Bitton Parish Council was formed in 1894. The Parish of Bitton comprises the communities of Bitton, Oldland Common, North Common, Upton Cheyney, Beach, Swineford and part of Willsbridge. The principal authority is South Gloucestershire Council. Located around the A431/A4175 the parish lies 7 miles from Bristol and 6 miles from Bath. It includes part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and gives immediate access onto the Cotswold Way.
The River Boyd runs through the centre of the village. The beautiful parish church of St Mary’s, Bitton is a prominent local landmark, with an exceptionally long aisle and timbered roof. The wood came from a shipwreck in the Bristol Channel during the incumbency of Cannon Ellacombe, an assistant to Isambard Kingdom Brunel in his earlier employment. The church contains two stone coffins, reputed to be among the best in the country. They were found nearby during the 19th century and are thought to belong to either Walter or Sir John de Bitton and his lady. (circa 1277). On the A4175 going towards Oldland Common is the old turnpike (toll) house. To the east, is Cully Hall Farm where Queen Elizabeth I once slept. Its outstanding feature is the main door through which a man can ride on horseback without dismounting.
The village is at the half way point between Bristol and Bath, 6 miles each way.
The Dower House and in the background The Grange, Bitton. The Grange was the home of the Seymour family, one member of which was Jane, a wife of King Henry VIII. The Grange lies next to St Mary’s Church (12c).
A431 at Bitton Looking south east toward Kelston and Bath.
Bitton From King’s Field, the South Gloucestershire village of Bitton, showing the 12c St Mary’s Church. Bitton Hill is to the left.
Oldland Common is made up of a triangle of roads – High Street, North Street and West Street – with smaller roads running off these. It has been a centre of industry, including coal mining, market gardening, hat making, pin making and boot manufacture. There is a good mix of new and old housing. Among the older ones can be found ‘bartons’ – lanes leading to a group of houses in a square. The Flemish who came to the area introduced this style of housing.
The North Common was known by the people of Oldland as top of the common. Here were Hole Lane and Bullhole Collieries. Serving all the local mines was the Dramway, a railway running from Coalpit Heath to the River Avon near Keynsham. Coal was transported along the Dramway to barges on the River Avon which went to Bristol and Bath.
Nowadays North Common consists largely of modern housing and boasts an excellent village hall, offering a wide variety of leisure activities.
Upton Cheyney & Beach
North-east of Bitton is the beautiful village of Upton Cheyney, with The Upton Inn which has been a pub since the 16th century, a Victorian schoolroom and Jacob’s (or Joseph’s) Well. On nearby slopes can still be seen the terraces on which occupying Romans cultivated vines. Behind lies Hanging Hill, with its connections to the English Civil War and down which runs Bloodshed Alley, a bridle path to Lansdown. Just below Hanging Hill is a solitary stone landmark known as Grandmother’s Rock.
Pass from Upton Cheyney along grassy lanes with high hedges and Cotswold stone walls to the beautiful hamlet of Beach. It is thought that Beach got its name from the ancient beech tree that grew in the middle of the hamlet. The hamlet was formed around springs and there have been finds of Roman remains locally. Also the Battle of Lansdown (1643) was fought in the fields surrounding the hamlet.
In the east of the parish lies Swineford, named after the ford across the River Avon. Here was a wharf where horse-drawn barges carried coal and wood pulp for the Golden Valley paper mills. The picnic site has been formed alongside Pipley Brook coming down from the hills.
The A4175 splits the community of Willsbridge between the parishes of Bitton and Oldland. The preserved former Midland Railway station at Bitton offers steam and diesel train rides through the scenic River Avon valley. On the Keynsham Road lies the 15th century Clack Mill, now converted to a cottage. The Portavon Marina marks the most southerly point in the parish.