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KWAG's February news updates.
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Plenty of forthcoming events, and some fantastic new finds.  


Above: Early Nineteenth Century print of Kings Weston across the lawns

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This month:

  • Working party progress: The circle completed
  • Walking tour events
  • Upcoming Archaeology event
  • Historic portrait to return to Bristol
  • Auction find echoes estate's family history
 

Don't Forget! - Working Party Reminder


Reminder:  February's working party will take place next week, on Sat 11th. Meet as last month at Shirehampton Road car park 10am. Whilst the Circle area is complete we have another adjacent area to clear of laurels ahead of tree planting next month. We will be working close to the White Oak in Penpole Wood, adjacent to the cricket pitch: Map HERE  
 

The laurel clearance should be lighter than the last few months, and will be the last of the laurel works this year (we hope). There will be tasks to suit most 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: The Circle completed

 
We are again grateful for such a good turnout at January's working party, and especially to the many new volunteers who came along to lend a hand. This ended up being one of the toughest of the laurel-clearing working parties, with a thick and tangled mass of dense greenery to fell. The scale of the challenge is perhaps not fully demonstrated in our before and after images, but the impact on the site is marked. 

Views of veteran trees through the area, and revealed vistas to important ornamental planting have all benefited from the work, as well as the long-term health and diversity of the woodland in this key location.  

Above right: looking towards the circle from within Penpole Wood before and after work
Below: Looking south from the main path towards the Circle, before and after. 

Although we only narrowly achieved our target of clearing the whole of the area around the Circle, a great deal of felled timber had to be cleared and reduced over subsequent weeks. We are grateful for Jim Ellis and Norman Routledge for having undertaken this, and enhanced the finished result.  

The event also saw the planting of three new trees around the edge of the Circle and within the wood. As noted last month, these will supplement the native and ornamental species already growing here. 


Below: The view towards Kings Weston House from the north edge of the Circle before and after work. 


Walking event dates announced

Coming shortly! More events in the Kings Weston Grounds have recently been announced.  These will include an early morning bird walk and nocturnal walk and bookings are now live . These events have both proved great successes when we've run them in the past and are now available free of charge as part of the Heritage Lottery supported A Lost Landscape project. We hope to add a History walk to the list to be run on  6th May, but we will issue further details soon. 

Full details and the required booking  forms are available through the A Forgotten Landscape website through the below links. 
 

Early bird walk 26 March – Kings Weston Grounds  8am
Hear the onset of spring on this early morning bird walk. Ed Drewitt, local naturalist will be helping us to identify birds by sight and sound.  This walk is free but booking is essential. No dogs except guide dogs. Directions and location given on booking.
Book your place here: https://earlybirdwalk.eventbrite.co.uk


 
Nocturnal Walk – Kings Weston Grounds  27 May  8:30pm- approx. 10pm
Join us to explore at night, look for some nocturnal creatures and have a go at using our bat detectors. Steve England, local naturalist will be leading this short walk.
Please wear suitable clothing, sturdy outdoor footwear and bring a torch. You need to be fit enough to complete a short walk. This event is not suitable for younger children, so walkers must be aged 12 plus. Meeting point provided on booking.
Book your place here: https://nocturnalwalk.eventbrite.co.uk

 

Upcoming archaeology event

A Forgotten Landscape in collaboration with Kings Weston Action Group and Norman Routledge would like to run a community geophysics event at Kings Weston House. The target area will be to the south of the house itself (centre ST541774) complimenting and extending previous geophysical survey in the area we helped with in 2012. The aim of the survey is to identify any evidence for buried garden features, using earth resistance survey.

The last time we ran one of these events we identified the outline of the Great Court in front of the house using geophysics equipment and the expertise of the University of Bristol. This time our aim will be to extend the survey area and hopefully establish what a number of curious lumps and bumps across the lawns are. 


Below: Geophysics in the park with KWAG volunteers in 2012

There will be an opportunity to join in and discover the techniques and help us unravel the site's history. Experts from the project team and KWAG volunteers will be on-hand to answer questions and with our exhibition boards to provide context. 

The day will run from 9am-5pm on Saturday 11th March. This is currently scheduled as a Working Party day, but we will confirm soon whether we will run it concurrently, or postpone for later in the month. If you want to get involved with the surveying itself we have a tight restriction on numbers. A maximum of ten volunteers will be able to attend an introductory seminar on Saturday morning, led by Phil Rowe of Bristol University, where they will be briefed on the geophysical survey techniques and process, including health and safety on site. We will then head out to the park to mark out a series of 20x20m grids (using tapes and pegs). The volunteers will then undertake the resistance survey (which involves traversing the areas in a zig zag pattern collecting measurements every 50cm). 
 
The rough area of the survey is outlined in this google map  We expect that the volunteers will complete around 4 20mx20m grids over the day covering a total area of 40m x40m.
 
With respect to public use of the space, we are really happy for the public to approach the team - we selected the area so it does not intersect any main paths. We plan to put up notices explaining the work both at the site and in the café and there will be a number of more experienced volunteers to help answer questions from members of the public.

If you would like to book your place for this event please get in touch quickly to avid disappointment. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. If the event proves popular we will look to run it again later in the year. 

Below, The 2012 results were critical in establishing the extent of Vanbrugh's original Great Court


Historic portrait returns to Bristol 

 
Below: Elizabeth Dering, by Sir Peter Lely and "Mr Sonius"
The gallery of paintings in the Saloon of Kings Weston House is one of its highlights. Whilst there are literally dozens of portraits of members of the Southwell family, who owned the house and estate for the whole of the Eighteenth Century, this is just a fraction of their original collection.

The rooms throughout the mansion were filled with many paintings, with a strong emphasis on ancestral portraits. Today the family still owns a small collection of these, but many remain lost or in private collections; However, just occasionally, one comes to light...

Most recently a painting came onto the market of Lady Elizabeth Dering, the Irish noblewoman who, in 1665, married the first of the family at Kings Weston, Sir Robert Southwell. There are already paintings of the couple in the house; a pair of beautiful and characterful works. The newly uncovered painting has a well documented history and can be tracked from its original execution to its final sale out of the family in 1834 following the death of the last of the direct line.  

The painting itself is vast; Over seven feet in height it is almost life size. It carries the name and date of its sitter in the lower left-hand corner, and Elizabeth stares out of the canvas with almost-luminous skin, and a distant gaze. A striking red shawl wraps through the painting, but, unusually, the dress she wears is jet black and isn't as splendid show of opulent colour as one might expect from such a bold painting.

Below: The painting of Elizabeth Dering in Kings Weston house. 
Clues to the painting's origins are given in an early inventory of goods in the house compiled in 1695. With regard to the full-length portrait of Elizabeth it explains "the head done by Sir Peter Lely in 1680, a little before his death. The drapery by Mr Sonius". Lely was the foremost court painter of his age, and his prolific output included the majority of the Royal family and nobility of Britain. At his death in November 1680 many of of the works in his studio were incomplete and finished by assistants, the Dering portrait no doubt amongst them. Elizabeth herself lived only a few months longer, dying in January 1681. It is therefore likely that the studio were instructed to complete the painting posthumously and the dark mourning dress of black symbolised the recent loss.   

Below: Elizabeth's memorial in Henbury Church
The painting originally hung in the Southwell's house in Spring Gardens, London, but quickly found its way to Kings Weston by the time the house was remodelled by Vanbrugh in 1712. All subsequent descriptions of the house mention it in the Breakfast Parlour overlooking the Severn; This space has since been opened out into what's better known today as the Vanbrugh Room. When the last of the direct line of the family, Edward Southwell VI, Baron de Clifford, died in 1832 almost the entire contents of the house were auctioned in a lavish series of events in London. It appears that the Dering portrait was sold with one other of a similar size for the princely sum of £7!

The history of the painting since that auction remains uncertain. A number of auction stamps, and collection marks, on the timber stretcher hint at a long chain of subsequent ownership. No doubt in the future we may be able to find out who was interested enough in the sitter, or the portrait to own it, an dwho the mysterious painted, Mr Sonius was! The intention is that the painting will now return to Bristol. Plans are yet to develop for how public access and enjoyment of it can be arranged. At some point it would be wonderful to see it return to kings Weston in some form. 
 


Auction find echoes estate's family history  


Many people local to the Kings Weston estate will be aware of the death two years ago of local Historian Ralph Hack. Ralph had amassed a large collection of research and original material about the whole area including Kings Weston and we've been keen to track-down his archives since then. 

Recently portions of his collection came to light at Bristol Auction Rooms, and we were keen to try and identify anything that might relate to the house and its history. Amongst the lots was a pencil drawing that particularly stood out. Catalogued only as a view  at Kings Weston, dated 1910, and signed "RG" it is a well executed sketch of the view looking towards the Echo from the house. We were in a fortunate position to recognise the sketch, and the monogram, as being the work of the artist and etcher Robert Goff. 

Above right: View towards the Echo, Robert Goff, 1910
Below left: "The Sentinels" Kings Weston. Etching by Robert Goff, 1907. 


Goff was the brother-in-law of Philip Napier Miles, the last private owner of Kings Weston house, and he evidently spent some time there sketching and developing compositions for his etchings. Whilst we don't know if the drawing ever developed further it's a fascinating companion to an image we've hosted here before: the opposing, engraved, view looking down towards Kings Weston House in 1907.  It's unlikely we'll ever know if the two images were ever intended to be seen together, but, rest assured, we'll be keeping our eyes out for an engraved version in the future!
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