Tour of the Parish
The parish of Olveston consists of three villages (Olveston, Old Down and Tockington) and three hamlets (Ingst, Awkley and Lower Hazel).
This picture shows The Street, the main road through the village of Olveston, with the tower of St. Mary the Virgin in the background. On the right of the picture is part of Cromwell House, one of the oldest houses in the village. Bottom left, and out of picture, the road leads via The Green to the 17th century Quaker Meeting House and, beyond that, past the village duck pond, to St Catherine's Hill. On the left can be seen the village's general store. Along The Street is the village baker.
Further on is the main crossroads of The Street, Church Hill and Vicarage Lane, as seen here from Church Hill. Facing us is the old Post Office (now closed); on our right is The White Hart and, on our left, out of picture, St Mary the Virgin church. The old coach road to Aust Ferry goes off to the left. When tidal or weather conditions were against them, ferry passengers would stay at the White Hart.
Here is a view of St Mary's, with the war memorial, as seen from the former Post Office.The church itself dates back to 1170, and is thought to be on, or very close to, the site of a much earlier Saxon church - recorded in 620. Rebuilding of the simple Norman cruciform structure began in 1370, resulting in considerable enlargement on the north and south sides (we are looking from the north east), leaving only the tower with its supporting arches of the original Norman building. The two-storey porch with the 'parvis' room above the south door, which had external stairs on the east side, is typical of the 14th century.
Thomas Haines, the schoolmaster at the time, wrote an account of a violent thunderstorm on the 28th November 1604, during which the needle spire was destroyed by fire and the five bells of the tower were lost. Visible above the clock is a tablet recording the rebuilding of the tower in 1606. The spire was replaced by an embattled parapet with pinnacles. A ring of five bells was cast at Chepstow in 1732 and a sixth was cast in London in 1811. The six bells were recast in Loughborough in 1907 to give the present ring of eight.
The original Norman font was replaced by a copy in 1871. The present font, which is Norman, came from a disused church. There is an elegant three tier chandelier of the 18th century, a gift from Bristol Cathedral.
One of your first views of the Parish of Olveston, after driving down Fern Hill from the A38, will be The Swan, the seventeenth century inn on the right of this picture. With the White Hart at Olveston and The Fox at Old Down, it is one of three inns which still survive in the parish.
Tockington is the most easterly of the villages in the parish. It is located at a triangular junction with The Green at its centre. The Green is shown in the sketch below. A Fayre has been held there each autumn for more years than anyone can remember.
The spelling of Tockington has varied over the years. The Domesday Book records it as Tockintone, and later the name passed through Tokinton to Toketon and then Tockington.
The road directly ahead leads on to Olveston and, beyond, to Aust. Behind the houses on the right is the site of the original manor house, now long gone, which was home to the Lords of The Manor of Tockington.
At the centre of The Green, and shown in the centre of the sketch, is the site of an old cross where outside worship took place.
In the sketch below, we are looking back towards the Swan (on the left) from The Green, with the Methodist Chapel on the right. The edge of the green is in the foreground.
Tockington is also home to Tockington Manor School (shown below). The school opened in 1947 as a school for boys. Then it had 23 boys and a staff of 5, but it now caters for both boys and girls from two to fourteen years years and currently has 250 pupils.
Old Down Village
Old Down sits on the high ground to the north of the parish on the road to Alveston and Thornbury. The edge of this heavily wooded hill is dotted with old lime kilns, the lime having been extracted from the several quarries which were worked in the last century.
Old Down has its own pub, The Fox (shown on the right in the foreground), as well as hosting several of the parish's sporting facilities - a cricket ground, football pitch and bowling green.
Olveston Scout Troop has its new hut at the top of Old Down Hill, tucked neatly into a wooded glade between the bowling green and the football pitch and adjacent to a play area.
The small village of Ingst lies at the western edge of the parish.
While most parish names are from the Anglo-Saxon, Ingst is thought to derive from the Welsh ynys, or island.
This is a reminder that in Saxon times hereabouts was marshland and Ingst may well have been an island.
We are indebted to the late Neil Cairncross for all the sketches shown here and elsewhere on the OPHS pages.