all 2,500 yards of it, remained.

      "It was an aircraft that you either loved or hated – a choice very much in the minds of the inhabitants when it was announced that they were to lose their homes because of it," recalls June Keating, who once lived in the village.

      "After trials it was hoped that the plane would be able to carry 100 passengers non-stop from London to New York.

      "Sadly this whole effort was very short lived and in just a few years the Brabazon was but a memory, not only for those involved in its construction, but for those who had once lived in Charlton and felt let down by the decision to scrap it".

      "After all, they had given up their beloved village for nothing".

      "I can't help wondering what the outcome would have been had we had the power of TV, as well as the press, behind us. Would the destruction of Charlton happened?"

      It's since been revealed that wartime leader Winston Churchill was against the runway extension, albeit on the grounds of cost. As the bulldozers moved in to destroy their homes so the villagers were moved out to council houses in nearby Patchway.

      "When the runway was built we could not believe it" recalled farmer Ben Durston.

      "Everyone was very upset and, of course, you always miss it. If you leave a place, you can go back to see it, if you want. But Charlton was completely wiped off the face of the earth."

      Charlton's 17th-century Manor Farm had once belonged to the influential Cann family, who had provided Bristol with two Mayors.

      "There were three large houses in Charlton," recalled David Bissell.

      "Pentre, where the Hosegoods lived, Pen Park Manor, the home of the Wallers, and

      Charlton House, where the Sunderlands lived. My grandfather, Charles Bissell, was a gardener at both Pentre and Pen Park, before and after the First World War."

      The Sunderlands, it was said, with its trees, pond and geese, was the nicest house on the common. Many residents recall the gypsies, who seem to have favoured the area, especially the common.

      "My most vivid recollection is of the gypsies camping opposite our house in Catbrain Lane with their old fashioned Vardoes (Romany caravans)," recalls ex-resident Joyce Ferry.

      Fellow villager Keith Hardwidge recalls the gypsies coming around the cottages every year selling their wares – clothes pegs and the like.

      "My father had electricity put in our cottage before we were forced out to Patchway, but my earliest memories are of oil lamps and a tin bath in front of a warm fire," he adds.

      "The fields, where it was safe to roam, were filled with cowslips, bluebells and in the hedgerows were primroses in abundance. We would catch sticklebacks in the stream at the bottom of Catbrain Hill.

      "For me, moving to Patchway was not so bad. I met many new friends and had new places to explore, but my parents never got over losing their cottage, and the way of life that they had enjoyed on Charlton Common."

      Now, as the use of the airfield comes to an end, the runway is being dug up and the land replaced by more new housing. The village name survives in Charlton Road and Charlton Lane. The name is also celebrated in new developments at Charlton Mead and Charlton Hayes, both near the original village.

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