The estate is springing to life with great speed! Lots to report this month
Above: The house from the South Walk
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- Working Party update
- Guided history walk date announced
- Tree planting with One Tree pre Child
- Archaeology day and survey results
- A painting from the past
- Spies at large!
Working Party Reminder - Postponed until Sat 22nd
Reminder: Because of the Easter weekend, and an oversight in programming, April's working party will be postponed until Sat 22nd. Meet as last month at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. We will be doing lighter work than in previous months and be focussing on some "Natural spacing" and basic woodland tidying along the north side of the ancient avenue . We will be working HERE.
Please feel free to come along any time during the day, but we do prefer to be able to do health and safety briefings as a group at 10am if possible. 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.
Above: The Snakes-head fritillary volunteers planted last October have come up a treat
Working Party Update
After the sudden changes of the laurel work the results of our "natural spacing" programme might seem a little less dramatic, bit it's no less essential to maintain a healthy woodland. The area we worked through last month extended our clearance from last year, skirting the meadowland below Kings Weston house and immediately beneath the 400 year-old oak.
This is one of the less frequented parts of the parkland, but, through here, paths and bridleways still connect up to the rest of the estate, and it's a well-known spot to enjoy the abundance of bluebells on the lower slopes of the wood.
Above: Looking south through the tidied area. The Lime tree is on the left and the house further out of frame on that side.
Here we uncovered another of the old lime trees, one that we believe was planted as part of an avenue along the base of Penpole Wood. From its size and location it's likely to date to about 1712 when Kings Weston house was rebuilt and its gardens extended into the landscape. The avenue is long gone but it would be interesting to discover if any other limes survived later landscaping schemes.
Above: The 1720 Halett estate survey overlaid on a more modern map. The lime tree is marked.
Natural spacing selectively removes self-seeded saplings that are competing against each other and allows the strongest and healthiest to thrive to create strong native woodland. March's efforts ensured another section of unkempt first-generation woodland is in good shape to mature into stronger and more diverse habitat in the future.
Thanks, as always, to our volunteers who came out to this event to lend muscle to the works.
Below: Before and after opening up the overgrown bridleway and views of the lime tree
FREE Guided history tour date announced
Sat 6 May 2017
10:30am – 13:30pm
Book your place NOW for the much-anticipated Kings Weston estate history walk!
The Heritage Lottery Funded A Forgotten Landscape project have partnered with KWAG to provide one of our popular history tours, for free! The walk takes place next month on Sat 6th of May, but places are limited.
David Martyn, Chairman of Kings Weston Action Group, will take you around the historic highlights of the Kings Weston estate from the well known, to the well hidden. Based on the most recent research this illustrated waking tour takes in four hundred years of Kings Weston’s history.
This tour is free but numbers are limited and booking is essential. The tour lasts approximately three hours and the route is about 1.8 miles long. The walk will end at Kings Weston house where the cafe will be open for lunches. Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome. Meeting point given on booking.
To book your places please head over to the Eventbrite booking page for the event here.
Above: One of our walking tours at the stone compass dial at Penpole Point
Tree planting with One Tree per Child
Following clearance of laurel and brambles last month saw the replanting of a large area around the White Oak in Penpole Wood with native tree species. Bristol City Council's One Tree Per Child programme supported an event held on 23rd of March to involve school children from Kingsweston School in planting new 58 saplings.
Jon Atkinson, and volunteers from KWAG and Keynsham company, So Vision, set out the area ready for planting and helped in the work of planting. Native species focused on native oak, lime and hazel and have been planted to complement the existing and rare White Oak which remains the central focus of this part of the woodland.
Right: Bristol Council's Jon Atkinson shows us how it's done
Below: Children and helpers from Kingsweston School get stuck in with the tree planting.
The original path through the area has also been informally reinstated as part of the work. The path will enable the saplings to be accessed for future maintenance and enable visitors to get much closer to the landmark White Oak, so please do take the opportunity to use it.
Unfortunately the new path has been deliberately vandalised, blocked, and the edging removed on two occasions now. If you know who is responsible please let us know, or report it if you see anything or find it removed again. Thank you.
Below: The tree planting area and reinstated path below the White Oak.
Archaeology day and survey results
Below: Phil Rowe instructs volunteers on resistivity surveying
Last month, on March 11th, we were delighted to welcome staff from the University of Bristol, and The Forgotten Landscape project to Kings Weston as part of a archaeology taster day. We had a great turnout of volunteers keen to contribute and undertake the majority of the work using two non-invasive archaeology survey techniques: Resistivity and Ground Penetrating Radar.
The aim was to extend on a Resistivity survey undertaken in 2012 and re-survey the earlier area using another technique. The first technique uses a pair of probes and an electrical charge to identify high resistance structures, such as solid walls (showing up dark), from low resistance ones such as infilled ditches (showing up pale). The ground penetrating radar penetrates through the earth to a considerable depth, and objects in its way will reflect back different signals depending on their depth, what they are, and what that are made of.
The data from this work has been forwarded to us by the University, and certainly represent a very complicated set of results. Interpretation is ongoing, and it’s been no simple task reading and trying to understanding the patterns thrown up. With our knowledge of the history and development of the parkland we can start to recognise some below-ground features, but others are mystifying and potentially exciting.
Below: Volunteers using the Ground Penetrating Radar gear in front of the house
Click on any of the images below to view them larger. The two top images represent the results from the ground penetrating radar equipment, and the two below are the resistivity surveys from both 2012 and last month. Full preliminary results from Bristol Uni can be downloaded here for GPR and here for resistivity surveys. For the GPR animations go to the very bottom two links on this page of our website (large files).
Our interpretation begins with features related to the Great Court of 1713, ‘A’ on the diagrams. Both GPR and resistivity gave similar outlines for the court: resistivity identifying clear outlines, and GPR picking up on the noise of the gravel surfaces rippling outward to those edges. Both surveys appear to pick-up on the central oval in the middle of the court.
Features marked ‘B’ relate to the avenues, and the raised causeway formed to create a level viewing alley symmetrical with the front of the house and Great Court. The orange lines, ‘C’, represent an odd feature. GPR indicates that this is a distinct shelving plane that descends to the south-west, away from the house. This may represent a former dip or gully in the original landscape, or a shallow quarry working, but one that was likely deliberately infilled to create a level parkland around the house. It is unclear when this happened, but may have been in two phase, with the causeway added with the Great Court. A dip visible in the current landscape may relate to this feature.
Below: Halett's 1720 plan of the Great Court modern aerial photography
Feature ‘D’ is of extreme interest. It appears to represent two parallel, and regular, features which descend to a good depth below the current surface in the GPR survey. They are distinct in reflecting neither the layout of the house or parkland as we know them, nor the alignment of any other features identified in the surveys. It is unclear what these represent, or why the resistivity survey did not identify matching results, but there is a strong potential they are man-made features. Physical intervention, a dig, may reveal more…
‘E’ is likely to be a drainage channel and was located in both surveys. It contained no metal pipework, so may be a land drain, or culvert. ‘F’ may represent the edge of the football pitch known to have been in that area in 1947, and there is a possibility that linear features running on similar alignments relate to sub-surface drainage for it. The high-resistance strip ‘G’ corresponds with a track built along the north side of the pitch shown in 1947.
The high resistance points, variously marked ‘H’, and the dark linear mark ‘J’ also remain a mystery that further investigation may resolve.
Overall there are a wide range of identifiable and intriguing results which deserve further thought. If new opportunities arise for investigation we’ll let you know.
Below: 1947 aerial photo showing the study area
A Painting form the Past
Any unusual view of Kings Weston was recently send to us which shows the house from an unusual angle. The view, painted in 1796, shows the prospect across the parkland from the South Walk, with the house framed in a naturalistic manner by groves of trees. This is the first illustration from this angle we've come across and is of particular note as it closely matches the views that KWAG restored during last year’s Lifting the Curtain project. The same angle is approximated in the masthead photo at the top of this month's newsletter.
Below: Watercolour of Kings Weston house from the South Walk, George Heriot, 1796.
The artist was George Heriot, a Scottish-born Civil servant who, at this time, had moved to the colonies of Canada. He returned briefly in 1796, when he painted this image, before returning to North America and developing a reputation as a major figure in Canadian Art. This painting demonstrates not just the artist's skill, but also that of the landscape designer. Edward Southwell III had de-formalised the grounds around the house in the 1760's and we might assume that these copses of trees were planted at about that time to create picturesque framed views of his home.
Spies at large!
The recent publication, Somerset Mapped, by Emma Down and Adrian Webb, brought a curious new story to light. One of the maps reproduced in this volume represents the landscape around Kings Weston and the north of Bristol and was drawn up for a sinister purpose!
Tensions between France and Britain were frequently high throughout the Eighteenth Century, and both sides were keenly prepared if war broke out. It was important to plan for both the defence of your own territory, and, if necessary, the invasion of your opponent's. With this in mind, in 1768, the French dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Paule St de Beville to undertake covert reconnaissance of key targets in the south of England.
Part of his mission was to survey the landscape and provide detailed maps and analysis, which could prove strategically significant for an invading force. His map for the mouth of the Avon was drawn on the 18th September 1768 and is likely to have been drawn from memory, or notes, taken furtively during reconnaissance trips.
Below: Detail of Lieutenant Colonel Paule St de Beville's map of the Avon, 1768, from Somerset Mapped.
From the map it's clear that he stationed himself at Kingsweston Inn (D on the plan) which he refers to as 'Cabaret de l'espion': tavern of the spy. The inn would have given him the perfect pretence to stay and survey the area, and was ideally located to provide a high vantage point from which to study the landscape. Kings Weston was firmly on the circuit of fine houses and gardens frequented by the well-to-do, and it had an international reputation that regularly attracted Continental nobility; a Frenchman visiting the estate, and staying in the inn, would be unlikely to raise much suspicion.
On Kingsweston Hill he identified the former windmill (A on the plan), which he'd established was stationed by a lookout in times of war. In describing the hill as the 'mountain of the spy' it's clear that he used it as the principal station for his own observations.
Above: Kingsweston Inn seen from below and from the south, circa 1820.
Kings Weston house and it's recently completed stable courts, (B and C on the plan) have a recognisable relationship, and the avenue of trees stretching westwards appears to connect to Penpole Lodge, though the detail is more illustrative than accurate. Strategic features, such as the anchorage in Kingroad, and the ferry between Lamplighter's and Pill are also shown, no doubt of significance to any army seeking to dominate the entrance to Bristol by land or sea.
How St de Beville interpreted the strategic significance of Kings Weston is difficult to say. He identified a potential camp for troops on a flat plateau around Nailsea that he'd seen at a distance, but the capture of the mouth of the Avon, and an assault on Bristol from the north, either from the Gloucestershire side of the Avon, or the Somerset side via Pill, would have relied on securing the high ground above Shirehampton. Perhaps Kings Weston house would have provided a suitable command post for operations? In the event no such invasion ever happened, but signal masts were maintained on Kingsweston Hill for the duration of the wars with France that followed later in the same Century.