December 2023: Local History with CHAP

Some very practical schoolwork

HOW would secondary school students today like the chance to get out of their lessons and do something else more physical instead? 

That’s what happened back in 1956/57, when pupils at what is Downend School today (then we think it was Stockwell Hill Secondary Modern) were told to put down their pens and go outside to build a swimming pool.

In October’s issue of the Voice we shared a photograph of the pool when it had just been completed. 

Reader Elizabeth Briddon has kindly shared another fantastic picture, which shows the pool being built. 

Her father is the second boy from the back. Unfortunately he never got to swim in the pool, as he transferred to Rodway School when that opened.

Local voluntary history group CHAP aims to collect knowledge and memories about our area and share them more widely, creating a coherent identity built around interesting or significant places, people and events from the past. 

We are very grateful to readers responding to articles like this, and for sharing their fascinating recollections at events.  

People have recounted some fascinating stories, including the time The Saint and James Bond actor Roger Moore dropped into Downend via helicopter, and when youngsters during World War Two tried to emulate the Coke-drinking American airmen in the area. 

As it was impossible to buy the bottled drink here during the war – Britons were on strictly rationed food allowances, with no luxuries – they improvised by gathering coke dust from coal heaps, mixed it with water and drank that.  Unsurprisingly, it tasted awful!

CHAP are also very grateful for Emersons Green Town Council’s kind support through their local nature calendar scheme. 

If you have a photograph or a memory you would like to share, please contact CHAP by email at or by letter to CHAP, 49 Overnhill Road, Downend, Bristol, BS16 5DS.

You can find out more at our website at, where you can download a copy of our historical map of Downend and Emersons Green.

Helen Rana