Welcome to KWAG's September Newsletter

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Join us for Doors Open Day this coming Sunday! 


Above: Thomas Stocking's incredible plasterwork in the ceiling of the Oak Room in Kings Weston house


Please help raise funds for this October's Big Bulb Plant and follow THIS LINK to donate safely and securely towards this event.

This month:

  • Working Party progress - update on our special project 
  • Join us at Doors Open Day! 
  • News roundup and Planning updates 
  • Mixed results from our archaeological excavations. 

Reminder: No Working Party this month, but visit us at Doors Open day at Kings Weston house on Sunday 16th.   



Working Party progress: Update on our special project 

Last month KWAG's volunteers undertook a one-off project that combined our usual working party event with some archaeological investigation. The first part of this challenge was to clear the site in the middle of Penpole Wood of cherry laurels that covered it. The location was midway along one of the lower paths where large boulders and rocky outcrops have been incorporated into the rustic Georgian pleasure walk. The north side of the path, formerly overlooking the Severn, is lined with trees planted at regular intervals in the manner of an avenue. The site considered to be that of a Georgian arbour or seat lies on the south side of the path in a deeply recessed section of the route where the bedrock of the slope has been deliberately exposed. 

Above: A broad panorama looking along the whole length of the south side of the site before and after clearance.
Below-right: looking east towards the house along the pleasure walk.

However, to explore this area properly, and to restore the formerly open character, we had to remove the laurel that had grown to entirely  cover it. The laurel here was relatively light and was easily felled and removed to the other side of the path. This was done in short time ahead of the archaeological dig, and revealed the true extent of the level area midway up the slope; The scale and character of the rocks here is striking. The first thing we established was that this was not an artificially quarried area, and the rocks here are natural and un-worked. The size of the level area and its location threaded along the pleasure walk may indicate that  the ground around the rocks was deliberately opened up for them to create an attractive feature for visitors. 

Following the felling decisions could be taken on the most likely places to form trial pits to investigate the archaeological potential - an activity that took the rest of the day and the findings of which are dealt with below...     

Below: Looking eastwards across the site before and after clearance. 

Join us for Doors Open Day 2018  

This Sunday, 16th September, will be a great opportunity to take a look around the Grade I Listed mansion house at the heart of the Kings Weston Estate. Courtesy of Norman Routledge and his team at the house the doors will be open for visitors to explore for free. As usual KWAG will be there with an exhibition of the history of the house and parkland, and artefacts and historical objects.

There will be an exhibition detailing the recent restoration of the house in the Vanbrugh Room and for children there will be the opportunity to paint and take away a souvenir.  Tours of the history will be given by KWAG's volunteers at quarter-past the house throughout the day, with alternative tours showcasing the house's restoration. 

This year there will also be proposals on display showing ambitious options for the development of the Great Court in front of the house for the public to comment on before the scheme goes forward to the next stage.  

The house will be open to the public between 10am and 4pm on SUNDAY 16th. Tours will be hourly, beginning at 10:15.   

Kings Weston Roman Villa on Long Cross will be open on Saturday 15th as part of Doors Open Day. The villa lay undiscovered within the Georgian parkland until the development of the Lawrence Weston estate just after the war. The excavated remains are now run by Bristol Museums and visitors can enjoy family activities and view the roman mosaics. details of this venue can be found here.  

Above: Doors open day 2017 in the stair hall  

News Round-up and updates

Container storage on Penpole Lane

Shortly after last month's newsletter we received the welcome news that the planning application for shipping containers on part of the Fairway's site on Penpole Lane has been refused by Bristol City Council. This was the latest in a long line of planning applications to intensify the commercial use of the site, and would have resulted in the removal of the existing hedge along the lane, and be a visual intrusion. The application was refused for the negative impact it would have on the historic parkland, the Conservation Area in which it sits, and the setting of the Listed War Memorial. The "severe" impact on pedestrian safety on the road was also given as a reason for refusal.

Our efforts in getting the War Memorial designated as a nationally protected building means that it is additional weight given in planning to ensure the protection of its setting and this has been the first test of that new status. We are really grateful for everyone who raised an objection with the Council, and to Historic England, Avon Gardens Trust, and other heritage organisations for making their opposition clear.  

YardArts Planning Application

Many of you will be aware of the threatened planning application for the van-living site and performance venue for YardArts: a Bristol organisation run to provide performers affordable living accommodation. We were informed the application was made to the Council in mid-June, though it never appeared on the public planning website and things went quiet. We called the planning department last week to find out what the situation was and were informed that it had been received but "invalid on receipt". The Planning Officer has indicated that there were significant elements of the planning application missing and it couldn't be registered until further drawings and documents had been submitted. When the application is formally registered and available for public comment we will let everyone know. 

Following a KWAG committee meeting with Yardearts we were disappointed that a statement of KWAG's stance on proposals, provided to YardArts to include as part of their planning "Statement of Community Involvement", was rejected. Planners will be made aware of this when we provide our group response, though it reflects poorly on YardArts to filter community opinion rather than to respond to concerns more positively.  

Iron Bridge 

We are grateful to Dan Linstead for having maintained pressure on Bristol City Council over the ongoing Iron Bridge closure. At time of writing the Grade II Listed structure has been closed for 1042 days!!! This November will mark the THIRD year since it was hit by a lorry, and there's little sign that progress will be any quicker in the short term. Dan has managed to get an update from , Mhairi Threlfall, the Councillor responsible for Highways which is detailed in full on the Save the Green Iron Bridge web page here.  In summary the Council have completed the majority of the survey work to  help determine the best option for restoration, but we are concerned that the promised public consultation on the options up for consideration is no longer being mentioned. The Councillor's suggestion is that they will be going directly to the Listed building and Planning process without discussing the options and potential impacts with campaigners or the local community. 

We also need clarity on what "permission to apply to Heritage England to remove the bridge" means, and the nature of the "site required works"  proposed for the early financial year 2019/20. We need to know what plans are being progressed and whether these works include the reinstatement of the bridge, or just regard its dismantling and removal with no programme for restoration and replacement. It is highly unlikely that Historic England would support Listed building consent for its removal without definite plans for restoration, but we will need to wait until highways disclose their intentions in this regard.     

Mixed results from our archaeological excavations  

The hope was that trial excavations might uncover some trace of the Georgian arbour suggested in this location by a 1772 estate plan. Once the site was bare of cherry laurel three locations were identified for trial trenches: one at either end of the long site, and one in the centre to the south of the large flat rocks exposed on the surface. The two outer trenches were excavated to about 18-26 inches each and yielded little more than fine brown natural earth with occasional stones. No interpretable features were observed in either of these trenches and they were quickly closed. 

The central trench revealed that the large rocks were not part of the underlying bedrock, but appeared to have separated from the natural outcrops above it and was resting on the level area adjacent to the path. The present path runs immediately along the northern edge of this feature and is built-up on a man-made terrace in areas, though utilises natural topography in others. The trench was dug through rich brown soft earth which appears to have accumulated across the site from wash-off from the slopes above. It was clearly deeper and embanked immediately below the natural rock across the back of the site where deposits naturally collected.   


. Below-right: sample of river shingle from the excavation
Above: KWAG volunteers working on excavations. 

At a depth of approximately 20 inches there was a clear layer of rounded river shingle, unusually pale or white, and smooth in nature. Shingle varied in size between 2-inches to grit. This surface was a distinctive and unbroken horizon which was tracked-back in a northward direction where it met the back edge of the boulders. An abrupt edge in the surface was identified to the south of the trench three feet out from the boulder. The trench was enlarged east, west, and south to discover the extent of the shingle surface and explore the context between it and the natural cliff to the back of the site.

Below: View looking west showing the shingle surface and distinctive edge aligned with the modern path beyond. 

The surface continued east and west, maintaining a clear delineation along its southern edge, and ran approximately parallel to the main path to the North. The eastern end began tracking around the boulder though its southern edge became indistinct and it was not possible to determine if the feature curved northwards with confidence.The west end of the feature continued in a straight line and apparently in alignment with the existing path further off in the same direction. The discovery of some rocks along the straight  edge of the shingle feature could suggest they'd been intended to delineate that edge; although found at depths consistent with the shingle layer these were only haphazardly and sporadically found, and not conclusively associated with the defined edge.

Following recording the trench was locally dug deeper through the shingle layer to establish its depth and any build-dup. The opportunity was also sought to explore whether hole in the shingle surface was a post-hole. The layer was surprisingly thin, no more than an inch in depth, and with no sub-base. Shingle was spread across the natural earth and no further features were identified below it. The possible post-hole had no corresponding features below the shingle surface that supported that initial interpretation. 

Aside from the shingle, and an ashy deposit from a bonfire close to the surface in the western trench, there was no stratification, or obvious levels or horizons visible in trence sections; the whole typically being the same consistent soft brown soil. There were no finds recovered associated with any of the features, though there was some isolated fragments of roof slate and a single clay tile in upper layers. 

Below: the site viewed from the east. The rocky outcrop at the back of the site, on the left, the low boulder along the path, on the right, and the alignment of the shingle feature matching that of the modern path stretching into the distance beyond.  

The shingle layer was clearly imported material, possibly from gravel beds around Shirehampton and Avonmouth, and can be interpreted as a path surface. Although a very shallow spread of stone the distinctive edge and alignment suggests it's related to the main path on the north side of the boulder. There was no evidence on the modern path of similar stone being used, but this could have been obscured by later re-surfacing. There are two possibilities regarding the excavated path surface; firstly it could have been an earlier course of the current path passing to the south of the boulder; alternatively the pleasure walk may have split around the boulder, revealing it as a rustic feature within the path. The terracing on the north side of the boulder to accommodate the path, and the regularly planted trees along it supports the latter of these two theories. 

Below: interpretation of the site looking north from the top of the rocky outcrop 

It was surprising that there were so few features identifiable across the rest of the site; there was certainly nothing that could relate to the distinctively crescent-moon shaped structure shown in the approximate area in 1772. That the excavated path was such a strongly linear feature suggests that the exposed rocks were a feature to be enjoyed as they were passed-by, rather than a place to dwell. If structures, or other designed garden features once occupied this site there was no identifiable remains left to be discovered by our volunteers. It was not practical to continue excavation directly down to find the natural bedrock which was so clearly exposed in the surrounding area, though future exploration may help our understanding of the natural geology and topography, and how it might have been utilised and adapted by Georgian garden designers.            


07811 666671
KWAG, c/o 75A Alma Road, Bristol, BS8 2DW
Copyright © 2018 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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