Discover Shirehampton Park in this months newsletter
Above: The ancient Lime Avenue with the bluebells, planted by volunteers last year, in bloom.
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- Working Party update - Final act above the quarry garden
- Iron Bridge planning progress update
- Last call for history tour
- Shirehampton Park: A park for the people - A special report to mark the Centenary of Sea Mills Garden Suburb
Working Party Reminder - Saturday 11th May
Reminder: May's working party will take place this Saturday 11th. This month we are continuing cleaning up areas we first tackled three years ago close to The Circle. This involves tidying out young laurel regrowth and tidying up sme of teh other laurel rubbish. PLEASE NOTE this Month we meet again at SHIREHAMPTON ROAD CAR PARK at 10am. We will be working here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Ktdm9T-K6blvj5dD_UkFKZUnT1SkbkfA&usp=sharing
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 though this month it will be principally focussed on trimming regrowth, with some felling vegetation. 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 update - Final Act above the Quarry Garden
April was the final working party along the stretch of cherry laurel immediately above the former quarry garden in Penpole Wood. This whole area has kept us going for longer than we' originally planned. The cherry laurel had covered such a large area it was both a challenge to get through and obscured the extent of the area needing attention. We'd originally hoped to pass through the area within three months, but we were further hampered by bad weather. Nevertheless April finally saw the completion of the volunteer efforts.
Right: View before and after work looking up from the east end of the quarry garden towards the main path
Below: A similar view across the whole of the final area tackled.
Also last month we moved on to our next challenge; this will be to re-cover some of the ground we first covered with laurel clearance nearby. As worked continued above the quarry garden a second group of volunteers set to re-trimming recent laurel regrowth, and some of the larger laurels that defeated us the first time round were tackled. This generally lighter work will continue this month.
Above: Looking east, towards the house, through the working party area.
Iron Bridge planning progress update
There’s currently not much development to report on the Iron Bridge planning application. As well as several messages of support from local residents and the Shirehampton Planning Group there have been two objections for National Amenity Societies; these are the national special interest groups who are statutory consultees on Listed Building applications which involve an element of demolition, or significant alteration. The Georgian Group, and the British Council for Archaeology have both objected to the proposed works to the bridge due to the “seriously lacking” level of detail in the application, and that, as the removal constitutes “demolition” of the Listed bridge, that there is a lack of “clear and convincing justification that the repair and restoration of the bridge in situ is not possible”, or why alternatives have been discarded.
Unless the applicant, Bristol City Council, can overcome these issues then these two national amenity groups will maintain their objections and, as required by law, the Listed Building application will need to be referred to the Secretary of State for review.
Historic England’s own comments are not yet on the planning website, and it’s also expected that there will be a comment from the Garden History Society, another of the National Amenity Societies. The Council’s own Public Rights of Way officer has expressed concern over the new alignments of the routes in relation to the existing established rights of way, but these appear to be surmountable.
Last call for history tour
Don’t forget that this month sees the last of our spring history walks of the estate. This is scheduled to take place Saturday 25th May and there are still a few places left. The walk gives an insight into the history of the house and gardens, uncover some of its lost past and hidden landmarks scattered throughout the landscape. The walk passes through the main areas of the estate, from the formal avenues to the woodland, and describe what appears to be a wilderness today, as the designed landscape gardens of their Georgian heyday.
These tours help raise funds for future KWAG work in the park and we hope that the £5 charge isn’t unreasonable. The tour will begin at Shirehampton Road car park at 10:30 on Saturday 25th May. There are a few spaces left, so if you would like to attend please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 07811666671 and let us know your details, and which date you would like to join us.
Further details are given on the PDF poster here
Shirehampton Park: A park for the people
Following from last month’s focus on the garden village connections with Kings Weston, and the genesis of Sea Mills, this month we look at Shirehampton Park. The land between Shirehampton Road and the River Avon had become part of the landscaped parkland around the house in the 1720s, with designed garden features, tree planting, and pleasure buildings dotted around over 100 acres. It’s even thought that at the banks of the Avon there was access directly to the park from the river at Crabtree Slip. The land was grazed by animals, but intended as a picturesque adornment to the wider Kings Weston Estate. This remained the situation even after the Port and Pier Railway was driven through the park in 1865, severing it from the riverside.
Above: Shirehampton Park and the view across Horseshoe Bend. John Syer, circa 1860. Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
It was Philip Skinner Miles, owner of Kings Weston, who promoted and financed the building of the railway through his land. Advantage was taken of this new mode of transport when, starting in 1865, Miles began opening the park for an annual horticultural show. A temporary railway platform was erected alongside the line where special trains would stop for visitors to the show could alight directly for the show ground in the “beech avenue” in Longcombe, a hidden hollow in the heart of Shirehampton Park.
Little changed until the Twentieth Century when Skinner Miles’ son, Philip Napier Miles leased land on in the park to the newly formed Shirehampton Golf Club. The club was formed in 1904 with nine holes, and, following its success, expanded quickly to a full eighteen. Napier Miles was happy to allow the recreational use of the park, but only formally joined the golf club in 1910, and almost immediately was elected club president for the next ten years.
Above: The Shirehampton Park golf club house shortly after it was first built.
Sea Mills garden suburb was projected from 1918 on Miles’ land. Keen to support this model housing estate he sold his land to the Corporation at a reduced rate. As well as ensuring oversight of the quality and conditions of the new housing, he wanted to ensure that open green space and opportunities for recreation were accessible to the new residents. He made the decision to donate Shirehampton Park for the enjoyment of residents of Shirehampton and the new estate, though initially he appears to have been uncertain whether the best course of action was to pass the land to the Corporation, no doubt with covenants, or to the new National Trust established just eleven years previously. By July 1918 the Western Daily Press was able to announce that Napier Miles intended to hand to the National Trust a “considerable portion of Shirehampton Park having a frontage of about three quarters of a mile to the river, as a public park for the people of Bristol”.
Above: Surveyors in Shirehampton Park circa 1918 ahead of the Portway construction.
There then followed a lengthy delay, of more than four years! It’ not immediately clear why this was, but it may have been connected with the driving of the Portway through the area and the substantial parts of Shirehampton Park that were required to enable this. The new road was cut deeply into the rock close to the railway, and the difficulty and cost of the works made a significant contribution to the road becoming the most expensive per-mile in the UK. Work had begun in 1919; it was a difficult undertaking, opening eventually in 1926 after repeated delays.
Above: The cutting being driven through Shirehamption Park for the Portway. Samuel Loxton. 1920.
Fortunately for the people of Shirehampton and Sea Mills the delay in getting their park was less severe. Residents had begun moving into the new garden suburb in 1920, but it wasn’t until December 1922 that the Indenture gifting Shirehampton Park to the National Trust was signed. In it Napier Miles laid out clear conditions on his 98 acre gift; he ensured that the land was protected “as an open space for the benefit of the people of Shirehampton and the neighbourhood”; also that “golf shall be permitted to be played” subject to the continued enjoyment of the park by the public; and that no buildings were allowed to be erected “except such pavilions, bandstands, shelters, cloakrooms, lavatories” that the National Trust considered “conducive to the better enjoyment of the said park by those frequenting it”. With this condition it is implied that Napier Miles hoped that the land might fulfil a partial role as a municipal park as well as a golf course.
Above: A printed Edwardian postcard showing Longcombe and "golf links"
Whilst the land continues as cherished open space the golf course use has the effect of marginalising the access Napier Miles might have envisaged in his gift. There remain public rights of way across the land for those that can find them, though paths are poorly marked and there is occasional conflict between sports and recreational use. It does continue under the ownership of the National Trust though, and Crabtree Slip wood is a rich natural woodland. Sea Mills also enjoys the gift of Three Acre Covert nearby, also forming a gift of green space from Napier Miles