People / Tales of the Vale

The Story of Kings Weston House

  • Portraits at Kings Weston House
  • Kings Weston House staircase

Once a Tudor mansion owned by Queen Elizabeth’s Vice Admiral, Kings Weston was bought in 1679 by the Southwell family. Sir Robert Southwell was a royal envoy in Europe, President of the Royal Society and Secretary of State for Ireland. Sir Robert entertained King William III here in 1689 but it was his son Edward who rebuilt the house as we see it today.

In 1712 Sir John Vanbrugh, the most important architect of his day, was employed to design the house and, afterwards, many of the garden buildings. Most of these still stand.

In the 18th century, Kings Weston was famous across Europe and was mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels Emma and Northanger Abbey.

An inn was built on the side of Kings Weston Hill so visitors could ride out from Bristol and Bath and enjoy the landscaped grounds and admire the famous panoramic views. A Regency iron bridge now connects the former inn and Kings Weston Hill with the rest of the park.

The last remaining members of the Southwell family died in 1834 and Kings Weston was purchased by Bristol’s first recorded millionaire, Philip Miles. The Miles family were Victorian industrialists and philanthropists. In 1877 they opened a large new dock where the Kings Weston estate met the banks of the River Severn and began developing Avonmouth around it. Both the dock and Avonmouth have grown considerably since then!

The last of the Miles family, Philip Napier Miles, was a composer. It was at Kings Weston that his good friend Ralph Vaughan Williams completed work on his most famous piece of music, The Lark Ascending, before it premiered nearby in Shirehampton Public Hall.

Since World War II Kings Weston House has been a school, a college and a police training centre before becoming a conference centre and wedding venue in 2000.

The park is now owned by Bristol City Council and the National Trust. The Kings Weston Action Group (KWAG) actively champions the historic estate and works to conserve it.

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© 2021 A Forgotten Landscape: A Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Scheme.


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