News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A Walk on the Mild Side at Bath Spa University

Newton Park. Newton Park is now the home of Ba...Image via Wikipedia

Visiting Bath Spa University today on family business, I was struck by the beauty of its Newton Park campus on the outskirts of Bath.

The grounds form part of the Newton Park Estate, an C18 landscaped estate designed by Capability Brown. The country house is a Grade I listed building and now houses the University's administration services. 

Additional striking features of the Bath Spa campus include a 14th century castle keep, a medieval manor house and Elizabethan farm buildings.  There are also lakes and extensive grounds. Not to mention some teaching buildings and halls of residence, of more recent origin.

Strolling out of the campus grounds, I stumbled into the hamlet of Newton St Loe, a picturesque traditional village complete with an old school, old post office, old rectory (there's a theme emerging here) and old church. The village is also the site of the Duchy of Cornwall's local office, pictured, the occupants of which (I muttered to myself in the way that only an ignorant townie could) must not be exactly swept off their feet with passing trade.

The Duchy, in fact, owns the village of Newton St Loe (hence its pristine and uniform appearance) along with the Bath Spa Newton Park campus and the adjacent manor of Inglescombe. In total, the estate's 6,300 acres make it the Duchy of Cornwall's largest estate with the exception of its Dartmoor holdings, comprising 100 houses and cottages, a golf course, 14 farms, three village halls and 160 hectres of woodland. 

The original land, as with much of the prime real estate in England, was "granted" to one of William the Conqueror's Norman knights, one Roger de Santo Laudo [St Loe] following the Norman Conquest. as a gift from the new conquering king. The Doomsday Book describes the site as Niwetone and mentions the previous occupant as the very Saxon-sounding (and by 1066 the presumably dead or homeless) Aelfric.

Newton St Loe is also the site of a Roman farming settlement, which features in the first chapter of a local history book I am currently writing, but which you may have to wait some time to read. Plug finished.

Even further back in time, the part of the Newton estate which boarders the River Avon contains evidence of glaciation in the area and the remains of horses and mammoths have been unearthed on the site.  
On the subject of ancient relics, Prince Charles has this year found himself in dispute with the local Bath and North East Somerset Council over their refusal to allow the Duchy to construct a massive development of 2,000 homes on the green fields surrounding Newton Park. The Duchy is believed to be planning to challenge the Council's decision. The local Parish Council have siad they are "bewildered that the Prince of Wales should be encouraging this action". 

The Duchy's £600 million property portfolio produces Prince Charles with an annual income of £17 million. 

Worth a visit if you're in the area. Before it gets turned into a royal car park. 

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