Framed from The Circle: How an historic façade was designed to be seen. 

Oddly, views of the main front of Kings Weston house looking up the avenue from The Circle are rare, so, we’re celebrating on hunting down this copy of an early 20th Century postcard. The familiar lime avenue on the left is today accompanied by replacement trees we planted in 2014, but here the house is framed by some of the originals. In the 1760s the rigid formality of the linear avenues had become old fashioned, and the third Edward Southwell who owned the estate took to deformalizing it, creating a more natural landscaped parkland setting for the mansion. Rather than getting rid of all the trees he kept one side of the avenue and thinned-out the south side leaving just a handful scattered in the open grassland. The postcard shows that these survivors were still growing in the 1900s, but must have succumbed soon after.

The recently acquired early 1900s postcard showing the view of the house from The Circle. 

It’s also worth noting the grassy carpet leading the eye towards the house is absolutely crammed with flowers, perhaps buttercups or ox-eye daisies. Sadly, a black and white photo does no justice to what the photographer enjoyed on this sunny summer day in the Edwardian era.  

The approach to the house from Shirehampton was once dominated by views towards the house, something that the architect Sir John Vanbrugh was keen to emphasise in its design. The arcade of chimneys on the roof were once the first thing seen across the brow of the hill as the rest of the façade gradually revealed itself. By the time the visitor was stood on The Circle the house was perfectly framed by trees, the open circle providing a theatrical open space from which to admire it from.

 Drawn by Samuel Loxton in 1920, this view shows on the right the cedar tree on The Circle that’s just been lost. In the foreground the ha-ha with its sunken fence that once surrounded the Circle is seen before being infilled after WWII. 

Sadly, since WWII and the growth of self-seeded ash and sycamore, these once inspiring views have been lost, the result being a sense of disconnection between the house, its grounds, and Shirehampton.  

Today views from the Circle are impacted by post-war tree growth. 

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