KWAG's November Newsletter
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It's been a month of ups and some considerable downs for Kings Weston. Some of our most important historic buildings are now at risk. 


Autumn on the Echo Walk

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This month:

  • Our historic Grade II Listed bridge badly damaged
  • A Successful Big Bulb Plant
  • Historic England focus concern on Kings Weston
  • Council and KWAG working closer
  • History update: New on-line resources  

A Final Push! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  November's working party will take place next week, on Sat 14th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. We're planning to finish our Lifting the Curtain project this month by completing light clearance along the South Walk between the Circle and the Echo.

Our ongoing work  will involve the removal of self-seeded saplings and light undergrowth, but there will be tasks to suit all abilities. Please come along with suitable clothing for the weather on the day, bring hand-tools if you have some suitable,  and we hope to see you there.


Our historic Grade II Listed bridge badly damaged
The Iron Bridge has been struck by a lorry

On Thursday we received the bad news that a lorry had hit and badly damaged the Iron Bridge over Kings Weston Road, close to the old inn. We're grateful to Bob Pitchford for having taken these photos showing the damage, and although it's less serious than it could have been, it's now in a serious condition. 

As a Grade II Listed structure the bridge is protected from removal. It was built by the engineer John Loudon McAdam (from whom tarmac derives its name) and installed as part of his road improvements for the Bristol Turnpike Trust. The cutting where the road now runs was dug through the hill to avoid the steep gradient, and the bridge installed to ensure that visitors were still able to cross from the historic inn into the landscaped parkland. McAdam wrote of it that he was "Lowering Hill and building walls at Kingsweston Hill" in 1821, and the bridge dates to these works - making it a venerable 194 years old.

Damage appears to be limited to the north side where two arched spandrel sections of cast iron support, but an inspection of the bridge was being made on Friday to ascertain the extent of the damage. Cast iron is not an easy material to repair and new sections are likely to require casting. Bristol City Council quickly committed to repair the structure in a press release stating : “We will do everything we can to restore this historical bridge and to reopen the road as soon as possible.

In the meantime the bridge is closed to pedestrians, and there is limited access on the road below (we understand that it is presently closed). The Council are exploring alternative arrangements for walkers, and hopefully we'll be able to report more on the situation soon.

A full copy of the Council statement
can be read here.


A successful bulb plant
Bulb plant attracts family involvement

Last month's working party was replaced with our Annual Big Bulb Plant. Our thanks go to our volunteers Jim and Celia Ellis who organised the event and, of course, to everyone who came out to lend their support.

The bulb plant always attracts a supporters who wouldn't always be able to attend a working party event, and it was lovely to have several families come along to help plant over 5000 native bulbs. Numbers of volunteers were fewer than last year, but even so we managed to get  all of the bulbs in by mid afternoon.

Hopefully, next year, we'll have a great display of bluebells close to the concrete steps on the South Walk, and  daffodils will appear along Shirehampton Road and on the slopes above.
 Photo by Bob Pitchford

Historic England focus concern on Kings Weston
Serious developments with some of the park's most historic buildings

In October Historic England (formerly English Heritage) published their national register of 'at risk' heritage sites and buildings. The register highlights the plight of neglected and decaying buildings across England, and this year has seen the addition of the Grade II* Listed walled garden complex, pond, and pavilions on Napier Miles Road.

Above: the garden pavilions from Napier Miles Road

This complex was built between 1762 and 1764 to designs by the architect Robert Mylne, and, in partnership with the former stables on the other side of the road, represent an important survival of the Kings Weston estate buildings. All the structures now included on the At Risk Register are owned by Bristol City Council and are used by Kingsweston School. The pavilions have been disused for over twenty years and their decline has been of concern. The recent loss of water from the pond has also been an extreme worry.

Bristol City Council have recently undertaken a survey of the pond lining and walls, but it's unclear what the problem is without further work. Although the pond level has stablised at a low level the school are particularly concerned about the condition, as it's a regularly used educational resource. We've offered to help petition the council and provide whatever other support we can. With winter on its way and the pond walls exposed there is a real risk that frost will damage the historic structures further. 

The school are looking to remove an ash tree (see the top photo) that's threatening the stability of both the pond and one of the lodges and this is an essential step in stemming the decline. Although an attractive tree KWAG are keen to support the school in their application for felling to secure the survival of the irreplaceable buildings.

On a more positive note, following our application, the Georgian viewing terrace and wall overlooking Shirehampton Park behind the Echo has been recommended to the Secretary of State as a Grade II Listed building. The next step will to be to have its condition assessed for inclusion in next year's At Risk register. This will offer increased protection for the structure, and give us a greater chance of securing grant funding for its restoration.

Above: The Georgian Viewing Terrace wall - shortly to be a Grade II Listed building

Historic England continue to monitor the condition of the Kings Weston registered historic parkland. Whilst recognising the work KWAG have done in restoring areas there remains a concern that the parkland is declining. There is the real potential that we may find the whole of the Kings Weston landscape reviewed for future inclusion in the At Risk Register - an issue we hope the Council will be able to address urgently.

If you live within Bristol we urge you to write to your local councillors and MP asking for issues with the historic estate to be addressed. We'd urge you to focus particularly particularly on the  addition of the pond, pavilions, and walled garden to the At Risk Register to ensure that it is prioritised and saved for Bristol and the nation.

Council and KWAG working closer
Support for KWAG's past work, and our commitment to new projects

During the last half of 2014 KWAG volunteers cleared the overgrown laurels close to the Echo. We are delighted to report that the Council have now returned to this area, re-cut the stumps, and applied poison to prevent the regrowth that had quickly begun to threaten the progress we'd made. We are hugely grateful to Ben Skuse and his team in Bristol Parks North for having undertaken this work. We'll also be working with his team on another major project, supporting the 5-year Forestry Commission grant for woodland improvement.

Over the next few months working parties we will be begin work on the area east of The Circle, firstly felling self-seeded saplings, and then returning to laurel clearance that's choked the adjacent area. The 'natural-spacing' will involve the cutting of trees to allow stronger specimens to thrive, including 'haloing' the historic lime trees of the avenue leading towards Penpole Point. The Council will follow-up our work by tackling any trees or laurels too large for us to manage, and treating stumps to ensure no regrowth.

We will need everyone to lend a hand if they can as we need to complete this project by March. If you know anyone who is willing and able to offer their time and labour we'd very much appreciate any extra hands.

Above right: The area re-cleared below the Echo
Left: Treated Laurel stumps


History Updates - New on-line resources
Make a start with your own research projects with new sources

With so much happening on the estate this month we don't have any major new discoveries to share, so why not try your hand at your own research from the comfort of your home? Recently Historic England Archives made large amounts of their image archives available on-line with their England's Places pages.                  

Formerly the National Monuments Record the Archive is based in Swindon and holds national records of thousands of historic buildings. It began largely as a record of heritage under threat during the Second World War and it was hoped it would provide an essential resource in the rebuilding of bombed cities. The archive developed as an important photographic record until it was closed to new entries in 1991.

Above: The stables in 1958

The archive holds a good number of photographs and illustrations of the Kings Weston estate which are a fascinating insight into how the buildings have changed. Many of the images come from a survey of the estate buildings by English Heritage in 1970 and the extent of decay is striking. The Echo, Loggia, Penpole Lodge, Brewhouse, Stables, and, of course, Kings Weston house are all documented. The collection for Kings Weston can be accessed here or the main page here:

Also take time to browse through new entries on Bristol City Council's own, award winning, Know Your Place website. Since it was launched as part of the city's Historic Environment Record a few years ago the site has flourished and new layers have continued to be added including rare and previously unseen archive material. 

The Kings Weston and Avonmouth areas have recently benefited from hundreds of new photographic images from the Vaughan postcard collection held in the Bristol Record Office. These are all included on their own layer on the website. Amongst the historic postcard views, and appropriate to Remembrance Day, are some insights into the house in use as First World War hospital and the war memorial set up in the park at the top of Park Hill.

Know Your Place is a collaborative site and if you have your own historic photos, or interesting local heritage you think needs to be added you can make your own contribution using the Community Layer and clicking on the 'contribute' tab. All entries help to build a more complete record of Bristol's historic environment, share your knowledge, and help the local authority protect it on your behalf.

Top: "Mrs Withers Old Kings Weston Inn. Accommodation for Tea Parties"
Below: The golf Clubhouse in Shirehampton Park


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