KWAG's February Newsletter
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We are very grateful for everyone who made a modest donation following our Treasurer's plea in December's newsletter. We're looking to focus funds on replacing the Lime Trees on the old avenue, but this is a project that will take time. More news as we have it. No update on the Iron Bridge yet, but we're still asking...

Above: Kings Weston in 2013 - a far cry from winter this year.

If you value our work please consider donating to help support our projects. Follow THIS LINK to donate safely and securely towards KWAG's work

This month:

  • Working party progress in Penpole Wood
  • Planning application takes gardens project forward
  • Open Morning for the walled gardens
  • KWAG cited in important new city heritage strategy
  • Vanbrugh as playwright: a call for interest
  • Historic photographs shed new light on the house

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  February's working party will take place next week, on Sat 13th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. This month we make the final push to complete our obligations to the Forestry Commission grant and cut down some of the laurel along the avenue into Penpole Wood from the Circle (turn left from Shirehampton Road car park into the woods). We'll be working close to the main path. Come with bow-saw, loppers, sheers etc if you have them. Find us on the red pin at the centre of the map here:

Our ongoing work  will involve the removal of laurel bushes that are choking the grounds, but there will be tasks to suit all 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 in Penpole Wood

We've continued to work along the old lime avenue leading towards the cricket pitch from the Circle. The area is thick with elm regrowth which, after a couple of decades growth, succumbs to Dutch elm disease. The work on opening the area out will allow for new and healthier species to come up through, and may even allow some of the stronger elms to thrive. We also cleared around the unique White Oak opposite the cricket pitch; a tree that's been suffering from competition from other vigorous trees nearby. The Council will be coming along to treat the stumps after us.

We had a great turnout for last months working party and we are, as always, extremely grateful for everyone who lends a hand in whatever way they can offer. Particular thanks to a few new faces, and we hope to see you  again soon!

Top left: The Giant redwood appears from undergrowth beyond. Above: Looking back towards the Circle with the laurels cleared back to the avenue line.

Planning application takes gardens project forward

We know that the inevitable loss of the lime trees on the ancient avenue has come as a great shock and sadness on many people in the park, and so many people have spoken to us about it. We are looking to prioritise how we can replace the lost trees as soon as possible, but this won't be at least until the next planting season next winter. This will give us plenty of time to secure the funding we'll need to support this. 

However, there are many other trees in the park that we are less sorry to lose, and a recent application to fell trees within the Conservation Area has been submitted for planning. The application from Kings Weston house marks the next stage in the restoration of the grounds. Norman Routledge, the owner of the house and the area of grounds immediately around it, is keen to repair and enhance the grounds and one priority that everyone has agreed on is improving the current woodland car park.

Above: diagram showing the area of proposed felling

Undersized for use by both the house and park visitors it's led to vehicles damaging the park and paths. The new proposals will see the establishment of a better designed, and more appropriate car park that will tackle the problematic issue of some of the brick ruins around the house. As a first stage a planning application has come forward for the felling of many of the poor-quality sycamore and ash that currently engulf the ruins and are obstructing views of the Echo. These trees have grown up entirely unmanaged only since the 1950s and the area is identified in the City's Conservation Management Plan for this work.

A full copy of the application can be found on the City's Planning website (search for ref: 16/00359/VC). It's accompanied by a professional tree survey that's reassured us that there are no trees of good quality of high habitat value being proposed for felling. We are hoping that the council will apply policy to ensure that trees felled will be replaced with higher quality specimens in the next phase of the proposals, and as such we are minded to support this proposal.

If you have any thoughts please let us know, or, even better, please comment on the planning application.


Open Morning for the Walled Gardens

We've been delighted to hear from Kingsweston School, who occupy the Eighteenth Century walled gardens on Napier Miles Road. They are planing an open morning on Wednesday 1st June between 10. This is an opportunity to explore the school grounds, and we hope that many of you will be interested, not only in the historical aspects, but also to see how the school still uses the gardens as part of their work with children with a wide range of special needs.

Clive Farmer from the school said "As you can image it is not always easy for us to open up the school to the community, but we would like to propose that we open up the grounds to visitors whom may wish to take advantage to see the walled gardens, forest school and flower meadow. We would only be able to open between 10:00am - 12:00, but this should allow a reasonably time span for groups/individuals to wander the grounds. Unfortunately we would not be able to grant access into the school buildings."

KWAG hope to be offering tours and information on the day and hope that people will take advantage of this rare opportunity. More information will be published closer to the time.

The medieval Bewy's Cross, now in the walled gardens.


KWAG cited in important new city heritage strategy

We were delighted to discover we have been cited as a successful model for how heritage and parks groups can work in close partnership with the City Council. The new report "Our Inherited City" covers all aspects of the city's rich historic environment, and Kings Weston features in proposed strategies for the Bristol's historic landscapes. It's thanks to a lot of hard work by us, and by some very committed council officers, over a relatively short space of time that we've become so well regarded.

The proposed strategy in the report to "establish a priority list of historic landscapes and an approach to their maintenance, including possible conservation management plans and funding strategies" is  also reaffirmation of the commitments we've received already that Kings Weston might be seriously considered for restoration funding. More on this milestone document can be read here:


Vanbrugh as Playwright: a call for interest

The architect of Kings Weston house and many of its garden buildings, Sir John Vanbrugh, did not come to architecture by a conventional route. Before his first commission, the monumental Blenheim Palace, he was better known as a playwright, and a very well regarded one. His works are still performed nationally and have stood the test of time as keystones of Restoration era theatre.

An exciting opportunity has arisen to see one of his most celebrated plays, The Provok'd Wife, performed in Kings Weston house. A comedy it has such characters as Lady Fancyful, and Sir John Brute, and is tale of a couple, married in haste, who are now shackled in wedlock. We were recently approached by Briony Waite of the Stepping Out Theatre Group who's keen to develop this as a project to secure grant funding. We're very keen to support this bid which will be a terrific celebration of the creative genius of Vanbrugh.

Briony writes:
"I am working with another writer and Stepping Out Theatre Group to mount an updated version of The Provok’d Wife to be performed in the house during the non-wedding season.  We plan to have a three week run with at least six matinee performances aimed at young people. Our aim is to work with KWAG in establishing a rich educational experience for schools with volunteers recreating the life of Vanbrugh, architect and playwright, the history of the house and the context of restoration theatre. 
We are also very keen to hear ideas from supporters of KWH about the way this project could be developed and our intention is to hold an open session at the house very soon. All are welcome.  Please come along."

Once a date has been agreed we'll send out invitations to come along and find out more about the project, more about Vanbrugh, and about how you can get involved.  If you are interested in helping out, or want to find out more please email us, or Briony at

Above: The role of Sir John Brute in The Provoked Wife became one of David Garrick's most famous roles.


Historic photographs shed new light on the house

Recently the National Portrait Gallery made a large number of new images available online. Amongst these can be found a short series of photographs that give us unique glimpses into Kings Weston house while it was still the home of Philip Napier Miles and his wife Sybil. Dating from 1926 the images are intended as portraits of Napier Miles, his wife, her sister, but also suggest the surroundings in which they lived. The couple's French bulldogs also make a bemused appearance! 

This series of photos shows what's now called the Vanbrugh Room in Kings Weston House; at this time it was the Music Room and Library. In the background can be seen some of the former furnishings including a richly ornate fireplace, paintings, rare maiolica and Chinese pottery and porcelain, antique furniture, and library of books. 

However, this was only a fraction of the contents of the house, which had in fact been decimated by the sale of much of the most extravagant furniture and contents in a series of auctions in 1899. It would seem that, after marrying Sybil earlier that year, Napier Miles's new wife was keen to stamp her own mark on the interiors and modernise them. They sent much of what had been bought by Napier Miles's father "at the Great London Exhibition", to auction to be sold in Cardiff over a four-day sale. One sacrifice was the "expensive bookcases" in "grandly carved oak" that had once graced the same room in which these photos were posed; This perhaps explains why the adjustable shelving seen in the background, no doubt clean and practical, looks at-odds with the opulence of the fireplace - no doubt much more difficult for Sybil to contemplate banishing!

STOP PRESS: We understand that the City Council have now begun work on constructing the new banks that will protect the park from travellers accessing the grounds from Shirehampton Road and improve the general appearance of the boundaries.

Copyright © 2016 Kings Weston Action Group, All rights reserved.

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