After 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.
The 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 abandoned 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.
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.
In 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.