View from Yate Heritage Centre

March 29 2015

In the course of local history research, it is almost inevitable you become enthusiastic about the local area you are representing, especially when certain features of that history are very special.

View from Yate Heritage Centre

In the course of local history research, it is almost inevitable you become enthusiastic about the local area you are representing, especially when certain features of that history are very special.
One of the most significant events of the last hundred years locally was the decision of the Royal Flying Corps to establish an Aircraft Repair Depot on the north side of Station Road in 1916. Apart from the 1920s, this site has been in constant use ever since. With the centenary of this site looming, it made perfect sense for us to produce a booklet of the site.
Planes, Turrets and Tumble Dryers, written by Alison Newey, is not merely the history of a set of industrial buildings, it is the history of modern industry both in Yate and the Bristol region.  
Today, the factory site, now owned by Indesit, is much diminished from its earlier incarnation, set back from the north side of Station Road and only partially visible from the railway line. Originally, between 1917 and 1932, the site comprised an airfield sandwiched between two vast factory complexes accounting for much of the land between St Mary’s Church and the railway station.
The factory site, through Parnall Aircraft Ltd 1935-45 and Parnall (Yate) 1945-67 continued as a successful operation for many decades. Originally, aircraft and gun turrets were the key products, while the factory concentrated on domestic appliances of all kinds culminating in tumble dryer production in the modern era.
Yet, the site tells the story of modern Yate and the wider area. Obviously, the different companies provided a livelihood, but also a social life for the workforce. Businesses along Station Road and beyond benefitted from both Parnall’s and Newman’s too. The fluctuating fortunes of later companies such as Jackson’s 1967-82 reflected national, regional and local industrial decline, which in turn reflected the area.
As the site contracted following industrial decline, residential Yate grew around it. The closure of the airfield after 1945 was followed by the Cranleigh Court Road estate, while the extensive demolition of 1982 was followed by new roads including Parnall Crescent and Whitley Close.
Planes, Turrets and Tumble Dryers will be available from local outlets from April or May.
St George Celebrations 2015
On the 25th of April we will be hosting our 11th St George Celebrations. It has become one of our flagship annual events here. Quintessentially English entertainment such as folk singing, Morris Dancing, brass bands, storytelling and Punch and Judy will once again be available on the day.
Yet, we do still get asked why we do it. From a purely historical perspective of course, celebrating St George in some form has been prevalent for centuries. The Council of Oxford in 1222, declared 23rd of April to be St George’s Day, while the day itself became a national feast day 200 years later. The role of the St George mumming play also formed part of late Medieval celebrations of our national saint.
Since the early 18th century the role of the day steadily diminished. In the 2nd half of the 20th century links to St George and England have been quite toxic and regarded as too nationalistic. However, in Yate, nothing could be further from the truth and the event here at least, has been well worth resuscitating. It is striking how it has been well supported by all members of the community including recent newcomers from overseas. The major performers are far from chauvinistic. The success of the St George event demonstrates people are now seeing beyond old stereotypes of the event and once again, St George and history appears to be bringing us closer together.