Gastons Lane [ popularly known as Donkey Lane or Dead Man’s Lane]
(The following is an extract from Bishopston the Early Years, Denis Wright – Bishopston, Horfield,& Ashley Down Local History Society Research Paper 5)
Gastons Lane is one of the few patches [of the 1862 Bishopston boundary] that can still be walked. It was the 453 yards of lane described in the perambulation, running ‘north-eastward’ towards Quab Farm, and now stretches roughly from Kings Drive to Longmead Avenue. It was never a through road (as popularly supposed) but an access lane, or ‘occupation road’, leading from Horfield Common to outlying fields; and it now has a similar function for allotment holders. About half of Gastons Lane survives in something like its early 19th century state. The ditches are now barely noticeable but the lane is otherwise largely intact. It is an unmade track, bounded by hedgerows, following its old line on a fairly level contour, just under the ridge leading to Durdham Down.
The earliest known reference to the lane dates from manorial records of 1673 but by that time it was already a long-established feature of the landscape, the pattern of its adjacent fields having evolved during a period of early enclosures in the late-15th century. The presentment of 1673 was part of a routine inspection by Horfield manor court which was meant to ensure that kept this and other similar public ways clear of obstruction by cutting back hedges, scouring ditches, and ‘shrouding’ way-side trees (ie. removing the lower branches). A presentment of 1757 singled out particular hedgerow plants, ordering tenants to ‘cut away all the thorns growing in the lane’. The hedgerow on the east side is probably about 500 years old. Blackthorn and field maple are dominant and other species include hawthorn, dogwood, and guilder rose. There were once hedgerow elms and the diseased stumps continue to shoot twenty feet or so before dying back.
Gastons Lane is probably older than its hedgerows. At the Horfield tithe survey. The downward slope on the east side was occupied by a cluster of eight fields, amounting to a total of about 30 acres. The fields belonged customarily to several different owners but all eight were called ‘Gaskins’, as though they had once had a common origin. From the lie of the land, it looks as though the land had developed from the headland of a great medieval plough-land field, but this is not supported by the field name. Gaskins/Gastons probably from OE gaers tun (= grass enclosure).
Medieval grass enclosures survived at Broad mead and West Mead in neighbouring Filton until the tithe survey. They were organised into half acre strips marked by ‘meerestones’. Horfield manor owned six copyhold farms in Filton and the Filton meads were occasionally mentioned in manorial records. One boundary marker was the subject of a ‘view’ to be carried out in 1656 by tenants appointed to resolve a dispute
between ye widd Symonds & Wm Morgan whether the meerestone in the West meade lying against Thos Austins grounds bee not removed out of his place
It was customary to open the whole field for grazing after haymaking.