Far from being quiet, winter is a time to complete old challenges and plan for new ones.
The Viewing Terrace in Winter
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- A message from our treasurer
- Finishing Lifting the Curtain and starting a new project
- Council tackle decades of encroachment
- Working Party dates for 2016
- Reprinted and refreshed: our estate guide is relaunched
- A new acquisition
- Vanbrugh's gate; a new discovery
Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder
Reminder: December's working party will take place next week, on Sat 12th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. This month we begin a new project to naturally-space the woodland close to the Circle. Come with bow-saw, loppers, sheers etc if you have them .
Our ongoing work will involve the removal of self-seeded saplings and light undergrowth, 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.
A message from our Treasurer
KWAG relies on the generosity and support of our members and friends
Anyone reading this and previous newsletters cannot but be impressed by the considerable progress made by the Kings Weston Action Group in the last few years. This is clearly evident to anyone who visits the Kings Weston estate whether walking, visiting the cafe or touring Kings Weston House. This has been achieved by a tremendous effort from numerous volunteers without whom we would not be where we are now.
But in addition, there has been a very significant financial commitment. In total, KWAG has invested over £20,000 during the last three years in a variety of projects to improve facilities and to support the estate’s position in the local neighbourhood.
Kings Weston Action Group receives no direct funding from Bristol City Council or from any other institution. Membership of the group is totally free as is the distribution of this newsletter. Our only sources of income are from occasional generous donations and from successful grant applications.
It will not surprise you that in the current environment both donations and grant support are less generous than in previous years.For us to continue to support the revitalisation of this very special place, we need your help. We would of course be most grateful for any donation you feel able to give.This can be done fairly easily via the donation button included with this newsletter, or by clicking here.
However, it would be equally helpful if you could make us aware of areas where we may be able to attract funding.
We are not proud. We will consider anything - if legal!
Please get in touch if you have any ideas or you can offer your time or resources to help fundraise.
Malcolm Ravenscroft - Treasurer
Finishing Lifting the Curtain and starting a new project
As we finish our longest-running project we start on new challenges
November saw one of our wettest working Parties since we began them in 2012, but we were delighted when so many came out to lend a hand in finishing our long-running Lifting the Curtain project. Started in April this year on "natural spacing" in the woodland along the South Walk we've returned every month since and gradually worked our way eastwards from The Circle towards the Echo. November's work finished clearance in the last section.
The rain eventually got too heavy and we finished work at midday, but we retain our record of never having cancelled a working party! Our thanks go to everyone who attended in the most uncomfortably wet conditions we've yet faced.
December sees the beginning of our next big challenge which will run in partnership with Bristol City Council and support their Forestry Commission grant works in Penpole Wood. Over the next few months we have committed to continuing natural spacing in the area to the west of The Circle, and following this extend it to include some of the densest areas of laurel. The Council rangers will follow behind our work poisoning stumps and felling any larger material that volunteers can't manage. We really need everyone's help with this work and we are likely to be running additional working parties between now and February to complete the work to a schedule. Please pass on our call for any volunteers who might be able to assist with work from the 12th Dec onwards.
Council tackle decades of encroachment
Impressive results from recent flailing work
This month we've been receiving some really positive feedback from a number of people about the extraordinary difference the recent flailing has had on the appearance of the park. The Council came along two weeks ago commencing the challenging task of tackling the brambles and undergrowth that have gradually encroached into the open parkland again. The majority of the flailing returned to areas that KWAG had cleared previously, but had been neglected thereafter. The effect, as you will see in these photos by Bob Pitchford, is remarkable, and the sense of openness restores something of the historic character of the old parkland.
It's been gratifying to see the tees around the old tennis court, the Circle, and the ancient avenue have all been removed, and our work over the last few years capitalised upon. Our thanks go, again, to the Council officers, especially Ben Skuse and his team of rangers for the work they put in. We are informed that these areas will continue to be included in the regular maintenance cycle on the estate.
Working Party dates for 2016
WE NEED YOU! Please help us carry on making a difference
We've now set our provisional working party dates for 2016. There are detailed on the below and continue our regular second-Saturday of the month routine (more or less). To publicise these events further we have also produced the attached poster which will be placed in the noticeboard and at the house.
Although we have a small group of regular volunteers we really need more new members who can take an active involvement in our conservation work. If you know anyone who might enjoy getting involved, increasing their fitness, broadening their circle of friends, and, at the same time make a real impact on the restoration of Bristol's most important historic estate we'd appreciate it if you could pass this message on. We welcome volunteers of all ages and abilities. There's always a variety of tasks that need doing. We've previously had volunteers from nine to ninety, so you're sure to fit in with our almost-national-award-winning crew!
If you have a location to post one of our posters please download a PDF version here, or get in touch for a copy to be posted to you.
Reprinted and refreshed:
Our estate guide is relaunched
The final element of our Green Capital project is released
It was only launched in June 2014, but already we've exhausted our supply of 5000 free Kings Weston estate guides. By far our most popular leaflet it's been gratifying to see families and groups walking about the estate with it in hand. Now, as part of our Green Capital funded project supported by the Avonmouth and Kingsweston Neighbourhood Partnership, we've refreshed and republished it with a massive 8000 new copies.
The guide has been redesigned with a fresh look to avoid confusion with our other leaflets, and with a glorious image of the estate taken this summer. Copies will shortly be available from our dispenser at Shirehampton Road car park and in the cafe at Kings Weston House or you can download your own PDF copy here.
A new acquisition
A fascinating document sheds light on WWI at Kings Weston
A new addition to our archive is this copy of a programme sold to members of the public attending a fund-raising military tournament held at Kings Weston. The tournament, held in the midsts of the First World War, was organised by the troops and officers of the nearby Shirehampton Remount Depot. Many of the events included the horses and mules being being trained at the depot to help the war effort. Particular curious is the "wrestling on mules - six men per squadron"! Another event, tent-pegging, was once a popular and exciting military sport. Involving lancing a wooden target from a galloping horse it is an ancient sport still practised today. All of these events would have been held on the flat meadow in front of Kings Weston house.
This was not the only event of this sort to be held at Kings Weston during the First World War. Philip Napier Miles, owner of the estate, regularly allowed charitable events to use his grounds. These often raised funds for the Red Cross, or other organisations connected with the auxiliary hospital that he and his wife ran in the house between 1915 and 1919. Funds raised by this particular event were to go to Prisoners of War, but also, very fittingly considering the involvement of the Remount Depot, to the Blue Cross - an animal welfare organisation who were collecting to help and care for war horses involved in the conflict.
A complete version of the programme can be found on the Know Your Place Website here.
Vanbrugh's gate; a new discovery
Drawings from the V&A Museum bring a new perspective to Kings Weston's past
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has recently released some more of its collection to view on-line. Amongst the newly available images from the Elton Hall collection of drawings are some that were drawn by the architect of Kings Weston house; Sir John Vanbrugh. In combination with those held by Bristol Record Office(BRO) these are an incredible record of Kings Weston's creation.
Below: The recently published image from the V&A
One of the drawings just released came described as a gateway for Kings Weston and is a drawing previously unknown to us or unpublished. There's no indication why it has been attributed to our estate, but there's another, better known, drawing for a similar project in the BRO. Both proposals are for a gateway of similar width and height, and both are attached on either side by a 10ft wall. It's likely that the newly discovered drawing is an earlier draft of the proposal for the entrance to Vanbrugh's Great Court in front of the house.
The sketch probably dates to about 1717 and before the more refined and better resolved proposal in the BRO that's dated to 1717/18 - a date at which the finishing touches were being put to the main house. It's likely to be a preliminary idea for the gate; a proposal which was scrapped either by Vanbrugh or Edward Southwell, his client.
Below: The 1717/18 design in the BRO
To see how it might have looked in its intended location we have added it into one of our accurate 3D reconstructions of the estate at this period. Whilst it reinforces the notion that Vanbrugh wanted to imbue his design for Kings Weston with the same "castle air" he sought to apply to many of his projects, the effect achieved looks out of scale, and naive. It's an imaginative and fanciful medieval design, but would have been incongruous in front of the Baroque mansion; the reason perhaps for its abandonment. From recent archaeological survey work we know that, although the Great Court was laid out and built, neither of the monumental gateways was ever installed.
Below: 3D reconstruction of the mock-medieval gate in its intended position in front of the Great Court