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Bristol - Old Market (2)
I'd like to thank Mr Keith Hallett who first emailed me correcting a mistake I made and who has since provided a great deal of information and ideas for these pages. He has also very kindly given me permission to use some of the stories and pictures that appear in these pages. Mr Hallett emigrated in 1955 and now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Mr Hallett has led an interesting life, having served on RMS Mauretania - obviously not the first one , as that was scrapped in 1935.
I'd also like to thank Mr John Penny of Fishponds Historical Society who kindly provided some of the information about the railways.
Incidentally, the panneling in the restaurant of "The Mauretania" at the bottom of Park Street was taken from the original Mauretania when she was scrapped.
Mr Hallett was born in 1933 at 29 Midland Road, where his dad, Bob Hallett, owned the Seed Specialist shop.
Mr Halletts shop at 29 Midland Road, Old Market
Mr Hallett says :- I can tell you there were some characters in those shops. Just a few doors up from my Dad's shop at No 29. there was "Staddons Cafe" or restaurant, owned by John Staddon. On weekends he did Staddons "Royal Punch" the Punch & Judy show on the sands at Weston-Super-Mare.
Opposite the Greyhound Pub was Charlie Heal's showgrounds (That must have generated a lot of noise for the poor folks in the Almshouses next door). I correspond from time to time with a Bristol chap in Australia - Reg Kearn - he used to take the money on the dodgem's as a young lad.
During the war the Showgrounds and the pub's in the area were a magnet for American soldiers, picking up girls. I heard of some knife fights when the black and white Yanks had a bit of aggro. In fact I believe they had a big fight in Old Market, and it took truck loads of American MP's "Snowdrops" to break it up.
Mr Hallett also remembers the railway station well and wrote this about it :-
St. Phillips LMS railway station did exist at the corner of Midland Road & Waterloo Road. As a child I remember all of the horse drawn wagons used by the LMS to and from the Goods Yard at the top of "The Batch".
The railway was one of the first to be built in the Bristol area and was originally known as the Bristol & Gloucestershire railway when it opened in 1835 to bring coal into Bristol from the coalfields in South Gloucesterhire. It was operated by horses pulling the trucks in those days. In 1844 it became a proper passenger carrying railway but in 1846 was absorbed by the Midland Railway, later known as the London, Midland & Scottish Railway. The railways were nationlised in 1948 when it became part of the London Midland Region of British Railways. In the late 1860s,the vast and elaborate St Philip's Goods Yard was constructed. This was joined in 1871 by St Philip's station, built by the Midland Railway adjacent to Midland Road (The Batch as it was known to locals). The line ran from St.Philips from 1870 to 1953 and after that from Temple Meads, via stations at Fishponds and Staple Hill to Mangotsfield Junction where one branch went to Bath and the other up to Gloucester. The line was closed in 1965 and a cycle track covers the whole of the route to Mangotsfield and on to Bath.
I believe my Auntie Win who lived at Filton used to come in to visit my Dad, via this railway. Midland Road and Old Market St. in the 1930's /40's were really busy shopping centre's and St. Phillips Station was a convenient way for people living north of Bristol to come in to the City.
I also remember the night during WWII when the Luftwaffe dropped incendiary bombs that landed on the LMS stables, they had a terrible job trying to get the horses out to safety, but I believe many were lost. The actual station closed in 1953, although the goods yard carried on to 1967. It is now covered with industrial units, as is much of the area.
If you are intererested in the history of the railways in Britain then probably the best site I've found is
Mike's Railway History
Old Market ~ 1901
The image is of Old Market as I remember it in the 1930's trams and all. The buildings looked the same. Look how busy it was.
My Dad always displayed a poster for the latest attractions to the "Empire Theatre" on the corner of Old Market and Carey's Lane. In exchange he received two complimentary seats quite frequently. We would go together and absolutely loved it when D'Oyly Carte came to the Empire for a fortnight and usually staged about four Gilbert & Sullivan operetta's during the run.
Another artiste was "Bristol's very own Randolph Sutton" entertainer / vocalist. I believe he was born at Clifton, and later lived at Barton Hill. I saw him on stage several times. He was very popular in the 1920's thru 1950's. I have heard that he could keep the Theatre Royal packed for a full house over 16 weeks, when he played there.
1930's Bristol brochure illustration
Once again, I'd like to give my appreciation to Mr Hallet for providing the idea, text and illustrations for this page and Mr John Penny of Fishponds Historical Society who kindly provided some of the information about the railways.
This page created 5th October 2000, last modified 5th May 2005
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