Staple Hill, Gloucestershire
A view of Page Park in Staple Hill
Staple Hill shown within Gloucestershire
|Population||6,823 (census 2001)|
|Unitary authority||South Gloucestershire|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||Filton and Bradley Stoke|
Staple Hill is a suburb of the City of Bristol and ward of South Gloucestershire, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) north-east of the city centre. The suburb is on the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, has an economically important high street and manufacturing centre and has two annual carnivals.
It is directly east of Fishponds, south of Downend, west of Mangotsfield and north of Soundwell which was carved out of Kingswood to the south. As to the history of its land and people, it was one of many hamlets of the parish and village of Stapleton which was a highly wooded village that developed railways and industries in the 19th century and Staple Hill is divided between the ecclesiastical parishes of surrounding areas.
Origin of place name
Staple is a rendering of the Anglo-Saxon/Old English word stapol or staypole which meant a post in the sense of an old boundary marker. As far as Staple Hill is concerned, the name relates more firmly to the hill than the standing stone since Staple Hill was part of the ancient parish of Stapleton, Bristol (from Old English 'ton' – farm – and Old English 'Stapol' – standing stone). Stapleton's place name elements suggest it was an Anglo-Saxon hamlet although it was not mentioned in any land charter until 1208 when it was a tiny hamlet on the edge of a very large forest.
Medieval land use
The reason Staple Hill was not mentioned in the Domesday Book is that the settlement did not develop until much later – as late as 1610, Staple Hill is shown on maps as a landmark rather than a settlement. It was illegal, and for an early period on pain of death or mutilation, from settling here as the area was part of the Royal Forest of Kingswood, preserved exclusively for royal hunting. These royal privileges were actively enforced from an early date by the Constable of Bristol who was also the Chief Ranger of the King's Wood whose legal position dates to at least 920 when the Anglo-Saxon Chief Ranger, Ælla, died although these penalties are stated in a 15th-century poetic source.
In 940AD, the King's Wood (larger than today's Kingswood, South Gloucestershire) was an immense hunting estate first used as such by the kings at the early Kingdom of England royal palace at Pucklechurch. There may have been a number of hunting lodges and accommodations for beaters, hunters and game-keepers – some of which may be ancestors of much later lodge buildings scattered throughout the forest. Staple Hill Lodge is on the High Street near Page Park. Later kings parcelled out the forest land to churches, monasteries, bishoprics and nobles resulting in the fragmentation of the formerly royal forest and the erosion of its boundaries and legal status. It is worth consideration however, the matter of how the Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex came to own such a large single estate. For this question, the answer lies much further back into the Dark Ages where in 577AD, Bath Cirencester and Gloucester fell into Anglo-Saxon hands after three British Kings were slain at the Battle of Deorham. The King's Wood was probably land which belonged to the Britons (now Welsh) and was claimed by Anglo-Saxon rulers by right of conquest. At this time, the King's Wood was probably primary forest – ancient woodland which had never been cleared. It was inhabited by wolves, deer, wild boar, eurasian beaver and a wide range of other species such as insect species, woodland mosses and lichens. It may have had a stratum of Old Welsh place-names now lost to us probably made of woodland-associated elements such as "pefr" (radiant), "glas" (green), "derw" (oak), "cyll" (hazel), "bedw" (birch), "coit" (woods), "bryn" (hill), "bryncyn" (hillock), "cau" (hollow), "dingle" and "dell". It was probably mostly relatively open woodland with occasional deep dark patches of dense woodland. In time, it became managed woodland – with species desired for the hunt such as wild boar and deer having special legal protection (see Royal forest). Flourishing numbers of deer typically create more open woodland by eating growing saplings. Trees would also have been pollarded and coppiced, grazed and cut for firewood and exploited for a range of industries. None of this ancient woodland now remains and nearly all the species have gone with it. It is likely that some patches of local woodland still include some plant and insect species which survive from the ancient royal forest. These might include woodland along the banks of the River Frome, Bristol, and perhaps some woodland near Charnhill Crescent.
Development of the suburb and community
The modern settlement of Staple Hill originated in the 18th century by when forest law had become largely anachronistic and the wild boar and wolves which once made the forest dangerous were long since extinct (see Royal Forest). The remnants of forest therefore presented considerable economic opportunities to local people. Many people moved into the forest carving out areas of land for their own use. Industries included charcoal burning, coal mining, quarrying, farming and settlement but transporting products to lucrative markets remained expensive and relied heavily on shipping from Bristol – which took its cut of the profits. This situation persisted until 1888 when the Midland Railway line gave Staple Hill direct access to Bristol and Gloucester and access to a railway network that extended from London to York. The Bristol-to-Bath line of the Midland Railway involved the construction of a beautifully engineered tunnel deep under the hill at Staple Hill. After this investment, Staple Hill grew beyond a small hamlet and gained tram and bus links with Bristol that allowed it to become a residence for commuters to Bristol or Bath. In 1848 Samuel Lewis (publisher) described instead of Staple Hill, the whole parish of Stapleton:
the soil is a stone brash. The district abounds with valuable Pennant stone, of which considerable quarries are wrought; and there are several coal-mines in operation: the manufacture of hats, formerly extensive, is now on a small scale.
Based on the most recently collected census statistics, Lewis wrote that Stapleton had 3,944 residents in its 2,465 acres (998 ha); this was before it was subdivided.
In the 20th century, Staple Hill benefited from the construction of Bristol's ring-road and the M4 and M5 motorways, maintaining its excellent transport links. Staple Hill also became a centre for engineering with Wilson and Sons Engineering in Morely Road designing and assembling Quasar (motorcycle)s. This was a recumbent motorcycle built in small numbers which is today widely recognised as the first modern feet-forward motorcycle design. Power Electrics, a manufacturer and leaser of power generators, also had premises in Morely Road – an area now given over to housing as traditional engineering has given way to today's more service-based economy. Other significant employers include WDM, the UK's leading manufacturer and provider of highway survey and monitoring equipment and largest road survey contractor, serving all UK Government agencies and most local authorities.
1996 supermarket fire
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2013)|
In February 1996, Leo's supermarket on the high street was deliberately set ablaze by Martin Cody, a security guard on his first day at work. He later said he did it because "he was bored". Fleur Lombard, who was only one of eight women serving in the Avon Fire Service at the time, died in the blaze; she was the first female firefighter to die in peacetime service in Britain. Both Lombard and Cody were only 21 at the time. Lombard's parents asked that Cody be given psychiatric help rather than a prison sentence but he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. A marble plaque is in place at the new library which now stands on the site.
Economy and events
Staple Hill has a wide-ranging high street which includes a butcher, baker, grocer, public houses, a Methodist church in the style typical of the South West (see Methodism), fishmonger, jeweller, cobbler/blacksmith, bike shop and a well-kept park in Page Park, which has been improved by volunteers from the community in recent years and celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2010. The architecture is largely Victorian with ornate roof ridges and eaves, attractive decorative brickwork and architectural features in stonemasonry. The High Street is broad as trams originally ran along its length.
There are festival events twice each year known as "Christmas on the Hill" and "Summer on the Hill" during which fancy-dress parades are held with music, floats, treasure hunts and entertainment.
Parking facilities are free and more modern local facilities include a sports-centre & swimming pool, schools and supermarkets.
Staple Hill also have their own football team Staple Hill Orient and are currently top of the Bristol District league. All of the side are made up of local lads from the Staple Hill and Downend area.
Bristol & Bath Railway Path
Staple Hill was served by its own station, on the Bristol branch of the Bristol and Gloucester Railway. However, the line was part of Dr Beeching's railway closures in the 1960s. Stopping services on the Bristol to Gloucester line ceased along with general goods traffic on 17 May 1965, and the station then closed to all goods traffic on 31 December 1965. But trains continued between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Green Park until 7 March 1966. The signal box remained open until 12 April 1968, when most of the station buildings where demolished. The line through the station was due to close on 3 January 1970, but a landslip led to its closure a week early.
The railway line and the station site has been converted to the Bristol & Bath Railway cycle route, one of the Sustrans National Cycle routes. For a minor section in the central part of the ward, the path runs through Staple Hill tunnel as the land rises in this section, allowing for the hill above.
- 5: Bristol Centre – Staple Hill via Stapleton, Fishponds, Oldbury Court, Downend, Mangotsfield
- 7: Bristol Centre – Staple Hill
- 49: Bristol Centre – Emersons Green via Eastville, Fishponds, Staple Hill, Blackhorse
- 318: Keynsham – Cribbs Causeway via Kingswood, Staple Hill, Downend, Parkway
- 319: Bath – Cribbs Causeway via Bitton, Kingswood, Staple Hill, Downend, Parkway
In the Church of England the designated church of the bulk of Staple Hill, that part south of the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, is St Stephen, Soundwell, built in 1903; the remainder is split between Fishponds and Mangotsfields parishes.
- Chibnall, A.C. (Reissue edition (29 March 2012)). Sherington Fiefs and Fields of a Buckinghamshire Village. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0521158268.
- The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine, Volumes 9–10. Wiltshire Archeological and Natural History Society. 1863. p. 144.
- Bristol's Past Fishponds Local History Society
- Chibnall, A.C. (Reissue edition (2009)). Chatterton, Thomas The Rowley Poems. Ex-Classics Project. p. 49.
- Samuel Lewis (editor) (1848). "Stapeley - Stapleton". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- WDM WDM Website
- Events Staple Hill Chamber of Commerce Website
- Staple Hill Civic Information Staple Hill Chamber of Commerce Website
- South Gloucestershire Council Election Results
- The Stations Bristol Railway Path
- Church of England