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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Thursday 9 February 2023

The remains of Charlton

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that it might be an idea to photograph the last surviving buildings of the razed village of Charlton in their edgelands environment before the development of Brabazon engulfs them. So I have. 

Though the surroundings of the still existing lodge of Pen Park Manor are already built up and probably won't change that much, apart from more traffic going along nearby Charlton Road.

Strictly speaking, Pen Park Manor was on the edge of Charlton rather than part of the village. An imposing Georgian building, it was demolished in 1969, and apart from the lodge, a much-altered gamekeeper's cottage at the junction of Southmead Road and Pen Park Road, and a Wellingtonia tree, nothing remains. 

Pen Park Lodge 

The Lodge now, surrounded by suburbia. The railings seem to have survived unaltered; not so the house. 

And the Wellingtonia, viewed from the field of the hollowing oak, at the extreme left of this photo. 

Not so altered, which is as well as I can't find an clear old photo of it, is the house known as Pentre when Charlton was razed, but which now goes by the name of Cedar House. You can see the cedar in the above photo too, at the far right.

Cedar House is off the lane called Charlton Common, which I love because it still has a rural feel about it even though it's firmly in the edgelands. It was lovely to walk here during lockdown and pretend we were in the country.

The consultation document for its on-going restoration is online, and it seems  the new owners are keen to preserve their Grade II-listed house's history. In the autumn they had a table outside offering excess fruit to passers-by, of which, currently, there are few.  This seems both admirable and poignant in view of the huge changes coming. 

Although, of course, the really huge change occurred with the compulsory purchase of the land and its buildings to extend the runway at Filton Airfield so it could be used by the Bristol Type 167 Brabazon, which, incidentally, never went into commercial production in the end. 

Charlton village

Extending the runway

It's up on Fishpool Hill, where the lane ends in railings, that this 75-year-old abruption is most stark. 

There are three houses here that were also part of the village. The first two are Fir Tree Cottage, that used to be known as Fir Tree Farm, and its converted barn. I haven't found a photo of the cottage when it was a farm, but I understand it's been extended considerably at some point during the last seventy years, and again very recently, to the point where it would be better named Fir Tree Mansion. 

November 2021

February 2023

Situation of cottage and barn with the runway behind them and the Mall at Cribbs Causeway in the background

Elm Farm on the other side of the lane still pretty much looks the part, though the land's been sold, of course.

The last few houses remaining weren't really part of Charlton, but rather the hamlet of Catbrain just up the road. (The name Catbrain has nothing to do with cats or brains, by the way; it’s a reference to the area's rough stony clay that was known to the Middle English as 'cattes brazen'.)

Here's what they looked like in the 50s. Now there are more houses right up the hill, with a Topps Tiles warehouse serving as corner shop. 

Most of the pairs of cottages have either been extended or knocked together to form a larger house. 

Another pair were recently demolished to make this road leading to a new development of houses.

A skinny little new-build squeezed into a tiny plot and then four more cottages.

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