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Stoke Park Monuments suffering vandalism and ruin

SOME of Stoke Park’s most historic monuments are being destroyed while its handover to the council is hit by delays.

Campaigner Steve England, who is chair of Stoke Park Action Group, is worried the park will be in a dire state when Bristol City Council finally acquire the estate.

Steve England at Stoke Park where he says  Matilda's Tomb, built in 1756 to commemorate the death of the 4th Duke of Beaufort, is being vandalised  Picture Steve Roberts: BRSR20111018A-001_C

  1. Steve England at Stoke Park where he says Matilda’s Tomb, built in 1756 to commemorate the death of the 4th Duke of Beaufort, is being vandalised Picture Steve Roberts: BRSR20111018A-001_C

The land around the 16th century former Dower House is currently owned by a consortium of developers led by George Wimpey and Barratt Homes. They pledged a £1.2 million endowment to the council who agreed to take on the long-term ownership and management in 2009, planning to graze cows on the land.

But as the acquisition date is pushed back to January 9, 2012, Mr England said the estate is being neglected.

He said: “It’s a feral park and it’s not being looked after properly. From the M32 it looks fine but if you go through the woodland you can see the damage.

“I walk around and there is drug paraphernalia on the ground and damage to the monuments. The tomb of Charles Somerset, the 4th Duke of Beaufort, has been smashed with what looks like a hammer. This was renovated in 1995 following a £500,000 fundraiser but ever since the monuments are falling back into a state of disrepair. Matilda’s tomb, as the Duke’s tomb is known, is one of the most iconic monuments of Stoke Park.

“I’ve found shot gun pellets that make me think people have been shooting in the area. I was walking the other day and a group on scrambler bikes tore through the place, narrowly avoiding a young mum with her children.

“It makes me sad that I am warning people about going to the park but something has to be done. It’s a tragedy that it has got to this state.”

The 140-hectare Stoke Park estate belonged to the Berkeley and Beaufort families for more than three centuries. The parkland estate also carries a Grade II listing but many of the serpentine pathways and monuments repaired after two centuries are again falling into neglect.

Mr England, 45 and a father-of- three, has discovered fossils in the park which date back millions of years.

He said: “Stoke Park has massive historical value to it, but it has just been left to rot. It’s a mess, an absolute mess, and it makes me so sad because the people living in the new Stoke Park estate don’t know the history of where they live. The council must be so frustrated that they can’t sort it out now – they are the only hope left for now.”

A spokeswoman for Bristol City Council, said: “We had expected to have achieved the transfer of land to us by August or September this year. Unfortunately we have not been able to achieve this as the Consortium who are in the driving seat don’t want to transfer the land until January 2012.

“There have been legal issues that needed resolving but we are confident that this will now be achieved in January 2012.”

Paul Harris, a spokesman for the consortium, said: “The Stoke Park Consortium continue to ensure that the park and its features are professionally maintained to the required standard for the preservation of the historic structures, protection of wildlife habitat and general enjoyment of local people and visitors.

“Incidents of vandalism and damage remain low even though the parkland has seen significant rises in the number of regular visitors in recent years. The consortium remain in close discussion with Bristol City Council with regards the future adoption of the historic parkland. This process has been thorough and ongoing for some time but is now close to agreement.”

From This is Bristol