Memories of the St Andrews area before its development: An extract from ‘Bristol City Suburbs and Countryside Bristol’ by ARTHUR SALMON, published by Bristol Times and Mirror, 1922.
My first remembrance of what is now St Andrew’s Park is of a broad meadow; and as there is always one impression that stands out from all others, my memory is of a summer evening when this field was ripe for mowing, its long grass scattered thickly with clover and buttercups.
There was then none of the dense suburb that now surrounds it; it was pure countryside. [ ] A footpath led where the southern stretch of Somerville Road now runs – on one side there is yet a ruined trace of its former conditions; and to the best of my recollection it took the present route of Derby Road, leading to further fields and to a small cluster of small dwellings known as ‘Russell’s Cottages.’ The ‘Volunteer Inn’ stood here; is not its actual site occupied by the County Ground Hotel? But this is straying away from St Andrews. What I vividly remember is that the footpath branched sharply when it reached what is now the corner of Derby Road; and it is easy to remember this, for the path is still there, fallen on evil days, trying perhaps when Springtime comes, to renew its memories, but failing quite except in the eyes of those who look on it with eyes of loving recollection. This is the lane that runs behind Sefton Park Road (now ‘Happy Lane’- ed) towards Ashley Down; and the site of that road was a luxuriant meadow.
The trees that border the upper side of the Park once looked on very different scenes, but they still hear the shouts of the children at their play, as they did in those old times. The play-field then however, was not that which has been reserved for other generations; there was another green stretch lying between it and what is now Chesterfield Road, some portions of which yet remain. It is this I remember chiefly as a spot of childish delights. It reached to the head of Cromwell Road, and at this corner stood a solitary farmhouse; a beautiful steep lane led from it to St Andrews Road. There were hedges and ivy-mantled trees on the side of this lane, where the ground is now tamed into a florest’s (sic) garden. From the farm a path led across the field towards the present St Bartholemew’s Church, and a little less than midway there was a stone stile to be mounted. My recollection of this stile was that it had a circular hole in its solid stone block, and that boys told each other that it had been made by a cannon-ball. Sometimes behind even childish chatter there is a kernel of truth. Is it possible that this stile had been struck by a stray shot from one of the Kingsdown forts at the time of the Siege? We know there were guns placed at Montpelier, just at the top of Cromwell Road, but these, of course, faced towards the strongholds on Kingsdown and St Michael’s. In an admirable account of the sieges of Bristol during the Civil War, published fifty years since, we read: “ On that hill, still green and pleasant, once called Aseliga or Ashley, and given by Earl Robert of Gloucester to St James’ Priory, stood a farmhouse, from which Fairfax was to watch the storm, and in which helmets and halberts have since been found.” Surely this must have been the farmhouse that I remember. It would, in those days, have commanded a westward view that is now entirely blocked by houses. Cromwell was in the neighbourhood too. Rumour says that he slept at Ashley Court, a residence whose stone terrace still survives, and the rumour has been sanctioned by giving his name to the long road that here gains its summit. [ ]
There was a period of transition when these fields were gradually being converted into roads, and when building advanced to drive away the daisies and the skylarks. This, though a time of spoliation and disfigurement, was a delightful opportunity for children. There were partly-erected buildings to explore when the workmen had withdrawn and when the policeman was not too evident or too drastic in his methods of spoiling sport [ ].
I remember also a lime-kiln, standing, I believe, near the present site of Windsor Road, whose attractions were unlimited and surrounded with a kind of mystery, especially to the young imagination when twilight began ……[ ].