Monthly Archives: August 2016

Feedback required on developing plans

Over the last twelve months plans have been in development for the gardens and car park immediately around Kings Weston house. Proposals are now sufficiently developed to go out for public comment ahead of planning applications being lodged for the works. If you are a regular reader of our newsletters you will be aware of the on-going felling of trees and the removal of the ruins of QEH school. These works have been informed by the gradually developing plans that Norman Routledge at Kings Weston house and his architect and landscape designer have been working on. Through our regular steering group meetings with Kings Weston house and Bristol City Council, and with input from Avon Gardens Trust, the proposals have evolved and are presented here for your feedback and comments.
In summary there are two drawings here for consideration; The coloured drawing shows the masterplan for the area and has been drawn-up by Quentin Alder architects, and the second plan is a detailed proposal for the first phase of works including planting and detailed layout drawn up by Al Smart landscapes.

One of the key premises of the proposals is to maintain public enjoyment of the area around the house and we have wholeheartedly supported that aspiration by Norman. The other consideration needs to be ensuring the continued viable use of the house and grounds to secure the long-term future of the historic property. Proposals include for enhanced car parking in the current area with a small extension into the land formerly lost to the ruins.

A new single-lane exit track is proposed to pass from the existing car park onto Kings Weston Lane to provide a safer vehicle exit from the grounds than is currently possible at the blind junction opposite Napier Miles Road. This would travel through the woodland area, towards the Echo, but be distinct from the main axial path, or the historic pleasure walk that passes close to the park wall. An existing opening in the wall would be re-used without further damage to the boundary. Proposals for the coffee shop terrace balustrade, the Great Court area, and improving the drainage and hard surfaces close to the house are also part of the wider scheme.

The detailed proposals relate to the first phase of works which relate mainly to the proposed landscaping and planting scheme. This currently does not include the expansion of the car park into the woodland area, or the new exit route. Many trees will be retained, and these will be complemented with more ornamental species. The car park will be linked to the main lawn by new paths crossing the current trench through the site and pleached lime trees and lower planting will create a buffer, concealing the car park from the gardens.
KWH - Layout plan (stage 1)
It is intended that a design competition be launched that will invite ideas for how the Great Court at the main front of the house could be recreated in some fashion. This idea is being developed with the support  of Bristol City Council and Norman Routledge and we will keep you abreast of how this develops.
We would very much like to hear your thoughts on the proposals. If you could get in touch with us by email or other means we’d like to collate them into a coordinated response from KWAG. If you are keen for your comments to be included we would be extremely grateful if you could get them to us by Monday 12th September. The proposed drawings can be seen here, or downloaded as two PDF documents here, and here.

A new 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.

Kings Weston Echo statue

The statue in the Echo, 1927 (Country Life)

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.

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.


Detail of Isaac Taylor’s estate plan of 1772(Bristol Record Office)

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. “