Latest developments at Memorial Woodlands
There are plans a foot…
Bristol Memorial Woodlands has permitted use as a cemetery throughout and its unique offering, privacy notwithstanding, is that at present, it conducts only one event at the site per day. This fact is crucial to the ethos. Hosting only one event per day means that each one can be held in complete and utter privacy and that those mourning or paying their respects to the deceased may do so free of the pressures of both time and societies’ perceived norms. The success of the provision has been built on its ability to help nurture the bereaved in comfort.
The business and its offering have grown in popularity and there has been a subtle societal change in the period since its inception. Bristol Memorial Woodlands has found that rather than a death being marked with a traditional “faith based” funeral, individual celebrations of life are now most frequently crafted here, whether faith-based or not. Bristol Memorial Woodlands has been able to provide for these particular and individual events crafted suitably to reflect and mark the life of the deceased.
This change has meant that increasingly the current buildings are full to capacity or overflowing. This is not acceptable and adversely affects what is intended to be a provision offering the very highest standards in comfort and service. Offering privacy and the exclusive use of Bristol Memorial Woodlands also increasingly means lengthy waiting times for a day free to host an event. This gives rise to both frustration and sometimes forces clients to look elsewhere.
In order therefore to preserve its ethos and move forward Bristol Memorial Woodlands now recognises that a second physical provision on the same site but with greater capacity is a very necessary progression. If such a development were permitted as intended in our design and layout consideration, these utterly critical aspects of complete privacy and high quality can continue to be maintained.
Death is highly emotive and Bristol Memorial Woodlands has proven its ability to nurture the grieving in dignity and with respect. Funerals are public events but those bereaved must be shown utter courtesy and the facility to mourn without restraint. This is something rarely possible in public provisions.
It is a fact that in the UK the population demographic has a bulge in those born in the 1950s and 1960s, so just as the site continues to grow in popularity through its own business dynamic, the requirement for its use is also being naturally increased. This dynamic is being further increased with dramatic population growth. In other words all the research shows that the number of deaths per annum in the UK is growing. The current provisions nationally and locally are insufficient.
The site has permitted use for up to 12 funerals per day. Those events must be hosted to the highest standards and with the strictures outlined elsewhere in this paper.
It is important to note that Bristol Memorial Woodlands currently employs some 25 people, a very significant number for a rural business. With the proposed new offering it is considered that this number could easily grow to some 45 employees. This means real economic and social benefit for South Gloucestershire.
That Bristol Memorial Woodlands is creating, under the auspices of its trust a large space of woodland and meadow with full public access and the funds to maintain it, must also be recognised as a public benefit. This development will simply serve to improve and embellish that provision, not least by affording increased funding to the managing trust.
Views of the proposed development from above
Plans & sketches of the proposed new chapel
Plans & sketches of the proposed new Reception Building
Memorial Woodlands, new Chapel and Reception Building.
Draft for the ‘Buildings’ section of the Design & Access Statement
The site is former farm land, now in consented use as the Bristol Memorial Woodlands, a use in which two of the existing buildings, originally constructed to house tannery operations, have been converted to funerary purposes, one as a Chapel and one as a Reception. The surrounding farmland occupies the ﬂoor of a gentle valley draining to the north east with mostly arable and pastoral ﬁelds and mature hedgerows and occasional stands of deciduous woodland, now undergoing a gradual change to Memorial Woodland. The M5 motorway runs conspicuously along the ridge to the north-west.
Access to the existing Chapel and Reception at Bristol Memorial Woodland is by a private road running from a junction on Earthcott Road though a sinuous band of young trees crossing ﬁelds and two small streams and turning east to a cortege access to the Chapel and via a separate track to the car park from which a stone arch leads to the Reception with the Chapel beyond. The new Chapel and Reception will be accessed by a track forking from the existing access road at the War Memorial and following the line of the public footpath in a northerly direction, crossing ﬁelds through existing gateways and arriving at a new car park immediately south of the buildings of Rookery Farm. There is no new access to the public highway.
In proposing new buildings to accommodate larger funeral gatherings than can be handled at present, great attention has been given to the need for both the new and the existing facilities to function independently and privately. The new buildings, car park and access are thus entirely separate from each other and screened to give a sense of privacy to each group of buildings; the existing buildings are arranged around an ornamental pool with walls and trees forming an enclosure, while the new buildings stand in two adjoining ﬁelds, their perimeter hedgerows and trees reinforced with planting to give a sense of privacy and enclosure. The new Reception is arranged around a south-facing courtyard; across the stream the Chapel stands in a meadow surrounded by trees with a new avenue looking west up the shallow valley to the countryside beyond.
Materials and Form
Like the existing Chapel and Reception, the new buildings derive their form and materials from the historic agricultural vernacular of the Severn Vale between the river and the Cotswold slope, which comprises large, plain steeply pitched roofs, clad in natural clay pantiles, supported by coursed/random rubble masonry walls and simple timber-framed openings. The stone rubble used varies in both size and type according to variations in local geology; that used on this site is Carboniferous Limestone in roughly dressed blocks, this stone being relatively difﬁcult to work owing to its strength and the lack of bedding planes. Limited use is made of brick and Jurassic oolitic (as in Cotswold) limestone where necessary, for instance to form columns in the Chapel. While the type and texture of stonework in the Severn Vale varies, the characteristic steep clay pantile roofs and the simple rectilinear plan forms have produced a recognisable local building type which contributes substantially to the character of the surrounding, mostly pastoral and arable landscape with its well-developed hedgerows and occasional stands of trees.
Some examples of this local vernacular, both domestic and agricultural are shown in the accompanying photos. Perhaps the ﬁnest nearby example is the Mediaeval Barn at Winterbourne, a magniﬁcent and recently restored example of the materials and forms described above and a Severn Vale equivalent of the much better known tithe barns of the Cotswolds which are similar in scale and form but which use a different palette of materials. Examples of the Severn Vale agricultural vernacular are illustrated in Appendix 1.
As Oliver Rackham has noted: “the (Winterbourne) barn was not just a workaday shed, but was a work of grandeur, designed by an architect. It will have seen not merely storage and threshing of corn, but church ales, theatricals, wedding feasts and all manner of rustic festivities”.
As such the building is a suitable precedent both in terms of its compatibility with the local rural landscape but also as a space whose scale and grandeur are appropriate to the gatherings and rituals of funerals.
While the converted tannery buildings which now house the Chapel and Reception use the same palette of materials as the local vernacular, the form of the Chapel in particular is more specialised, having a rather higher and shallower cross section than is typical. In adopting the agricultural vernacular as a template for the propsed new buildings, the Chapel and Reception buildings use typical scale and proportions rather than those of the more specialised tannery buildings.
Two new buildings are proposed, each with a ceremonial hall type space based on the barn.
The Chapel has a simple rectilinear space oriented along the long axis toward a new track leading to and from the main access road and thence to the various parts of the Memorial Woodlands. The building stands alone in a meadow which is surrounded by trees and mature hedgerows.
The Reception Building also has a principal hall space capable of accommodating gatherings of the same numbers as the chapel, roughly 200-250 maximum. It is not anticipated that provision will be needed for seated dining for all but the space needs to accommodate groups of people, some seated, some standing with options for buffet catering, musical performances and other activities associated with funeral gatherings. The main hall space is ﬂanked by two single wings containing ancillary space; on the east side Cloakrooms and entrance lobby, on the west side catering kitchen, storage and a small ofﬁce suite for administrative purposes. The two wings and the main hall form a U shaped courtyard looking south over the ﬁelds and trees.
Footpaths across the meadows connect to the Chapel; the paths are suitable for mobility scooters and the journey between the two buildings is seen as a gentle journey adding to the memorable experience of the special places of the Memorial Woodlands. The new Chapel and Reception stand separately among the woods and meadows within a perimeter of trees and banks which ensures privacy and quiet and separates the buildings and users from others on the site.
A separate new track, joining the existing road at the War Memorial leads across the ﬁelds to a new car park serving the Reception Building. The track passes through existing ﬁeld gates and so avoids any damage to trees and hedgerows along its route. The new car park occupies the north side of an existing ﬁeld and uses the established surrounding hedges to form the enclosing vegetation. Two existing tracks connect into the new car park area but access and egress will be via the new track only. The car park itself is surfaced in bound gravel and reinforced grass and laid out in a series of concentric arcs each punctuated by trees and garden planting which slope gently down toward the main front of the Reception Building. A sweeping stone wall forms the south edge of the car park, with a glazed porte cochere providing a sheltered entrance. A small courtyard provides a gathering space in front of the main entrance, from which a lobby leads to Cloakrooms, with a lift and stairs to mezzanine level and to the main hall.
Public access to the administrative functions on the west side is separate, being connected to the existing tracks which lead to the farmhouse and Memorial Woodlands ofﬁces.
Both the Chapel and the Reception building draw on the agricultural vernacular of the Severn Vale. The scale, forms and materials are described above and are used to make the new buildings sit comfortably on the rural landscape and to form coherent additions to the accumulation of buildings on the site. The form and construction of the vernacular buildings referred to above give rise to a vocabulary of details which enable the available materials to produce elegant and durable buildings. Thus the steep wide span roofs are carried by massive timber trusses whose lateral forces are resolved by massive masonry walls and buttresses at key positions. There are large openings to give good cross ventilation and these are dressed with better quality stone where the local rubble is too small or difﬁcult to work and closed by huge boarded doors. All these add detail to the vernacular and can be reinterpreted for modern use. A selection of such details is illustrated in Appendix 2.
Draft for the ‘Drainage’ section of the Design & Access Statement
As part of the Building Regulations submission an assessment will be made of both the capacity of the existing foul drainage system and the additional load from the proposed development. If necessary, additional capacity will be designed in the form of either septic tank with soakaway or treatment plant with discharge to watercourse.
Paved areas will be formed with either permeable surfaces including reinforced grass and gravel which offer immediate sustainable disposal or in places they will be tarmacadam which will be arranged to drain to adjacent rubble ﬁlled soakaway trenches.
Roof drainage will be taken to the adjacent watercourse, however detention sumps will be included to attenuate the peak ﬂows and prevent ﬂash ﬂooding. These will take the form of rubble ﬁlled pits, dug above water table level. Rainwater drainage will be taken to these pits which will act as soakaways but have overﬂow drains to watercourses.
Marshall & Kendon, Architects, Nov 2015.
Jeremy Johnson-Marshall BA BArch & Sam Kendon MA Dip Arch
94 Whiteladies Road Bristol BS8 2QX
Tel: 0117 973 45 78
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