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The appeal of Penpole Point

Penpole Point, at the far western extremity of the estate, has been a popular vantage point overlooking the Severn for generations. The stone dial was erected there by the Merchant Venturers as a shipping mark, but became the focal point of innumerable rambles through the parkland from the Georgian period onwards. Until the last few decades the romantic views obtained from the dial continued to attract visitors, but sadly the views have been gradually lost to rampant tree growth.

A few recent discoveries illustrate the past popularity of the Point. Perhaps two of the most enjoyable are a couple of stereoviews taken by a private individual around 1900, a single view of each of which is shown here. Far from the stuffy demeanour of the usual Victorian photograph the two gentlemen are seen first in relaxed pose, then, no doubt after some intense clambering, astride the dial in a gesture parodying the pose of some self-important statue. The two images are fascinating for both their personal insight into the two tourists, but also for the detail of the dial and the long-lost Penpole Lodge in the background.

Single images of two stereocscope view of Penpole Point, circa 1890-1900.

Single images of two stereocscope view of Penpole Point, circa 1890-1900.

Single images of two stereocscope view of Penpole Point, circa 1890-1900.

 

Photo taken by Mrs Stephanie Keates of her husband-to-be in 1964

The Point must have always had a lure for romantic couples to get away from the city and share the views each other’s company. When KWAG posted these on our Facebook page we were delighted that they elicited a response from Mrs Stephanie Keates, and we hope she will not mind us sharing her image onwards. She tells us that the photo was taken in 1964 when she and her husband-to-be were courting and that they have recently celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.

The fame of Penpole Point was wide, and visitors at the turn of the Century could purchase one of many postcards of the view, or the dial, that were on sale in Shirehampton and throughout the city. A far more rare souvenir of the estate would have been the little bone china trinket we’ve also recently picked up. The transfer-applied scene depicts the dial and Penpole Lodge, and the whole is crudely coloured by hand. It dates to the first decade of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps this little memento was commissioned by a local shop in Shirehampton and retailed to ramblers returning to the station from their hike to enjoy the view.

China beaker with Penpole Point depicted. Circa 1900-1914

It is ultimately KWAG’s ambition to re-open some of the views from Penpole Point, but many of the trees that have grown up since the 1960s are far more substantial than what our volunteers are able to manage. The treacherous quarry-like edges on both sides of the point also create safety problems in accessing the area both for assessment and for clearance. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we will be able to fund the opening-up of at least some viewing corridors through the trees.

Last of the Miles family

KWAG was contacted recently by a well-wisher in the USA. David McGreevy had acquired a photograph from an English seller that he wanted to know more about, and thought we might share his interest.

The photo, dated 1873 is a fascinating insight into the Miles Family who lived at Kings Weston between 1834 and 1936. It shows the last two owners of the estate together as father and son. The 57-year-old Philip William Skinner Miles is seen holding the reins of Philip Napier Miles’s pony; the younger miles was just eight when the photo was taken.

After a little detective work we were able to identify the location of the photo as the yard of the stables on Napier Miles Road, and have passed this on to its new owner. In return he has happily allowed us to share it with you.

Philip Napier Miles sits astride a pony and his father, Philip William Skinner Miles holds the reins. 1873

An intriguing Italian perspective

A new description of Kings Weston has come to light with some fascinating new detail about the estate dating from the height of its fame. The description comes from an Italian author, Luigi Angiolini, who was drawn to Kings Weston in 1788 by its international reputation. Two features in particular stand out in a translation of his 1790 book “Letters from England, Scotland and the Netherlands”, and are unique insights.

The statue standing on its plinth in the 1920s.

Describing his visit to the grounds Angiolini describes the long-lost statue in the Echo as being a “good ancient Roman” figure. This is the earliest mention of the statue we’ve so far found and adds considerable weight to our belief that it was a classical era state collected on the continent by one of the Southwell family and transported to the estate. Our identification of the pose as conforming to a standard classical portrait model, retrospectively categorised as “small Herculaneum Woman”, always implied that it was not a bespoke commission for the Echo. Had it been we might expect it to have represented a more recognisable deity.

We might hope that Angiolini’s assessment of the statue is based on a knowledge of ancient examples which, as he notes, survived in far greater numbers in his homeland; his countrymen lacking the same reverence or value that Gentlemen travelers from Britain attributed to them.

 detail of Isaac Taylor's estate  plan of 1772

detail of Isaac Taylor’s estate plan of 1772

Sadly it’s likely that the only confirmation of the statue’s origins might come if it can be located, perhaps still, where anecdotal evidence suggests, tipped of off the terrace wall and into the ash pile close to the house.

Angiolini also treats us to another revelation about the landscaped grounds; He mentions an “artificial cave”, made of wood, and hidden in a grove of evergreens. Five years ago we identified an unusual feature in a 1772 map of Penpole Wood which may correspond to Angiolini’s cave, and, at the time, we tentatively attributed it to the landscape designer Thomas Wright. Since then we have proven Wright’s involvement in the design of the Kings Weston grounds and the description of a rustic wooden cave, intertwined with ivy, compares favorably with other known examples of then-fashionable grottoes and seats in Arcadian settings.  Such examples of “grotesque architecture” were perishable by nature, an intentional contrast to the permanence of classical garden temples, and so often decayed unrecorded, but a quarried area adjacent to one of the paths through the woods corresponds to the map location.

An example of one of Thomas Wright’s designs from his book “Universal Architecture”

We are left to imagine what the structure looked like, but the closest example is the root house at Blaise Castle Estate. This was recorded by the artist Samuel Hieronymous Grimm the year after Angiolini’s visit to Kings Weston. Angiolini doesn’t mention visiting Blaise in his writings, and travels quickly on to Aust and the ferry to Wales. We trust that in describing the example at Kings Weston he was not conflating it with a similar rustic seat on the adjacent Blaise estate.

The root house at Blaise Castle depicted by S H Grimm in 1789 (British Library)

A full translation of Angiolini’s description of Kings Weston follows:

“It was a total satisfaction to visit the palazzo of the Lord; It is not big, but is tasteful, with portico supported by columns in Palladian style, which I liked. I will not speak at length about the different parts that compose it; the paintings are mostly Italian, few originals, many copies, including some very good. I was occupied with the pleasure gardens, even those said orchards, namely gardens of fruits and green vegetables. I will not dwell on the way they are maintained; It would be easier to perform than to describe what I observed. The park, which is well cut with many majestic evergreen trees, obliges one to take a path which is long but not tiring, because one is amused by many diversions of variety and innovation. If ever you came into these parts, do not neglect to educate yourself of a point half a mile from the palazzo, from which you can discover all the Bristol Channel at once, the outlet of ‘Avon into Severn, the Counties of Somerset, Gloucester and Wilts, and a large tract of country of Wales. In the Gardens there is a good ancient Roman statue for which a temple has been built, if not very large, very elegant and dignified. In England, perhaps for the rarity, you have a respect and a reverence for old things that we, too abundant of them, do not. In the midst of an evergreen grove, there is a pleasant surprise, a kind of hidden cave, made of timber and artificially covered in ivy that appears alive. Englishmen are unique in their knowledge of how to contrive art from nature. “

Urgent Iron Bridge Action!

Important news about the Iron Bridge!

KWAG fully supports a morning event this Sunday to bring about new attention for the plight of the Grade II Listed Iron Bridge on the estate.Frustrated locals in north Bristol are marking 800 days since a vital – and historic – footbridge was closed to pedestrians by Bristol City Council, with a public rally showing how much the bridge is loved.


Kingsweston iron bridge is a Grade II listed cast iron structure, built circa 1820 by legendary roads engineer John Loudon McAdam (who gave his name to tarmac). It forms the only safe pedestrian link between the Blaise and Kings Weston estates in north Bristol. It was used daily by hundreds of dog walkers, families, schoolchildren and ramblers until it was struck by a high-sided lorry on 4 November 2015. The bridge was swiftly scaffolded by Bristol City Council and closed to pedestrians – and has now remained this way for over 2 years and 2 months. This week marks 800 days since the bridge was last open to foot traffic.

The Facebook group Save the iron bridge – Kingsweston has over 400 members, but campaigners are growing frustrated with the Council’s slow pace and poor communication with locals. The closure affects thousands of residents of Sea Mills, Shirehampton, Combe Dingle and Lawrence Weston, as well as many visitors from the wider Bristol area.

We are urging anyone who uses or cares about the future of the bridge to join them this Sunday 14th Jan, 10-11am and attach their messages of support to the bridge. Messages will be pinned to the scaffolding around the bridge and then put on display locally. “Although Bristol Council has said it’s committed to repairing the bridge, so far we have only had words and no action,” say event organisers Ella Davies and Dan Linstead. “We appreciate budgets are tight, but we need the Council to act now rather than later.

With the footbridge closed, locals are forced to cross the notoriously busy Kingsweston road, with traffic coming fast and unexpectedly in both directions. It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or worse.”

Group members and local councillors will meet at the bridge this Sunday 14th January at 10am (press photocall at 11am) to raise awareness ahead of a full council meeting on
Monday.

For more information and to join the Facebook group, visitgreenironbridge.com. contact organisers Ella Davies (ella.davies@yahoo.co.uk, 07707 125227)
or Dan Linstead (danlinstead@yahoo.co.uk, 07866 551632)

Great Court Consultation

The last planting beds on the garden front of Kings Weston have recently been completed by Norman Routledge and his team at the house. Focus is now turning to the main front of the house facing the Home Park. Plans are being drawn up by the house to look at creating a new formal forecourt in front of the main steps.

The new formal area is intended to reflect the original Great Court that once lay in a similar area. Although smaller in size it is intended that the design will use the same classical proportions.

Work on designs is likely to continue over winter and a Planning and Listed building application will follow. The illustrations here are to help everyone get an idea of the character of the proposals and get feedback on them to help Norman and his architect, Quentin Alder, develop designs that respond to people’s thoughts.

If you have any suggestions, ideas, or concerns please forward them to us so we can coordinate a response to Norman. Unless you ask otherwise we will keep any feedback anonymous. Please email us at kwactiongroup@gmail.com, call 07811 666671, or post your comments to us as soon as possible, or before 1st January 2018.

New theories on Kings Weston’s Roman Landscape

Many in Shirehampton will know about the lamentable destruction of the former National School in the village centre a few years ago, well some interesting things have arisen since the loss that might start to outweigh the loss of the historic building. Last year Avon Archaeology undertook an excavation on the site and made some exceptional finds; the first significant Roman material found in Shirehampton beneath the Victorian foundations.

One of two bronze alloy broaches from the 1st or 2nd Century AD

Some of the pottery dating mainly from the 3rd to 4th Centuries.

As well as some fascinating individual finds including two fibulae brooch and a good quantity of pottery The dig identified a strong linear ditch feature into which much of the material had been deposited. This ditch, and an associated stone scatter along one side, support a new assessment of the Roman impact on the Kings Weston estate.

Linear ridges and shallow impressions crossing north-east – south-west across the meadowland of the Home Park have long puzzled us and our archaeological geophys surveys have not yet reached the most visually prominent areas to asses them. In association with our existing knowledge there is more exciting potential in these features.

Roman linear feature and site plan (Avon Archaeology)

To the south of Kings Weston was the town of Abona, on the Avon at modern Sea Mills. Roman Roads can be tracked southwards and across Durdham Downs heading for Bath, and a major connection to Gloucester is known. It is significant that the known course of this road passes to the north side of the Kings Weston Ridge, continuing a line from Cribbs Causeway through Henbury. However, if that line is projected onwards it is not to Sea Mills that it heads, but directly through the Kings Weston Parkland to the old ferry across the Avon to Pill and the Somerset side of the Avon.

The recent finds in Shirehampton now give greater weight to the route of the road passing across the Home Park, Down Park Hill, then heading towards the banks of the Avon at Lamplighter’s along the modern course of Station Road; From there significant settlements at Gatcombe, Charterhouse on Mendip, and Ilchester would have been directly connected with Gloucester.

LIDAR data showing the landscape features around Kings Weston house in high relief.

A review of the archaeological record for the road from Bath towards Abonae also suggests that that road too bypassed the settlement proper and headed across the river Trym in a characteristically straight line, and crossed Kings Weston Hill at the Old Inn, and by way of a zig-zag known to have existed before the 1730s.

What this means for Kings Weston is significant. The conjectural new alignments give great potential for undisturbed Roman material being located within the flat land around the Home Park, and close to a major junction in Roman Roads. The nature of that junction, the foundation of the medieval manor at Kings Weston, and the efforts made by the Southwell families and those before them to divert the road outside their park might now be explored within this new hypothesis.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. Conjectural alignment of Roman Roads around Kings Weston with other sites.

Iron Bridge Update, August 2017

Some long-awaited progress to report from Bristol City Council regarding their repairs on the Regency iron bridge over Kings Weston Lane. This is the full text of the highway teams report:

Kingsweston Lane Footbridge was impacted by a HGV on the 4th November 2015, where substantial structural damage was suffered to the underside of this lightweight footbridge cast iron structure. There is already low headroom warning signage in place on approaches to this footbridge. The footbridge was immediately inspected on the same date and was subsequently closed to pedestrians on health and safety grounds.

As a consequence of the damage incurred the Council installed a temporary scaffolding bridge support arrangement above this footbridge to prevent the bridge itself from collapsing onto Kingsweston Road below. This support scaffolding was installed using an emergency road closure on the 5th and 6th of November 2015. The bridge remains closed to pedestrians. A signed alternative pedestrian route via Kingsweston Lane (including a temporary pedestrian crossing), is in now place. The road remains open to traffic. The alternative pedestrian route is inspected on a monthly basis

The Council is committed to reconstructing this listed historical footbridge and to reinstall this vital pedestrian link. However due to the listed status of the bridge and the paucity of existing information, further detailed investigation will be required to be undertaken before BCC are in a position to commence works on site. Subject obtaining the appropriate Capital Investment availability, this is provisionally programmed to be commenced on site early in the New Financial year, April 2018.

By potentially raising the headroom height of the footbridge it is hoped the mitigate the future potential for HGV bridge strikes, However this would change the appearance and would create pedestrian ramping on the approaches to the footbridge which may not be accepted by (HE) or BCC Planners. This will be investigated further by BCC and a decision made on the appropriate design accordingly.

The footbridge itself is constructed from numerous jointed cast iron elements and is also grade 2 listed, constructed circa 1800. The footbridge has received significant structural damage with the east side of the bridge sustaining major damage and loss to two arch beams which transfer the structural loadings of the bridge to the walled abutments on either side. These are the key structural members that hold the bridge in place and give it the required strength. To date we have luckily been able to find the old wooden moulds for these arch beams and have been able to source an suitable boundary and have had a replacement arch beam already recast and this is now in safe BCC storage awaiting to be installed.

We intend to use our Professional Frameworks Consultants (CH2M) to undertake the preliminary investigations, site surveys, Listed consent submission, detailed design/assessment, and Contract preparation and Tendering out to Market. The likely cost of this this commission brief would be in the region of £30,000.00 to include and cover the following phases:

Preliminary Design and Investigation Programme For Kingsweston Lane Footbridge

Phase 1: Preliminary Date: October 2017 
Undertake a full topographical survey of the bridge itself and the surrounding area of the bridge (15m either side). This will be done under a full road closure, organised by BCC. As this is a Conservation area we will need to consider the flora and fauna within the surrounding area , including bats and badgers etc.

Phase 2: Preliminary Date: November 2017
Inspect Bridge and determine the original method of original construction and connection. This will determine how the bridge is to be dismantled taken down, stored and then resembled. Undertake structural investigation and assessment as to the possibility of raising the bridge by about 400mm and look at the feasibility of this and the overall impact this would have in terms of access across the footbridge ect.

Phase 3: Preliminary Date: December 2017 
Liaise with David Martyn (BCC Historic Environment/Conservation Officer) on Listed requirements from Historic England (HE) for the dismantling, storage and re erection of the bridge. Consult with HE & Planning with regard to consents required to raise the footbridge if this is considered to be feasible.

Phase 4: Preliminary Date: January 2018
Submit required Listed Consent to HE and BCC Planning BCC and await outcome and further instruction.
Phase 5: Preliminary Dates: February to March 2018
Detailed Design, Contract and drawing Preparation, Tendering out to Market, Assessment of returns and award of Contract.

 

Help us solve a seating shortage

A regular complaint is that there are so few benches around the estate to rest or enjoy the parkland. We’d like to remedy that and hope that you will be able to help us. With the agreement of the Council we’ve identified a series of locations around the estate where they could be installed, and we are asking for sponsorship for simple oak benches.

Our intention is that people can select a location and sponsor a bench as a, gift, memorial, or simply as a generous gesture. KWAG volunteers will procure heavy duty oak benches and install them on your behalf. If you would like a small brass plaque on your bench these can be supplied at extra cost.

This map will show you the agreed bench locations. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uBosa4CK0btlH_JFb_bB3jvTVZ0&usp=sharing We regret that locations can only be offered on a first-come first-served basis.

 

The solid oak benches are available to sponsor for £175 or £220 with a personalised memorial plaque. Payment can be made via Paypal and the location, and any further details included in the “Add special instructions” box, or get in touch with us by email at kwactiongroup@gmail.com or call 07811 666671 to reserve a location and find out alternative methods of payment.

KWAG has already committed to providing two benches and we hope to install these soon. You will also notice that one location has already been reserved. This spot, overlooking the Home Park and the house, will be the location of an artwork as part of the Forgotten Landscape project, and will be designed by Debborah Aguirre Jones. The bench will be a unique design incorporating elements of just three locations across the whole Lower Severn Vale project area. Each bench will then have a texture or pattern burnt into the wood

The Echo Plinth and a Roman Influence

Robert Mylne is a significant, but less well known, figure of Eighteenth Century architecture. Long overshadowed by his contemporary and fellow Scotsman, Robert Adam, he was no less skilled as a designer. He studied extensively in Rome under the architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and when he returned to England in 1759 he quickly entered, and won, a competition for a new bridge at Blackfriars, London, one of the most prestigious and high profile projects of the age.

Robert Mylne by Vincenzio Vangelisti, after Richard Brompton, line engraving, 1783 (1783)

A recent research visit to the collections of the Royal Institute of British Architects at the V&A has brought new depth to our understanding of what the two men achieved at Kings Weston. Although Mylne’s diaries have been published before there have been many significant omissions.

We now know that Mylne first arrived at Kings Weston, at Southwell’s invite, On April 30th 1763. He stayed for eleven days, during which time he no doubt he discussed his client’s ambitions at length, and made initial surveys and proposals for the house and grounds. He returned to London with Southwell and began work.

First amongst Mylne’s works were the walled garden and stables. The following year he moved onto the house itself and the interiors; The Eating parlour, Drawing Room, the building of the bay window overlooking the Severn, and the Saloon (picture gallery) and other interiors were all tackled over the following five years.

Amongst the inexplicably overlooked diary entries is one that now confirms the stone pedestal in the Echo as Mylne’s work. On March 20th 1766 he wrote “Made out a drawing for a pedestal to a statue for Mr Southwell and ditto at large. To be charged by the workman’s bill.” The following day, no doubt with the instruction of his client Mylne ordered the pedestal to be executed.

The statue is believed to have been collected by Southwell on his Continental tour, but Mylne’s pedestal is a work of art in its own right. Carved from a single piece of Portland Stone the design illustrates the architect’s knowledge of the latest understanding of classical architecture. The round cylinder-shaped pedestal takes the form of an ancient Greek altars. Carved in high relief on the simple drum are swags of leaves draped from simple rosettes; oak leaves are associated with the highest gods in the Greek pantheon, but also have a more general sacred symbolism.

Our recent trip has also identified regular payments made by Southwell for Mylne’s work. During the most active periods Southwell was paying £100 per annum to his architect. Between 1764 and 1770 payments in excess of £450 were transferred to Mylne, a figure excluding the cost of many other individual drawings considered extra to their original agreement. These substantial sums perhaps reflect the skill of the architect, and responsibility of his position; the annual wage of Southwell’s senior footman was just £16 16s a year.

The Echo in 1927 (Country Life)

The Echo in 1927 (Country Life)

Urgent Help Needed to Resist Penpole Planning Proposal

We’ve received notice that ANOTHER planning application for land adjacent to Penpole Lane, popularly known as the Karakal site, or Fairways. A proposal has come in for 77 shipping containers to be located within the Conservation Area and within the boundary of the Kings Weston historic Registered parkland. The site will be railed off with an 8-foot high mesh security fence with gates, and the containers introduced as part of a self-storage business.

One of the proposed containers and externall treatment

One of the proposed containers and externall treatment

The proposals will form the backdrop to the War Memorial on Shirehampton Road, now a Grade II Listed structure in its own right, and will blight the setting of the park. The Conservation Area appraisal describes this as semi-rural, and the proposed semi-industrial use is unacceptable in principle. We need your help to object to this planning application.

Over the years KWAG has made significant improvements to this, most visible, part of the estate. We removed the ruined tennis court, ensured the undergrowth that had taken over here has been kept in check, and developed a plan with the City Council Parks department for the restoration of the old courts to grassland. Unfortunately our efforts face being undone if permission is granted for the development.

 The type of 2.4metre security fences proposed for the perimeter.

The type of 2.4 metre security fences proposed for the perimeter.

To register your objection go to the Council’s online planning search page and search for application number 17/02259/F (Change of Use of site for self storage units. | Fairways Penpole Lane Bristol BS11 0EA ) The website is here: http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do?action=simple

You will need to object to the application on planning grounds. There are numerous policies that oppose this sort of development and t     these can include:
– Harm to the character of the Conservation Area
– Harm, and considerable disrespect,  to the setting of the Grade II Listed War Memorial, Grade I Listed Kings Weston House, and the Grade II Registered historic landscape
– Increased traffic from users of the self-storage facility
– increased danger to pedestrians and school children using the lane to get to school
– Loss of the designated wildlife corridor that constitutes the north half of the site

– Ecological and environmental harm

If you are unfamiliar with the site it is on the right in this google street view https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4908349,-2.6659256,3a,75y,294.98h,93.91t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1senrl1FH3X-wNYacqE00GTQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Consistent with our resistance to the intensified development of this site over several years KWAG strongly objects to this proposal. It is entirely counter to the recommendations of the Conservation Management Plan that was designed to protect the park and for which we fought strongly for. We believe the proposals will damage the appeal and character of the historic park for everyone. We’ve pushed back on this one before, and we hope you can support us again. Please, please, help us resist this assault!

The existing site (left), and the proposed distribution of the 77 containers across the site (right). Click the image to view in more detail.

The existing site (left), and the proposed distribution of the 77 containers across the site (right). Click the image to view in more detail.