Professor Richard Coates of the University of the West of England has been a regular contributor to academic research on the Kings Weston Estate. Recently he has completed work on a paper detailing the fascinating history of the many farms that lay within the wider ownership of the families who held Kings Weston House. The majority have their foundations in the land improvements undertaken by Sir Robert Southwell and his heirs though some may have their origins in earlier times. Sir Robert was President of the Royal Society and in the 1690s he employed another of its fellows, and close friend, Robert Hooke to design a new sea wall to protect his farmlands from inundation from the Severn. After this work was completed the Southwell family could start developing the floodplain with confidence and throughout the Eighteenth Century new farms were developed for leasing onwards.
Whilst the majority of the farmland owned by the Southwell’s stood to the north of Kings Weston house the estate boundary encompassed lands on the south side of the Kings Weston Ridge, stretching as far as Sneyd Park. The area now covered by Sea Mills also incorporated several farms and other buildings that contributed to the annual income of the estate.
Professor Coates research identifies eighteen farms within these two areas, split by the Kingsweston ridge on which the mansion sits. Many of the buildings of these farms remain today, hidden amongst more recent housing estates. Lost fragments lie scattered in industrial estates, and other have vanished entirely, known today only through historic maps or road names. Perhaps the most interesting collection of farms are those that were given family names of the Southwell Family. The best preserved of these is Campbell Farm just to the north of Long Cross on Kings Weston Land. Here there is a good collection of former farm buildings that date from the Eighteenth Century and have since been converted to residential use. This farm would have formed part of the extended village of Kings Weston before it was swallowed up by the post-war Lawrence Weston housing estate.
Other farms in this collection are Cromwell Farm, named after Lady Elizabeth Cromwell who married Sir Robert’s son, Edward, Rockingham Farm, named after the noble family title of Edward Southwell II’s wife Katherine, Watson Farm taking the same lady’s surname, and of course Katherine Farm itself at the far northern extremity of the Eighteenth Century estate. The last fragment of this farm is a stone barn still standing on the edge of the modern sewerage works, but the grandiose farmhouse has sadly long gone.
If you would like to read the full paper Proffessor Coates has kindly allowed us to host it on KWAG’s website and can be viewed and downloaded here: http://www.kwag.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/KWFindependent.pdf