Don't miss Bristol Doors Open Day at Kings Weston next week, 10th September!
Above: Working party efforts last month have revealed this new view from the main drive.
This month we have purchased a great number of flower bulbs for the park. If you can make a contribution to this work we would very much welcome it. Follow THIS LINK to donate safely and securely towards KWAG's work
- Working party update: new areas revealed
- Doors Open Day and art sale
- Showbiz news!
- Big Bulb Plant 2016
- The echo returns
- Research update: More on the Echo
Don't Forget! - No working party this month
But we would welcome your help in supporting our Doors Open Day exhibition and greeting members of the public. Regular KWAG volunteers will be around to help you, manning the Art Sale, and giving tours, but if you can spare an hour or too, we'd really appreciate it. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more.
Working Party update: New areas revealed
Below: Looking from the edge of Penpole Wood towards the meadow and house
With the heat and holidays August is often our quietest working party, but not this year! Huge thanks go to all the volunteers who came out last month and braved the plague of flies to carry on work opening-up one of the woodland compartments at the edge of Penpole Wood.
The area, formerly open meadow, succumbed to advancing woodland shortly after WWII. Our intention has not been to remove the trees from this area entirely, but to select the best, and thin out the dead or unhealthy so they have a better chance to mature.
Our work also uncovered some of the former parkland trees that dotted the area. A majestic lime tree, one of those that lined the historic Great Terrace, was a particularly important focus. This tree still grows on the edge of the last vestiges of the terrace; the steep bank below it being the embankment of the vast feature. The terrace was begun shortly after construction started on the current house, and it was one of the recommendations of the architect, Sir John Vanbrugh.
Above: Looking across the area in the direction of the house before and after work. The historic lime tree is in the centre of each view, on the edge of the embankment..
Thinning of trees adjacent to the main path and lawn in front of the house has allowed new appreciation of these historic features. The opening-up of the trees below gives visitors a much greater appreciation of the lost landscape and improves legibility, but foremost, it has ensured the continuing heath of the woodland here.
Below: An unusual before and after view! August's work has opened up an historic view across the Severn. The pencil drawing, by Samuel Ireland, is dated 1790 (British Museum)
Doors Open Day & Art Sale.
Next Saturday, 10th of September, is the annual Bristol Doors Open Day, and as usual, courtesy of owner, Norman Routledge, Kings Weston will be playing host to visitors. KWAG will be on-hand to support the day with guided tours, our exhibition, and, this year, a sale of artwork in aid of our ongoing projects.
Below: tours around the house during last year's Doors Open Day.
This year we're grateful to local artist Betty Marten for supplying a large selection of original artworks to sell. Paintings will all be sold at affordable prices for most pockets and 50% of the ticket price will go towards KWAG.
The house will be open between 10am and 4:30pm on the Saturday. If you are coming from central or south Bristol please be aware that some roads will be closed for the Tour of Britain. Maybe take a train to Shirehampton and enjoy a walk through the estate and Penpole Wood before you get to the house? The cafe will be open as usual, and why not combine your visit with nearby Kingsweston Roman Villa, also open for the day?
If you have space to display a poster anywhere please download a copy by clicking below and saving.
This month sees an unprecedented new section added to our newsletter! Last week Kings Weston took on a new celebrity life as a film location for one of Britain's longest running and most popular TV series: Dr Who. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, the selection of Kings Weston for filming will give the house and estate a major boost. Largely filmed in Cardiff the series has visited Bristol a number of times in search of locations. Venues featured in the series find themselves on a tour circuit with fans keen to see where the action was filmed, and with Kings Weston now to set to appear in the forthcoming series we hope that the estate will find its own new audience.
Below: Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, signs autographs outside Kings Weston
News of the filming quickly leaked into the local press, and a group of fans gathered outside for the two-day filming. Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor, was generous with his time and spent a good deal of time greeting people between takes. His new co-star, Pearl Mackie, was in full Victorian dress, and a big mechanical orrery played a part in the episode.
Filming happened both outside, and in the Oak Room; the house taking on a new guise as 'Sutcliffe'. At the foot of the main steps an authentic looking gate pier and wooden gate sprang up, and a horse drawn carriage was also on set.
We understand that, although fake snow was used during part of the filming, this was not this year's Christmas special, but we understand from Mr Capaldi that it will be episode three of Series 10, which is scheduled to air in Spring next year.
Big Bulb Plant 2016
October will be KWAG's fourth annual Big Bulb Plant. Begun in 2012 as part of our Heritage Lottery Fund project it's continued as one of our big public events. This year our focus will be in two areas, along the recently cleared avenue into Penpole Woods, and nearby close to the Shirehampton Road car park. Native bluebells, fritillary, and daffodils have been bought already and will be with us ahead of the day on Saturday 15th October.
This is an ideal family event and a great way to get involved if our usual working party efforts are beyond your ability. Please see the poster below and download and print a copy for display if you have somewhere, or pass the message on to anyone who you think might be interested in joining us!
Regular readers will know about the gradual progress clearing the ruins and undergrowth of the former QEH school beside the house. Since Norman Routledge has progressed the works we can now appreciate perhaps one of the most unusual landscape features of the estate: the echo. The Echo, the roofless pavilion at the end of the gardens, took its name from an actual echo which could once be enjoyed by shouting across the gardens towards the house from the same location. A famous attraction of the estate in the Georgian period it was all but lost since the trees between house and pavilion reached maturity.... until recently.
With the obstructions now removed, an on a still day, the echo can be enjoyed once more. Sadly the effect can't be obtained at the full length of the garden, but, standing at the edge of the woodland and calling back towards the house, your voice will repeat back to you about a second later. It's an eerie experience, but well worth a try next time you visit.
The echo returns.
This diagram shows you the best place to stand to try for yourself, but a still windless day is important.
Research update: More on the Echo
Above: The Echo standing at the end of the long axis from the house
With the acoustic feature partially restored it's worth reassessing the parkland building that took its name. The Echo was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, the same architect as Kings Weston house, and was probably erected when the parkland was being embellished in the 1720s. It was fitted into a pre-existing series of formal gardens that led up the hillside from the house. These three walled gardens followed a typical arrangement of parterre garden, 'wilderness' garden, and grove, that became popular in the Seventeenth Century. At Kings Weston these gardens were to have been likely laid-out by Sir Robert Southwell and designed to related to the earlier Tudor mansion. They were retained, partly remodelled, when the old house was demolished and the present one begun in 1712.
The early gardens are shown in several engravings, but the most complete is an estate plan of 1720. This may have been commissioned immediately ahead of the park being embellished, and doesn't yet show the Echo in its current location. Instead, in the location the axial route through the Grove terminates in a canted wall, perhaps with a raised viewing terrace where the view back towards the house could be enjoyed.
Above: Detail of the 1720 Estate plan showing the location of features mentioned in the text
The blank sides and rear of the present Echo building has often perplexed visitors. Why would a garden structure that could, at the time, have been seen from all sides make no effort with ornamentation? The answer has been revealed through recent research. A drawing exists in Bristol Record Office which shows the slope of the landscape from the garden front of the house along the garden axis. Dated 1720 it's is a measured survey produced ahead of proposed alterations to the height of Kingsweston Hill, and, although it doesn't show the Echo, passes through its future location. Measuring carefully the distance from the house the location can be plotted on the historic drawing. What it shows is that at this time there existed a public road passing around the back of the private gardens.
Whilst it's not possible to find traces of the road today - it's long been erased by works designed to obliterate it - it illustrates why there was never any necessity to ornament the rear of the Echo at this time. The public's experience of this side of the gardens was only of a high boundary wall intended to keep the inquisitive at bay. When the Echo was built it too turned its back on the public highway.
Above: Detail of the 1720 section surveyed through the landscape and with the current position of the Echo added
How long the road, and the garden wall, remained is not known; They were swept away before 1772 when the Echo is first shown as a stand-along building. It is likely that the road was moved and landscape altered in the 1730s when records suggest part of the hill here was being taken down. This was a major undertaking designed to improve the view from the house towards the city across Shirehampton Park, and a public road would have been a substantial inconvenience to ambitions.
Below: The early wall fabric preserved in the rear of the Echo
What we are left with in the Echo bears closer inspection. Looking carefully at the stonework there are clear scars in the fabric. Whilst it's known that some of these date from substantial restoration works in the 1990s there remain earlier traces. Across the rear wall of the echo, on the front and rear facades, there is a definite change in colour and texture in the stonework. The lower section is of paler limestone, whilst the upper section matches the sides of the building and are of a pinkish Penpole Stone. This is the fossilised remnant of the original garden wall that were incorporated into the Echo when it was built in about 1724. The alcoves inside the Echo have been inserted within the thicker fabric of this boundary wall, and the arches spring just above the line of the original wall.
Although no other built trace remains of the formal garden structure (even the current axial path is a Victorian) we are fortunate that, if we look closely, we can still discover traces of the landscape's past in even in it most familiar features.
Below: The back wall of the Echo showing the change in stonework from grey below the line, to pink above it.