Ashton Court Mansion – the story of Bristol Civic Society involvement from 2017
The Society’s current involvement started in January 2017, when I was invited for lunch with Niall Phillips of Purcell. Niall encouraged the Civic Society to get involved in bringing about the restoration of Ashton Court Mansion (ACM). Niall could not see any other Bristol organisation taking the lead. He was leading on the Purcell study.
In 2017 Historic England and Bristol Council were seeking to discover how much of the original brief was completed and how best to complete the work. Once completed the study would be absolutely invaluable in forming an up-to-date and comprehensive basis for moving forward.
To begin with, we met with senior officers at the Council and at Historic England, all of whom were supportive of our involvement. Since those initial meetings we cast the net wider and held a series of meetings with relevant contacts:
- Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor, who has ultimate responsibility for future of ACM, and other senior Bristol council officers.
- SAVE, a national organisation campaigning for historic buildings
- Long Ashton Parish Council, and North Somerset councillors and Conservation Officer.
- Bristol Music Trust, the independent trust that runs Colston Hall.
We circulated an email bulletin to all members drawing attention to the challenge of ACM. Around 25 replies were received from people wanting to get involved – in a range of different ways. The first newsletter was sent out in summer 2017.
What is the Society aiming to achieve?
We identified that our main objective is to secure the renovation of ACM, currently 65% unusable and shortly not to be used for weddings and other events. It closed at the end of 2017. We have grave concerns about leaving the building in an underused state.
We consider that the Council does not have the resources or expertise to tackle ACM. Arguably the Council has never dealt properly with the Mansion – it purchased the Park in 1959 with a Mansion thrown in!
Elsewhere in the UK, the trust model does appear to offer a viable model. Sale to the private sector, as a house set in a public park which is very well used, looks unlikely. However this option will probably need to be explored before being discarded. Whatever happens, the Council will retain management of the Park.
Chair of the Society