An article for the BS9 magazine, September 2019:
A new Scout hut for Stoke Bishop and a tale of an old pond at the heart of the village…
Our Scout Group is busy fundraising to rebuild our old wooden Scout hut located behind Kewstoke Rd. The hut is built on part of the site of the old Stoke Bishop school, which started as a church school in 1841. In 1860 the land was given to the Trustees of St Mary’s church by the Harford family of Stoke House (now Trinity College on Stoke Hill). The council acquired the site as church schools were transferred into public control over the first half of the 20th century. The main school building was all but destroyed during the German Blitz bombing raids in December 1940, and the school eventually moved up to the current Cedar Park site in 1951. The map above (OS National Grid map of Stoke Bishop dated 1947-1965) shows our site in that era, overlaid with the outline of our current Scout hut.
Maps of c.1880 show a lovely big pond on the site (see photo opposite viewed from the old school building towards Tunstall Close, c.1935), which locals used to fish in. Over time the pond became increasingly silted up due to housing development in the Parry’s Lane area, and the 1950s map above shows a smaller pond, having been part filled in at some point between the 1910s and 1950s. It is not known exactly when the rest of the pond was filled in.
There is a long, thin building shown on the site on the 1950s map. This was moved up from Bishop Rd after the school building was destroyed, being redecorated and ready to go as temporary classrooms for the school by July 1941. We believe this formed the basis of our Scout hut, and we have heard that a wooden building, probably ex-military, was also brought up second-hand from Avonmouth. This addition in the 1960s led to the U-shaped layout of our existing Scout hut.
Our hut is now beyond repair, has no proper foundations and sits on breeze blocks on the ground, part of which sits over the old pond. So fast forward to today, and we are completing ground investigations to understand requirements for foundations for a new building.
Given the bombing of WWII we were also advised to have an unexploded ordnance survey, and had someone in attendance to "watch and brief" the excavations during the ground investigation works in case of an unexploded device (which luckily was not encountered!)
It will be difficult to avoid building at least partly over the old pond, and there were concerns that we might require ground improvement interventions to stabilise the ground, or deep footings such as piles, to ensure that the building would not sink into the soil. Despite finding evidence of the pond, luckily the ground is good enough for traditional shallow foundations.
We are working hard towards our goal of delivering a new Scout hut and a fit for purpose community building for Stoke Bishop. Our site has a long heritage of supporting the children of the local BS9 area and we are keen to ensure this continues for future generations. We have currently raised over £120k by a mixture of our own fundraising, grants and kind donations. We are at the stage where we need to raise around another £50k-£60k before applying to large grant providers for the remainder (we are already in contact with several of these and know we are eligible).
If you can help in any way with our fundraising we would love to hear from you:
We would like to thank the Stoke Bishop Local History Group for providing so much wonderful information on the heritage of our site, Dave Carn at DC Designs (Tel: 07840 823925) for the artwork and the map is reproduced with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey.