History of Pile Hill/Pylle Hill

A charter of 1373 refers to a place called Pylhillesbrugh; as with Aldebury it was not given a definite location but was in the region of the present junction of the Wells and Bath Roads.  The element ‘brugh’ may be a confusion with ‘burgh’ which has the same meaning as ‘bury’ but more likely it means “bridge”. There are three possible locations where a bridge may once have been needed on the road out of Bristol to Bath.

Firstly and closest to the City, a huge ditch dug in 1248 once ran adjacent to the City wall and this had to be bridged at the Temple Gate.

Secondly, further south, and before the Avon was diverted into the New Cut in 1804, a small creek formed by a stream running into the Avon, ran near to where the Cut now joins the river at Temple Meads.

Thirdly and most southerly of all, located at what is now the Three Lamps junction, the Road would have been cut by a natural gully. The gully was formed by a stream fed by springs rising at what is now the lower end of Cambridge Street, the stream flowing out into the Avon somewhere below May Lane. A similar spring cut gully can still be seen today as a notable landscape feature in Knowle, on the east side of a lane that runs from Imperial Walk into the Callington Road conservation area.

The name Pile, Pyle, Pylle or Pill has a number of possible meanings; in the name of the village of Pill further down the Avon it means a creek or inlet. However the Saxon Charters of Somerset used the word pyl as the name for a stream or brook and as Totterdown  was part of Somerset in Saxon times it may be that it was the springs on the east slopes of Pylle Hill, or the stream that once ran on the line of what is now St Luke’s Road that gave Pylle Hill its name. Pile Street was the name of the road that once ran outside the City wall and connected the Bedminster Gate close to Redcliffe Church, with Temple Gate which was near to what is now the north end of Temple Street. Pile Street formed a continuous highway which converged with the Bath and Wells Road. It seems likely that Pylle Hill and Pile Street once shared a connection in name.

Information from Nick Barnes & Kate Pollard