Kingswood Castle

KINGSWOOD & SOUNDWELL Local History Site

Here is an article about the building known as Kingswood Castle from The Bristol Mercury dated 5 October 1891, reproduced courtesy of The British Newspaper Archive. It stood on the site of the waterworks near Soundwell Road and was knocked down some time between the world wars.

 

SMELTING IRON FROM PIT COAL

 

By Sylvia Penn

 

"Among the objects of interest in the neighbourhood of Kingswood, few create more remarks, or give rise to more questions than that popularly known as the "Round House". Its massive circular tower, standing some distance back on the left, but still plainly visible, is sure to attract the eye of the visitor as he is conveyed up the steep slope of Kingswood Hill. But should he enquire of its ancient use or history, it is equally sure that he will soon be landed in a hopeless fog of conflicting statements and conjectures, each person he asks offering a different one. The most ignorant will tell him that it is "King John's Hunting Tower", confounding it with the adjacent "Brain's Tower", an ancient building erected on the site of the old forest lodge known as "King John's Hunting Lodge"; another will assert it to have been originally a windmill, with more truth, as it was used for that purpose many years ago; another still will tell him it was constructed for a "wind motor" for pumping water out of the pits or to drive machinery, as the Warmley Tower. And here he comes very near the truth, for, from careful study and collation of old records, the following seems to have been the real origin and use of this massive building:-

 

In 1657 one Captain Copley obtained leave from Oliver Cromwell to build iron works"to make iron from pit coal". These works were known as the "Broad Arrow Shop", which, in conjunction with the existence of the tower, proves almost beyond a doubt that they were built on this site, as the Government mark - the Broad Arrow Head - was situated at this particular spot in the ancient forest. Copley's experiment failed because he could not "make his bellows to blow". He thereupon sent for "Dud Dudley", an expert, to instruct him in the art. The round tower was built for the purpose of driving a "wind engine" within, or near it, to keep up a continuous current of air, or "blast" in the blast furnace, hence the immense thickness of its walls. in spite however, of Dud Dudley's assistance, and the erection of the tower, the works were not a success, and gradually fell into ruins, of which the said tower alone remains.

 

Some 20 years ago, the owner, Mr Craymer, built the adjoining mansion, and embattled it and the tower, as at present, adorning the interior with curious carvings and relics from the cathedral and other places of note, including Queen Elizabeth's bedstead, from the "Fourteen Stars", Counterslip, and a child's crib, 100 years old, from Windsor Castle.

 

The tower is 55 ft high, the walls 4 ft thick, having a basement room 18 ft in diameter. The Dud Dudley referred to was a younger son of Lord Dudley, of Dudley castle, Worcestershire, born in 1599, who first substituted coal for charcoal in smelting iron, at Pensnet, near Dudley. A great storm swept the whole of the works away, causing him to suffer great loss, which succeeded persecution and imprisonment. Being release by King Charles, he fought in the Royalist cause, was again taken prisoner, but escaped to Bristol, where he lived for a long time in the strictest privacy. It was during this time that Copley scoured his services.

 

END OF ARTICLE

 

There is a wikipedia page on Dudd Dudley, including his time in Bristol, although no mention of the Kingswood works. Dudley has sometimes been credited wiith being the first man to smelt iron with coal, decades before his relative, the more famous Abraham Darby (who also had links to Bristol). However the iron he produced was probably of poor quality

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Kingswood Castle

The castle was built at the place shown on old maps, including the 1610 one, as Broad Arrow Head. TJ of the Western Daily Press explained the term in the 5 March 1945 edition.

 

BROAD ARROW

 

The broad arrow-head which is placed on government stores by the Board of Ordnance is said to have been introduced by Henry, Viscount Sydney, Earl of Romney, when he was Master General of Ordnance between 1693-1702. It appears that the broad arrow mark was originally a merchant's mark which could easily be applied to any material with three blows of a chisel, and it seems most likely that it was in use for Government stores long before the Earl of Romney's time, for it is on record that in 1554, when advising a shipment of war material from Antwerp, Sir Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal Exchange, stated that the goods were marked with a broad arrow-head. In the same year, and in connection with another shipment, he again uses the mark, which he calls "the brod arrow".

 

(With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive)

 

 

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KING JOHN'S HUNTING LODGE

 

This was a more ancient building than Kingswood Castle. It stood near Cossham Hospital, on the upper corner of Lodge Hill and Cottrell Avenue. There had been a lodge on the site for at least 400 years until it too was knocked down in the 1930's.

 

I can't find any photos at the moment but am on the lookout. This building is often confused with the castle.