One man’s history of Hillfields Estate.
On the roundabout in Maple Avenue – during the war – there was a huge water butt.
It used to have wire netting on the top and as children we used to play on top of the wire hoping somebody would fall in, but I can’t remember anyone fever falling in.
The water butt seemed huge at the time but now it might seem quite small because I was only about aged six at the time.
When these houses were built there was no electricity, none at all. All of the houses had gas lights inside.
Have you ever wondered why the houses at the top end of Maple Avenue are different to those at the bottom end? It’s because the company that built them, I guess they were building them at a cheap rate, went bankrupt. All of the windows on this side with the bay windows had a sloping roof. These have sloping roofs now but originally they had flat roofs (on the bay windows), so when they went bankrupt another firm took over.
(Houses built for workers at ES and A Robinsons about 1927, homes were sold for about £349)
Another firm took over the buildings within the street which left the other side of the street to wilderness. (the houses on your side of the street. From the roundabout up to the green). So to complete the street Bristol Corporation took over and they built the houses on that side of the street. I know they are private now because over the years people have had the opportunity to buy them, but originally they were all owned by Bristol corporation.
Next time you decorate your house and you strip the wallpaper off, you might find a circle that has been plastered over, that is where the gas lights used to be and it was about 7 years later when they had electric put in, it wasn’t that many years later.
None of the houses had drive ways because nobody had cars, in fact there were only two cars owned in the whole of the street, one of them was an old Austin Seven
Getting back to the gas lights, all of these street lights were gas, not as posh as they are now, but I can remember the ‘gas lighter’ coming on his push bike with a great big long pole over his shoulder, he would go up to the gas light, flicked the switch and the gas light would come on; he used to come back in the morning and turn them all back off again. Back then the gas lights were not as tall as they are now. (picture of how much shorter they used to be). This is picture now in colour shows Market Square and Hillfields Avenue at the shops, the shops are gone now. The gas lights shown here the way they used to look. These old lights were sold to people.
A lamplighter, historically, was an employee of a town who lit street lights, generally by means of a wick on a long pole. At dawn, they would return and turn them off using a small hook on the same pole.
Another lamplighter’s duty was to carry a ladder and renew the candles, oil and gas mantles.
Market Square showing the old gas lights
Of the four shops (on the Quadrant) there’s always been a sweet shop and next door was the grocers and over there on the other side was a dairy/bakery.
Percy used to have the grocers, his mother had a shop…, he lived on Maple Avenue.
Ron and Margaret who owed the other shop bought his house when he died. Now the first person to have that shop was Mr gold?
In Maple Avenue, people in number 12 were the first to have a television, the man who lived there was Sam Ludwell and his son Gordon was the founder of Ludwells on Lodge Causeway. The house next door next to me was a famous cricketer and footballer, his name was Clement Arthur Milton.
Clement Arthur Milton (10th March 1928 – 25th April 2007) went to Hillfields Park School (now known as Minerva Primary Academy). He was an English cricketer and footballer. He played county cricket for Gloucestershire from 1948 to 1974, playing six Test matches for England in 1958 and 1959. He also played domestic football for Arsenal between 1951 and 1955, and then for a brief period for Bristol City. He played one match for England in 1951.
Arthur Milton at Hlilfields Park School about 1940.
I was bought up in Hillfields Park Infants and Juniors and later I went to Speedwell. At the time the head teacher was Miss Wilks and Ms Mogford.
During the war anybody with railings outside their house would have had them taken away by the government for melting. These railing here (at the Muga, multi use games area, end of the school) are the original railings, I imagine they were left because it was a school to protect the children.
Now what we used to call the tin hut was here (by the junior entrance) it had water plumbed to it. In those days boys had to wear shorts and if you did something wrong one of the teachers used to lift up the bottom of your shorts and whack you with a wooden ruler on your thigh. Back then that was your punishment for being naughty.
Classes used to be about 30 to 40 pupils and they all had a desk, blotting paper and an ink well.
There used to be a resident on Maple Avenue who was the schools inspector. If you kept your children home from school he used to come knocking on your door and ask why.
“One of my pride and joys is the Oak tree in the school. Our class planted it – I would have been about 6 or 8 at the time. We all stood around in a half circle and watched as we planted the sapling, the tree is now about 75 years old.”
“If you were naughty in school you had the choice of either having the cane or going outside the classroom and stand up against the wall, and a lot of people chose that. But what they did not know was if the headmaster happened to be walking past he would ask why? And you would tell him why. He would say come with me my son and we would get the cane anyways. So you couldn’t get away with it.”
“Because I lived local I used to go home for dinner and when we heard a bell being rung in the playground we used to go back to school for the afternoon”
“we used to get ¼ pint of milk a day which was blooming horrible because they used to put it on or near the radiator and it would go sour”
“there used to be a church, where cherry tree flats now are. It was known as St Bedes and was part of St Johns Church on Lodge Causeway. It was closed in the 60’s, only the vicarage remains”
“the church was a small wooden building that used to have a bell on top. The bell used to ring every Sunday. I remember one Sunday not hearing the ring ring ring of the bell but a clunk clunk clunk. Someone had placed a cocoa tin over the bell to stop it making so much noise.”
In the church field Rev Dimmock kept a donkey. You could ride the donkey for a penny or a hap’pney and that money used to go into the church fund.
“to earn money, using a little cart we used to go around the estate asking people if they had any Jam Jars. We used to collect them up and they’d be used by two Jam Factories, one over the back of Woodland Way and the other on the Causeway. For 1 lb jars we would get a hap’ney and 3 farthings for a 2lb jar”.
There were four farthings in a penny, twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound, making 240 pence to the pound. The pound was not a coin but a one pound note.
Did you know that the face of the current monarchy always faces in the opposite way to the previous one?
Air raid shelters
On the green opposite Hillfields Baptist Church were placed air raid shelters. About ten Anderson shelters were placed down one side and if you look closely you can see where the grass undulates slightly, that is where they were removed and filled in.
On the other side of the green was a Morrison shelter, it was buried underground unlike the Anderson shelters which were only half buried.
“you would go down to the underground shelters in kind of passages. At the corner of the shelters were escape hatches so if the entrance got bombed you would escape by the hatches. There used to be benches all the way around as well”
“when I was 8 or 9 and the air raid sirens went off you didn’t worry, the thing to worry about was the big black spiders you would find down there. And you would be down there with them as long as the raid lasted.”
“some air raid shelters were in back gardens – these would have been Anderson shelters and some Brick-built shelters..”
There was no electric when I was growing up, the corporation used to employ a man would would come and cut the grass, he was a big bloke and he did it all by hand, it would take him about a week to do our street. He would take a bit of string and it would be cut perfectly straight.
Hillfields Baptist church
“the church has not always been there, the old Baptist church was another wooden type hut that used to be to the right of the new building. You can still see the little path that lead to the front door and the path that goes down to the back where the Sunday school was. They used to have concerts and that and it was later a Scouts Hut”
“Eventually the new church was built – with the rev Barry Morgan. All the girls used to sit on the right hand side and the boys used to sit on the left hand side”
“during the war the whole park was allotments, during the war years every bit of land was made use of, by water butts, shelters or by allotments, where you could rent a bit of land and grow your own potatoes, cabbages and everything apart from the odd cabbage, nothing was ever pinched, people never used to steal back in those days.”
During a summer holiday I remember Charles Heals fun fair came to the Rec, it was not much of a success though. It had dodgems and the Golden Gallopers.
There used to be a community hut next to the football club. It was built by local inhabitants voluntarily, one man was a plasterer, another an electrician. It was all built for free.
“Like all estates hillfields used to get patrolled by a policeman on his bike. In the trees up by the air raid shelters we used to climb as children, if the policeman caught you, you knew you were for it. We used to have a look out who would tell us when the copper was coming up the road and we would stay as silent as ever in the trees until he passed.”
“when the policeman was on his rounds he would stop and phone back to the station to say all was alright. The phone would be in a small box on a telegraph pole, used only by him.
“I can recall there being about 29 factories in the area. From Lodge causeway to kingswood by Iceland, down to Staple Hill and then along Fishponds Road and back to Lodge Causeway. Being out of work was unheard of.
“Over by Arcadia Road used to be Hornby’s Dairies; every morning about 7am until about 11am they used to use a horse and cart to deliver the milk. We used to ask him if he needed a hand just so we could ride on the milk cart.”