Two items of Kings Weston interest recently appeared in auction in Gloucestershire. Two paintings, both dating to the 1840s went under the hammer on the 7th. The first was a small and somewhat naive depiction of Penpole Point in oil. This small painting was unsigned and a little mangled. The view included Penpole Lodge and the dial further along the ridge, but all concertinaed into a compressed space with some alarming perspective at play! It was also odd in showing the dial raised on a mound, perhaps for artistic effect as we know it never had this pronounced feature. The painting shows some of the many visitors who came to Penpole Point to take in the views; one even holds a telescope to out on the early steamships plying their trade on the Severn.
The other painting is a large watercolour depicting the staircase in Kings Weston house by Thomas Leeson Rowbotham and is of historic as well as aesthetic interest. Rowbotham (1782-1853) was born in Bath in 1782 where he worked as a teacher of painting. He lived in Bristol from about 1825-35, where he made many drawings for G. W. Braikenridge who famously commissioned hundreds of paintings documenting the old city of Bristol in incredible detail. Over 400 of Rowbothom’s paintings form part of the museum’s Braikenridge collection. Rowbothom must have impressed the Miles family, owners of Kings Weston from 1835, as he was commissioned to paint the interior of both his mansions: Leigh Court and Kings Weston. A painting of the Drawing Room at Leigh Court is in the Bristol Museum collections.
The Kings Weston painting is dated, June 1848, and this too is significant. After the death in 1845 of his father, Philip John Miles, his son, Philip William Skinner Miles decided to use his inheritance to refurbish Kings Weston as his new family home. Part of his works were to demolish the ancient arcades that filled the stair hall of the house and open up the space with wide galleries and a new top-lit ceiling. The centrepiece of the space was to remain the original staircase designed by Sir John Vanbrugh and installed by 1716. This work began in 1846 and concluded with a ceremonial dinner for the labourers on August 21st 1847; this was held in the George in Shirehampton and not in the house itself!
Skinner Miles appears to have commissioned Rowbothom to record the brand new interior he has just created. Everything looks neat with only a few belongings having yet been set up and paintings and furniture that later occupied the space not yet installed. The gas lamps fitted to the stair newels are feature now missing, but the scene is little changed today from Rowbothom’s meticulous depiction of the newly finished hall.