Preserving the memory of Penpole Lodge 

Ahead of August’s Working party, when we’ll be returning to Penpole Point, KWAG have produced a model of the long-lost Penpole Lodge, a building that remains with us only in ruin today. As with the reproduction statue described last month the model is intended to broaden understanding of the lost feature, and show what an imposing architectural statement it once was. In 2012 KWAG fully revealed and recorded the ruins with the assistance of South Gloucestershire’s county archaeologist, but the area is beginning to succumb to undergrowth once more.  

The building was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh as a belvedere and monumental landmark for Edward Southwell, and was designed to dominate the horizon in views from Kings Weston house. The building was a return commission for Vanbrugh who’d been responsible for the rebuilding of the house between 1712 and 1719. After its completion the pair looked to expand the parkland setting around the mansion and ornament it with fashionable garden structures, including Penpole Lodge.

Below: One of Sir John Vanbrugh’s proposals for penpole lodge showing the unexecuted colonnades on the shoulders of the gate

Below: one of Vanbrugh’s more robust designs for the building, circa 1724

Several drawings for the lodge exists showing variations on the design, one with a colonnaded veranda overlooking the Severn, but in the end a symmetrical tower built over an arched gate at the boundary of the private grounds was decided upon. It is dated to about 1724. Our reconstruction shows the building as-completed and recorded prior to demolition in the 1950s. We’re fortunate that students from Bristol University architecture school created a measured survey of the whole building in 1947, showing plans, sections, and key details, for it was to succumb to the wreckers in 1951 following decades of neglect, and the deprivations of wartime use by the Home Guard.

Whilst the Lodge appeared frequently in picture postcards of Penpole Point at the start of the Twentieth century these only captured the less ornamental side facing public common land. The façade facing Kings Weston house across the park was more refined and ornamental and only known to us through the 1947 drawings.  

Penpole Lodge as backdrop to the stone dial on Penpole Point, circa 1905. 

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