We met Peter Insole, the BCC archaeologist and instigator of the fascinating historical research website, 'Know your Place', at the junction of Zetland Road and the Gloucester Road.A circular walk took us north up the Gloucester Road as far as Shadwell Road and then in an anticlockwise, circular route back to Zetland Road, finishing at the junction of North Road and Overton Road. It was an interesting (but rather cold) walk and very informative. Peter was able to point out those buildings that did or might merit being part of a Conservation Area, and those that although historically and architecturally interesting, wouldn't, by themselves, allow one to confer conservation status to the area they are in. Because of the diversity and quality of the architectural features of the shop fronts, and indeed, taking into consideration the almost unique nature of the range and variety of its independent traders, the stretch of the Gloucester Road from the junction with Zetland Road up to Overton Road has now been given its own separate Conservation area status, distinct from the contiguous Redland Conservation area.
Peter went on to explain that local groups and interested individuals will be encouraged to make note of buildings of merit in their neighbourhoods that they think deserve to be included in a 'Local List', which, after early March this year, could then be submitted to the Council who will record and retain this information. The Local List would be referred to and sited in the event of any planning application that could result in a change to the appearance of any building on that list. While the list would not have any legal status in terms of automatically protecting the buildings on it, it might make it more difficult for planners and developers to ride roughshod over local opinion that has demonstrated its recognition of the historical and architectural value of these buildings by their inclusion in the Local list.
We walked the designated Conservation area stretch of the Gloucester Road, noting the features of the architecture that have cumulatively led to its recognition as a Conservation area. The art deco frontage of the photographer’s shop, ZZZone, and the decorative fascia boarding of a row of houses opposite the Parade are examples of these attractive and unusual architectural highlights. We continued a bit further, up to Wolseley Road, this additional section certainly having several buildings of note that need to be documented and placed on a Local List such as the red brick frontage and detailed decorative stonework above the charity shop for children with cancer, Clic Sargent.
Peter showed us, on an early map (around 1840's) printed off from the BCC 'Know your Place' website, http://www.bristol.gov.uk/page/know-your-place how the parallel roads of Raglan, Wolseley and Shadwell on the west side of the Gloucester Road follow the original pattern of parallel narrow fields and their boundary hedges that were part of the farmland before it was built on.
We then walked up Wolseley Road, consisting of terraced Victorian housing, most with interesting mouldings in Bath stone above their entrances and windows, and many still with their original sash windows. The replacement of these with plastic double glazed units is a rather contentious issue. While it clearly improves energy efficiency, such windows detract from the original appearance of the building and change its character to some extent. And in Bristol, even in a designated Conservation area, the use of these windows cannot be prevented. However, design of these windows is improving and some now closely resemble the original sash ones. Because of the small size of the front gardens in roads like Wolseley, the front boundary walls have not been removed in order to allow the front garden to be converted to hardstanding for car parking. In many parts of urban Victorian Bristol, where front gardens are large enough to accommodate a parked car, this fairly drastic alteration to the original look of the property has become increasingly common practice.
At the top of Wolseley Road, we turned left along Tyne Road. Although these spacious Victorian semis, decorated with Bath stone and with green front gardens are pleasant to the eye, they represent a very common style of architecture in Bristol and are not sufficiently 'different' to merit conservation status. However, the solitary detached house at the end of this road and the path/alley starting alongside it and running down to Elton Road, both represent features of the area that do stand out as of sufficient interest to be placed on a 'Local List'. Returning to the Zetland Road junction, we had now had come full circle. Here we noted a particularly intrusive and unsightly piece of modern street advertising ‘furniture’ that seemed completely unnecessary.
Continuing with our walk, we crossed over the Gloucester Road here and straight up to North Road, turning left, past the tasteful modern multi-occupancy development (Student accommodation?) to look at the row of terraced houses that run along that stretch of North Road to Overton Road. Some of these terraced houses are constructed using a striking brickwork patterning known as 'Bristol Byzantine'. The overall design of these houses, including the angled front doors, is considered sufficiently quirky and unusual to meet the criteria that allow the conferring of Conservation status to the terrace. Consequently this part of North Road, directly behind the main road is included as part of the Gloucester Road Conservation Area. This is where our walkabout finished. But looking north, rather cursorily, along North Road beyond Overton Road, we saw potential house designs that could well qualify for placement on our Local List.
I think the collating of such a Local List would be an interesting, useful and achievable project for The Bishopston Society, and furthermore, on sunny spring or summer days, would prove to be a pleasant task to carry out. How wide we might range in our survey is something that would need to be discussed.