Memories of life in Charlton, the edge of Bristol village, flattened to build Filton's new runway for its Brabazon aircraft.
SOON after the ending of the Second World War, in 1946, the village of Charlton was requisitioned, bulldozed and the residents re-housed. Half promises about re-building the village elsewhere – a very costly project – came to nothing.
Small wonder, then, with so much emotional distress, that this "lost" village claims to have a ghost, if not many.
Charlton was once, like many villages, a well integrated and self sufficient community. It had a handful of large mansions, eight farms, 38 homes, a church, a school, a pub (a large Edwardian building called the Carpenter's Arms) a post office, a village hall, a duck pond and a common. By all accounts it was, despite the nearby BAC works, a peaceful place.
Today most of Charlton's old streets and buildings lie buried under 14 feet of soil and tarmac.
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All was lost in the name of progress – in this case a huge, lumbering, propeller-driven white elephant which needed a very long runway for take off. Charlton village was, unfortunately, directly in the way.
Standing 50 feet high, and with a wingspan of 230 feet, the Brabazon was then the largest civil land plane in the world.
But with jet engines set to take the aviation world by storm the aircraft was also technologically outdated.
Hopelessly overweight, under-powered and out of date, the Brabazon was doomed to failure.
In 1953 the project was scrapped – but the runway, all 2,500 yards of it, remained.
"It was an aircraft that you either loved or hated – a choice very much in the minds of the inhabitants when it was announced that they were to lose their homes because of it," recalls June Keating, who once lived in the village.
"After trials it was hoped that the plane would be able to carry 100 passengers non-stop from London to New York.
"Sadly this whole effort was very short lived and in just a few years the Brabazon was but a memory, not only for those involved in its construction, but for those who had once lived in Charlton and felt let down by the decision to scrap it.
"After all, they had given up their beloved village for nothing.
"I can't help wondering what the outcome would have been had we had the power of TV, as well as the press, behind us. Would the destruction of Charlton happened?"
It's since been revealed that wartime leader Winston Churchill was against the runway extension, albeit on the grounds of cost.
As the bulldozers moved in to destroy their homes so the villagers were moved out to council houses in nearby Patchway.
"When the runway was built we could not belive it" recalled farmer Ben Durston.
"Everyone was very upset and, of course, you always miss it. If you leave a place, you can go back to see it, if you want. But Charlton was completely wiped off the face of the earth."
Charlton's 17th-century Manor Farm had once belonged to the influential Cann family, who had provided Bristol with two Mayors.
"There were three large houses in Charlton," recalled David Bissell.
"Pentre, where the Hosegoods lived, Pen Park Manor, the home of the Wallers, and Charlton House, where the Sunderlands lived. My grandfather, Charles Bissell, was a gardener at both Pentre and Pen Park, before and after the First World War."
The Sunderlands, it was said, with its trees, pond and geese, was the nicest house on the common.
Many residents recall the gypsies, who seem to have favoured the area, especially the common.
"My most vivid recollection is of the gypsies camping opposite our house in Catbrain Lane with their old fashioned Vardoes (Romany caravans)," recalls ex-resident Joyce Ferry.
Fellow villager Keith Hardwidge recalls the gypsies coming around the cottages every year selling their wares – clothes pegs and the like.
"My father had electricity put in our cottage before we were forced out to Patchway, but my earliest memories are of oil lamps and a tin bath in front of a warm fire," he adds.
"The fields, where it was safe to roam, were filled with cowslips, bluebells and in the hedgerows were primroses in abundance. We would catch sticklebacks in the stream at the bottom of Catbrain Hill.
"For me, moving to Patchway was not so bad. I met many new friends and had new places to explore, but my parents never got over losing their cottage, and the way of life that they had enjoyed on Charlton Common."
Now, as the use of the airfield comes to an end, the runway is being dug up and the land replaced by more new housing.
The village name survives in Charlton Road and Charlton Lane. The name is also celebrated in new developments at Charlton Mead and Charlton Hayes, both near the original village.
If you have any memories, or photos, of old Charlton village that you would like to share then please contact Gerry Brooke via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Bristol Times Editor, at The Post, Temple Way, Bristol BS2 OBY.