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Cottages on Conham Road

Memories of Tom Fry

In his Memories of Troopers Hill, Tom Fry described "several cottages at the foot of the wooded slope" along Conham Road. This is south of Troopers Hill, at the top of the wooded slope is Dundridge Park.

He goes on to say

"One of these was at the halfway distance.

Not only was many blocks of Black Jack in this building but the date was prominently moulded into it. It was 1729. Obviously the "Black Jack" slag was being made at that time.

This building was demolished about 1960."

Tom also included his own sketch of the cottage and a map showing its location.

Arthur John and Jemima Musty

In 2024 we received more information about what appears to be the same cottage from Joy Searle.

"I wondered if you'd be interested in this image of an old cottage at Crew's Hole?

The couple are my late cousin's grandparents Arthur John and Jemima Musty (nee Adkin's). Arthur was working as a blacksmith's striker in 1911 for Butler's but he worked for Butler's all his life in different roles. He lived into his 90s despite a hard life. His parents were Lewis and Charlotte Musty, Charlotte was born Charlotte Scammell on 16th July 1842 in Crew's Hole.

My cousin Eileen Hopes (nee Musty) took me to see the ruins of the cottage in the early 1970s, the walls were very thick and had black stones in the walls which I was told were lumps of copper slag from the nearby smelter. Such an old cottage, which my cousin said flooded regularly."

It can be seen that the photograph shows two separate front doors; we believe that Tom's drawing was from memory, so this may explain the discrepancy. Alternatively it maybe that the cottage was converted into a single dwelling at some point after the photo was taken.

Both accounts refer to the presence of the black blocks made from copper slag that are common in the area. As Tom says this implies that the blocks were being produced by 1729. This is earlier than the date suggested by historian Joan Day in her book on the brass industry. She says that the production of the blocks may have followed complaints from the Bristol Authorities in 1749 about 'a great quantity of cinders laid upon the banks of the said river'.

The Cottage on Old Maps

Study of the old maps of the area show that there were in fact three cottages along Conham Road. The extract from the 1840s Tithe map below show the occupiers at that time as recorded in the Tithe Apportionment. It can be seen that all the cottages were divided between two occupants.

The cottage in the location shown by Tom Fry is plots 807 & 808. It is possible that 'Thomas Schramhall', recorded at plot 803, is related to the Charlotte Scammell mentioned by Joy - given that the recorders at the time must have taken names verbally and then the records were later transcribed it is common for spellings to vary.

It is also possible that 'Ann Somers' at plot 807 was related to Dr Benjamin Sommers who owned Troopers Hill at that time, but given the the grand dwellings that the family owned in Somerset it would seem strange that a relative was living in this modest cottage.

The three cottages are still visible in the 1900s OS maps. By 1946, two of the three buildings remained; those that were 803 & 804 on the Tithe having gone.

There is no evidence of any of the cottages to be found today, though strangly the cottage that we believe to be the one in the photos and Tom's drawing is still shown on some current maps (eg on the Council's mapping system). There is a continuous wall along the side of Conham Road on the woodland side and behind it runs the Avon Valley Sewer which was constructed in the late 1960s. The cottages must have been demolished at this time or earlier.

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