0124…Archaeology Of Stoke Park

Edited by Adrian Kerton

The Archaeology Of Stoke Park, Bristol

by James Russell

                  With additional notes from other sources


The Stoke Park estate is situated on the northern edge of the City of Bristol, lying partly within the City boundary in the former parish of Stapleton and partly in the Northavon parish of Stoke Gifford. It occupies the picturesquely scarped and indented eastern flank of Purdown, a ridge of lias limestone and clay rising to nearly 300 ft above sea level and commanding wide views over Bristol, Kingswood and the adjacent Frome valley.

While the scenic and recreational value of the Park has long been apparent, it is only in recent years that its historical significance has come to be fully appreciated, and in particular the importance of the work carried out there in the mid 18th century by the architect and landscape gardener Thomas Wright of Durham (1711‑1786) under the patronage of Norborne Berkeley, Lord Botetourt. Wright’s connection with Stoke was first by Eileen Harris in the course of her pioneering research into the career of this highly individualistic designer (Harris 1971, 1979). More recently research in the archives of the Beaufort family at Badminton and Gloucester, carried out by Messrs Stewart Harding and David Lambert, as well as by the Badminton archivist Mrs Margaret Richards, has added greatly to our knowledge of Wright’s activities, as well as producing much new information about the general development and management of the Stoke estate during the 18th century (Harding & Lambert 1988, Lambert & Harding 1989).

Since December 1987 this historical research has been supplemented by archaeological fieldwork carried out by the present writer with the assistance of other BAAS members. A detailed report on the first phase of this fieldwork, involving the excavation and survey of three ornamental structures in the Park, the Rotunda, the Obelisk, and the Tomb of the Horatii, has already been published (Russell 1988). Further work carried out during 1989 has included the recording of other garden buildings, a survey of earthworks in the central area of the Park (Fig. 2) and the preparation of reconstructed plans of the Park area in c. 1725 and 1768, using the 1st edition O.S. 1:2500 map as a base (Figs. 3, 4). The present article provides a summary of the results of this recent work. Research, both documentary and archaeological, is continuing, and it is hoped that in due course a more definitive historical account of the Stoke Park estate will be produced in which the information gleaned from archival sources will be fully integrated with the results of field survey.


Stoke Park Rotunda 2

Stoke Park Base of Rotunda

The Monument today.

Stoke Park Monument