June's news updates from the Kings Weston Action Group
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Things come around so quickly! Here's this month's updates from the Kings Weston Estate and KWAG's work there. If you think someone else might be interested in our conservation work please do forward this email on to them.  

This month:

  • Lifting the Curtain - working party progress
  • Capability Brown study day at Kings Weston
  • New event - Tree walk with Richard Bland
  • The coffee terrace slopes - New commitment from Parks
  • New website for the house
  • History update - Dark new revelations about Kings Weston and slavery

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder

Reminder:  June's working party will take place next week, on Sat 13th. Meet at Shirehampton Road public car park at 10am. We're planning to carry out light clearance nearby along the South Walk between the Circle and the Echo, continuing the progress on our "Lifting the Curtain" project made last month. This will involve the removal of self-seeded saplings and light undergrowth. 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.


Lifting the Curtain
Progress from our working party

May saw the second of our working party events as part of our "Lifting the Curtain" project intended to restore visual connections between the South Walk and Kings Weston House. The walk once had a grandstand view of the house, the Home Park, and the Severn beyond, but over several decades this connection has been lost as self-seeded trees and scrub have grown to block the view. 

On Saturday 16th we continued eastwards along the path from where we began in April, clearing a lot of the foreground undergrowth and selecting the healthiest trees to remain and thrive in future years. The many great ornamental trees that line the path, Sweet Chestnut, Cedar of Lebanon, False Acacia and others, are also threatened by over-competition with the undergrowth, ivy, and
Old man's beard. This project will also benefit their continued good health, and allow them to be better appreciated as parkland trees once more.

We'll continue work this month, heading ever eastwards towards the Echo,  and we hope that you'll be able to come and help, or visit to enjoy the positive impact of our work; reuniting parts of the park that have been separated for too long.

Capability Brown Study day at Kings Weston
Avon Gardens Trust launch a major new event for Kings Weston

Join KWAG at an exclusive event in conjunction with The Association of Gardens Trusts and Avon Gardens Trust in partnership with The Garden History Society

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown at Kings Weston: A Re-assessment

Research and Recording Study Day – Kings Weston, Bristol

Tuesday 22 September 2015 9.30 am to 3.45pm – £50

Exploring his Legacy of Comfort and Elegance

A Research and Recording Study Day is to be held at Kings Weston, Bristol on Tuesday 22 September 2015. As part of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, we shall be exploring the influence of Brown on a country estate situated on the outskirts of Bristol. Kings Weston has a long and complex history and the grounds have been variously associated with John Evelyn, Robert Mylne, Thomas Wright and Lancelot Brown, but lack of funding meant the estate had been neglected for too many years. This situation changed in 2011 when the Kings Weston Action Group was founded to protect the estate to fight for its future and protect its past.

Guest speakers will help us discover more about the Southwell family and the Kings Weston estate, the importance of Brown in the British landscape movement and a re-assessment of the influence of Brown at Kings Weston in the light of current research.

For more information please download a copy of the booking form from KWAG's website here.

New event - Tree walk with Richard Bland
Join us on a free tree trail at Kings Weston

Below: an oak in Kings Weston Park, 1834

The fourth in KWAG’s series of free nature walks for Green Capital Year will be led by expert naturalist Richard Bland and explore the historic trees of the Kings Weston Estate. Come along and discover the many different and unusual species growing here, from familiar native trees to exotic imports grown to impress! Find out how to identify different species and how, when and why they were brought to Kings Weston.

The walk will be held on Saturday 11th July, and starts from Shirehampton Road Car Park. Please arrive at 10:15 am. The walk will commence at 10:30am and finish around lunch time

Places are limited so book early.  Accompanied children well behaved dogs on leads are very welcome.
E-mail or call 07811 6666 71 to book your place
Download a copy of the poster with full details here

Above: Richard Bland giving the Kings Weston Tree walk in 2012

The Coffee terrace slopes - new commitment from Parks
Enhancing the parkland setting to Kings Weston House

Earlier this year Bristol City Council undertook the clearance of brambles below the north side of Kings Weston House with the financial support of Norman Routledge. This is the second time this has been attempted, but unfortunately, after the first cut in March 2013, it was again neglected.

At the last meeting of the Kings Weston Estate Delivery Group we were delighted that Bristol City Council Parks North team have committed to its continued maintenance and regular cutting. This is something we have been pushing for since our foundation in 2011, and it will be wonderful to see this part of the park back under control and available for public use.

Better access to the area has already enabled enhanced views of the Grade I Listed Loggia, uncovered earthworks from earlier phases of the landscaped gardens, and of course the improved views towards Penpole and the Severn.


New website for the House
Kings Weston House launches a refreshed web presence

We're delighted that Kings Weston House goes from strength to strength, and the latest development has been the launch of a new web site. Pop along to

History update
Dark revelations about Kings Weston and Slavery

Documents reveal new information on New World plantations

Kings Weston has always had some low-key historic connections with the slave trade. Edwards Southwell II was MP for Bristol between 1739 and 1754, during which time he  promoted the interests of Bristol’s Africa, Carolina and West India merchants. After the Southwells' the Miles family had founded their immense fortune in shipping and plantations in the West Indies, but the infamous slave trade had been banned decades before their purchase of Kings Weston in 1835.

However, new information has come to light about actual plantations and slave ownership by Edward Southwell III in the colony of East Florida. Recently catalogued documents in Bristol Record Office tell the story of how Edward Southwell III entered into partnership with his father-in-law Samuel Campbell, and the latter's brother in law Closworthy Upton, later Baron Templetown, to petition the King to be granted land in East Florida. The territory had entered into British hands in 1763 following the Seven Years' War and land was progressively allocated by the crown for colonisation. In 1766 the Crown granted the same amount of land to each of the three petitioners stating "In order to make a settlement thereupon" the King does "cause 20,000 acres of land to be surveyed in one continuous tract in such part of the province as the said Edward Southwell or his attorney shall choose not surveyed or granted to others" and "that the grantee do settle the land with protestant white inhabitants within three years". The grant further demands that if any of the lands are suitable for hemp or flax production then this use should be given precedence.

With 60,000 acres between them the partnership sought suitable and experienced hands to develop them on their behalf. The services of William MakDougale [sic] were secured and he was dispatched with other eager planters and agents to set-out the claim. Land was secured on the east bank of Lake George, but MakDougale was concerned that the £2000 contributed by each partner would not be sufficient for the venture. In this respect he was entirely correct. The Southwell account books for the following years show a constant flow of large sums of money out to Florida for little return.

Above: Southwell's land on the east bank of Lake George - still unspoilt today.

There was an enormous amount of fraud and corruption perpetrated by unscrupulous agents and planters in the colony, at the expense of their absentee landlords in England and Scotland. This, combined with the swampy land, poor resources, and occassional attacks by the Spanish, meant that Edward Southwell's venture was probably doomed from the beginning. To make matters worse their planter, MakDougale, died in 1774 and the 60,00 acres were charged to another planter, James Penman to administer. Little appears to have been produced by the plantations, small quantities of timber and barrels of tar being the only exports, and after the death of Edward Southwell III in 1777 his executors were forced to come to terms with the scale of the losses he'd incurred.

In 1779 the plantation collapsed completely. Writing to Southwell's executors Penman describes how he abandoned his own plantations, initially to find safer territory to settle following the outbreak of "the Spanish War, and then retreating to the main town St Augustine. He promised to take good care of the partnership's 20 'Negro' slaves who he took in with his own, but later sold at very poor prices, keeping the money for the expenses he'd incurred.

The venture had led to Edward Southwell becoming heavily indebted, and it is no surprise that the several English and Irish estates he owned, including Kings Weston, all had to be mortgaged for over £30,000 to help support the disastrous endeavour.   


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