AUGUST 2022: LOCAL HISTORY - Learning about the history all around us

July 28 2022

Nick Smith tells Downend School pupils about the 1957 aeroplane crash at Britannia Wood

Nick Smith tells Downend School pupils about the 1957 aeroplane crash at Britannia Wood

THE Community History and Arts Project, CHAP, has taken around 250 Year 7 students from Downend School on walks around the local area to highlight points of interest and encourage them to look at the places around us from a new perspective.

The walks were led by Nick Smith, a higher level teaching assistant at Downend School, and Michael Gorely, the local heritage education manager at English Heritage, with support from Downend teachers and teaching assistants, as well as CHAP volunteers.

Walking along the streets revealed how Downend has grown from a small village into the large suburban area it is now. 

Students were shown the history all around them, including where the Cleeve Hill House country estate used to be, and where punishment would have been meted out from the assizes (court sittings) held inside the Green Dragon.  

They were helped to spot houses from different eras, revealing which areas were built when, to recognise names of historically influential families like Cave and Player on street signs, and to notice where iron railings had been cut down and melted down to make munitions and vehicles during the Second World War.

They looked at photographs of shops that used to be here, and learnt that in the late 1800s and early 1900s there were two blacksmiths’ workshops by the Horseshoe Inn, which would have maintained the carriages and carts stopping overnight there on their way to or from Bristol. 

They also heard about the local people named on the Scout memorial, who died in action during the First World War, and about a spy who worked for the Nazis during the Second World War.

The sixteen walks were put on over four days as part of the school’s activities week. A further 250 Year 8 students also gained skills in researching, by using CHAP’s historical map. 

The voluntary group intends to run a similar walk for adults in the next few months, possibly ending up at Mezze (the Green Dragon). 

CHAP’s goal is to build a sense of belonging and commitment to our area through an understanding of its character and history, enthusing people of all ages about our past, present and future.

CHAP is a not-for-profit voluntary organisation for Downend and Emersons Green, without any premises or overheads.

To find out more visit the website, email or write to CHAP, 49 Overnhill Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 5DS.

Helen Rana