CHIS Newsletter, May 2015

Letter from the Chairman

Cries of amazement issued from annual visitors of mine upon seeing no cars parked outside my home and the gutters cleared of rubbish. The CV parking zone had been put in place. Across Pembroke Road the scene was as ever, offering a striking Before and After contrast, though soon the restrictions will apply in Clifton East.

It will be interesting to hear opinions in Clifton Village in six months’ time when a review is on the cards. Meanwhile the 30 minutes free allowance in the Village itself seems to be a helpful compromise for concerned traders.

“Where have all the cars gone?” is a frequent question.

“On the Downs for a start” is a reply.

The same visitors reacted differently at the sight and effect of never-remedied nuisances: Alma Vale Road, despite promised attention from the Bristol City Council refuse department, is a continuing disgrace, in great part one example of the effects of studentification. In Alma Road the overhanging trees and bushes are another never-controlled blight; they are a danger to pedestrians. Neglectful owners are not warned by Bristol City Council as was once the norm. Perhaps members will complain to the authorities when affected by this nuisance.

One aspect of Bristol’s history which seems astonishingly to have faded from everyone’s memory is The White City, about which Clive Burlton gave an enthusiastic and revealing talk in the Apostle Room – in effect two topics for the price of one as it detailed the Exhibition, which was set up in Lower Ashton early in 1914. (Alas, no-one in the audience was surprised to hear that neither wealthy benefactors nor the Bristol City Council of the time would contribute a penny to an inventive and popular scheme) so it was short-lived and unfortunate in that August 4th marked the start of the Great War. Adapted as a recruiting centre and barracks (an imitation Bristol Castle became the officers’ mess!), the constructions gradually disappeared yet some survived long enough to be places of refuge after the blitz. Those who missed the lecture may be interested in the book Bristol’s Lost City by Clive Burlton. Bristol Books. ISBN 978-1-909446-05-2.

We heard a different aspect of Bristol’s recent past in the crisp lecture on Three Bristol Scientists by Tim Akrill, a CHIS member and former Head of Science at Clifton College. The three brilliant scientists were Paul Dirac, Sir Neville Mott and Sir Peter Higgs and lived in Clifton, Redland or Cotham almost contemporaneously and their major achievements were described to an audience that included members of the family of Cecil Powell, the Nobel Laureate to whom we dedicated a plaque at what is now the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Happily the scheme to provide a much-needed space for reception and practice there is well underway.

The lecture on April 28th by Professor Mark Horton was devoted to Francis Greenway, architect of the Assembly Rooms (now Clifton Club) and – after transportation for fraud – the father of Australian architecture, chiefly in Sydney. The governor of New South Wales was Lachlan MacQuarie who, with his wife, had a leading role in social, economic and architectural development of the colony and appointed Greenway as the first government architect.

CHIS Award for Excellence

The first recipient of our newly created plaque, acknowledging especially good design and for restoration, is Clifton College Preparatory School. The Chairman of the College Council, Richard Morgan, the architect Mark Webber of Nichols, Brown, Webber and the Headmaster, John Milne, spoke and the dedication ceremony at 1, The Avenue of their pride in receiving the accolade. A tour of the two day-houses showed that the interior deserved as much praise as the popular exterior. We have one or two further candidates for the award in mind.

Dorothy Brown, that tireless worker to preserve Bristol and Clifton’s special qualities is to be commemorated by a CHIS plaque at 6 Buckingham Vale on Saturday 9th May at 11.00 a.m.

On the Downs by Sion Lane, Richard Bland organized the planting by Bristol City Council of our red maple on a chill February morning. Nearby and later came the alarm about the steeple of Christchurch being damaged by high winds and the necessary road closure. The tallest crane anybody had ever seen enabled experts to renew loosened mortar and the road to be re-opened.

On Christchurch Green itself Olwen Laszlo and I have undertaken to ask the Downs Committee to repaint the worn-away NO CYCLING notices on a number of paths so that cyclists may not claim not to know of these reasonable safeguards for pedestrian safety.

A proposed pedestrian stone bridge to span Bridge Valley Road from the Sea Walls side to near the Promenade is the subject of mixed feelings by the CHIS Planning Group and great reservations by the Conservation Advisory Panel.

Planning challenges continue. The WH Smith site in Clifton Village is still of great concern because of the mass and bland anonymity of the projected building on so significant a spot. The scheme for a number of high-rise flats for students below the Sainsbury’s site at the end of Alma Vale Road is objectionable to CHIS, the Clifton Down Association and many other concerned groups.

Libraries

We welcome the pause for a year’s reflection on the Mayor’s plan to close Clifton and Redland Libraries. Towards the end of last year I had put directly to the Mayor, at an open meeting with him and the Chairman of the Arts Council, how important the public libraries are and that the Arts Council should view support for the art of reading via libraries as one of its aims. Please see the CHIS statement below.

Finally, two notable workers for our local interests are to be publically congratulated. Barbara (now Baroness) Janke, former leader of Bristol City Council and long-serving Councillor for Clifton, is to devote her energies entirely to the House of Lords. We have written to thank her for her support and to wish her well in her new sphere.

RoseMary Musgrave, former Chairman and current Secretary and Newsletter editor of CHIS as well as a Publicity Group organizer, has been an irreplaceable member our committee for forty years and more. We were delighted to express, on behalf of the membership, how much we all owe to her unfailing good humour, tact and imaginative work, by holding a commemorative lunch at the Clifton Club last month.

It’s fine weather now, we hope a forecast of similar conditions for RoseMary’s second Green Squares and Secret Gardens weekend in June.

Brian Worthington


STOP PRESS

On 1st May we learned that Bristol City Council had rejected the current plan for the WH Smith site on design reasons. Therefore another plan will have to be submitted.

PROPOSED CLOSURE OF LIBRARIES

The Committee of CHIS shares the alarm felt by many members and residents at the suggested closure of Clifton and Redland Libraries. We are relieved to hear of the year’s postponement for reflection.

Reported doubts about the methodology employed in the recent survey of usage and therefore about its conclusions will, we hope, be addressed.

Imaginative, inventive and positive ideas are to be expected from the Mayor and his cabinet.

Brian Worthington