Modern Times, the 1930s to today

web banner modernAfter Philip Napier Miles died without an heir the estate was sold off by his wife Sybil. She moved into a new smaller home built in the walled gardens. Much of the estate was sold off to Bristol City Council, and Bristol Scouts leased Penpole Wood as a district camping ground. Penpole Lodge was used by the senior scouts and Jubilee Clearing in the woods was the most popular camping site with more pitches for tents in open fields below the woods. An open-air chapel was set-up in a circle of trees on an old Georgian viewing mound.

Kings Weston house and a large area immediately around it was bought by Bristol Municipal Charities. Their intention was to extend the mansion house with a range of new buildings and to relocate Queen Elizabeth Hospital School from its Jacobs Wells Road site. The old kitchens were demolished, much of the interior of the house stripped, and building work commenced on the new structures along Echo Walk in 1939. With the walls not even at roof level the project was put on hold at the outbreak of the Second World War and the building site abandoned.QEH school

WWII aerialThe estate was requisitioned for the war effort and two huge military camps built within the parkland. Shirehampton East and West camps performed a key role in the war effort by providing transit accommodation, receiving troops arriving at Avonmouth from North America before they were moved on to the south coast and on to the fronts in Europe. Hundreds of barrack huts were erected across Shirehampton golf course and many more between the trees of the avenues. Many of the concrete bases for these huts can still be seen today.

Towards the end of the war, with many families bombed-out and troops returning home there was a desperate housing shortage. Some families grouped together and laid claim to many of the now-empty army huts in order to turn them into homes. These squatters called their new settlement “Stolen Paradise” and set about bringing home comforts to the draughty huts. The City Council even supported them by ensuring that a supply of fresh water was available and sanitation taken care of.

With the major post-war housing crisis in hand, the City Council chose to develop large parts of the Kings Weston parkland for Lawrence Weston housing estate. Beginning in 1947 clean modern homes began springing up below Kings Weston house to re-home families bombed out of their old houses or being relocated from slums. The project for QEH school was finally school Kings westonabandoned in 1949 when Bristol City Council laid claim to Kings Weston House to accommodate a new school for families moving into the new suburb and the former army camp above Shirehampton became the boys classrooms  for an expanded Portway School.

penpole lodge ruin

In 1950 the old Penpole Lodge had become dangerously derelict and was a hazard to the many children newly moved to the estate. The Council who owned the Woods wanted to open them up to the public so the decision was taken to demolish the historic building. Many of the other buildings in the park were also decaying and abandoned.  The roof of the Echo had collapsed and the marble statue knocked down and decapitated. The Brewhouse and Loggia were almost demolished in the 1960s as were the historic stables. Fortunately they survived, but it  was only after campaigns by local people that they received a reprieve. The stables were converted to Lawrence Weston Police station, but the other buildings were simply left uncared for.

When the school moved to new purpose-built premises in Lawrence Weston the house became empty for a short time until it became part of Bristol Technical College. it housed their architecture and sociology schools and the college had ambitious projects in mind to develop the estate as a new university. In the end the college moved to Bath and became that city’s University and saving Kings Weston from having been concreted over.

police plansIn 1972 the house was bought by Bristol City Council for use as a training school for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. After local opposition to another ill-conceived plan to develop large buildings in the parkland the police resolved to move to Portishead and again the estate was saved intact. It was at this time that the Kingsweston Preservation Society, KWAG’s predecessor, was formed.

After the police finally moved out the house became empty until the Council leased it to local businessman John Hardy who undertook a major restoration of the interiors and did much to save the house from an uncertain future. When the lease on the house was put on the market again in 2011 The Kings Weston Action Group was formed to champion a new future for the whole estate and promote its conservation and enhancement. Following in John Hardy’s footsteps the present owner, Norman Routledge, took on the house in January 2013 and in partnership with KWAG and Bristol City Council there is a new resolve to conserve and enhance the historic Kings Weston estate.

The Kings Weston Estate is now a Registered Historic Landscape and is protected with a Grade II listing by English Heritage  Parts of the landscape lie within the Kingsweston and Trym Valley Conservation Areas defined by Bristol City Council.

10 thoughts on “Modern Times, the 1930s to today

  1. Charlie Wookey

    I used to go to Kingsweston House school between 1949 and 1952. Would be interested if anyone knows the names of pupils shown in the class photo.

    1. David Martyn Post author

      Hi Charlie, sorry we can’t help with names. It was brought into an event at Kings Weston House in 2012 by an ex-pupil. I’ll try and find out his name for you, but he didn’t mention names for the class members here. Sorry not to be of more assistance.

      David Martyn

    2. Tony Haggerty

      My father Jim Haggerty was the caretaker from 1949 to 1952. We had moved from Kingsdown and I stayed at St Mary’s on the Quay school in Trenchard street. I would catch the bus home to the Iron Bridge, walk up the hill past the lodge and through a hole in the wall to the Echo. I then meandered down the drive, swung on the Yew Tree and in through the side entrance. There was a lovely Magnolia at the base of the steps and whenever I smell one it reminds me of those balmy days.
      We lived in converted Nissan hut on Penpole drive opposite Stolen Paradise. Penpole Point was an open space with great views across to South Wales.
      My now wife Jackie Prangley lived in Mancroft Ave on the bottom edge of the Penpole Woods.
      Jim went on to be caretaker of Avon Primary until he retired in 1979.

      1. Ed. Phillips

        Hi Tony.
        I lived in No 2 Mancroft when it was first built. used to walk to school through the woods to (kings weston house)
        1948/49 can’t remember the exact date.

  2. Barbara E Lewis

    My mum vividly remembers being one of the families of “Stolen Paradise”, otherwise known as “Penpole Estate” for 18 months before they left for Australia. She remembers picking bluebells in Penpole Wood with her mother and how bloody freezing cold the huts were 😉

  3. John Watson

    I remember attending the school up until it closed and we moved to the new one at Lawrence Weston. Before that I went to the infant school on the other side of Kings Weston Lane called, I believe, The House in the Garden School.
    A couple of my memories are first when the whole school were assembled to be informed that our King had died, Feb 1952, and another when we watched from outside as the fuel containers exploded during the fire at Avonmouth in 1951, oh and when I was reprimanded by the Headmaster for running up that beautiful staircase.
    Last year, while having a picnic in the grounds, I had great pleasure in helping my six year old granddaughter down from a tree she climbed. When I told her it was my favourite tree to climb when I was her age she had to check with my mum, her great granmother.

    1. David Martyn Post author

      Thanks for the really lovely reminiscences John. It’s always great to hear more about the modern history of the house – strangely it’s perhaps the least well documented part!

  4. Derek Lawrence

    I also went to The House in The Garden School when my parents moved into a new house in Lawrence Weston. I remember walking to the school and walking up the drive with a pond on the left. In spring there was frog spawn and later hundreds of tiny frogs. My class room was up a curved stair and in a room on the left. The teacher or head mistress was named Miss Thick. We used to go out at play time and pick snap Dragon flowers in the long garden border down the banking at the entrance to the house. We went and had our polio vaccinations in a building outside the school grounds. I also remember the Kings death but the new school had just opened and the play ground was just being tarmacadamed I now live in Scotland but have never forgotten my first school


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