Ashton Court mansion and grounds should be maintained for future generations as a vital green gateway into Bristol.
That’s the view of leading West Heritage expert James Edwards of Colliers International, who is backing a bid by Bristol City Council and English Heritage to secure the long-term future of the Grade I listed mansion.
He comments: “Both Ashton Court to the south and the Clifton Downs to the north of the River Avon serve as a green buffer zone between the city and surrounding countryside and help minimise the impact of high levels of traffic along these key routes into the city.
“Without these fantastic open spaces there would be no graduation between the Bristol’s built up areas with the surrounding countryside and suburbs and this vital demarcation area would be lost.”
James Edwards has lobbied extensively to protect the city’s old town, as well as the rich maritime landscapes further along the River Avon. However he recognised the historic mansion, which is now in need of extensive renovation work, must play a more active role as an asset to Bristol and accepted it was equally vital that it earned its keep.
“The mansion is the centrepiece of the much loved Ashton Court Estate but has increasingly fallen prey to stretched council budgets and the huge cost of maintaining a Grade I listed property.
“I would wholeheartedly support the consultation being carried out by Bristol City Council and English Heritage on the best way of preserving this much-loved landmark for future generations to enjoy.
“It is essential to consider all suggestions which offer a viable future for this historic building which is now in dire need of some tender loving care and repair. A building of this size must earn its keep and the council has successfully managed this in part with the conference and wedding facilities and café. However this forms only a small part of the overall property.
“With so much of the building remaining out of bounds to the general public due to a requirement for repair and restoration there is a very great need to engage the people of Bristol in how these inaccessible parts can be brought back into viable use and how the mansion can move forward in the future.”
He said Tyntesfield in nearby Wraxall showed the public’s abiding affection for historic properties of this size.
“Perhaps the greatest benefit of Tyntesfiled is that when the late Lord Wraxall died the fixtures and fittings remained in Tyntesfield, which has served to add to the fascination of this wonderful building.
“Ashton Court does not have the benefit of being ‘recently lived in’, however what it does have are passionate and committed local people, who will ensure that the house does not deteriorate further.
“Whilst we are at the early stages of the consultation and any suggestions for future use will need to stack up financially I am hopeful that not only will Ashton Court be secured for future generations, but that they will be able to explore the presently inaccessible areas, in whatever guise the house takes.
“I believe it will be critical to open up greater parts of the building to the general public. We need to encourage those people that visit the Ashton Court Estate, whether for walking, cycling or even horse-riding that there is also a lot more to this special place than just beautiful countryside.”
James Edwards concluded: “I would urge all stakeholders to make their representations to the city council in order to maintain and restore this bulwark of the city’s urban fringe.”
The public can visit an exhibition at the Courtyard Cafe in Ashton Court Estate until Friday April 26.