October has been hectic, both for KWAG's work and behind the scenes. This month's update and working party reminder includes:
- Kings Weston Big Bulb Plant,
- First World War schools event with English Heritage
- Memorial avenue date confirmed
- National recognition, cafe update, and other news
- Second World War discoveries
- New history discoveries from London archives
Working party prevails again!
A glut of unexpected bulbs challenges the team
Firstly please don't forget that our next working party event will be on Saturday 8th November from 10am-3pm starting from the Woodland car park. This month's work will involve completing the clearance of laurels leading up to the Echo that we began in July. The clearance and subsequent bulb planting in the cleared area have been nominated for a Bristol Green Volunteer Award this year so we hope the project gets short-listed and our mammoth efforts recognised.
This year's Big Bulb Plant went off superbly well on the 11th of October, especially considering that there had been a sudden addition of bulbs bringing the target number to plant up to 12,000! We were blessed by good weather again, and with the help of some new volunteers, family's, and plenty of familiar faces we had managed to plant the majority ahead of schedule! Apologies to those who turned up after 3pm to lend a hand and found us already finished, but you did at least avoid the downpour that followed.
Bluebell and snowdrop bulbs now fill the area around the pond and the slopes overlooking Shirehampton Road are now host to native daffodil and crocus, so we are hoping for a good show next spring ahead of the planting maturing over the next few years.
2000 bulbs have been kept back and will be planted out with the help of students from Kingsweston School who are keen to help out in the parkland.
A few photos appear here, but please drop in on our on-line gallery to see a full set HERE.
First World War commemoration with English Heritage
October has been filled with schools events
There have been a series of schools events running at Kings Weston this October. We are hugely grateful for the efforts of KWAG members Penny and Colin Morse for having set up and run these. Earlier this month Woodstock School and Victoria Park School enjoyed building shelters and map making over two days in the park, and on the 21st of this month we ran an event at Kings Weston House in conjunction with English Heritage's Heritage Schools programme.
English Heritage developed a day for Bristol Schools based at M Shed on Bristol's harbourside, and with coach tours of significant WWI locations within the city. At Kings Weston House, which had been an Auxiliary Hospital for troops during the period, school parties were treated to a performance courtesy of the drama students of Backwell School, and exhibition of the First World War at the house and surrounding landscape, and costumed volunteers.
The house proved an excellent venue to inspire children, and the thought-provoking performances raised many questions. We saw almost 200 children throughout the day. and we hope all involved found it an educational and worthwhile event. Our thanks go out to Norman Routledge for letting us have free reign of the house again, and to Christopher James and his pupils for the excellent performances.
If you would like to view the exhibition panels KWAG produced for the event you can view them online here
All photos here are courtesy of Bob Pitchford
Avenue restoration date confirmed
December will bring our biggest achievement yet
Many of you will have been following our plans to restore part of the lost lime avenue that once framed the main front of Kings Weston House when viewed across the park. We have published the proposals several times in these newsletters, and at last we can confirm we have a date for their replanting.
December brings National Tree Week and we are proud that, at Kings Weston, this will form the backdrop to the planting of the trees that will be the memorial to Tim Denning, KWAG's co-founder who died suddenly in 2012. The planting will take place on the 2nd of December and be led by Bristol City Council Tree Planting Team assisted by local schools and other volunteers. When we have more details of how we will be involved in the planting out we will pass details on, but this is by far KWAG's biggest contribution to the conservation and enhancement of the park so far.
We are hugely grateful to everyone who has donated to this project so far, and we are still taking donations if you would like to make any contribution to this restoration. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can donate.
National recognition, cafe update, and other news
A round-up of other news
NATIONAL RECOGNITION: This month we were delighted to receive a commendation from English Heritage's Heritage Angel Awards. The national awards scheme is run by EH with the support of Andrew Lloyd Webber. We knew our project was still in its early days so we weren't expecting to be recognised for our efforts, but to have received a commendation from the organisers is much more than we could ever have hoped for. We are very grateful for the nomination, and hope that in years to come, as the project develops and we can involve more people, that we may be in a position to get short-listed for our efforts in the park.
CAFE: We've had plenty of questions recently about the cafe in the vaults at Kings Weston House and we're keen to reassure everyone that it's not gone for good! Contrary to the signs on the cafe windows the current closure is just temporary and Norman and his team at Kings Weston House will be reopening the well-used facility as soon as possible. The current plan is that it will be back in use, larger, and with a refreshed menu in early November. The 7th Nov is the date aspired to, but we will pass on details as we get them. In the meantime there is an outside coffee van that provides refreshments for most of the same opening times as the old cafe. Rest assured the cafe will be back and better!
PONDS: Following our clearance of the pond we have been surprised quite how quickly it has revived. When we empted the mud and debris in August we noted that it was completely dead and without the slightest sign of life. Within the last two months, and with the addition of a few native water plants, the change has been dramatic. Already of great interest to dragonflies and frogs that have been spotted in abundance around it the water is now home to huge colonies of water fleas and other lave. If we could ask dog walkers to try and keep their dogs out of the pond whilst it re-established we would be very grateful.
GRANT APPLICATIONS: We are hoping to apply for grants from the Green Capital Strategic Grants funds for use next year. We have to ambitious plans in hand; the restoration of part of the old walled gardens on Napier Miles Road as community food growing, and the instillation of accessible footpaths around the main circuit. If our applications are successful we will pass on the good news, but if not we plan to develop these by other means.
PATH REINSTATEMENT: Finally, we have been working closely with Councillor Wayne Harvey, the cricket and football clubs and local residents to reopen a footpath linking Penpole Lane at Wood Lodge with Penpole Woods. The official path has been overgrown for about 20 years, and the route through the playing fields was abused, leading to the gate being closed 4 years ago. Plans are afoot to establish a new public right of way linking back to the path from Shirehampton, and restoring accessibility to the historic estate again.
Second World War discoveries
A chance find brings a tangible link to a forgotten history
During one of the KWAG education events a fascinating discovery was made that added some interesting colour to the history of Kings Weston during the Second World War. Many local people will either recall, or know of the barrack camps that were set up within the historic landscape during the Second World War. These were principally for the reception of troops from Canada and the USA, who landed at Avonmouth and were housed close by before being deployed elsewhere in the country, or sent to the south coast before embarking for the Continent. A reminder of these dark times still exists in the many concrete hut bases that litter either side of many of the main paths. It is a miracle that more damage was not done by these encampments!
Colin Morse of KWAG has now uncovered a more tangible link to the soldiers who passed through the Shirehampton camps. By chance he uncovered a small pile of broken rubbish close to the Echo, and just below some of the concrete bases. On further inspection the rubbish, shards of broken crockery and bits of tin, proved to be marked with "NAAFI". The NAAFI, standing for Navy, Army and Air Force Institute, is an organisation that still exists today and was formed to bring refreshments, entertainment and a few home comforts to troops. At least once contemporary cup and a saucer have been identified, each with date marks for the war period, and part of an enamelled tin plate must also have been part of the same discarded army material.
KWAG are hanging on to the items and will be exhibiting them in the future along with other bits and pieces that we are slowly building into an archive of the estate's history.
New history discoveries in London archives
A research trip to the British Library fills in a few gaps.
Last year KWAG returned form a successful few days at the British Library with some incredibly important new information about Kings Weston, its house and park. This year we went back with a new list of material to review and although not as ground-breaking we did make some interesting new discoveries that have filled in a few gaps in our knowledge.
The main target for this year's trip was a series of letter books of John Perceval, later 1st Lord Egmount. He was the nephew of Sir Robert Southwell, who became his guardian after his father's death, and cousin to Edward Southwell who rebuilt Kings Weston House. The letter books are filled with private correspondence, starting with John Perceval's grateful thanks to his uncle for his schooling at Westminster and the endless supply of books, ink, paper and other supplies he endlessly heaped upon his nephew. Sir Robert's love and concern for his nephew is clear from his letters, and after Sir Robert's death in 1703 they continue with Edward Southwell his son, and later Edward 'Ned' Southwell II.
Amongst the letter there is a fascinating insight into the reconstruction of Kings Weston House in 1712. It appears that the whole of the old Tudor mansion was demolished with no idea for what to replace it with! Several of the letters, both from Edward and his sister Helena express anxiety that they had not fixed on a new 'modell' for the house less than a month before we know it began on site. Helena wrote in December 1711 "we expect my brother in town at the end of the week after filling his belly with the ruins of Kingsweston for I can call it no otherwise". Edward follows with his own letter in March 1712 noting "Kings Weston house is almost down, but I don't know what to build in the room", and finally, just a month before the construction work begins on the 16th June he expresses his "great anxiety and trouble as to mine which arises from the uncertainty of setting out right, and to this our modell, I cannot say, is fixed; tho it may be and will be by next week". They were certainly leaving things to the last minute!
We have learnt about the demise of Edward Southwell's wife, Elizabeth Cromwell. Whilst it had been assumed she died in childbirth in 1709 these letters now indicate she had been suffering consumption, tuberculosis, for many months before. She did give birth to a stillborn child, but it was the exertion of the birth that was her eventual undoing and she died a week following. Similar gruesome detail of Edward Southwell's own demise is detailed; it appears that he suffered a carriage accident in January 1730 and might have survived had it not been for the practice of surgically opening-up bruises in the mistaken notion that it helped them heal. Edward's open wounds festered through to November when his last letter is full of hope, but it seems that he succumbed to the dubious medical practices in December the same year.
We have also discovered Edward's own opinion of his works at Kings Weston. He continued work on the landscape around the house until around 1725 when he wrote that he hoped to "soon to put an end to them for a while; what I have done pleases me, and so far tis well; and that things and plain, strong, and durable beauties"
The final discovery we made in London bookends the history of these earlier Southwell's nicely. We found the only known portrait of the last of the direct line and the last of the family to live at Kings Weston. Edward Southwell IV, 21st Baron de Clifford, (pictured right) was the longest owner of Kings Weston, clocking up 53 years as master between 1777-1832. The portrait, made in 1820, is just one small detail in a painting of the Trial of Queen Caroline by Sir George Hayter in the National Portrait Gallery; nevertheless it adds a considerable figure to our gallery of the past owners of the estate.