The history of Downend and the Parish Council

Had we stood in the centre of the Parish Council area prior to the year 1894 we could have said:-
  • In the County and Honour of Gloucestershire.
  • In the diocese of Bristol
  • In the Greater Division of Berkeley.
  • In the Hundred of Barton Regis.
  • In the Parish of Mangotsfield.
We could say standing in the same place today:-
  • Late of the County of Gloucestershire.
  • Late of the County of Avon.
  • Late of Mangotsfield Urban District Council.
  • Late of the Borough of Kingswood.
But now of:-
  • South Gloucestershire Council.
  • Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council.
  • In the Parish of Christ Church, Downend.
  • Standing 222 ft above sea level.

The first recorded date of a building in the Parish area is a house in Reform Place, Downend, claiming to have been built in 1566, a map of 1575 which shows Downing.  17C maps show a scattered settlement within the Parish of Mangotsfield, with livestock being grazed on Downing or Downend Common, wolvers hill prior to the enclosure Act of 1788-89.

The whole area would have been in the boundary of Kingswood Forest, the Royal Hunting Forest under the jurisdiction of the Constable of Bristol Castle, all standing within the area known as Barton Regis.  The Forest gradually succumbed to squatters and coal mines, but the Downend and Bromley Heath area remained mainly agricultural with some stone quarries, not coal mines.

A number of small farms worked the area mainly grazing livestock, with a small amount of arable land.  Only three of these farm houses remain, Baugh Farm, Cleeve Hill Farm and Bromley Farm.

There were a few larger houses in the area.  Cleeve Dale was demolished n the late 60s.  Cleeve Hill House was owned by the Players, Bragges and Caves, and it was the Cave Family who bought up much of the land within the Parish Council area.  The house was demolished in the 1930s, after the sale of the Estate in the 1920s, which saw the beginning of house building on a large scale in the area.   Cleeve Lodge was converted into a Residential Home some years ago.

On Bromley Heath there was a Quaker Burial Ground dating from 1657, with the last Burial taking place in the late 1800s; it is now being used as a garden.  Christchurch, Downend was built in 1831 as a Chapel of Ease to St James Church, Mangotsfield, in whose Parish Downend resided until Christchurch became a Parish Church in 1874, with a Chancel being added to the church in 1914. 

In the Church yard, many of Downend’s notables are buried such as members of the Grace family.  There has been a Baptist Church here since 1786, originally an off shoot from the early Broadmead Baptist Church in Bristol.  The Methodists had a place of Worship in Downend, prior to moving to North Street, and later to Staple Hill.

The Cave Family ran a small school near the Green Dragon Public House, but this was closed with the erection in 1841 of Downend National School, later to become Christchurch School.  Other schools like Bromley Heath School were opened to meet the needs of post-war developments.

Downend can proudly boast the only Boy Scout War Memorial on public land in the Country, erected in 1921 in memory of members of the 1st Downend Scout Troop who lost their lives in the Great War of 1914-18.
Old Black and white Photograph of the Boy Scout War Memorial at the Junction of Badminton and Westerleigh Road

The photograph shows the war memorial, which was made by a local mason, J Dawson. For more information on the Scout War Memorial, please go to our page ‘The history of the War Memorial, Downend‘.

The two acres of cricket ground in the centre of Downend was used to play cricket from 1894, with the Downend Cricket Club purchasing the land in

1920 at the sale of the Cave Estate.  The W G Grace memorial pavilion was opened in 1922.  William Gilbert Grace, the great cricketer, was born in Downend House in 1848 and died in London in 1915, but is one of the Great Sons of Downend.

Since the second World War, Downend and Bromley Heath has grown from its rural beginnings to a large and thriving community area, now bounded by

 major roads, M4 and the ring road, but still retains much of its historic past.  One of the old buildings is now put to vital community use.  Lincombe Barn, once a farm building, possibly designed by Thomas Wright, is now Downend Folk House and received from His Royal Highness the Prince Charles the Gulbenkian Award for Community Building.

Old Black and white photo taken at the crossroads of Cleeve Hill, Badminton and Cleeve road, looking up Badminton road to the Horse Shoe Pub in the distance.

On 6 November 1957, Downend witnessed what was probably its most tragic event when a Britannia airliner crashed killing 15, pilot and crew, in woodland just off Overndale Road.  To mark 50 years of this event, the Parish Council designated the wooded area where the aeroplane crashed as Britannia Wood, and unveiled a monument made of local pennant stone, together with a plaque.

Old Black and white photograph of the old Garage on the corner of Cleeve Hill and Badminton Road

Photos from Past and Present Publications.

Parish Council Chairman

2003 – 2006

Councillor Graeme Riley

2003 – 2006

2006 – 2007

Councillor Gill Higgins

2007 – 2008

Councillor David Upjohn

2007 – 2008

2008 – 2011

Councillor Elizabeth Shepherd

2011 – 2014

Councillor Graeme Riley

2011 – 2014

2014 - 2015

Councillor Elizabeth Shepherd

2015 - 2016

Councillor Graeme Riley

2015 - 2016

210/01/2016 - May 2017

Councillor Janet Biggin

May 2017 - May 2019

Councillor Ben Burton

May 2017 - May 2019

May 2019 to date

Councillor Janet Biggin

The set up of your Parish Council

Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council Chairmans pendant from the chain of office.
Downend and Bromley Heath Parish Council was set up in May 2003, following a special review and consultation.  Twelve Parish Councillors joined the Council. The Parish was divided into five wards – Downend East, Downend West, Bromley Heath East, Bromley Heath West and Leap Brook.  Each ward elects Members to serve on the Parish Council for a period of four years. However due to boundry changes in May 2019 the Parish has only two wards now, Downend and Staple Hill. 

Since its inception, the Parish Council has been proactive in evolving and moving forward at a time of change, both nationally and locally.  All Parish Councillors are encouraged to take advantage of any relevant training offered by either South Gloucestershire Council or the Avon Local Councils Association.  In addition, the Parish Council itself organises ‘Away Days’, coordinated by an invited facilitator.  This is an opportunity for members to get together outside the normal meeting situation and agree ideas on the way forward for the Parish Council.

Activities