Community and Banksy in Bristol, England - Easton History and Life

Lining up for a Banksy exhibition outside the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Lining up for a Banksy exhibition outside the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery | Source

Easton in the Past - A Vibrant Community

Every Christmas I remember a childhood Boxing Day tradition with a sense of nostalgia and loss. There is no way that the tradition could be revived, even if I wanted to re-create the past. The people involved have died or aged and moved on to other interests. The street where it took place no longer exists, obliterated from existence by demolition and new construction.

I grew up in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Most of my mother's relatives lived in Bristol, a major city in England. On Boxing Day my father would drive us from Cardiff to my grandfather's house in Bristol, where we would continue our Christmas celebrations. Relatives and neighbours visited Grandad's house to meet us and to celebrate the season. The house and the neighbourhood became a hub of fun, family and friendship.

My grandfather lived in Easton, an area within Bristol. Today Easton is a lively and artistic place. Banksy began his street art career there. He has an international reputation for his graffiti, which is often a form of social or political commentary. Part of the Banksy phenomenon is that the artist's identity remains a secret.

Cardiff and Bristol in the United Kingdom

show route and directions
A markerCardiff, Wales -
Cardiff, Cardiff, UK
[get directions]

Cardiff and Bristol are separated by the Severn Estuary. Two bridges over the estuary connect Wales and England.

B markerBristol, England -
Bristol, City of Bristol, UK
[get directions]

My parents outside the house on Fleet Street on their wedding day. The bridesmaid is one of my cousins.
My parents outside the house on Fleet Street on their wedding day. The bridesmaid is one of my cousins. | Source

The House on Fleet Street

My grandfather lived in a house on Fleet Street, which was a short cul-de-sac in the area between the Lawrence Hill railway station and Easton Road. The inhabitants of Fleet Street and the nearby houses formed a vibrant community. The people living in the area would have been called "working class". Much as I miss Britain, one thing that I intensely disliked, at least as it existed in my childhood, was the custom of classifying people by class. My Bristol relatives were hard working people with hearts of gold.

Fleet Street was lined by terraced houses which had a similar design. The front door of my grandfather's house opened directly on to the pavement (sidewalk). The front room downstairs had the best furniture and was kept ready for visitors. It was rarely used by the family. Daily life happened in the back room downstairs and in the adjoining kitchen. Only family and close friends were welcomed into the living area. Here the furniture was chosen for comfort and utility instead of looks.

There was no bathroom in the house. Bathing was accomplished by laboriously filling a tub in the kitchen with hot water from a kettle. The toilet was in an outhouse in the back garden. There were only two rooms upstairs, both of them bedrooms.

The houses on Fleet Street were old and rather primitive, especially compared to our standard Cardiff house with a modern indoor bathroom and fixtures. I never really minded this, though. I just accepted the fact that when I visited Grandad things were different from the way they were at home.

My grandparents as a young couple. Grandad is wearing his serious face for the photo. He was more often smiling when I knew him.
My grandparents as a young couple. Grandad is wearing his serious face for the photo. He was more often smiling when I knew him. | Source

Grandfather and Grandmother, or Grandad and Nana

Grandad was a jovial man who didn't seem to mind his house being invaded by visitors. He liked to tell me that thunder was produced by God moving the furniture around in heaven. One of his favourite sayings was "Call me anything you like, but don't call me late for dinner!" He was a train driver before his retirement, which always seemed like an exciting career to me. I loved trains when I was a child

Grandad enjoyed gardening and always like to show us what he was growing in his back garden when we visited. So did the neighbours, as I discovered when I learned how to climb the wall separating the end of Fleet Street from other back gardens in the neighbourhood.

My mother, her sister and her three brothers grew up in the house on Fleet Street. My grandmother died of cancer shortly before I was born, so I know her only from photos. I have always regretted not knowing her in person. Based on what other people have told me, she was a lovely person.

Neighbourhood children outside the pub at the entrance to Fleet Street
Neighbourhood children outside the pub at the entrance to Fleet Street | Source

The Fleet Street Neighbourhood

The area around Fleet Street contained shops and other amenities for residents. There was a grocery store on one side of the entrance to Fleet Street and a pub on the other. Both businesses played a daily role in the lives of their neighbours and the business owners were known as friends. The essential fish and chip shop - as ubiquitous in some communities in those days as McDonalds is today in Canadian cities - was just a short walk away. The time of the first frying of the day at the chippy was a serious matter of concern for my family.

The photo above shows a group of neighbourhood children gathered outside the pub on the corner of Fleet Street In 1927. My family referred to the pub as "Clements" after the people who owned it. I've forgotten its real name, if I ever knew it. The little girl on the right of the front row who is looking away from the camera is my mother. The smiling boy on her right and slightly to the front of her is one of my uncles. The houses in the background are the type of houses that existed on Fleet Street.

I remember my grandfather telling me why the photo was taken, but I don't recall the reason. I do remember that the children belonged to a club or organization. The reason for the gathering seems to be a special occasion, since the boys are wearing suits or uniforms and someone has written a nice comment on the photo.

Easton Road School, 1928; my mother is the girl in the front row on the right
Easton Road School, 1928; my mother is the girl in the front row on the right | Source

Fleet Street Community

When we visited Fleet Street, the neighbourhood children welcomed me and my sister right away after only a brief introduction from my cousins. We played together in the street every day and had a lot of fun.

Front doors were often left open on Fleet Street and community news was shared. Neighbours chatted daily. Tragedies were shared as well as joys. Drawn curtains in the front room and a framed photo at the window were signs of a family death and received respect and commiseration from the neighbourhood. The pub was a place for socialization and bridge tournaments as well as drinking.

Of course, humans being what they are, they were sometimes minor tensions between certain people in the neighbourhood, but in general - at least as viewed by my childhood self - Fleet Street was a happy place. The area gave me a sense of community that I have never experienced in any other neighbourhood - not even in my own - even though we were only temporary visitors at Christmas time and during the summer.

Location of Easton in Bristol, England

A markerEaston, Bristol, England -
Easton, Bristol, Bristol, City of Bristol BS5, UK
[get directions]

Demolition in Easton

Sadly, Fleet Street and the nearby streets no longer exist. Demolition of nearby houses began even before my grandfather moved out to live with my Aunt's family. Old houses without an indoor toilet, bathroom or modern fixtures and plumbing weren't considered desirable by the powers that be (or were). Blocks of flats now cover what was once Fleet Street and my grandfather, parents and aunt are all dead.

In the 1960s and 1970s, large sections of Easton were destroyed to make way for a new motorway and new housing estates. The destruction of Fleet street and its surroundings was probably part of this remodelling process.

I've found photos and information about areas located near Fleet Street on the Internet but no reference to the street itself. I suppose there are references somewhere in Bristol archives and in birth, marriage and death records, and people other than my family probably have photos of Fleet Street, but for all intents and purposes the street lives only in people's memories. Once the people with those memories have died, the street will be gone for ever.

People Describe Why They Love Easton Today

Bristol and Easton Today

Bristol today is a modern city with many tourist attractions. It's the eighth biggest city in the United Kingdom and the sixth largest in England. The city contains some beautiful historical buildings as well as a very well respected university. Like most big cities, however, Bristol has some problem areas.

While looking for records of Fleet Street on the Internet, I discovered that Easton is considered to be one of Bristol's problems today. It's sometimes described as a deprived and even dangerous area with a high crime rate. It's interesting to read some of the local people's assessments of the area, though. There is a great deal of loyalty to Easton. Some locals claim that the reports of the area's social problems are exaggerated.

Despite its problems, Easton is reportedly a lively area. It's a multicultural community and has become a popular place for artists and for those who follow a "Bohemian" lifestyle.

I haven't been to Easton in many years, so I can't give a personal assessment of the area as it exists today. I know that as a child I never noticed the problems there, if they existed. I always enjoyed my visits and my walks through the neighbourhood. Today there seem to be both positive and negative aspects to life in Easton.

Changing Face of Easton, Bristol

Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

— Banksy

Banksy - A Famous and Mysterious Graffiti Artist

Easton is associated with Banksy, an internationally known graffiti artist, painter, political activist and film maker who keeps his identity secret from the public. His graffiti appears on walls or other outdoor structures as if by magic. He's developed a stencil technique for his street art so that he can create it quickly before being noticed. Some artists feel that this is a type of "cheating". Banksy's oldest works are located in Easton, where he started his graffiti career.

Banksy has had many international exhibitions, all the while keeping his identity secret. His first film was nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award in 2011. In 2014 he received the Person of the Year Webby Award. He's a very popular artist, although his street art irritates some people. They feel that by admiring it people are glorifying vandalism. On the other hand, some institutions are happy to see a Banksy stencil appear on their property and take steps to protect it.

Banksy is known for his epigrams as well as his art. He has published several books containing his images and writing and maintains a website. He has developed a reputation for entering countries around the world and secretly creating graffiti in unexpected places. In 2015 he created a cute kitten stencil on a ruined building in the Gaza Strip. He says that he wanted to highlight the problems in the area on his website but that on the Internet "people only look at pictures of kittens".

Shop Until You Drop, a Banksy stencil in London
Shop Until You Drop, a Banksy stencil in London | Source

Nobody ever listened to me until they didn't know who I was.

— Banksy

Who is Banksy?

Banksy is believed to be a Bristol native and is thought to be a "he", although at times there have been suspicions that he is really a she or is actually a group of people. Recent photos of him with his head covered seem to confirm that he is a male, although this could be deliberately misleading. It does seem strange to me that after all his efforts to maintain his secrecy he is now willing to show what he looks like, apart from his head.

Although some people have revealed what they say is Banksy's true identity, nothing has been confirmed, at least as far as the general public is concerned. Some of his actions are elaborate procedures that almost certainly require the cooperation of several people. Some people use this as evidence that "he" is really a team of people.

Banksy's graffiti career began after my family moved to Canada, so he's not part of my Easton memories. Nevertheless, the ideas associated with him match my memories of Easton very well. For me, Banksy is a symbol of the vitality, significance and unconventionality that I experienced during my visits to my grandfather so long ago.

A Banksy stencil of the grim reaper on the side of the Thekla, an entertainment boat in Bristol
A Banksy stencil of the grim reaper on the side of the Thekla, an entertainment boat in Bristol | Source

An Update - The Prospect Tavern and the Paxton Arms

I'm excited to say that since I wrote the original version of this article I've found information about Fleet Street via a website called Bristol's Lost Pubs. I've discovered that the pub on Fleet Street was actually called the Prospect Tavern and - according to the website - was run by Harry Clements from 1935 to 1953. I visited Fleet Street after 1953, but my grandfather still talked about visiting Clements when he went to the pub.

The pub was located on the corner of Fleet Street and Leadhouse Road (a name that I'd forgotten but now remember). The website entry about the Paxton Arms contains a photo of the Fleet Street pub. The Paxton Arms and the Prospect Tavern were located next door to each other. When I saw the photo, I remembered the door on Leadhouse Road that led to a different pub right next to Clements. It's a shame that we have so many memories that we'd like to recall that are inaccessible without the correct stimulus.

The Paxton Arms opened in 1855. The adjoining building on Fleet Street became a pub in 1871. According to the Bristol's Lost Pubs website, it was a house before this date. I'll be doing more research now that I've made some headway. Historical research is great fun, especially when it has a personal significance.

© 2014 Linda Crampton

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Comments 49 comments

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

I enjoyed your family nostalgia, memories, and photographs. It points out the importance of documenting your family history through photos, oral tradition, written and videoed accounts, and anything you can recall in the mind's eye. Once it's gone, it's gone. My great grandparents' homestead was taken by the right-of-way people to make a highway overpass. The land doesn't even exist as is -- it's been utterly transformed and is unrecognizable. Sad.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Flourish. It is sad when a past that has meaning for us disappears. Your advice is excellent. It's very important to document family history in as many ways as possible and to keep the documentation safe.


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England

A fascinating account of your memories, especially as I live just south of Bristol and my daughters live there. Easton is still considered a bit 'dodgy' though of course there are a mix of people there just the same as anywhere else.

My grandmother's house in Hove, Sussex (south coast of England) was very similar to your grandparents' house, along with the special rooms and the outdoor loo!

I really enjoyed reading this; thanks for a trip back in time.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England

Just looked up Fleet Street etc and couldn't find anything either but I have found a company which sells old maps of the area and the following might be of use to you:

http://www.cassinimaps.co.uk/shop/product.asp?P_ID...

(Revised New Series 172 - Bristol & Bath (1899)

ISBN 978-1-84736-306-0

Cassini code: RNC-172 £9.99)

I would think Fleet Street should be on that map. Hope so!

Ann


Vellur profile image

Vellur 23 months ago from Dubai

I enjoyed reading your memories, it is sad when streets that we know and have lived in are demolished. Glad you could find references on the internet. Beautifully written voted up.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

A very interesting share, Alicia. Thanks for taking us back in time. It was fun learning a bit more about you.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

This story along with the vintage pictures is a great capture of times gone past. I loved that saying of your Granddad, "Don't call me late for dinner". My Dad used the same ones in our family. What a nostalgic memory piece with tidbits of neighborhoods and old time plumbing challenges. Folks today don't realize what great conveniences we have within our homes. Thanks for this wonderful article about your winter memories. Very lovely!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Ann. I appreciate the map link, too! Thank you so much for taking the time to find it. It was interesting to read your view of Easton, since you have local knowledge of the area. I suspect that the style of my grandfather's and your grandmother's house may have been quite common at one time!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Vellur. I appreciate your comment and the vote. It is sad when areas that we know are lost. Change is part of life, but it's not always pleasant!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the visit and the comment, Bill!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the kind comment, Peg. Yes, the convenience of life in modern homes is very nice, but it's interesting to think that for much of human history the conveniences weren't available! I enjoyed hearing that your dad used the same saying as my grandfather.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 23 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

In the reading of this Hub, I suspect that each reader brought up their own memories of their childhood and the happy comparisons. You depicted very well the spirit of the family, grandfather, and a unique neighborhood. It was an enjoyable read that stirred the personal flashbacks. Thanks.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Perspycacious. I appreciate your comment. This hub was personally meaningful for me to create. It's interesting to think that it triggered memories in other people, too.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean

Precious family photos and memories. These are the kinds of stuff that a happy life is made of. Thanks for sharing them.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Dora. Family photos and memories are certainly precious. They depict things that happened in the past but they add value to the present.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

Oh, I truly love your winter Christmas memories you have shared here, how special! You look a lot like your grandmother there in that photo, with her eyes and nose. My grandmother on my mother's side died very young with lung cancer, so I did not know her either. I know I missed out on that special relationship.

I found this read very interesting and feel as though I know you a lot better now from reading this wonderful look back on your special Christmas/winter memories.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year and always


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the visit and the comment, Faith. I always appreciate your kind shares. I'm sorry that your grandmother died at such a young age. It's sad to miss out on a relationship with someone so closely related to us.

I hope the rest of the Christmas season is wonderful for you. Best wishes and blessings for the new year.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 23 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Alicia, this is informative with lots of history. Strangely, when I think of Fleet Street I think British National Press but clearly there is much more to the place. Great write, I loved that you shared many family information and images. Beautifully done.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Jo. Yes, I noticed at a young age that my grandfather lived on a road with the same name as the famous London one! Thank you very much for the comment. I hope you're having a great Christmas.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

Thank you for your winter memories Linda; and it is so sad you can never go back there but then in your memories you always can and probably with much more pleasure since your memories are so good.

Oh I was told that as a child too about thunder and furniture being moved around heaven. Very strange with us living in different countries, huh?

Up and sharing and will rush this to the top of the list. ^+


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

The first part of your comment contains a lovely thought, Jackie! It is very interesting that the story about heaven's furniture was told in two different countries so far away from one another.

Thank you very much for creating the winter memories challenge, Jackie. It was very inspirational. I appreciate your vote and share very much, too.


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 23 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Hi AliciaC, I enjoyed reading your hub. I like taking a look at things in the past. I suppose life is about changes. Great Hub. Stella


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the visit and the comment, Stella. Yes, life certainly involves changes. It's often hard to keep things the same forever.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was a delightful and interesting read. You presented interesting info on the Easton area and Fleet Street. It is a shame no official records have been kept of the street where your grandad lived. Voted up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Jodah. Thank you very much for the comment and the vote. I appreciate your visit.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 23 months ago from Home Sweet Home

Thanks fir introducing yr family, hometown beautiful photos


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, peachpurple.


kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 23 months ago from Sweden

This was interesting to read about and it made me think about my childhood Christmases:)

It's bitter sweet memories of a time and a place, long gone.

Love the thing about what creates thunder, wonderful said...


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, kerlund74. I agree - thinking about the past can produce both sadness and happiness. I like my grandfather's explanation for the cause of thunder, too!


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 23 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Thank you for your interesting hub about your childhood memories. It's sad when places change so much, even when it might be for the better. My sister has been staying with me over Christmas and we were talking about things just like this, too. Happy memories of things past.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Blossom. Thanks for the comment. It's nice to talk about memories with someone else. I find that when I discuss a shared past with someone, they often jog my memory so that I remember something that I'd forgotten. I love it when this happens!


DDE profile image

DDE 23 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Wow! Isn't that amazing to write about such interesting memories. I like the old photos and you have shared a special part about your family here.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Devika. Thank you very much for the visit and the comment.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

What great memories Linda. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I hope you have a Happy New Year.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Bill. Thanks for the comment. I hope the Christmas season is going wonderfully for you, too. Happy New Year!


techygran profile image

techygran 23 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

Thank you, Linda, for sharing about an important part of your childhood that defines "community" in your life. I love the photos, even the one of the Christmas Tree-- those very beautiful 'paste' ornaments were on my grandmother's tree in SmallTown Saskatchewan circa 1955.

And I was interested in how you talked about the differences between the 'front room' and the family's livingroom (?)... I grew up hearing both of those words interchangeably, from various folks in my prairie community. I appreciate your telling of the origins of the names for these rooms. I have also heard "parlour" used as the more formal room where guests were received (as in Lucy Maud Montgomery's "Anne" books).

Thank you for this piece of memoir and sociology! I voted you up and awesome, and am sharing. Looking forward to other personal memories in the new year! ~Cynthia


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the interesting comment, Cynthia. I appreciate the votes and the share a great deal, too. I hope you have a happy new year and a great 2015!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 23 months ago from southern USA

Happy New Year, dear Linda! Blessings and peace to you and yours always.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Faith. Blessings and Happy New Year to you, too! I hope 2015 is a great year for you and your family.


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 23 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Thank you for sharing your childhood memories. Your story reminded me of my fathers family in Holland. Times have changed, and the close bond people had who were living in places like your Fleet street seems to me far more happier than today's living conditions were people hardly know their neighbors. Have a great 2015


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Nadine. I agree with you. Based on my experience, neighbourhoods aren't as close as they once were. It's a great shame. I hope 2015 is a wonderful year for you, too.


Lillly Rose1 profile image

Lillly Rose1 23 months ago from Texas

Here in Texas we have lock doors and windows and hope no drive by shootings. There was a time I remember we did not have to lock doors and windows. Family memories are fun and educational to younger family members. What a beautiful white dress. Something you don't see to much of any more tradition. I hope it returns so some of the young people can enjoy it.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

That's a scary story, Lillly Rose1. Modern life has some advantages over the past, but it has also lost some lovely traditions. Like you, I hope that some of these traditions return. Thanks for the visit.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

These are all wonderful and cherished memories for you. Hope that you have passed them on to your younger family members, so that Fleet St. can live on.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 23 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Deb. Yes, they are wonderful memories that I hope can be preserved. Thank you for the visit.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 22 months ago

I do hope you will experience another Boxing day and remember the beautiful memories. It is sad that houses should be demolished for the modern world. I am from a small city too but now it has millions of people and it is hard not to say, "I just want things to stay as they were."

Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day. :-)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, ignugent17. It is sad when environments change. Sometimes the changes are for the best, but this isn't always the case. Thank you for the comment. I hope you have a wonderful day, too!


VioletteRose profile image

VioletteRose 17 months ago from Chicago

It was really nice to read this one. Your memories from the childhood regarding your family and the Fleet street are wonderful. Thanks for sharing!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, VioletteRose.

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