CHIS Newsletter, December 2015

Letter from the Chairman

Our 2015 calendar of events has been, to say the least, extensive in the report at the AGM I named it The Year of the Plaques, with five dedicated customarily to individuals and two for buildings, as the new CHIS Award for Excellence. Katherine Croft has been assiduous in organizing the occasions and owners of the adorned properties have offered generous receptions.

Add eight talks and two visits, arranged efficiently as ever by RoseMary Musgrave and Linda Edwards, and a brand new website, masterminded by Christopher Jefferies and Laurence Penney, and members will see why I stressed the invaluable activity of the Committee. Their dedication and imagination received appreciation at the AGM and other events.

Spice was added to the meat of our annual business when Alistair Park gave an intriguing description of his work on the intricately designed bench at the Observatory Playground; his ideas and skills were amiably demonstrated. The letter from the Lord Mayor thanking CHIS for funding the work is printed on another page. Her quick response to our request for action to counter the muddy morass around the bench (a result of its popularity!) is gratifying: protective material is to be laid. So fine and numerous are the carvings on the bench that Richard Bland has kindly produced a list of them, printed elsewhere in this Newsletter.

We were grateful to Professor Chris Stephens for providing a display of materials relating to William Pennington, Master of Ceremonies at the Hotwells Spa dedicatee of our plaque at 12 Dowry Square.

In Robert Southey: Bristol’s Neglected Son Stuart Andrews showed with slides and research the eminence which had made Southey respected nationally, not only as one of the Lake Poets but also as a historian and Poet Laureate – a series of revelations to the considerable audience for the lecture.

Did you know this about the Downs completed the year’s Talks programme. Various aspects of the area and its maintenance were enthusiastically described by four speakers: Richard Ennion (Senior Tree Officer for Bristol City Council), Mandy Leivers (Avon Gorge and Downs Bio-diversity Education Officer), Robin Haward (Membership Secretary of Friends of the Downs and Avon Gorge (FODAG) and Richard Bland on the ‘Ghost Roads of the Downs’. Richard’s work for many environmental groups enabled him to organize the evening so fruitfully.

Members’ general memories of the Downs had to be confined to a fascinating recollection by Geoffrey Robinson of its military use from 1942 to 1947 delivered appropriately on the day of the 75th Anniversary of the Blitz on Bristol. It is printed elsewhere in the Newsletter. We hope to have a further event at which more members may offer their experiences and memories.

A different annual ceremony is the switching on of the Christmas tree lights in the Mall Gardens, to which the Secretary and Chairman were invited by BID (Business Improvement District). Later they and the Deputy Chairman met Carrie Pooler (from BID) to explore ways of co-operation for improvements in Clifton Village.

Earlier, at the other end of BS8, we were invited to the celebration of the new studios and entrance at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. We had long been involved in the plans and were glad to have offered helpful advice to Paul Rummer, the Director. His talk to CHIS a few years ago will be recalled by many members.

Other Meetings of Interest

  • Called by Councillor Negus, a gathering of many local associations to consider a possible Umbrella Group to reinforce Heritage Bristol interests.
  • The use of Clifton Library as also a Community Centre; a Friends of the Library Group may be formed.
  • Plans for Christchurch, including recreational facilities.
  • The impact on residents of HOMS (Houses of Multiple Occupation) and the resultant neglect of gardens and waste collection rules etc.
  • The Brunel Swivel Bridge, once more in the running for restoration and use.
  • The proposal to replace the toll booths at the Clifton side of the Suspension Bridge.
  • The Bristol University Community Liaison Group, considering all aspects of the University’s relations with residents.

Miscellaneous (Good and Bad)

  • Owing to considerable efforts by a CHIS member, Brian Edwards, the Rotary Club seat by the WH Smith site bus- stop is back in place. Alas, there is no observable progress in developing the eyesore; we welcome the suggestion by local councillors for action that benefits community interests. Maggie Shapland continues to fight for a replacement of the street lamps at the back corner, having been successful with the lamp-post in Caledonia Place.
  • We are becoming exasperated by the lack of improvement to the CHIS-sponsored beds by the Victoria Rooms. The planting is sparse (see picture inside the front cover).
  • By contrast St Andrew’s Churchyard has been further enhanced after clearing away of undergrowth by two working parties organized by CHIS.
  • Alas, elsewhere uncollected leaves and unremoved rubbish and bins are a disgrace in a number of roads, the worst at present being Alma Vile – despite protests from CHIS and other groups (see picture inside the front cover).

Shoppers leaving the Sainsbury’s Shopping Centre via Alma Road must be spritely to avoid being soaked as cars are driven over an unrepaired drain and to escape slithering on autumn leaves.

  • The smart electronic indicators at many bus-stops are in principle welcome. However, enthusiasm has diminished in proportion to the unreliability of the information or its total absence. To end the year on a more cheering note: there are prospects for an imaginative restoration of the Observatory after years of indecision.

The 1917 Soldiers’ ‘convalescent’ shelter, owned by Bristol City Council, at the top of Blackboy Hill has been English Heritage Listed. The Downs Committee is being asked to enable investigation of restoration prospects. We wish everyone a Happy New Year; ours begins with the Winter Lunch on Saturday January 9th. Last year’s was a delicious, sociable bargain.

Brian Worthington