Historic bridge destroyed at new Bristol recycling centre site

Contractors building a new recycling centre in South Bristol demolished a historic stone bridge over a river, after they were given permission to do so by council archaeologists.

The stone bridge crossed the Pigeonhouse Stream, the river that flows down from Hartcliffe into Bedminster, and divides the main road at Hartcliffe Way with the site of the new Bristol Waste household recycling centre on the edge of Bedminster.

Local residents said the bridge could date as far back as 200 years ago, and was underneath a concrete bridge over the stream that was constructed when the land to the east of the river was made into an industrial site in the 1960s.

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People living in Knowle West, Bedminster and Hartcliffe said they rushed to photograph the bridge when they saw that it had been uncovered by work to create a new access to the household recycling centre, which is due to open later this year.

One Hartcliffe resident photographed the bridge and the work done to destroy it.

“You can clearly see the small stone bridge under the concrete footbridge, that has been protecting it for a few decades,” said one Hartcliffe resident. “Why couldn’t this small bridge have remained, and incorporated into the plans? – they did mention a pedestrian footpath in the planning application.”

The Know Your Place register on Bristol City Council’s website did list the bridge, and its presence was noted and submitted to the register in January 2021, when construction work on the new recycling centre began. It was described as an ‘Old reduced field access bridge over the Pigeon House Stream, probably built pre-tithe (1840s). Connected two fields tenanted by James Wakefield, Withy Bed Close and Withy Bed, owned by Thomas York’.

A spokesperson for Bristol Waste, which is constructing the recycling centre on the land off Hartcliffe Way, said they checked first if it was ok to destroy the bridge.

“During clearance works for the much-needed Reuse and Recycling Centre on Hartcliffe Way, remnants of a small bridge were identified underneath a 1960s concrete bridge and overgrown vegetation,” she said.

“The bridge was reported to the Local Planning Authority’s Archaeological Officer who advised that demolition of the structure could continue. This was required to allow progression of essential flood compensation works.

“A photographic record of the bridge and the works have been taken and will be uploaded to Know Your Place to ensure the community have a permanent record of the feature,” she added.

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