Montpelier Conservation Group

Bristol Evening Post 1937

Transcripts of articles and letters concerning Montpelier which appeared in Bristol Evening Post in 1937.

Transcript of an article in Bristol Evening Post: 12 May 1937




What was the appearance of the Montpelier district of Bristol 75 years ago?

Let me take you on a tour and describe some of the places as I well remember them in those days.

Picton Street was the principal shopping place for the district in those early days – its seven or eight shops being well patronised. It has altered very little since, with the exception that now these shops have been trebled in number. At the bottom we see the garden and house where we paid our taxes. Next door stands the Guard House, while opposite Mr. Robert Mercer, the registrar of births and deaths, had his office.


To find Montpelier Place we had to go round the side of a public-house surrounded by railings, in line with which were three gardens belonging to houses which are still standing, followed by a walled garden reaching to Bath Buildings. Gardens were also in front of houses on the opposite side from Richmond Road; in the centre a little general shop where we used to buy our “short sixteen” candles, as they, with oil lamps, were the principal lights.

Bath Buildings also was narrow, on the left being some half dozen old, irregular houses; opposite was a larger house occupied for some years by one of our well-known and respected citizens, who is with us to-day. The only other change is where Arundel Cottage entrance now is. There were then two cottages with gardens in front.


To get to the Old England we had to pass a courtyard where Timothy Castle lived. Poor Timothy was always expecting a large fortune, but he passed away before it came his way.

Round the bend was the garden and back of a house in Bath Buildings. In front was a round, ornamental pond in which as a nipper I fell.

At the bottom stood Rennison’s Bath, so well known at that time. For two or three seasons Professor Lubins and Bob Backwell used to dive from a very great height into the baths. But that and other adjoining property has now been demolished, the site being now occupied by a builder’s yard. The only house intact is the Old England Tavern.


In St. Andrew’s Road – or the Back Hill, as it then was – we see many changes. On the left the old cottage on the green is still standing; on the right-hand side of the green is the National Day School, where, as boys and girls, we learned our three “R’s” under the tuition of Miss Jessop. In the centre of the green was the entrance to the fields by which we reached Gloucester Road. It was in the first field that we as lads spent many happy hours – especially when the farmer was absent!

I remember one Sunday, after school, we scampered through the fields to see wild beast caravans lined up on the Gloucester Road awaiting Monday, when they could go through the turnpike gate. This they were forbidden to do on Sundays.


On the right in St. Andrews, opposite the churchyard, and right up beyond the vicarage, where the many shops, houses, and the hotel now stand, used to be two large gardens with houses, the entrance to which extended to Richmond Road.

On the left we had a nine-acre field, with others beyond. The railway is there now.

The old farmhouse where Cromwell once stayed has disappeared. Clifton Villas, two high houses, can still be seen. It was here a Mr. Barton, of Stone Bridge, and well known then for a powerful telescope he possessed, once lived.

Fairfield Road, which had its share of fields, now has the school, roads, and houses. Cobourg Road has just a few new houses.

As we climb Richmond Road – or the Middle Hill – we now see on the left shops and houses and on the right a shop and villas where Montpelier Court once stood. A Mr. Dundas, as Brother Cyprian, built a church there, but he did not keep it long. Further up the road, on both sides, new houses have been built, while at the top, where Richmond Avenue runs right down to the corner of Fairfield Road, there lived a Mr. Naish, who had, at times, a cotton loom working in his garden.


York Road – or Front Hill – is seen on the left. At the top of a hill, leading down to Upper Cheltenham Place, where the rank of houses now stands, used to be stables for cart horses, while at the bottom was a cottage called Bucketwell Cottage, with its well in front of the entrance. Now in its place we see a row of houses.

Going down York Road, on the right, we see a row of villas where two public houses used to stand, with a builder’s house and yard at the bottom. Opposite Shaftesbury Avenue was a low wall over which could be seen the backs of fields and gardens of Ashley Road.

Lower Cheltenham Place also had a field, but is now occupied by houses and gardens.

By the way, before we close the tour, might I appeal to the powers that be to alter the appearance of our “village green", which has always been an eye-sore? They might turn it into a neat Coronation garden, with shrubs and flowers, and a few seats where the weary could rest and ponder over the past, present, and future.

Transcript of a letter in Bristol Evening Post: 19 May 1937

More Recollections of Old Montpelier

Sir, – As an old Bristolian who has lived at Russell Place, York Road, for some years, I do not pretend to have known the Montpelier district for so long as 75 years ago, but I did know it intimately in the early ’80’s, when I was a scholar at St. Andrew’s School, where Miss Shaw was headmistress, and the Rev. Steele was vicar of the church.

I remember a great snowstorm in ’86, when we had a tunnel dug through the snow (which had drifted to nearly 10 feet) to get to the other side of the road. We had to go through quite deep drifts to go even such a short distance to school.

Shaftesbury Avenue was then open fields, where we used to go fishing in the brook which ran to Brook Road, for tiddlers and frogs. Sheep used to pasture in fields at the rear of Picton Street, and I often used to go there with Butcher Nutt and help to take them to the slaughterhouse. This butcher would never kill a lamb, but let all his mutton get full grown before it was marketed.

If I remember aright, your correspondent, Joseph Hemmings, was one of the trumpeters to the judge at that time, and he kept a dairy in Picton Street. His neighbours were Wilmot (a clever wood carver) and Bray (a painter). A few doors up the street lived a famous scenic artist, F. Leech, whose animal studies were in great demand for front cloths at the many menageries and circuses which then toured the country.

A few doors off was a splendid old mansion with handsomely carved and decorated rooms. Part of this was afterwards used as a shooting gallery. There was also a piano factory at the rear of Picton Street at this time. I can remember many of the tradesmen who lived hereabouts – Gow (baker), Satterley (decorator), Joy (tailor), Green (plumber), Thompson (green-grocer), Parry (also a tailor), Melhuish (butcher) and many others. The old blind house or lock-up had been turned into a shop, and was occupied by a watchmaker.

Robert Mercer, the registrar, had by this time moved into the big house in a garden next to the Guard House. Rennison’s Baths I knew well, I used to go there much in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year (’86), which was a very hot summer.

I knew the Old England in later years when my friend, Jack Board, famous Gloucestershire stumper, kept it. A favourite place in these days was Jenkins Fields, now largely built on, but where St. Andrew’s Park stands. We used to spend many happy hours kite-flying there. There were no houses between Cromwell Road and Muller’s Orphanages. The old malthouse in the fields at Fairfield Road stood quite alone, and the house where Mr. Naish had a loom was afterwards tenanted by a relative of mine, Mr. Poole, for many years. He was one of the oldest tradesmen in Bristol, and had a french polishing business at St. Augustines.

Lower Cheltenham Place and the low-lying parts used to be badly flooded in those days, and there was much skating in the winter at fields in Sevier Street, Ashley Vale. A York Road celebrity in those days was old Joe Davis, a dairyman, who had a round. He died at a great age, and had a wonderful collection of old Worcester china, some of which, I think, went to the Art Gallery eventually. The steam trams used to run down Cheltenham Road, and a few years later there was an omnibus war. Kent v. Tramways Co. during which they used to ring a big handbell and shout “No monopoly.”

Again, I can remember when the children of a mission in York Road (run in connection with Arley Chapel) used to go nearly to Practer Baker’s grounds at Brislington for their annual outing. It seemed a very, very long journey to get there in breaks in those days.

Tobogganing was much indulged in during snowy weather down a steep hill which ran from Upper York Road to Cheltenham Place. It was a wonderful “run", which rivalled “Cresta” in our youthful minds.

There were many fine old trees in the gardens at the rear of Upper Cheltenham Place, and I can remember even to this day the delicious flavour of more than one pear and apple tree, whose fruit I used to play havoc with.

I was a great crony with a certain Johnny Mathews, whose father was a baker, and we used to build boats to sail in the stream at the back of Ashley Road, which, I believe, was the same as Boiling Mills Stream which had its source somewhere beyond where Cranbrook Road now stands.

This to me is one of the most interesting parts of Bristol, though I could soon overflow into reminiscences of Stokes Croft, Backfields, the Old Circus, and many other adjacent places.

But I must put a full stop to a part where I would fain place but a colon.

The reading of Mr. Hemmings’ very interesting story must have given great pleasure to many other old Montpelians like myself, and for them, too, I would say “Thank you, indeed.”

44, Dartmouth Road, Paignton, S. Devon

Transcript of an article in Bristol Evening Post: 20 May 1937


"Monks,” and Processions, and Scuffles, and Ex-communications, and Jeers, and Shouts – and Flop!

By C.R.H.

In the interesting article on old Montpelier, contributed by Mr. J. Hemmings to the Evening Post on May 12 (and in connection with which an equally interesting letter appeared more recently), mention was made of Mr. Dundas, Brother Cyprian, and the church he built in Richmond Road. Some people may have wondered who Mr. Dundas was, and how he came to build a church. Mr. Dundas – his full name was Charles Amesbury Whitley Deans Dundas – was a member of the family to which the Marquess of Zetland belongs.

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Born on November 30 1845, he was the great-grandson of Charles Dundas, first and last Lord Amesbury. His father was Charles James Deans Dundas, M.P., and he inherited large estates in Flintshire and Berkshire in 1862 from his grandfather, Vice-Admiral Sir James Whitley Deans Dundas.

In October 1864 the Church Congress held its first meeting in Bristol, and some commotion was caused by the appearance of the Rev. J. L. Lyne, who, clad like a monk, addressed one of the meetings, amid uproarious scenes.

Mr. Lyne was in favour of reviving monasticism in the Church of England, but his views were not received with favour, and when the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol (Dr. Ellicott) announced that he was to speak, an exceedingly stormy scene followed. Bishop Ellicott pleaded with the Congress to give him a hearing, “like Christian people,” and in the end he gave his address undisturbed – though few appear to have approved of it.

Not so a group of young men in Bristol, among them Mr. Dundas, who so much admired his views that he had set up an order of Benedictines, holding services at an old house in Trinity Street, beneath the shadow of Bristol Cathedral.

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Benedictine vespers were sung likewise at the Broadmead Rooms. Almost from the first the Bristol Benedictines appear to have encountered difficulties. Mr. Dundas, under the name of Brother Cyprian, became the Prior of the Order.

At the beginning of 1865 the Order moved from Trinity Street to a workshop in Trenchard Street.

The opening service was held in March, and was attended by a congregation of 50 to 70 youths, whose behaviour was flippant in the extreme. Outside a mob of 400 or 500 people assembled, and when the brethren emerged they were set upon and had to run for their lives. Some of the brethren were hurt in the scuffle.

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Later on there was further trouble, when two of the brethren who had look on the wine when it was red attempted to take part in a service. Brother Cyprian ordered them to leave, but, as they refused the police were sent for.

The matter was reported Brother Ignatius, who ordered Brother Cyprian to make the offenders do penance in white sheets in the oratory. On their refusal they were ex-communicated, amid scenes of uproar.

In August 1865 the brethren celebrated the Feast of the Assumption with much display. At the vesper service Father Williams, of Penzance, officiated and preached. A new altar-cloth, worked by one of the sisters, was used for the first time.

At midnight there was another service, at the conclusion of which, between 1 and 2 in the morning, a procession started through the streets, the brethren bearing crosses and banners, and burning candles. Leaving Trenchard Street, they processed up St. Michael’s Hill, chanting the litany. At St. Michael’s Church they halted at the west door, and, kneeling down, said prayers. A large crowd had followed them jeering and shouting, and at intervals singing the then popular song, “Slap bang, here we are again.”

Brother Cyprian rebuked the crowd for its levity, but the jeering only grew louder. In Park Row, a police sergeant stopped the procession, and told the brethren they must stop chanting at once, or they would be locked up. Brother Cyprian attempted to argue, but the police sergeant was not impressed and repeated his threat, whereupon the banners were lowered, the candles extinguished, and the procession melted.

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This was one of many such scenes, and eventually Brother Ignatius deposed Brother Cyprian, who, however, declined to obey him, and proceeded to ex-communicate some of the brethren and sisters himself. His next step was to found what he called the Augustine Brotherhood at Montpelier, where he set up a chapel– an iron building – and established a home for poor boys, who were required to conform to the regulations of conventual life. Many of them learnt printing, and for a time a small publication was issued.

Later, Brother Cyprian started a newspaper, the Bristol Daily Telegraph, but it was not a financial success, and was discontinued. He revived it later, but with no greater success, and it finally petered out. No copies of it appear to have survived.

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The services in the chapel provoked many unpleasant scenes, and were at length given up, the building being presented by Brother Cyprian to the vicar of Bedminster, who placed it at Ashton Gate, and it was opened in March 1873 as a chapel of ease.

It was removed in June 1883, when the permanent Church of St. Francis was built, and it was then used as a parish room, being demolished in 1910. The home was given up in 1872, and Brother Cyprian, or Mr. Dundas, to give him the name to which he reverted, retired into private life. He had then become a Roman Catholic. In January 1874, the death of Mr. Stephen James (grandfather of Mr. Gilbert S. James) made a by-election necessary in the Bedminster Ward. Mr. Dundas was nominated at the Conservative candidate, and his opponent was the late Mr. William Pethick (father-in-law of Dr. Stanley Badock).

Dundas was twice nominated, once by his full name and once as C.A.W. Dundas. The result was:–
William Pethick (L.) ... 1,070.
C.A.W. Dundas (C.) ... 475.
C.A.W.D. Dundas (C.) ... 49.

This was Mr. Dundas’s last appearance in public life. He died at Clifton on September 9 1874, aged 28, from consumption.

Transcript of a letter in Bristol Evening Post: 21 May 1937

SIR, – I read with great interest Mr. James’s recollections of Montpelier, following up mine of earlier years. I thank him for them. They have brought to my memory things I had almost forgotten. It was my cousin George whom he mentioned as the city trumpeter, whose father kept the dairy in Picton Street. He has been dead now for many years.

I lived in Russell Place, York Road, for about 45 years, next door to his old friend, Johnny Matthews, the baker, who is still with us as strong and active as ever. I forgot to mention last week the old pump that used to supply us with water – it stood just by the stationer’s shop at the bottom of Picton Street.

41, Kennington Avenue, Ashley Down.

Transcript of a letter in Bristol Evening Post: 17 June 1937

Names That Recall Many Memories of Montpelier

SIR, – In reference to “Memories of Montpelier,” I wonder if your correspondent who received the 70 letters could publish a few, if not all, of their names, especially those who have gone abroad. It would be very interesting to recall names that might be recognised.

As little kiddies who lived on the railway side of Cromwell Road, we were well known by the station staff, especially when we used to have “free” rides from Clifton Down, getting out at Montpelier, and scrambling up the bank to our back garden. Then there was the accumulation of match-sellers on the bridge: one especially, a red-whiskered man.

By the way, recalling some names there were: the Gregorys, Wilmots, McDonalds, etc. The youngest son of the last-named family was the first aviator to fly under the Suspension Bridge. He met an untimely end later by being accidently drowned in the Thames while practising flights.

45, Claremont Road.