|Town or city||Bristol|
Ashton Court (grid reference ST553723) is a mansion house and estate to the west of Bristol in England. Although the estate lies mainly in North Somerset, it is owned by the City of Bristol. The estate is the venue for a variety of leisure activities, including the now-defunct Ashton Court festival, Bristol International Kite Festival and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. It is home to charity The Forest of Avon Trust. Bristol's weekly parkrun event (a free, timed 5 km run organised by volunteers) is held at Ashton Court every Saturday morning at 9am.
The lands of the estate show evidence of being Saxon fields, but after 1066 William the Conqueror transferred the lands into Norman ownership. In 1392 Thomas de Lyons, originally from Lyon, France, was granted a licence to enclose his lands and make a park, the foundation of the modern one.
In 1495, merchant John Smyth of Small Street, Bristol, bought the estate. Smyth never took residence, but his descendants enlarged and adapted over the centuries the core 15th century house:
- South facade and the wing: commissioned by MP Thomas Smyth, it is incorrectly attributed to Inigo Jones. Date from 1633, and was further extended eastwards in the 19th century.
- North West Wing: after demolishing the medieval domestic wing, in 1770 Sir John Hugh Smyth built the Neo-Gothic North West Wing
The estate was the venue for the 1936 Royal Show. One of the exhibition buildings, despite its temporary nature, was an innovative piece of modernist architecture still remembered as the Gane Pavilion. It was designed by Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer as a show house for the Bristol furniture manufacturer Crofton Gane.
In 1946, the last resident of Ashton Court Dame Esme Smyth, died. After the house became derelict, it was taken over by the City in 1959. Restoration has been an ongoing process since then, but even after extensive investment by both the council and from Heritage Lottery Fund grants, presently only about a quarter of the building is occupied or usable. The available facilities of the house are rented out for business conferences, parties and weddings.
The lower lodge to Ashton Court and attached gates, railings and bollards, which were built in 1805 by Henry Wood, are Grade II* listed buildings. The garden and perimeter walls and railings are also listed.
The estate covers 850 acres (340 ha) of woods and open grassland laid out by Humphrey Repton. It includes two pitch-and-putt golf courses, a disc golf course, an orienteering course and horse riding and mountain bike trails. There is a deer park which was started in the 14th century and extended in the 16th and 17th centuries. The park contains a great variety of wildlife; much of the site (an area of 210.31 hectares) was notified in 1998 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the presence of rare woodland beetles.
Ashton Court Meadow
Ashton Court Meadow (2.37 hectares) is managed as a nature reserve by the Avon Wildlife Trust. It contains a wide range of flowering plants, including wild carrot, yellow-wort and field scabious. Some unusual parasitic plants are also found here, such as common broomrape which feeds off clovers, and yellow rattle, which feeds partly off grass.
In 2002 a 700-year-old oak tree, called the Domesday Oak, was selected by The Tree Council as one of 50 Great British Trees. In 2011 a crack appeared in the trunk and oak support beams were fitted to support the tree. The supports were only partly successful and a section of the tree collapsed, and the remaining part of the tree was pruned to reduce the weight of the surviving section.
- Dunning, Robert (1980). Somerset and Avon. Edinburgh: John Bartholomew & Son. p. 117. ISBN 0-7028-8380-8. "The most striking part of the house is the s wing of the early 17th century, […] derived from copy-books of the period and not from Inigo Jones."
- Burrough, T.H.B. (1970). Bristol. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 0-289-79804-3.
- "The Royal Show. Today's Opening at Bristol.". The Times (London). 30 June 1936. p. 13.
- "Breuer in Bristol". Architects' Journal. 25 November 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
- "Ashton Court Mansion and Stables". Images of England. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
- "Ashton Court, Long Ashton - North Somerset (UA)". Heritage at Risk. English Heritage. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- "Lower Lodge to Ashton Court and attached gates, railings and bollards". Images of England. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
- "Former perimeter wall of Ashton Court estate". Images of England. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- "Garden wall extending to south-east from east corner of Ashton". Images of England. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- "Garden wall extending to south-east from south corner of Ashton". Images of England. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- "Two sets of railings, gates and gatepiers at south end of Ashton". Images of England. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- "Ashton Court Estate". Bristol City Council. Archived from the original on 25 September 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- "Ashton Court" (PDF). English Nature. Retrieved 13 June 2006.
- "Ashton Court Meadow". Reserves. Avon Wildlife Trust. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- Green, Ian P., Myles, Sarah (2000). The Flora of the Bristol Region, p. 249. Pisces Publications. ISBN 1-874357-18-8.
- "Bristol's 700-year-old Domesday Oak tree future secured". BBC. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- "Bristol Tree Forum – Minutes". Bristol City Council. 6 September 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
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