Setting some boundaries – historic stones reinstated 

Two of the 1904 boundary stones returned to their original locations on the west abutment of the bridge.

Something we’ve been eager to protect as part of the iron bridge works are the set of three stone markers that formerly nestled beneath undergrowth on the west abutment. Each stone is carved with the date, 1904, and CB, for City of Bristol. These marked the city boundaries between that date and 1935.
After the opening of Avonmouth Dock in 1877, the gradual development of the village of Avonmouth, and the purchase of the Docks by the Corporation in 1884, there was political impetus to bring the area within the city’s administrative boundary. The city had expanded quickly in the late 19th Century, but growth northwards from the historic boundary along the Downs was limited. Despite a strong argument for bringing everything between there and Avonmouth into the city it was only the Docks themselves that were eventually added in 1897. This left them as an isolated satellite part of the city, disconnected from the main administrative boundary.
Philip Napier Miles of Kings Weston was eager to develop his landholding around Avonmouth and Shirehampton. A plan for “Avonmouth as a city” was well advanced by 1902, with ambitious plans for thousands of acres of land laid out. It was perhaps this prospect that reinvigorated the arguments to bring more of the area within Bristol’s boundary; The 1904 Corporation Act was the mechanism to achieve this.

The city boundary shown shaded on the 1916 Ordnance Survey map, and with boundary markers marked as orange dots. Most of these remain today. 

The Act did not go unchallenged, however. There was considerable opposition by residents in Stoke Bishop and Westbury on Trym who did not want to leave Gloucestershire and contribute the more onerous rates of Bristol. Amongst these objectors was Napier Miles himself; his concerns were that Kings Weston house would fall within the new boundary and that his landholding it would be reduced, in value and freedoms to develop it hindered. In the event, the Council changed the proposals to omit Kings Weston’s  Home Park, instead taking a line from the iron bridge to The Circle, skirting the Georgian viewing terrace , before following the historic parish boundary through Penpole Wood. This satisfied the Council who’s intention to physically connect Avonmouth and Shirehampton with the rest of the city required only Shirehampton Park to be included. Napier Miles also secured a series of provisions from the Council that satisfied his concerns, and in August 1904 the Act received Royal assent.

The third marker on the corner north of the other two at the west abutment.

It can’t have been long before the city marked its new perimeter with permanent stone markers of the sort found at the iron bridge. Although they project just a couple of feet above ground, they are hefty stones, designed not to be easily moved or damaged, are about 5 feet in height. Another of these stones was spotted in 2016 when we came across it near the white oak. What’s less clear is why the boundary didn’t include Park Lodge and run up the west edge of Kings Weston Road rather than making an odd dog-leg to take it up to the bridge, resulting in the three markers we have today.
As part of the bridge works the contractors have carefully excavated the stones, kept them safe, and have now reinstalled them in their original locations. Whilst they are now little more than relics, their preservation allows new light to be shed on their historic interest.    

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.