A recent new acquisition is this watercolour painting of Kings Weston house framed by the trees and lodge at Penpole Point. The gates separating the common land on the Point from the private woodland walls is firmly shut and the top of the lodge is almost enveloped in ivy. The sun makes the golden stone of both buildings glow in the early autumn light. This was once a well-known view of the house, being the subject of several other known paintings, but inclusion of the lodge in the view as well is unusual. The view to the house must have been obscured by trees not long after this painting was created as we have no later image from this perspective.
It’s an important find for a couple of reasons; first it was painted by a well-known local artist, Thomas Leeson Rowbotham (1782–1853), whose paintings form a major component of the city museum’s Braikenridge collection. Most of these date to the 1820s and were commissioned to record historic buildings and monuments in the city, though the Kings Weston painting falls outside of that collection. It’s also significant for its very precise date – September 21st 1848 – just a year short of 175 years, almost to the week. It’s a late work by Rowbotham, then aged 66, the artist surviving just five years longer after its completion.
Another foray into the Bristol Archives has uncovered a new photo. The image shows the Home Guard in an official photograph, lined up at Penpole Point close to the end of the Second World War in 1944. These men were part of “C” Company of the 14th Battalion of the Home Guard.
During the war the Home guard used Penpole Woods and the Home Park at Kings Weston, at that time the District Scout Camp, for training purposes. In 1940 they even requisitioned the tower of Penpole Lodge. The Scouts, who still owned the building observed “some concern the activities of the home guard when they took over the tower” and their site warden recalls in his diary of the time that “In the autumn of this year the Home Guard, or the LDV’s as they were then called, took over the tower as an observation post. They stayed until the Spring. Poor old tower – it bears its scars from friend and foe now. Still we won’t say too much about that; but it’s another job to be attended to after the war.” The journal now also forms part of the Bristol Archives collection.
It is not clear exactly what damage the Home Guard might have inflicted on the tower, but this, and further vandalism by “Local toughs” in the years following the war, led to the building being ruinous by the 1950s.
The Home Guard trained in the woodland and camouflage skills were practiced amongst the trees and undergrowth. The warden’s journal for the war years includes some humorous sketches of their activities!