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Pill is a village in North Somerset, England, situated on the southern bank of the Avon, about 4 miles (6 km) northwest of Bristol city centre. The village is the largest settlement in the civil parish of Pill and Easton-in-Gordano (until 2011 named Easton in Gordano). The former hamlets of Lodway and Ham Green are now contiguous with Pill, and the village of Easton in Gordano is nearby. The parish extends northwest beyond the M5 motorway to include the Royal Portbury Dock.
The name "Pill" comes from the Welsh word Pîl which denotes a tidal inlet or harbour. The later name Crockerne Pill (literally 'pottery wharf') arose from the fact that an industrial-scale pottery thrived nearby. The Ham Green Pottery kiln was excavated about 50 years ago and is located in the fields above Chapel Pill. The pottery was made in the period from 1100 AD to 1250 AD and was exported from Pill by boat.
The so-called 'Ham Green' pottery has been found and identified in archaeological digs from the Algarve in Portugal to Iceland. It is an important archaeological 'dating tool' because the period of manufacture is so precise. Bristol City Museum has a good selection of pottery artifacts from the site and other locations showing the unique decoration and form of Ham Green pottery but the only item on display is a large jug at the M Shed.
The town was traditionally the residence of pilots, who would guide boats up the Avon Gorge, between the Bristol Channel and the Port of Bristol. The port moved in the 20th century to Avonmouth and the Royal Portbury Dock. Pill was once home to 21 public houses and was known as being a rough place, to the extent that the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, says in an entry in his journals for 3 October 1755:
I rode over to Pill, a place famous from generation to generation, even as Kingswood itself, for stupid, brutal, abandoned wickedness.
The 1860s saw the building of the Portishead Railway line between Bristol Temple Meads and Portishead. The line, which was opened to passengers in 1863, passed right through the village of Pill, with the result that a large number of buildings had to be demolished to allow its necessary straight and level passage.
The railway also consumed many acres of farm land during its construction. However, it brought new life to the area, not to mention new blood as many of the navvies working the line met and married local girls and stayed on to raise their families after the line was completed. They brought new names, some of which are still with us today, over 100 years on.
The small ferry from Pill to Shirehampton closed because of loss of trade once the opening of the Avonmouth Bridge in 1974 enabled pedestrians to walk over the Avon. So a transport link to and from the parish of Easton-in-Gordano, one that had survived since Medieval times, was closed and the river mud has swallowed up most of the now unattended slipways. The village and its vanished ferry are commemorated in the Adge Cutler and The Wurzels song "Pill Pill".
The parish has four places of worship: St George's, Easton-in-Gordano; Christ Church, Pill; The Salvation Army and Pill Methodist Church.
Pill has several shops in the centre for day-to-day needs, including two Southern Co-operative food stores, pharmacy, Post Office, vets and hair salon. Pill has several take-away restaurants; however, it can no longer boast 21 pubs and currently has only three: The Kings Head, The Duke and the Pill Memorial Club, although this excludes the nearby pubs in Easton in Gordano.
Clubs and Societies – Easton-in-Gordano Table-Tennis Club (meets Thursday nights) has been running since 1956 when the Church Memorial Hall was opened. The Luncheon Club provides a weekly get together for the elderly on Thursdays at the Community Centre. The village is proud of all its community activities full details of which are included in the Community Diary held at the Resource Centre (Precinct).
- St Katherine's School, located at Ham Green within Abbots Leigh parish, not actually in Pill, with approximately 1,000 students aged 11–18.
- Crockerne Primary School, which is located in the village and caters for Nursery to Year 6 pupils. The school has one of North Somerset's first children's centres, officially opened on 1 July 2006, as well as a small, indoor, heated swimming pool and an active PTA.
The Pill Ferry has been immortalised in the 2013 book by Shirehampton author, Mark Jones (writing as Philippa Perry), Tabitha Miggins: Ship's Cat (On the Pill Ferry). The book mentions the hobblers, Pill pilots and various of Pill's public houses, most especially The Duke of Cornwall, which overlooks the old ferry slipway. Bristol-based entertainer, the late Adge Cutler, wrote a song about Pill, which is still sung by his group The Wurzels.
Ham Green Hospital
In 1894 Bristol Council purchased Ham Green House, a large country house with land at Ham Green for use as an isolation hospital, to replace a hospital ship (Margareda) moored in the Port of Bristol. It opened as a hospital in 1899 with 76 beds and was periodically expanded, by 1950 it had 500 beds available for TB patients alone. In 1978 it was selected as the 'Regional Infectious & Exotic Diseases Unit', covering the whole of SW England and parts of S Wales. It was largely closed in the 1990s. Bristol Archives holds records of Ham Green Hospital (and its predecessor institutions) including medical officers' records, letter books, patient lists and patient registers (Ref. 38224) (online catalogue). The original Ham Green House is now the home of Penny Brohn Cancer Care, much of the rest of the site was redeveloped for housing and the Eden Office Park.
- "Pill: The village of pilots". Easton in Gordano. Archived from the original on 23 February 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
- Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. p. 60.
- "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- Perry, Philippa (2013). Tabitha Miggins, Ship's Cat: (On the Pill Ferry). England: Bristol Folk Publications. ISBN 9780956353160. Preview.
- 'The History of Ham Green Hospital', published by the Ham Green Action Committee