Welcome to KWAG's September Newsletter
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Don't forget Doors Open Day this Sunday, 15th at the Echo  

Above: The statue restored to the Echo as a cut-out 


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This month:

  • Working Party update - Penpole Tidy 
  • Iron Bridge options 
  • Doors Open Day reminder
  • New notices  
  • The Echo: Baroque ruin 

No Working Party this month, but  - Sunday 15th will be Doors Open Day at the Echo. 


Working Party update - Penpole Tidy   
We’re grateful for everyone who came along to August’s working party; the summer months are often quieter, with lots of holidays and other activities occupying people’s time. However we did make some good progress on our return to Penpole Lodge and turned back the clock on clearance we  started in 2012, and continued along the banks in 2014.

Above: The ruins of the lodge from the Penpole Point side 

The ruins of the Lodge are again clear with regrowth on front, behind, and even on top of the ruins reduced once more. As mentioned in a previous newsletter we hope to introduce some form of interpretation panel explaining the history and importance of the former building at some point.

Above: The ruins of the lodge looking from the woodland

It’s been surprising how quickly the banks of Penpole Point have regrown in just five years. Some of the elm suckers spreading through the ground had grown to surprising height, but would ultimately be doomed to die from Dutch Elm disease and would have proved a problem when they began rotting. We’ve been careful to make sure that there are plenty of blackberries and brambles for foragers this autumn.

Working Party will take a rest until October when we’ll return with our Big Bulb Plant before carrying on with more conservation work.
Above: The work done reversing regrowth since 2014

Iron Bridge Options   

KWAG had a very insightful meeting with Dorothea Restoration this month. Dorothea is a restoration company with key expertise in historic metalwork including several projects with Bristol City Council. They have important experience in restoring historic bridge structures like our own including a very similar cast iron one over the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath.

They have advised that the only feasible approach for the bridge is for it to be dismantled on-site, taken away for repair and restoration, and rebuilt back in place. The possibility of craning the structure out complete was rejected as impractical as the structure would simply disintegrate due to the way it’s fabricated and the current fragile state it’s been left in.

Dorothea have suggested it would take a week to dismantle, three months to strip, repair, re-cast broken sections and repaint, and then a further week to reassemble back in the cutting. This would require the temporary road closure for the week of removal and the one of replacement; if the bridge were raised the required work to raise the bridge abutments would increase the required closure period. We have asked Dorothea Restoration to provide us with a quotation for compiling a method statement for dismantling and restoration that’s missing from the present planning application.

KWAG are backing Historic England’s proposition to reinstate the bridge in its current location and ensure its protection with height restrictors either side. This has the huge benefit of being far, far, cheaper than the current planning application proposals to raise the bridge which, it has been suggested, would be in the region of £2m, it would minimise road closure periods, and conserve the bridge in a largely unaltered state.

KWAG has developed proposals that we hope will prove less intrusive than those currently proposed and would like feedback from anyone interested in the future of the Listed bridge. You will see our proposals here which include the construction of sacrificial “goalpost” height restrictors at the principal junctions with Shirehampton Road and Westbury Lane to the south of Kingsweston Hill, and Kings Weston Lane in the north.

We’re fully aware that these structures are not the prettiest in the world. They would necessarily need to be well-lit and obvious, to prevent high sided vehicles from hitting them, but would form a first line of defence for the historic bridge beyond. Our proposals seek to place them as far away from the bridge as possible to minimise visual intrusion, and ensure lorries that did stray in this direction had appropriately early warning to be able to turn away from the restrictors without needing to reverse.

Above: Impression of height restrictors from the north side from Kings Weston Lane 

We genuinely need public feedback on these proposals before we develop them into a more finished form for planning, so if you have any comments or concerns please email us with them. We will be circulating these sketches to Historic England, The Georgian Group, Avon Gardens Trust, and other objectors to the current planning application to get their thoughts to. If we get general support from everyone we will continue working these designs up.

Above: Impression of height restrictors from the north side from Shirehampton Road 

Doors Open Day reminder   

This coming weekend sees Doors Open Day happen across the city. King Weston House won’t be open this year due to events, but KWAG will be at the Echo in the gardens on SUNDAY 15th September, 10am-4pm with an exhibition, and the premier of our new statue and model of Penpole Lodge. KWAG volunteers will be on hand and guided tours will be given in the grounds.

We hope that you’ll take the opportunity to come along and find out more about the estate and, if you do, make a donation towards KWAG’s work.

New Notices  

KWAG now has a permanent display board in the coffee shop at Kings Weston House. We’re grateful to Paige for allowing us to put the new board up which we hope will display KWAG event posters, history, working party progress, and news updates. This now compliments our leaflet holders that we added earlier in the year which has proved so popular it’s been difficult to keep them filled throughout the summer!

The Echo: Baroque Ruin    

The Echo at the end of the gardens from the house, was an important addition to the Kings Weston landscape in about 1724. Edward Southwell had finished work on the house itself and moved in in 1716 with his new wife Anne Blathwayt. Sadly Anne died the year after and it was a little while before Edward returned to his architect, Sir John Vanbrugh, to turn his mind to further elaborating the estate.

Plans began in about 1720 when Edward began buying up land to extend the parkland, and had a map drawn up to further this expansion. We know from this that the long axial path from the house terminated at nothing more than a wall dividing the grounds from a public lane behind; parts of this was can still be traced in the rear structure of the present Echo building.

Below: 1724 proposal for an arched entrance gate by Sir John Vanbrugh 
Above: The Echo today
The echo at Kings Weston Was already a well knows acoustic feature. The gradually rising ground allowed sound to reflect back off the front of the house and echo back down the garden in a remarkable way. The termination of the axis from the house with a suitable celebration of this effect, and an eye-catcher from the house, would have seemed an ideal opportunity to provide an ornamental monument.

The Echo, as the pavilion was to become known, is one of the few buildings at Kings Weston where there are no original drawings known. In Bristol archives there is a design by Sir John Vanbrugh for another structure, an ornamental gateway that was to stand at the end of the terrace on the north side of the house; with its boldly handled rusticated piers and arches this has more than a passing resemblance to some of the features of The Echo. The drawing is dated 1724 and it is reasonable to assume that it echoed architectural developments at the other end of the garden at this time. This coming weekend we will try and compare the measurements of this drawing with those of the Echo and see what conclusions we might draw. The dramatic urns on the parapet of the finished building are also strongly redolent of Vanbrugh’s work, with a series of similar features in the gardens at Blenheim Palace.

In the tradition of gardens at the time the Echo would have terminated the long axis through the landscape with a series of formal gardens either side of it. There never seems to have been a viewing terrace on the roof of the building, which might have capitalised on views back to the house and across the landscape towards Bristol. Another drawing in Bristol archives does show the plan of a garden pavilion that would have afforded this; it had a single ornamental frontage with odd carved rear walls and a stair tower at its rear, but, other than its inclusion with other known  Kings Weston drawings, there is insufficient evidence to suggest it was even considered for Kings Weston.
Below: Was this a plan for the Echo? 
The little building served no more elaborate purpose than a place to sit, admire the view back towards the house, enjoy the echo, and perhaps enjoy a summer meal. The arches were never glazed in, but the roof, that once sheltered visitors, disintegrated and collapsed in the 1950s; the scars of this can still be seen in the structure today. Efforts to demolish the garden buildings in the 1970s were fortunately resisted, and eventually the Echo was patched-up and restored.   

The Echo remains an important landmark in the park, a focal point on the main walking circuit, and a Grade I Listed building. The gardens that once swept down the slope to the house have been overtaken by woodland, and views between the two buildings lost or diminished. Sadly the echo from which the building got its name has also been diffused. But this weekend we will be celebrating the building again by holding our Doors Open day event within it. Come along and find out more about the building and its history on one of our short tours to be running throughout the day.        

Above: Before and after looking towards the White Oak 


07811 666671
KWAG, c/o 75A Alma Road, Bristol, BS8 2DW
Copyright © 2019 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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