Photos from a Site Visit

On 7 June members of Carriageworks Action Group were given access to the site. Safety issues meant we couldn’t enter the buildings (or even get up next to them) but Wrings, the demolition contractors, were brilliant in getting us as close as possible and explaining everything that was going on.

While work has not yet started on either Westmorland House or the Carriageworks, the rest of the site has been cleared and demolition has started to a smaller building backing onto Croft Dale (Hepburn Road).

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Cleared site. No.4 Ashley Road (the old Doctor’s surgery) has completely gone (we were told it virtually fell down by itself it was so weak). Once demolition is completed the archaeologists will dig an investigation trench – it’s possible that they will find fortifications from the civil war (Cromwells forces camped at Montpelier Farm in 1645 and then attacked the royalist held Priors Hill Fort, now Freemantle Sq at the top of Nine Tree Hill. Spurworks or redoubts below the fort may have been on the Carriageworks site).

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Rear view of Tucketts building. Negotiations about the party wall are ongoing with the owners.

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This building backs onto and is attached to Croft Dale (Hepburn Road). As a result it’s being demolished by hand. The steel cross beams visible at the top of the picture will be lifted out by crane next week (beginning 11 June).

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The scaffolding has been built to cantilever out over Croft Dale, giving safe access to the upper parts of the building being demolished.

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Vast amounts of rubble are being created. This pile is from the building backing Croft Dale. Much of it will be crushed and reused on site, but the total volume will exceed that which is needed, so the rest will be removed.

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This is the back wall of Kuumba. There’s a significant difference in levels between Kuumba (Hepburn Road) and the Carriageworks site. The building backing Croft Dale is in the background.

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The rear view of the Carriageworks. Fire went through the building many years ago so it still isn’t safe to access. There are bats inside which has caused delays in getting access. You can clearly see the roof line and northlights of the workshops that attached to the back of the building.

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The rear wall of the Carriageworks is older than the frontage but of less architectural significance. You can see some of the old stonework where the more modern render has detached. The whole building is listed, so the rear wall is also protected.

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Rear view of Westmorland House, completed in 1966 but only occupied for about 16 years, it has now been derelict for 26 years.

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Covered in streetart / graffitti and imposing itself on the local landscape and culture, Westmorland House has echos of and almost the same age as the Berlin Wall (1961-89).

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While scaffolding has been installed to give a degree of safety, the workers rarely enter. In the past however many people have been in, as evidenced by the graffitti. Tragically the inherent danger of the building resulted in a number of people losing their lives here.

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Over the years the interior of Westmorland House was heavily vandalised. Asbestos ceiling tiles were pulled down and dumped in the lift shaft, making for a more difficult removal job.

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The boardroom in Westmorland House was panelled with Nigerian Pear Wood and had a domed roof light just visible in this picture. You can read more about the building as it was on our stories page. All the valuables were plundered in the 1980s.

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There’s a basement below Westmorland House, totally filled with rubbish, needles etc. This will all have to be cleared out before demolition can begin.

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Wrings have got some very nice toys.

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Familiar sight of the Carriageworks frontage. Before works begin this will be shored up which will mean narrowing of the road. First of all though Wrings need to make the interior safe engough to go inside and assess the structural strength of the building.

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Frontage of Westmorland House. Beneath the building is a single storey basement that will have to be cleared and then dug out – necessitating shoring up of the road. The basement will then be backfilled in layers to help provide a foundation for the new building.

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Staff on the site have created a little gallery of items and artwork discovered.

Thank you very much to Wrings and PG Group for giving us this viewing of the site.

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Important update from PG re demolition of 4 Ashley Road

PG Group have written to say:

“Wrings have been on site for the last few days and removing foliage around the site, especially No 4 Ashley Road. It has become very apparent that this building is in a far more fragile state than was previously thought. At a project meeting today, Wrings reported on the state of this building and given the importance of Health and Safety, the decision has been made to bring forward the demolition of N0 4. Starting on Wednesday of next week, 14/2, Wrings are going to carefully reduced the building in a controlled manner. This will allow Wrings to open up the site to allow better site set up and access for the archaeologist. It will also make it safer for machinery moving around the site. Time lapse cameras have already been planned to be set up on Tuesday 13th, so these will record the entire process.”

The Archaeology of Westmorland House

One of the planning conditions attached to the redevelopment of the Carriageworks states that no development shall take place until the developer has secured the implementation of a programme of archaeological work. This is to ensure that archaeological remains and features are recorded prior to their destruction.

Commonly ‘archaeology’ is synonymous with ‘old’. So on the Carriageworks site it might include traces of the Civil War, foundations of buildings previously on the site, remains from previous uses of the Carriageworks building etc.  But what about evidence of more recent activity?

Back in 2010 archaeologists John Schofield and Rachael Kiddey worked with a group of rough sleepers to excavate Turbo Island on Stokes Croft and explore the history of one of Bristol’s small but infamous plots of land. It culminated in A History of Stokes Croft in 100 Objects that encompassed everything from the traditional fragments of buildings, pottery and pipes through to modern syringes, all of which contribute to the history of the site. John Schofield, now Professor at the University of York, went on to describe, somewhat notoriously, the importance of the Sex Pistol’s graffiti at 6 Denmark St in London as comparable to 30,000 year old cave painting in Lascaux. Historic England have now listed the building. So archaeology can be modern as well as old – and it both aids our current understanding and documents our recent lives for the benefit of generations to come.

Skull on Westmorland House. Credit: PRSC

So what does this mean for the Carriageworks and its neighbour Westmorland House which is due for demolition? The derelict office block has provided a canvas for many street artists since the 1990s some of whom have gone on to greater things while others simply commented on the local environment at the time; “choking on your fumes”.

We hope that the archaeological recording, to be undertaken by Bristol and West Archaeological Services, will pay attention to the modern as well as the old.