I would sometimes walk, or sometime ride my bike to do my morning paper route. My route would take me up over the railway bridge on Devon Road, passing Chelsea Gospel Hall ( my Plymouth Brethren Meeting Room), and down York Rd onto Bellevue Road. There I would pass the Tudor Road Methodist Church. My paper route would take me near St. Anne’s Church, Greenbank (where my mother and her second husband were married, and from where they were buried); Castle Green Congregational Church; St. Mark’s Baptist Church, and St. Mark’s Church (of England).
After delivering the papers I would stop by Nanny Povey’s home, and light her morning coal fire.
If on foot I would then take the #2 or 2A ‘bus from Stapleton Road in Eastville. Across the street from the ‘bus stop was the Eastville Methodist Church where my Mum and Dad had been wed; where I was baptised; and where later I preached.
Eastville was then a bustling working class shopping area with two Banks (Lloyds and Westminster), a Police Station, a new and used car dealer (Williams), a good greengrocer and other necessary shops. Our family Doctor’s “surgery” (as Doctors’ Offices were called in England) was within site. Eastville had two ‘pubs, The “White Swan” and the “Black Swan”. There was (in American terms) a Movie House, “The Hippodrome” where I saw the film of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Just behind that was the “stadium” of the Bristol Rovers Football Club. This stadium was primarily a Greyhound racing track, advertised in those days as “Greycing” - a word which always puzzled me.
Just up the road was the notorious “100 Fishponds Road” which had been a Victorian workhouse. In my youth it was a second rate and sub-standard “nursing” home, and old folks would dread that one day they would be taken to “100 Fishponds Road”.
Opposite was a ‘bus Depot, and a bit up Fishponds Road was St. Thomas’ Church, and the Eastville Park Methodist Church.
The 2/2A ‘bus route from Lockleaze to Knowle West was the only Bristol ‘bus route to use Leyland Deisel Engined buses.
All the other routes used Bristol made ‘buses with “Bristol” or “Gardner” Engines. Bristolians were/are immensely proud of their home made ‘buses (about which I will write “one day”!).
(see below for a shameful bit of Bristol history)
The ‘bus would take us via Stapleton Road and Warwick Street to Sussex Place, past St. Simon’s Church on the left. This had once been a very high Anglican Church.
Dad used to tell us that on one occasion his own father had been asked to do some plumbing work there. Grand-dad followed the be-cassocked Vicar up the aisle, and when the Vicar paused to genuflect my Methodist grandfather did not, and fell “ass over tip” upon the poor Vicar. I hope that story is true!
The ’bus would then take us past two enormous Methodist Churches, and up to Sussex Place from where my school-mates and I would trudge along said street with his once respectable houses - homes in a previous age for prosperous retailers and other small business owners.
Sussex Place led to Ashley Hill, a steep climb on ‘bike or by foot. On the right was “Ivy Church” (a Pentecostal Church); my paternal Great-Grandparents home; Witt’s Bakery, and a home for unmarried mothers.
Also to the right was Sevier Street where the two brothers “Steer” (good Plymouth Brethren) made paint, and where was “Brooks Laundry” where Mum had worked when she’d left school.
The climb up Ashley Hill would take me to Fairfield Grammar School, where I spent five miserable years (1955- 1960). More about this later.
“Urban Renewal” (especially the construction of the M32 Urban Motorway) and changing demographics have altered the landscape of my youth beyond all imagination.
Gone are 100 Fishponds Road, and the Soccer/Greycing stadium. Gone is the Hippodrome Cinema. Gone is the ’bus Depot.
Mostly gone are the Churches.
Chelsea Gospel Hall survives. Tudor Road Methodist Church and St. Thomas’s Church, and Eastville Park Methodist Church are now homes to West Indian denominations.
St. Anne’s Church and Castle Green Congregational Church struggle on.
Eastville Methodist Church was torn down and replaced by offices.
I believe that St. Mark’s Baptist Church is no more; and St. Mark’s C of E has been be transformed - the Church into flats and the Church Hall into a Mosque.
The two huge Methodist Churches on Warwick Road were demolished for urban renewal, and replaced by a more modern building which may or may not have a lively congregation.
Gone is a sense of “working class respectability” which enlivened the neighbourhoods and Churches. Gone is the deference to authority which formerly marked England’s working class.
The landscape of my youth is now “multi-cultural”. This is not widely valued, understood, or appreciated. But, short of F-scism and extreme nationalism it cannot be changed.
The “English” culture is being changed, and that leaves many of my compatriots to be confused, if not angry.