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.

Advertisements

Stokes Croft balloon goes up

We came across this posted on Flickr by Paul Townsend

First Balloon Ascent from Bristol

The ascent from Stoke’s Croft, 24 September 1810

The crowds flocked into Bristol to witness the flight. The report in Felix Farley‘s Bristol Journal recorded how … ‘the crowd continued to increase, till the adjoining gardens, fields, and hills seemed one forest of people; arid all the windows, roofs, and the very trees, in the immediate neighbourhood, were covered with spectators.’

Sadler's balloon flightThe same report also describes in some detail the apparatus used to prepare the hydrogen with which the balloon was filled. This operation involved the familiar reaction between sulphuric acid and iron filings, but on a large scale — two and a half tons of filings were used on this occasion.

The same report also described the balloon: ‘This magnificent machine, the same in which Mr. Sadler ascended at Oxford, was made of silk, glazed or painted in ribs of green and light purple; it was about thirty yards in circumference, and the middle was enveloped by a circle, inscribed in letters of gold — Right Hon. Win. Windbam Grenville, Baro de Wotton, Cancel. Univers. Oxon.’

A watercolour of the balloon is in the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. On the back of the drawing is written ‘Sketch by W. Edkins of the Ascent of Sadler’s Balloon from Bristol. Sadler was accompanied by Mr. Win. Clayfield. My father painted the banner held by Sadler in his Ascent. Win. Edkins Jnr.’

The fresh north-north.easterly wind carried the balloon over Leigh Down, where the acronauts dropped by parachute a small basket containing a cat. It was retrieved by a lime-burner and passed into the hands of a local doctor who appropriately christened it ‘Balloon.

They shortly passed over the coast, and recorded that as they neared Cardiff they drank the health of ‘Col. GORE and the Bristol Volunteers’. (The Volunteers had controlled the crowd while the preparations for the ascent were being made, allowing them to take place without hindrance). The balloon ‘Descended so low as to hear the shouts of the people, and the breakers between Barry and Scily Islands. (A typographic error, Sully was intended.) Fearing the main land could not be reached, and a current of air impelling the Balloon towards the sea, more ballast was thrown out, in doing which, Mr. SADLER lost his hat.’

The balloon continued its drift to mid-channel, but Sadler and Clayfield were able to check the descent by releasing a quantity of ballast. They recorded that as they neared the coast of Devon they drank ‘To all absent friends’; about half an hour later, off the small town of Linton, they again had to attempt to check the balloon’s descent.

They ‘threw out everything that could be parted with, including a great-coat, a valuable barometer, a thermometer, a speaking-trumpet, the grapling iron, — and even part of the interior covering of the Car, in the hope of reaching the main land about Barnstaple; but, owing to the exhaustion of the gas, the Balloon would not rise sufficiently . . .’ and they landed in the sea, about four miles from the land. Fortunately the event had been seen from the shore and a boat was launched immediately. It took an hour to reach them, and another two hours to completely deflate and secure the balloon.

The rescuers and rescued reached Linton at nine o’clock. An eventful day.

More details of the ascent, and the prospect of a riot on Stokes Croft when the flight was nearly cancelled, can be found in The Man With His Head in the Clouds: James Sadler, The First Englishman to Fly by Richard Smith, 2014.

Alternative developer? Key points from the Community Meeting

There is growing concern about the lack of visible action towards development on the Carriageworks site.  This has rekindled some of the dialogue within the community about the current plans for development.  If these seem too difficult to deliver, what about thinking about alternative approaches and about the actions we can take to move the development forward.

The community want to see the site developed in line with the CAG Community Vision, through whatever means/whichever developer.  There is concern that even though the Section 106 agreement was signed in June, the site is still owned by the Comers through their company Opecprime.

ACTION:  CAG, through the Liaison Group, was delegated to seek a meeting with the Comers to discuss unsticking the process.

There was a discussion about the price of the site.  If the site has to be Compulsorily Purchased (CPO), then the price would be market value.  If, however, a different arrangement not involving the Council was reached with the current owners, then there could be more latitude in the agreement of the price.

Given the seeming stalemate, the meeting would like to see the CPO process started up again.  This has to be led by Bristol City Council.  It is complicated by the fact that Fifth Capital have Planning Permission but ownership is still with Opecprime.

The meeting talked about setting up a development consortium to deliver community led plans for the site.  If this is the case and a consortium developed viable plans for the site, then it could become the “preferred developer”.  We have been advised that this would avoid the need for a full procurement process.  It would be up to the consortium to approach the Council to seek assistance to progress this idea.

ACTION:  BCC was asked to look into restarting the CPO process.

For a CPO to be successful, there needs to be a viable scheme.  Community members expressed considerable enthusiasm for the idea of a consortium to work up a scheme that would meet the Community Vision for the site, and be viable in terms of a CPO.   It was suggested a masterplan could form the basis for development being brought forward in phases and developed or sold to different developers.  Some people at the meeting wanted to be involved.  There was a discussion about what this means.  If we want this to move forward, consortium members have to be able to contribute real resources towards the design, finance and delivery of each part of the site.  Prue collected the names of people who are interested in setting up a development consortium.

The meeting agreed that we don’t need a “development brief” because this is captured by the Community Vision and the subsequent consultations about scheme design – carried out by Knightstone and Fifth Capital.  There has been a lot of discussion about what people want on the site.  What people want now is action!

ACTION:  CAG will convene a meeting in January for people who can contribute to a development consortium.

ACTION:  Can/will BCC Planning waive the fees for a planning application from a community led consortium?  This will be explored.

Carriageworks building:   There is a lot of concern about the continuing deterioration of the Carriageworks building.  Can notices be served on the owners for urgent works? The problem with this is that if the owner does not carry ouit the repair notice works Bristol City Council would have to do the works and pay the upfront costs, and then try to reclaim them.  While there is a pot of money for the Carriageworks, this is being held in case of the need for a site acquisition.

ACTION: CAG Liaison Group to explore with BCC how this money might be used (in the most creative ways!) so that we get the outcome we want – development of the site in line with the Community Vision – and protect the fabric of the Carriageworks building through this process.

ACTION:  If a development consortium is set up, this should explore grant funding for the historic building

ACTION:  BCC to establish the “curtilage” of the Listed Building.  This is the area around the listed building (Carriageworks) that is covered by the Listing.  It’s a technical issue but an important one that could help to bring in more resource for the development of the site.

Risks of the site:  Developing the site is complicated and there are many risks, including unknown ones.  For example…  Is the land contaminated? Are there issues about the water table? How unstable, or downright dangerous, are the buildings? And what does all this mean for the costs of redevelopment? There’s not an action arising from this point, but it’s worth bearing in mind.  Not knowing the risks makes it very difficult to establish the costs of redevelopment.  This is something that has to be addressed in drawing up alternative plans.

Ideas and moving forward:  At the end of the meeting, Lori (Chair) asked everyone to send their thoughts, ideas, intentions etc. to CAG via the comments section below (or click the speech bubble top right) or email  ideas@carriageworks.org.uk or Facebook

We look forward to hearing from you.

Lori Streich, Chair, Carriageworks Action Group

 

Carriageworks is Heritage at Risk

English Heritage has listed the Carriageworks as one of five entrenched buildings at risk that are ready for redevelopment and reuse.

“More than 15 years on from the first Heritage at Risk Register, English Heritage has identified five more buildings ready for redevelopment and reuse. All of them have been on the Register for at least a decade and it is these entrenched cases, where seemingly there is no way forward, the organisation wants to draw attention to.

“(#3) Carriage Works, Bristol, Grade II*, on the Register since 1998. Built in 1862 for Perry and Son’s carriages, only the shell of the building remains, which has not been used since 1977. Previous proposals for the site failed to gain planning permission and the buildings remain empty. A housing association recently put forward draft proposals for the site, and another scheme is being prepared by a private developer

“Simon Thurley, English Heritage Chief Executive, said: “The next few years will be crucial for At Risk sites. Although there has been a reduction in the number of sites on the Register, more than a third of buildings that were on the national Register when it first began in 1999 are still there now. We can’t give up on all these incredibly important historic buildings; getting them back in use will lift the blight from historic areas, bringing back in to use really important buildings and giving people a sense of pride in where they live. As the economy starts to improve and the demand for development increases, we need to push these buildings forward and find a future for them.””

Read more at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/heritage-at-risk-2014/