At present the park is quietening for the winter, so our November Newsletter has a strong emphasis on both history and the future, but our biggest project to date is about to come to fruition!
- Avenue restoration countdown!
- Call for new committee members
- Working party in December
- Fireplace found
- Green Capital grant applications
- The Irish connection
Avenue Restoration countdown!
The memorial avenue restoration project is a week away
It's taken two years to get the project off the ground and acquire consents and support from Bristol City Council tree team, but we are now just a week away from the restoration of the avenue that once framed the front of Kings Weston house. In the last couple of days the tree locations have been marked up using the original spacings that were established from the geophysical survey we conducted early in 2012. Each of the seventeen replacement tree locations has been marked with a stake and yellow paint to help guide the Council contractors who will be making a start on the work on 1st December. The trees will match the species of the existing ancient avenue.
The 2nd of December will be an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the avenue tree planting as part of National Tree Week. We are calling on anyone who is able to lend a hand to come along to the park on Tuesday 2nd December between 10am and about 3pm to share in the tree planting with local schools and Bristol City Council tree officers. If you would like to come please drop us a line so we can get an idea of numbers. It would be much appreciated. Please make sure you come along in appropriate working clothes for the weather. We are expecting tools will be supplied, but please do feel free to bring a spade if you have one.
The Avenue project has been a long ambition of KWAG and form a memorial to Tim Denning, co-Founder of KWAG, who died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2012. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has given donations in Tim's name and those who have also supported the ambitions of this as a restoration project. In just the last month we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of three KWAG members, each of whom have donated £100 to help us reach our total cost for the project.
Call for new committee members
Can you lend your time, enthusiasm, and skills to Kings Weston?
Over the last two years we have been very grateful for two members, Colin and Penny Morse, who have donated a huge amount of time and effort as KWAG committee members. Their constant guidance, support, and hard work have been behind some of our most successful projects, especially the education outreach and schools days we've been able to provide free for children across the city. Sadly Colin and Penny will be standing down from their committee positions and we are in need of new members to step up to the mark and help guide the groups activities into the future.
Do you have an interest in coming on board? Do you have an enthusiasm or skill that you think you could bring to the group, or would you just be keen to help mould how Kings Weston estate develops as one of the city's most important historic green spaces? Perhaps you are keen to contribute to your local community, or help put on events? If so then we could do with you!
Presently there are seven existing committee members with a variety of interests and backgrounds and we are keen to maintain around this number to keep the profile of Kings Weston riding high and make sure we can achieve all our ambitions as we develop them. Committee work is entirely voluntary, but can be hugely gratifying and bring both new challenges and experience.
If you are interested in getting more involved with KWAG's work and the historic estate please get in touch with us through the details at the foot of this email. We're looking forward to hearing from you!
Working Party in December
A final mince pie-fueled push
November's working party was a near disaster to begin with as torrential rain almost ruined our perfect record of running these events without cancellation. Fortunately, after an hour's break the rain abated and we returned to the laurels below the Echo to continue work in laurel clearance. Considering the wet weather we made more good progress an have now cleared a large area. However we need to complete the work this December and will be holding our traditional Mince Pie working party event on Saturday 6th December, between 10am and 3:30pm.
This will complete the work between the ponds and the Echo that we started in July, interrupted only by October's bulb plant. Whether you are able to lend a hand or not you are invited to come along and share in a mince pie and help celebrate a goal achieved before the new challenges of 2015 come. Bring some Christmas food to share and we can make a picnic of it!
Next year we will be starting by creating new steps to reconnect the upper and lower paths in Penpole Wood. This is another reinstatement of an historic path that has gradually been lost over time. Already the Estate Rangers have kindly cut through a tree blocking the route and the way is clear for us. More on this soon.
Another of the marble fireplaces from Kings Weston House is recorded
In the centre of Bristol, on the corner of Orchard Street and Orchard land is an inconspicuous building that hides a Kings Weston secret. This building was once the the offices of Bristol Municipal Charities. The Charities were behind the 1938 plan to develop Kings Weston as a new home for Queen Elizabeth Hospital School until the project came to an abrupt end at the start of the Second World War with the cessation of all non-essential building works as part of the war effort; the ruins of the half-finished school still litter the Echo Walk close to the house.
As part of their conversion of the house into new classrooms they stripped out many of the original fireplaces, one of which has recently been reinstated in its original location as part of Norman Routledge's efforts. But the finest of the fireplaces, that from the drawing room, was retained by the Municipal Charities and transported to their own new offices where it was erected in the boardroom. That same room has since found new use as part of a private flat and the large marble fireplace still sits at one end of the lounge formed out of the former offices, now part of a Grade II Listed Building in its own right. This flat has recently come onto the market and has given us a rare opportunity to get access and record it.
The marble fireplace dates to between 1767 and 1768 when the architect Robert Mylne was remodeling the Drawing Room at Kings Weston House for his client Edward Southwell III. This and other marble fireplaces for Kings Weston were commissioned by the eminent sculptor John Devall, who had provided similar for a number of the Royal Palaces. The central relief panel is however of a much earlier date. The signature of an otherwise unknown sculptor, Joseph Mazza Bonon, and the date 1705 are clearly carved in the panel, though no biographical detail on the sculptor has yet been found. This earlier panel, and those incorporated into other fireplaces in Kings Weston, may have been purchased in Italy during the Grand Tour of Edward Southwell II in 1726 when it is recorded that he bought five marble panels.
There is an ambition that this fireplace might return one day to its original location at Kings Weston, at least in facsimile, and the opportunity presented by the flat being on the market makes the possibility a real one.
Green Capital grant applications
Two proposed projects for 2015
This year many in Bristol have been busy preparing for Bristol's tenure as European Green Capital in 2015. To support projects next year Green Capital have made several strands of grant funding available and we hope to take advantage of these. We have proposed two projects to the Strategic Grants panel that we hope will fit the strict criteria for funding. Firstly we hope that restoration for part of the old walled gardens adjacent to the old stables on Napier Miles Road can be secured as part of a community growing project and orchard. The plans would involve the restoration of the dilapidated wall and the creation of a new secure boundary and gates to surround new raised planting beds in an area which is presently running wild. A nature garden is hoped to be an extension of this project.
The second proposal we have made for funding is for a new all-weather accessible path linking the House and Echo by means of the original Eighteenth century path that took a mare gradual gradient behind the laurel-choked woodland we have been clearing over the last few months. This path would offer better access for pushchairs, wheelchairs, and anyone who find the steep uneven gradient close to the Echo an obstacle. This would also give a much better inner circuit accessible to everyone.
We have our fingers crossed, and if the funding is agreed we will have to hit the ground running if we are to get either of these projects complete within Green Capital Year. We hope to be able to call on your help if we are successful in our ambitions.
The Irish connection
Kings Weston was the power base for administering the extensive Irish estates of the Southwell family.
A recent research trip to Ireland has shed new light on the history of Kings Weston and it's Eighteenth Century owners, the Southwell Family. There are several locations in Ireland associated with the Southwells, and oddly they are better remembered in the towns of Downpatrick and Kinsale than they are in their home city of Bristol.
Kinsale on the southern Irish coast was the birthplace of Sir Robert Southwell in 1635. His family held extensive estates around the town and significant positions in the kingdom of Ireland. Sir Robert purchased Kings Weston in 1679 with the undoubted intention of maintaining close ties with his family seat across the water from his new power base just outside Bristol. His appointment as Secretary of State to the Kingdom of Ireland in 1690 will have made easy access to the country from the port of Bristol all the more important.
Today there are a few remnants of the Kinsale that Sir Robert would have known, but sadly his Great House has long been demolished. High above the town and just beyond his own mansion Sir Robert founded the "Gift Houses" which remain today. This development of two wings of alms houses and a master’s house were intended for elderly poor Protestants of Kinsale and continued to perform the same function until very recently.
Also in Kinsale is Charles Fort, a huge fortification built on land donated to the Crown by Sir Robert's family, no doubt in return for great political cachet, but perhaps where the family are best remembered is in St Multose Parish Church. The church is simple and strong with its original Norman tower, but it is the north transept that is of most interest. It is here that the Southwell Chapel was established and here too is the memorial that Sir Robert set up to his parents. Here too he commissioned a memorial to his sister and her husband, John Perceval and both of these were carved by Arnold Quellin and Grinling Gibbons who would later work on the memorial in Henbury Church we discovered earlier this year.
Moving northward from Kinsale we arrive in Dublin. There are no immediate reminders of the Southwell's here, but it was in Dublin Castle where Sir Robert, his son Edward, and eventually his Grandson Edward Southwell II all worked as Secretary of State to the Kingdom of Ireland. The interior court of the castle looks much the same today as Edward II would have seen it.
Carrying onwards towards Dublin you eventually arrive at the town of Downpatrick. It is here that there are perhaps the most interesting connections back to Kings Weston. Edward Southwell inherited the huge estates of Lechale around the town from his first wife, Elizabeth Cromwell. She had been born and raised close to Downpatrick at Bonecastle the home of her father, the Earl of Ardglas. As an only child she inherited all her father’s lands and no doubt the marriage to Edward Southwell in 1703 would have presented a most profitable alliance to him. He did however love his wife very much and when she died in 1709 of consumption just a week after giving birth to a stillborn child he was devastated.
After Elizabeth’s death he took a key role in managing the Downpatrick Estate and although always an absentee landlord is recorded as being heavily involved in the redevelopment of the old town. He invested heavily in repaving the roads, building a new Custom House, Market stalls, a new clock tower, and perhaps most significantly a new quay, storehouse and harbour close to the town on the River Quoile. In his honour the townsfolk named this New Kings Weston, though is more commonly known today as Quoile Quay.
After Edward’s death in 1730 his son took the same progressive approach to developing Downpatick. In 1733 he built the impressive Southwell Schools which incorporated almshouses for the poor and houses for the school masters in a striking new building in the Palladian style. He also planted out the sloped around Downpatrick Cathedral with a series of Groves in 1740 and which, on his death, were willed to the town as a permanent place of recreation. It was in these groves that he set up at least two statues that had formerly been at Kings Weston.
In previous news updates we have noted that the statues are mentioned in a letter written by Edward Southwell II’s wife Catherine, but visiting Downpatrick has given us an opportunity to identify the locations. With Help from the Down County museum we also have the stories about their removal and melting down to provide shot for an uprising in 1797. Whether true or not this suggests that the statues were made of lead, the same as the remaining one at Goldney House, and almost certainly were taken from the gardens of Kings Weston rather than the house.
The Down County Museum is also now home to three beautiful contemporary portraits of Edward Southwell and his wife Elizabeth. Two of them are likely to be copies of those now hanging in the Saloon of Kings Weston House today, but the third is a previously unknown likeness of Edward as a younger man, reputed to have been painted to commemorate his appointment as Secretary of State to Ireland in 1702. This painting is likely to have been one recorded at Kings Weston during the Eighteenth Century.
The Southwell's investment in Downpatrick turned it from a decaying rural backwater into a confident and prosperous Georgian town. The income from the estates quickly matched that of the Kings Weston Estate and eventually overtook it in profitability. The family maintained thier close associating with their Irish Estates until the death of Edward Southwell IV, 21st Baron de Clifford in 1833. With no direct heir the estates were sold to divide the inheritance between his nephews an nieces.
Below: The Southwell Schools today