We're asking for your input this month. Give us your thoughts on new proposals, offer to lend a hand, or come along to our working party.
Above: C18th view of Kings Weston House from the park (now part of Lawrence Weston)
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- Working party progress at the great oak
- Feedback required for developing plans
- Events coming soon
- News in brief
- Research update: An intriguing Italian perspective
Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder
Reminder: August's working party will take place next week, on Sat 13th. Meet as last month at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. Following the success of natural spacing around the great oak last month we will continue this work. We will be working HERE.
Our ongoing work will involve the removal of self-seeded saplings, ivy, creepers and undergrowth, but there will be tasks to suit most 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.Please keep an eye on our Facebook Page in case of any change of location, or call 07811 666671 on the day to find us.
Working Party progress at the great oak
July saw our working party return to the Forestry Commission sanctioned work involving natural spacing within Penpole Wood. Our targets for this work are sometimes difficult to establish in advance, it being difficult to literally see the wood for the trees, but we quickly identified the oldest tree on the estate as a satisfactory goal to clear around.
As always our intention is to thin out self-seeded saplings and unhealthy trees and let the better specimens thrive. The 400-year old oak was overcrowded with many errant stems that, had they been permitted to grow, would have threatened its future survival. Our before and after photos show the impact of this clearance and how the trunk of the oak has become visible again from under the veil of other growth and deadwood.
From here work has progressed downhill and this month will see a return to the area to push through and connect with the meadow below Kings Weston house. The new openness will promote the health of the woodland and improve legibility of the paths and views of the house from close by.
Over the last twelve months plans have been in development for the gardens and car park immediately around Kings Weston house. Proposals are now sufficiently developed to go out for public comment ahead of planning applications being lodged for the works. If you are a regular reader of our newsletters you will be aware of the on-going felling of trees and the removal of the ruins of QEH school. These works have been informed by the gradually developing plans that Norman Routledge at Kings Weston house and his architect and landscape designer have been working on. Through our regular steering group meetings with Kings Weston house and Bristol City Council, and with input from Avon Gardens Trust, the proposals have evolved and are presented here for your feedback and comments.
Feedback required on developing plans
In summary there are two drawings here for consideration; The coloured drawing shows the masterplan for the area and has been drawn-up by Quentin Alder architects, and the second plan is a detailed proposal for the first phase of works including planting and detailed layout drawn up by Al Smart landscapes.
One of the key premises of the proposals is to maintain public enjoyment of the area around the house and we have wholeheartedly supported that aspiration by Norman. The other consideration needs to be ensuring the continued viable use of the house and grounds to secure the long-term future of the historic property. Proposals include for enhanced car parking in the current area with a small extension into the land formerly lost to the ruins.
A new single-lane exit track is proposed to pass from the existing car park onto Kings Weston Lane to provide a safer vehicle exit from the grounds than is currently possible at the blind junction opposite Napier Miles Road. This would travel through the woodland area, towards the Echo, but be distinct from the main axial path, or the historic pleasure walk that passes close to the park wall. An existing opening in the wall would be re-used without further damage to the boundary. Proposals for the coffee shop terrace balustrade, the Great Court area, and improving the drainage and hard surfaces close to the house are also part of the wider scheme.
The detailed proposals relate to the first phase of works which relate mainly to the proposed landscaping and planting scheme. This currently does not include the expansion of the car park into the woodland area, or the new exit route. Many trees will be retained, and these will be complemented with more ornamental species. The car park will be linked to the main lawn by new paths crossing the current trench through the site and pleached lime trees and lower planting will create a buffer, concealing the car park from the gardens.
It is intended that a design competition be launched that will invite ideas for how the Great Court at the main front of the house could be recreated in some fashion. This idea is being developed with the support of Bristol City Council and Norman Routledge and we will keep you abreast of how this develops.
We would very much like to hear your thoughts on the proposals. If you could get in touch with us by email or other means we'd like to collate them into a coordinated response from KWAG. If you are keen for your comments to be included we would be extremely grateful if you could get them to us by Monday 12th September. The proposed drawings can be seen here, or downloaded as two PDF documents here, and here.
Events coming soon
A couple of weeks ago the first batch of Bristol Doors Open Day brochures arrived at Kings Weston House. If you look closely you can see that it even made the front cover (the green outline)! As in previous years KWAG will be helping out with our exhibition and tours on the day and we need volunteers to help us man the event on Saturday 10th September. You would be given some basic training on the day and your duties would be to meet and greet and help people get the most out of their visit to the house and grounds. If you are interested in lending a hand please get in touch with us with times during the day that you'd be happy to help.
KWAG are also hoping to repeat our fundraising efforts by selling affordable artworks at the event. More information on this will be available soon, but if you are looking to fill a hole in your home décor this is an event to mark in the diary.
In October we will be replacing our regular working party with our Big Bulb Plant. Now in its fourth year our bulb planting programme supports native planting on the estate as well as new enhancements. It is an idea opportunity to get involved on the estate with some less arduous work! The plant will take place on Saturday 15th and we invite you, your family and friends to come along and plant thousands of bulbs.
News in brief
- Work has continued by Norman Routledge at the house to demolish the ruins of QEH school, developed on the main lawn from 1938 until the outbreak of WWII. In keeping with the Conservation Management Plan for the whole estate these were carefully recorded prior to removal and a full report will be lodged with the City Council to be archived. We will also be hosting a digital copy on our website when it is available. Although the majority of material was not worth salvaging Norman has carefully removed the cut bath stone pilasters from two parts of the ruins so that they might be reused some time in the future.
- KWAG has agreed with Bristol Parks department the location of a new litter and dog poo bin. The intended location will be close to the woodland car park near the house, but in a discrete spot, and it will be unaffected by the future grounds proposals. The bin will be funded by the Clean and Green grant we received from the Neighbourhood Partnership last year. This will bring the number of dog poo bins back up to four and we hope that this will help improve the on-going dog waste problem on the main paths.
- KWAG has returned to the slopes overlooking Shirehampton Park over the last couple of weekends to keep on top of some of our past achievements. The undergrowth in the copses had begun to get out of hand again and we were keen to ensure that the open views across the parkland were retained as a key feature. The work will also ensure that the thousands of daffodils in this area will be able to continue putting on their annual show unobstructed next spring.
- Work has re-started on the landscaping of the earth banks around Shirehampton Road car park. Parks hope to complete the application of topsoil and seed the banks by September this year. The current proposal for the former tennis court area is that it will be partially broken up before the new soil and grass surface is sown.
- Penpole Wood will be the recipient of improved path surfacing following the funds from a 2014 city budget allocation for improved access. The money needs to be spent by September this year and, following a risk assessment, a few of the key routes through the woods will be improved. If funding allows the short track between the Echo and the viewing terrace will also be surfaced.
Research update: An intriguing Italian perspective
A new description of Kings Weston has come to light with some fascinating new detail about the estate dating from the height of its fame. The description comes from an Italian author, Luigi Angiolini, who was drawn to Kings Weston in 1788 by its international reputation. Two features in particular stand out in a translation of his 1790 book "Letters from England, Scotland and the Netherlands", and are unique insights.
Below: The statue in the Echo, 1927 (Country Life)
Describing his visit to the grounds Angiolini describes the long-lost statue in the Echo as being a “good ancient Roman” figure. This is the earliest mention of the statue we’ve so far found and adds considerable weight to our belief that it was a classical era state collected on the continent by one of the Southwell family and transported to the estate. Our identification of the pose as conforming to a standard classical portrait model, retrospectively categorised as “small Herculaneum Woman”, always implied that it was not a bespoke commission for the Echo. Had it been we might expect it to have represented a more recognisable deity.
We might hope that Angiolini’s assessment of the statue is based on a knowledge of ancient examples which, as he notes, survived in far greater numbers in his homeland; his countrymen lacking the same reverence or value that Gentlemen travelers from Britain attributed to them.
Sadly it’s likely that the only confirmation of the statue’s origins might come if it can be located, perhaps still, where anecdotal evidence suggests, tipped of off the terrace wall and into the ash pile close to the house.
Below: detail of Isaac Taylor's estate plan of 1772
Angiolini also treats us to another revelation about the landscaped grounds; He mentions an “artificial cave”, made of wood, and hidden in a grove of evergreens. Five years ago we identified an unusual feature in a 1772 map of Penpole Wood which may correspond to Angiolini’s cave, and, at the time, we tentatively attributed it to the landscape designer Thomas Wright. Since then we have proven Wright’s involvement in the design of the Kings Weston grounds and the description of a rustic wooden cave, intertwined with ivy, compares favorably with other known examples of then-fashionable grottoes and seats in Arcadian settings. Such examples of "grotesque architecture" were perishable by nature, an intentional contrast to the permanence of classical garden temples, and so often decayed unrecorded, but a quarried area adjacent to one of the paths through the woods corresponds to the map location.
Above: An example of one of Thomas Wright's designs from his book "Universal Architecture"
We are left to imagine what the structure looked like, but the closest example is the root house at Blaise Castle Estate. This was recorded by the artist Samuel Hieronymous Grimm the year after Angiolini’s visit to Kings Weston. Angiolini doesn’t mention visiting Blaise in his writings, and travels quickly on to Aust and the ferry to Wales. We trust that in describing the example at Kings Weston he was not conflating it with a similar rustic seat on the adjacent Blaise estate.
Below: The root house at Blaise Castle depicted by S H Grimm in 1789 (British Library)
A full translation of Angiolini's description of Kings Weston follows:
"It was a total satisfaction to visit the palazzo of the Lord; It is not big, but is tasteful, with portico supported by columns in Palladian style, which I liked. I will not speak at length about the different parts that compose it; the paintings are mostly Italian, few originals, many copies, including some very good. I was occupied with the pleasure gardens, even those said orchards, namely gardens of fruits and green vegetables. I will not dwell on the way they are maintained; It would be easier to perform than to describe what I observed. The park, which is well cut with many majestic evergreen trees, obliges one to take a path which is long but not tiring, because one is amused by many diversions of variety and innovation. If ever you came into these parts, do not neglect to educate yourself of a point half a mile from the palazzo, from which you can discover all the Bristol Channel at once, the outlet of 'Avon into Severn, the Counties of Somerset, Gloucester and Wilts, and a large tract of country of Wales. In the Gardens there is a good ancient Roman statue for which a temple has been built, if not very large, very elegant and dignified. In England, perhaps for the rarity, you have a respect and a reverence for old things that we, too abundant of them, do not. In the midst of an evergreen grove, there is a pleasant surprise, a kind of hidden cave, made of timber and artificially covered in ivy that appears alive. Englishmen are unique in their knowledge of how to contrive art from nature. "