Last month we brought you some First World War images from the archives of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, but there are many other interesting finds in their collection. This month we reveal some alarming images of the Georgian stables on Napier Miles Road. The stables were built in the late 1760s by the architect Robert Mylne shortly after his return from study in Rome. It was perhaps here that he had come into contact with the young Edward Southwell III of Kings Weston who would give him this prize commission before allowing him free-reign in remodelling the interiors of the house itself.
The stables and carriage houses continued to perform their original function until 1935 when the last private owner of the house, Philip Napier Miles died. His widow retained the walled gardens, where she built a new house for herself, and the stables, but the latter structures fared badly during the Second World War when they were used as billets for British soldiers employed in the house.
By 1952 the building was ruinous, its roofs collapsing, and under threat of demolition. It was only through the efforts of local conservationists and the strong advocacy of Lord Methuen that the City Council conceded to keep the building and rebuild it as a new police station to serve the fast-growing Lawrence Weston estate below. What has not been clear until now was the extremes that the ‘restoration’ had gone to in rebuilding the structure for this new use.
These photos show how much of structure was dismantled before being put back together. Remarkably only the central arch and the end facades of the two wings to the road appear to be the only elements that survived unscathed. The whole of the rest of the building has been taken down and, presumably, the most important masonry carefully numbered for later restoration.
The building was formerly opened as a police station in May 1962 by the Lord Mayor, local MPs and numerous local dignitaries. Lord Methuen also attended and expressed his complements to the City Corporation on the vision and foresight they had shown in putting the buildings to their new use. He said” I remember when nothing seemed to move anyone to preserve the place and that is why I am so pleased to be present among those who saw the possibilities of not only retaining the buildings, but putting them to such a practical use” . He continued that in most places these days there was a curious view that one should regard historic places on the basis of whether or not they could bring an income, but here was a refreshing change. He hoped Bristol would now consider preserving some more of her architectural heritage for posterity.